8 tips on how to succeed at Google Hash Code

Thousands of devs solve Google Hash Code each year. Read our best tips for this programming competition that will take place at Vacuumlabs HQ.
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Thousands of developers all over the world will take part in an online programming competition, Google Hash Code, at the same time. During a four-hour-long contest, they will solve an optimization assignment by Google in teams of two to four. Devs can choose almost any programming language they prefer. 

It’s very prestigious to make it to the final round. Central Europe’s talent pool is one of the best in the world – many teams from the region compete in the Final Round every year. The Slovak team from MatFyz, a Maths and Physics faculty at Comenius University, even finished in the top ten (read more about their success in Slovak here).

This is how it looked in the Final Round at Google Ireland’s HQ last year:

The first online qualification round will take place on Thursday, 20th February at 18.30 Central European Time. Teams can participate either remotely or come to one of the official Google Hubs to enjoy the competitiveness of other teams present and have fun afterwards. One of only two official hubs in Slovakia is our HQ in Bratislava. 

You will solve an optimization problem

“The event starts with a live stream, where people from Google define the challenge of the Google Hash Code Qualification Round. In the past, those tasks included, for example, deliveries by drones,  the optimization of video cache for YouTube or an autonomous taxi service.”

Says Andy Skok, Senior Software Developer at Vacuumlabs, and the organizer of Bratislava’s hubs in the past few years.

At the start, developers will see the optimization problems and around five outputs for testing their solutions in the online environment. The total possible points scored will be, as every year, included in the problem description.

Let’s get to Hash Code tips for competing

1. The more problems you solve, the more points you get. You can expect standard inputs, but also some extreme cases. Your algorithm should work for a variety of data.

2. Choose your language wisely. While you do upload your code, it’s not actually run. In reality, only output files are checked.

3. Work your ass off until the last second. Every solution is graded, but you only get points for the best one.

4. Networking and competitiveness in the hub create an invaluable atmosphere. On top of that, you can work with different approaches with other teams and discover various points of view. 

5. Use the help of “non-programmers”. Andy Skok remembers: “Last year, our colleague Martina from the Finance Department came to support us, and after a few minutes she helped us with her Excel and output skills. It’s essential to keep smart people around you. They don’t necessarily have to be devs.”

6. Check the preliminary results and motivate yourself. The leaderboard is public for the first two hours, which improves performance. Afterwards, the standings freeze to create some tension. 

7. Create a good overview of optimization algorithms. You will hardly make it to the top 100 without knowing simulated annealing, genetic or evolutionary algorithms. 

8. There’s beauty in simplicity and often even the best solution. “It often happens that overthinking leads to the solution nobody understands. Such an answer receives fewer points than a simple idea with small upgrades,” advises Andy Skok.

Hash Code solver Andy Skok
Andy Skok of Vacuumlabs

Google Hash Code 2020 starts in a few days, so don’t waste a minute and join thousands of developers in this prestigious challenge. Registration for hub competitions closes on 17th February.

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