Watson Commons became a Microsoft scouting base on Wednesday night as students assembled to show off their skills in a coding competition.
Participants gathered in groups of two or three and attempted to solve multiple coding problems set by the judges from the tech giant. The group that solved the most problems in the shortest amount of time won the competition, and the attention of Microsoft scouts.
“We’re looking for really strong coding and problem-solving skills,” said Forrest Marvin, a Microsoft representative and Binghamton University alumnus. “This is primarily about algorithms and the ability to turn a problem into a coded solution pretty quickly. We want a mix between that and good interpersonal skills.”
Marvin said that company officials were visiting top schools around the country in search of students to recruit.
“[A coding contest is] a great filter to see who stands out, and it’s well known that a good programmer is easily 10 times more productive than an average programmer,” said Patrick Madden, a computer science professor at BU. “A GPA does not always tell the real story, and in many cases, tells the exact opposite of the real story.”
According to Marvin, undergraduate coders who stood out would earn a chance for a 12-week summer internship at the Microsoft office in Seattle. Graduate students would receive an interview for a full-time employment opportunity.
“Pretty much anything that you want to do for science as a career, they have some kind of open position,” said Asloob Qureshi, a second-year graduate student studying math. “They make the best stuff and would provide a career for the long run.”
According to Madden, coding competitions are a way for students to open doors to their futures as programmers, especially for the winning group, “Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Man.”
“If you’re in computer science you want to come to these things,” Madden said. “You do well, you get noticed and by the time you graduate, you’re fighting off job offers.”
While the prospect of a job opportunity was enticing for some, others attended just to have a good time.
“I think everyone enjoys going, whether it be to try and win or just have fun and talk to other people,” said Christopher Beard, a junior double-majoring in math and computer science. “You get to know the other people who go to these types of things after being in classes with them and seeing them at similar events.”
But for Ganesh Wani, a second-year graduate student studying math, the prospect of joining the ranks of those at Microsoft was a draw.
“Microsoft only hires the greatest people; the best minds,” Wani said. “If you are that lucky guy, it’s a pretty amazing thing.”