CodeIT – one of the oldest competitions in the world, created in 2000 with the original idea to be a national programming competition. Over time, CodeIT’s popularity has grown beyond what was expected, and the competition has continued to see success after success. In 2007, the programming competition was held under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, and not long after, in 2011, the competition reached its potential, stepping onto the international stage.

The organizer of CodeIT is Musala Soft and every year a team of former competitors and computer science Olympians in the company is responsible for preparing the tasks in the competition.

Meet the CodeIT team for 2024 – Deniz, Peter and Stefan. Talents who prove that the passion and love we feel for our favorite hobby since we were children or teenagers can turn into the beginning of something beautiful. The beginning of a career in technology crowned with success. Because there are no impossible things for the one who believes. And does everything with love and dedication. Even in the challenging world of programming. And it’s not a cliché. But a reality that Deniz, Peter and Stefan prove.

Meet them

Deniz Poturliev is a 12th grade student of “Geo Milev” Mathematics School in Pleven. He is a laureate of the National Olympiad in Informatics in 2023. Deniz has won medals and awards from national and international competitions in informatics such as: silver medal from Romanian Master of Informatics 2023 and two bronze medals from the International Zhautikovo Olympiad in Informatics (IZhO) – 2023. and 2024. In his free time, he practices swimming and tennis.

Petar Mihov is an 11th grade student at Sofia Highschool of Mathematics “Paisii Hilendarski”. Since 2018 he has competed in Informatics competitions at National and International level. He is part of the Technical Team of the 24th season of CodeIT. In his spare time, he likes to play sports, read, and play games.

Stefan Zhelyazkov is an Associate Software Architect at Musala Soft. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Computer Science in 2013. In the United States he worked at companies of various sizes and industries, such as Goldman Sachs, Honest Buildings and WeWork. In 2019 he returned to Bulgaria and in the following year he started working at Musala Soft. He leads the technical team behind CodeIT since 2021. Stefan is proficient at various programming languages and tools, and his concentration is web programming.

Deniz, Peter and Stefan and their journey through the world of programming

How and when did you realize that the world of programming is your passion?

Deniz: I started attending the School of Informatics in Pleven in the 4th grade. Over time, with the acquisition of knowledge, meeting new friends who share the same interests, and achieving success in competitions, computer science became my passion.

Peter: In 2nd or 3rd grade, my father installed Scratch on the computer so that I could engage in something productive. Since I loved playing games, creating them in Scratch also became very interesting to me. That’s when I first got hooked on creating something with code.

Stefan: At some point in the 10th grade, I got passionate about creating websites. I had bought a book on PHP language, and I found it very interesting that with this language, I could make a website interactive. That’s when I started working on various projects – a class website, forums, and websites for astronomy competitions. I also decided to create the first electronic magazine for my high school in Stara Zagora – Secondary School for Foreign Languages “Romain Rolland”. After that, at university, I studied computer science, where my knowledge significantly advanced, and to this day, I continue to engage in it.

When did you realize you wanted programming to be part of your professional future?

Deniz: Since every free moment in my daily life is dedicated to informatics, I unconsciously realized that this would be my future professional development.

Peter: In the 5th grade, I studied computer science at school for the first time. When I saw that I was good at it, I already knew that I would be involved in it in the future. Of course, the idea existed for me even before that, but after getting a closer look, my choice was confirmed.

Stefan: Programming is a complex engineering profession that requires a lot of thinking. Perhaps around my second year in university, I began to understand the subject matter in much more depth and to move away from the mechanical “writing of code.” I started to see the artistic element in programming – to write less code, make the program faster, and use some interesting logical tricks. This was very interesting to me, and I wanted to continue doing it.

From what age have you been participating in competitions related to technology and programming?

Deniz: I have been participating in all national competitions and Olympiads in Informatics since the 5th grade, and from the 10th grade onwards – in some international ones as well.

Peter: The first competition I took part in was the first round of the National Olympiad in Informatics when I was in the 5th grade. Since then, I have been participating in every competition in the Ministry of Education’s program for 7 years, as well as in some other national and international competitions.

Stefan: I was in the 6th grade when I first participated in an international competition – it was for a website, in Turkey. We won 3rd place there. After that, in high school, I participated in competitions for websites on astronomical themes, where we worked on several projects related to the planet Mars, distant objects in the Kuiper Belt, etc.

What has been the happiest moment so far in your journey into the world of Programming?

