In the past months, my life has drastically changed. I went from being unemployed and disillusioned to being as happy as ever as a software developer at Gamebuilt. This is the story of how I got a job through a programming contest held by CodinGame. And more specifically, this is how I managed to trust my programming skills again.

Born in 1979, I discovered informatics with the Armstrad CPC6128. I’ll never thank my parents enough for this gift. For younger generations to understand, at that time, there was no user interface, just a terminal. To launch a game, I had to type:

run “<game_name>.exe”

With the computer came a HUGE book about BASIC. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I just read that they stopped the production in 1990… So I must have been just under 10 when I learned binary from a book.

In short, I was a computer geek before the term even existed.

I’m not any smarter than anyone else. Actually, I’ve always had difficulty learning things. Memorizing anything was a nightmare — and still is. Once I’ve understood something, though, I can recall it for a long time.

I got through school thanks to mathematics — you don’t really need to learn math, but to comprehend it; same with programming. After failing to get accepted to an Institute of Technology for informatics, I ended up in college to study mathematics and informatics applied to sciences. While there, I didn’t see a computer for the three first months, and the teachers told me (in 1999) that Pascal was a promising language for the future.

It already sounded ridiculous at that time.

All right, I was young (and a bit dumb). When the teacher gave us a Tetris-like project for the end of the year, I felt proud to hand it back the week after. I actually got a decent mark (the only one). I finally left.

I failed to get accepted to the same Institute of Technology for a second time and spent the next two years learning SQL queries and Visual Basic to get an Advanced Technician’s Certificate.

None of this carried much weight in the curriculum, nor improved my credibility as a developer.

One day, over a beer, my brother — who had just bootstrapped his startup — told me about a French company he had heard about in a hall from his accelerator: CodinGame. He had no clue about programming, but he knew me enough to understand I could enjoy their platform.

At first sight, I didn’t get it. There were results of a contest, “Back to the Code”; it looked nice, but I didn’t understand what it was. I thought people were actually playing a game… Until I finally understood they coded AIs and had them compete against each other.

Tears came to my eyes…

I then participated in the contest, “Code Versus Zombies.” I took a blow. Other members in the community coded much better than me — and much faster. Up to this point, I had mainly rested on my laurels. And to be honest, in the professional world, you don’t compare yourself to another. Everyone copes with the strengths and weaknesses of their colleagues.

Anyways, I was not so bad. The real problem was that I thought I was a killer…

Despite my results, I got hooked and have participated in every single contest since then.

Last year, in June, my brother said I should meet CodinGame’s team at their office in Montpellier. They held a CodingHub for the contest, Codebusters. I must admit that spending years moping around made me kind of “asocial.” I was embarrassed and scared, but I still went. This was for sure the “kick in the ass” I needed to get back to a more social life.

Meeting the team motivated me more than ever. I took advantage of having nothing else to do and dedicated all of my time to the challenge. For once, I didn’t have a computer for a few days, so I thought about strategy instead. I ended up at the 11th rank in the Legend league, as the first French player. I cannot tell you how proud I felt.

I had chosen to participate in contests that provided a chance of being contacted by sponsor companies, but I didn’t dare to reply to the emails until the contest “Ghost in the Cell” in February. I had finally regained some confidence.

For the first time in my life, I attended interviews where I felt in a strong position. I spent 2 weeks on the phone and finally chose the job that I liked. I chose to work for Gamebuilt, a small start-up which brought me back to the world of video games. I favored the work atmosphere and the opportunity against the salary. The most important thing for me, though, is that I had a choice. A tough one, as the opportunities were really attractive, but I could choose.

Now, I’m better at programming. At 38, I realize that I have still a lot to learn, but also that the skills I’ve been focusing on for fun for a few years begin to be useful. I know that I can always improve myself by learning new things. It is amazing how much you can learn from your peers in programming.

I consider myself lucky to be able to combine two of my passions –coding and gaming– in my day-to-day job.

I just want to thank the CodinGame team for what they’ve built and continue to do. This is just awesome. I’m really happy to have met you in person, and I hope that I’ll have an opportunity to celebrate my new position with you. You’ve done an amazing job with the recent previous contests; keep up the great work.

And to everyone, I wish you to be successful in making your dreams come true.