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Vishwastam Shukla, Chief Technology Officer at HackerEarth – Interview Series

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Vishwastam Shukla, is the Chief Technology Officer at HackerEarth, a platform to engage or source top developers with hackathons, while also enabling businesses to assess, interview and upskill developers with ease.

What initially attracted you to computer science and coding?

I wrote my first code when I was still in school. It was simply magical to create something of value by just writing a few lines of code. I remember writing tiny C and BASIC programs to do text manipulation and arithmetic functions and carrying those around in a floppy disk as a prized possession. I was always driven towards mathematics and hence learning the binary system was very engaging too.

Could you share with us what HackerEarth is specifically?

HackerEarth’s vision is to match software developers with the right opportunities across the globe. We have a community of nearly 6 million developers who use our platform to learn to code. They participate in Hackathons and Hiring Challenges facilitated by various organizations, on our platform. For enterprises, we offer a technical assessment tool for screening their software developer candidates. We have also recently launched a technical interviewing tool that offers a best-in-class experience to interviewers and the interviewee. Putting everything together, we offer an end-to-end developer life cycle platform that covers learning to skill signaling to getting hired and then back to learning.

Could you define what skill-signaling is and how it has evolved over time?

Skill signaling is basically proof that you present to prospective employers to showcase what you have learned over time. Conventionally, employers have been using pedigree like college degrees, prior organizations, skills mentioned on the resume as the skill signals. This has created an unreasonable amount of dependency on what candidates write on their resumes. This is, however, changing fast. Today, the best tech employers look for actual proof of work when trying to evaluate skills. This kind of skill signaling can be done via a candidate’s Github profile or her leaderboard rank on platforms like HackerEarth. On top of that, employers then screen these candidates based on how they perform during an online tech assessment, which is purely based on skills needed for the job. This keeps the overall hiring process very objective and fair for both the employer and the candidate.

Why is contributing to open-source projects so important?

I would say that open-source contributions are one of the strong skill signals for any candidate looking to get hired. But broadly speaking, for any software developer with open-source contributions under her belt, it means she knows a lot of development best practices, can work efficiently within a team setup, can follow processes, and write clean, maintainable code.

Why is participating in hackathons one of the best ways for candidates to differentiate themselves?

Hackathons are a unique opportunity for learning. Candidates get to use their technical skills and create something like an application or prototype of an idea that is actually useful in the real world. This helps candidates not only build their technical muscle but also gain expertise within the domain for which they build. It also gives them a flavor of teamwork and hustle that is usually required for any fast-growing organization. This is why we see employers doing more hiring hackathons these days where they can see real technical skills, creativity and teamwork all at once.

What are some other ways candidates can showcase their work?

Other than being active on Github and open coding communities like HackerEarth, candidates can showcase their work through their contributions on platforms like StackOverflow or their technical blogs on Medium.

Why should candidates always be willing to learn and make a habit of continuously upskilling?

While the fundamentals of software development don’t necessarily change, there are many changes with new languages, frameworks, styles of writing code, or software architecture. This is primarily driven by the growth in processing powers, accessibility to massive amounts of data, and applicability to such a wide variety of domains. Candidates must develop a good depth in at least a few of these but must also have a great breadth of understanding so that they can apply the best tool for a given problem statement. This requires constant learning and general awareness of such developments.

What should recruiters and hiring managers need to be thinking about when hiring the next generation of developers?

Other than the core skills like data structures, algorithms, and design, employers must focus on first principles thinking. There are several ways to check for that but my favorite one is to get candidates to do a proper written assignment. This forces them to not only solve the problem but also explain their solution in a manner that is understood by others. Another important aspect to think about is diversity. As a hiring manager, you don’t want to create a team that thinks and acts just like you. Teams should in fact be a melting pot of ideas and diverse opinions. This helps spur innovation in the long run.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about HackerEarth?

HackerEarth as an organization takes pride in the fact that we have been able to impact tens of thousands of lives by helping them learn and get jobs at hundreds of great organizations across the world. As software continues to eat the world, we will continue to impact more lives, make technology more accessible, remove biases and help democratize skill-based hiring.

Antoine Tardif is a Futurist who is passionate about the future of AI and robotics. He is the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 AI & blockchain projects. He is the Co-Founder of Securities.io a news website focusing on digital assets, digital securities and investing. He is a founding partner of unite.AI & a member of the Forbes Technology Council.