One evening last summer, software developer James Johnston was doing what so many people do: scrolling through...
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his Facebook feed. Up popped an ad asking if he was interested in playing a coding game against others on a site called CodeFights. The Chattanooga, Tenn., resident thought it sounded like fun, and the rest is history.
His coding skills on the CodeFights platform were so strong, the developer recruiting site offered to connect him with potential employers. Within a week, Johnston had a half dozen interviews set up. And in three months, he found himself working at a well-funded, San Francisco-based startup, Thumbtack.
"I had thought about looking for a job, but I hadn't done anything concrete about it," Johnston said. "I hadn't even started networking. Responding to that ad really kick-started the process."
At a time when there is a worldwide shortage of software developers, it is perhaps not surprising it doesn't take long to find a job when you're a developer. But employers have to work harder on developer recruiting than ever before. So, the idea of being able to connect directly with experienced coders is intriguing.
Of course, that's not what CodeFights founder Tigran Sloyan set out to develop. Sloyan, a math major and an enthusiastic participant in math competitions while in school, was working on a site for math geeks to compete against each other. As time passed, though, he realized he could use game theory to encourage people to come to the site and learn and practice coding.
"It's all about practice," he said. "I strongly believe any healthy person who puts enough practice in anything can become great at it."
From there, it was a short step to realizing this tool for learning and practice might also be a good fit for developer recruiting. "What if people could discover developers ... in a way that's not from a recruiting firm, but more on the business side? What if we could grow talent at a global scale and not limit employers to the lucky few who are motivated and at the right place and the right time?"
Sloyan described CodeFights as like Angry Birds, but for coding. A developer can choose a world -- that can be a language like Python or a concept like graphing -- and then pick a location in that world to begin. Each task solved is a coding problem, and they get more complicated at each step. Johnston said it was all fun, but it was also very much like the kinds of problems you might be asked to solve during a developer recruiting interview. And it’s competitive.
"You can compete with real people and race to see who can code up a solution," he explained. "Or you can compete against company bots, which is much more difficult. I competed against two of the company bots, and I beat them."
Today, CodeFights is targeted at coders with some experience, but Sloyan said he hopes to expand in time to include content for beginners. Currently, the company is working with close to 200 potential employers doing developer recruiting, and the companies are mainly in the United States. At this point, very close to 1 million developer users from 200 countries have joined CodeFights, Sloyan said.
From Johnston's perspective, this is much more than a coding game site. "This is not just about getting the attention of CodeFights," he said. "This is very much about your coding skills. You need to be able to do well at these kinds of problems, because once you're interviewing, you're going to have similar kinds of problems to solve, so you'd better be good at it."
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