01/18/2013 10:40 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Find the Best C.S. Students via Programming Competitions

It's a battle out there to find the top computer science students. How to find them and then get them interested in your company is a gigantic challenge. One very effective way to both find and entice top students is creating or sponsoring a programming competition.

When I asked for sponsors to provide prizes for the Windward Code War, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Morgan Stanley jumped at the chance -- for one very simple reason: This contest attracts the best of the best. It's the best students at the top C.S. schools. And most of the participants will take a look at the companies responsible for one of their most enjoyable days at school.

Finding the Best of the Best

The students who participate in these competitions tend to be the best of the best. Our code war is among the top C.S. schools in the world. And from those students, we get the students who find programming so much fun, that they choose to spend a Saturday writing code for the pure joy of it. These are students who, when given a difficult challenge, will thank you for the interesting work. And will then solve the problem.

These students are the ones with the curiosity and initiative required to create the brilliant new products no one has thought of yet. These students are the ones that can produce a solution quickly. It may not be elegant. It may not be pretty. It may violate every rule they've been taught about proper programming. But it gets the job done and it is created quickly. That's gigantic in the real world.

These students are the ones that see a challenge as chance to succeed. Most people shy away from challenges because of the possibility of failure. These students are the ones focused on winning and understand that in striving to win, they can well lose.

Hiring the Best of the Best

How bad do companies want these students? Hewlett-Packard is providing 18 insanely awesome laptops just to put their name in front of these students. Microsoft is providing five Surface tablets, 10 Kinects and more to put their name in too. And Morgan Stanley is feeding all of them. And all three companies jumped at the chance to do this.


They are sponsoring one of "the best days ever" at school for these students. These students can go get internships at pretty much any company. Through the code war, these companies get added to the short list of companies these students are considering for internships. A student will figure that a company that sponsors this has got to be an interesting place to work (they are).

What Students Get

One of the most exhilarating days ever at school. And an introduction to three companies that highly value who you are (for those interested, you can email them at Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, & Morgan Stanley).

Students -- The Windward Code War is great. But there are many other hackathons (the Imagine Cup is a great one) out there. As a computer science student you should participate in several each year. You'll improve your programming and learn a lot of new skills. More importantly, you'll learn a lot about striving for success and overcoming obstacles. And when you apply for jobs, listing the hackathons you've participated in is a giant plus. Giant.

Code War Live

  • Saturday, Jan. 26: 10:00 a.m. -- The challenge problem is released. See what the teams must implement in 8 hours.
  • Saturday, Jan. 26 - 7:00 p.m. -- The scores from each school's semi-final, and the teams going on to the final are listed.
  • Sunday, Jan. 27 - 10:00am -- The international semifinals and then final will be available live.
  • Note: all times Pacific (California) time.