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Humans Of NSUPS #001

We are going to start a series of stories about our respected ex-contestants from North South University. Our very first story is about Pinku Deb Nath who was one of the most hardworking and talented contestants of NSUPS.

Pinku Deb Nath finished his studies at North South University last year and took his graduation earlier this year. He was also the Valedictorian and Chancellor’s Gold Medalist of this year’s Convocation. He participated in the ACM ICPC Dhaka Regional 5 times in a row (from 2013 to 2017) and made several top 10 finishes in national level programming contests during that time. He was also part of the team that stood 4th in Amritapuri regional back in 2015 which helped NSU to qualify for the ACM ICPC World Finals of 2016. Now he is working as a software engineer at Pathao. Recently, we took a short interview of Pinku Deb Nath where he told us how problem-solving has helped him throughout his career and also gave some valuable advice to the newcomers who are starting their journey in the programming contest arena. Here are the details of that interview.

When did you finish your graduation?

2018.

Were you a programming contestant during your time at NSU?

Yes.

Where are you currently working/studying?

Working as a software engineer in Pathao.

When did you join Pathao?

April, 2018.

How did problem-solving help in your career?

I think problem-solving helped me to increase my mental grit and stamina and helped me to gain unwavering focus. Even though I have not succeeded or reached the pinnacle of competitive programming, I have gained the attitude required for mastery in any field. I think this is the biggest gain of problem-solving and competitive programming. I think problem-solving also increased my level of abstract thinking. I learned how to think about a problem, model the problem in a simple way, break the problem into as many simple independent subsets as possible, figure out how to solve the sub-problems and merge the sub-problems. I just ripped off the definition of dynamic programming 😛 This approach is also called reductionism. There are also other ways to tackle the problems. Granted, software engineering is a bit different from competitive programming. Design patterns, the ability to quickly read the documentation, implement and test packages are the primary keys to success. It can take a long time, even years, to acquire mastery of these skills. But once we reach the peak, we would want to develop our own packages, our own solutions to solve a unique and recurring engineering problem, or develop a new language that can utilize the newest breakthroughs, such as quantum computing. That will be the moment when problem solvers will shine 🙂

Any good experience you want to share?

Plenty^Infinity ^_^ The time I spent for competitive programming during my university years, those were some of the best periods of my life. I loved attending the problem-solving classes on weekends, waking up late and leaving my residence within 5 minutes, taking a bite from the cafeteria, and then getting my mind blown with awe during the classes. I loved discussing solutions of various contests after class. I also loved when we went for lunch after classes. I loved attending the many countless on-line contests and then praying that my ‘competitors’ (now we are good buddies) get wrong answer (WAs), only to find that I got the WAs -.-. Even though I had a number of intense feelings of disappointments after performing poorly in national contests, now I realize that there was something beautiful about those intense feelings. I loved attending on-site contests which took all over Bangladesh in the span of 4 years, and I loved the bus rides, having fun in while traveling and residing in hotels, taking boat rides etc. I loved it when I got the opportunities to see some of the best minds in the world competing for intellectual glory. In the end, I am honored that I was part of a global intellectual community and a number of people believed in me, although I disappointed them all. If I had a time machine, I would set it on a loop from 2013 to 2017 and relive each moment for eternity. 😛

Some advice for the newcomers?

Do not worry if you find competitive programming hard or become sad when you see your peers perform better than you. Even though the phrase has ‘competitive’ in it, competitive programming is actually misleading. The competition is not with others. The competition is with yourself. You are competing with who you were yesterday. Today, you will create a high benchmark of performance for your future self. Problem solvers are not necessarily competitive programmers but competitive programmers are problem solvers. According to me, problem solvers are those people who are curious about everything and are focused enough to figure out the underlying mechanisms. And in the process of satiating their curiosities, they end up solving some of the most critical problems of our time. The process is more important than a short intensive training. Aim for the marathon, not for the sprint. Be honest with yourself. Dedicate fixed hours of daily practice and stick to it. Use your emotions. Emotions are more powerful than we can ever realize. Use your emotions to create good habits and to avoid bad habits. The following years you will spend in the university will make or break you. You have to be responsible for your life and your dreams right now. Dreams do come true, but only for those who make endless sacrifices. Time is a scarcity and the most valuable resource you will ever have. Ask yourself what you want from your life in the next 5 years. Write them down. Now, work relentlessly every day, and night, to attain your dreams. Then maybe, if you are lucky… There is a saying about “Following your passion and you will succeed”. Most people are late to realize the magnitude of the meaning of this simple phrase. If you are not passionate, then you can not put the endless effort required for mastery. Nonetheless, be your own judge. No one can understand you better than you yourself. Your university years will be the most memorable time your life. Do what you love and bravely choose the paths which will lead to minimum regrets. If I really had a time machine and the chance to go back to the start of my university life, I would urge myself not to waste time on mindless entertainment. I would urge myself to spend more time with my family and friends and have great memories, do more competitive programming and research, and read lots of books.

 

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