Today, we’re interviewing Dimitri Lebel and Frédéric Marcoul from Spotter. Dimitri has just been hired as a software developer by Frédéric, R&D Back Office director, after participating in one of our coding contests. Thank you both for accepting to answer our questions.
CodinGame (CG) – Hi Dimitri, can you tell us about your background?
I’m 30, and live near Montpellier. In the beginning, I didn’t have any training in IT. I have a “BTS” (a vocational qualification) in Mechanical Engineering. I worked for five years in the automobile industry. In 2010, the company I was working for was hit by the economic crisis. There were layoffs and more than half of the staff was dismissed. I took this as an opportunity to start a new career: I trained as a software designer/developer at the “AFPA” (a vocational training system for adults). I got my first job as a developer in 2011 for an editor of medical software.
CG – Why did you decide to participate in the CodinGame contests?
I heard of the CodinGame contests by word of mouth. I thought it was an interesting way to find work, guided by a challenge that can be fun. For me, it was a chance to try something new, and I loved the side challenge of programming.
CG – How do these challenges unfold, from a developer point of view?
CodinGame contests are coding challenges that also helps you find a new job. I started by training on the platform, and I spent some time on the test pages to see what it was all about. Then I signed up for the contest. I didn’t really expect this kind of challenge — it wasn’t obvious at first how to solve it. I really enjoyed thinking about the different algorithms to solve the puzzles.
CG – What did you like about this kind of recruitment?
After my training at AFPA, I sought employment with traditional methods. I was sending out curriculums, but it took me an entire year to get my first job as a developer. In contrast, after one single participation to a CodinGame contest, I’m all of a sudden contacted by 3 companies in which I was interested. In general, the advantage of the contest is that you get a quick response from a company, either positive or negative. What’s nice is that the sponsor companies on CodinGame already know what we’re capable of, based on our results and how we coded. I’m also finding that the job postings on the portal are clearer than traditional postings, particularly in what is expected at a technical level.
CG – How did the interaction with companies go?
I had a first contact in less than 15 days. I had several telephone interviews and the discussions continued for two months. The contests gave me a better ‘hook’ for companies, and they left no ambiguity as far as my professional skills were concerned. One company still asked me to take a technical test, but for the others, the fact that I’d proven my “bona fides” on CodinGame was enough. In any case, for the job I have today, they didn’t make me take another technical interview, and my background was no obstacle.
CG – You chose to apply to Spotter: why?
Spotter was my first choice among the companies that I applied to. It’s a software company that I found thanks to the contests. The advantage of working for a software publisher is that you can be a driving force in projects year-round. They are very R&D oriented, and they work on innovating projects in advanced media-analysis technology. My responsibilities involve several interesting technologies, including JEE, SEAM 3, Primefaces, and NoSQL.
CG – To wrap up, what do you like the most about your work?
I discovered programming when I was quite young. Until my formal training, I had a rather “DIY” and web-oriented approach, but I loved it. What I enjoy now, as a developer, is the imaginative and creative side of finding the best solution to a given problem.
CG — Hi Frédéric, can you introduce yourself and Spotter?
Spotter is a software company. We develop and sell solutions and applications for Communications, Marketing, and Risk Assessment. Our area of expertise is text mining and opinion measurement in online media, and especially in social media. The company employs 40 professionals, some of whom live abroad. Innovation is at the heart of our work, and we have an ambitious program of R&D. As the R&D Back Office Director, I am regularly looking for new talents to strengthen our team.
CG — What made you choose CodinGame contests as a recruitment tool?
Unsavory experiences with recruitment agencies led us to stop outsourcing our recruitment efforts. We were managing the hiring of our developers ourselves, using traditional methods. In that context, the challenge was to identify the most passionate applicants, given that the qualities we were looking for in candidates were curiosity and an enthusiasm for technology. When we discovered the CodinGame contests, the fun aspect of the competition, combined with the idea of picking someone based on the quality of their thought, their problem-solving, was a real value-added and we decided to try it.
CG — What kinds of applicants are you looking for?
For our R&D group, we’re normally looking for experienced Java / J2EE developers. But after the contest, we recruited Dimitri, who is a real counter-example. The fact that he had just two years of active professional experience really contrasted with the quality of his code, which stood out in his contest entries. Dimitri also knows how to be proactive and demonstrates curiosity in his work. Without CodinGame, we would never have spotted a candidate like this, who is exactly what we wanted.
CG — What are the principal advantages of the CodinGame challenges?
The words that come to mind are effectiveness, accuracy, and speed. On paper, developers have trouble selling themselves, and at presenting their real skills. That’s exactly what happened with Dimitri. Although his curriculum would not have naturally attracted us, the contest let us consider his candidacy without making any assumptions. We were able to see how he structured his thinking, and what solutions he implemented as a developer. And that convinced us that he would be an excellent team member.
CG — A last word to resume this experience?
Consider candidates without making assumptions, and evaluate them on the approach that they take as developers.