Deniz: The happiest moments in the world of programming for me have come from computer science competitions. One such memory is from October 2023, during the Romanian Master of Informatics international competition in Bucharest, where I managed to solve a maximum score problem in the last hour of the competition day, earning me a silver medal.

Peter: An extremely happy moment for me was the Summer Informatics Tournament in 2022 when I won first place. However, some of my happiest memories are also connected with trips I took with my friends in computer science from all over Bulgaria, which were made possible precisely because of the competitions we participated in together.

Stefan: All moments where I (we) produce something that works are happy for me. I especially enjoy it when a project is done in a minimal, elegant way, with clear logic. On a personal level, I’ve created several such projects – from websites for favorite TV shows to an Android application for watching television. I am also proud of our successes in CodeIT, where we have several significant and small achievements that make the platform better.

And what has been the most challenging moment? How did you overcome it, and what did it teach you?

Deniz: At the end of the 2021/2022 academic year, I realized that I wasn’t preparing effectively for informatics competitions. In the summer of 2022, I set a goal to solve more problems and improve, which helped me rediscover the beauty of computer science and the satisfaction of intense training.

Peter: The most challenging moment for me was during the National Autumn Tournament in 2022 when I exited the competition with only 5 out of a possible 300 points. The competition also served as the second day of the International Autumn Tournament (IATI), so not only did I have a very bad position nationally, but I also gained a similar one internationally. I learned my lesson, and with a little more effort, by the end of the academic year, I managed to join the extended national team and became 5th in one of the competitions, even though I was a tenth-grader in the 11-12 grade group.

Stefan: The most challenging moment for me was when I realized that software work, built over the years, can be very easily erased and deleted. This happened after working in a very promising company that eventually went bankrupt. The project, which was great, came to an end. This is one of the significant downsides of this profession – that erasing software can become very easy compared to other things in the material world. I pondered on this situation for some time and ultimately realized that it’s not an abnormal phenomenon but a part of life. Such situations should not discourage us because software can help people, and we, as programmers, should always strive for that.

How does it feel to be part of the CodeIT team this season and part of the 24-year history of the competition?

Deniz: I feel grown up, already working and making my dream of professionally engaging in computer science come true.

Peter: CodeIT is a competition that changes both its design and the style of its tasks for the participants every year. The fact that this year I am contributing significantly to the second part makes me very happy, because it means that I am leaving a mark in the world of competitive informatics.

Stefan: It is a great honor. This is a long-standing tradition that continues to this day. My desire is to make CodeIT a better tournament with each season. We are actively working on various improvements and already have achievements to be proud of. I am also glad that the participants in CodeIT develop important skills in this competition – dealing with unprecedented problems, finding a way out of tense situations, working under time and resource constraints. These are universal skills that will make them more prepared for life.

Is organizing a large-scale competition like CodeIT difficult? What is the most important element in such an organization?

Deniz: The team is everything. The key to our success is good task distribution, as well as being organized.

Peter: There are certainly some challenges. For each round we carefully choose the dates, considering the calendar of other informatics competitions. On the other hand, creating tasks requires good coordination within the team. The relationships between our team members, as well as our quick reactions, contribute to our success even in difficult moments.

Stefan: It’s both difficult and easy. The hard part is that there are many components that have to work in sync – tasks, technical infrastructure, sponsors and patrons, rewards, PR, marketing. The fact that everyone involved loves CodeIT makes things a little easier. The most important thing is the rapport within the team, both among us and among the participants.

What would you say to all CodeIT competitors, including those lacking the courage or still hesitant to participate?

Denise: Challenge yourselves and join this extraordinary competition.

Peter: To those who are already competing, I want to express my gratitude for dedicating their time to our competition. And to those who are wondering, I would say that when I first found out about CodeIT, the format of the competition sparked my interest. It is very different from other competitions, so I encourage everyone to give it a try, even just out of curiosity.

Stefan: Perhaps the most challenging part for participants is overcoming the fear of not performing well enough or embarrassing themselves. In the team we have seen participants joining only for two of the last rounds and accumulating enough points to qualify for the final, or even win it! I don’t think having a win-or-lose mindset is a good idea. CodeIT will mainly help you develop yourself and your own skills – dealing with unfamiliar tasks, coming up with interesting solutions, and finding a way out of difficult situations. You might even win a prize from the raffle! Participate in CodeIT and see the competition as an opportunity to have fun! Good luck!

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