Learning from my first LeetCode Competition

This weekend I signed up for my first LeetCode competition. I thought it would be a fun challenge to experience and learn from. Full disclosure, I got utterly rocked by it. BUT, I did learn from my experience which is a great take away.

I started with a higher point problem, wasted too much time on it, couldn’t pass it (I thought I understood the deliverable but my expected outcome was not matching theirs). More than 2/3rds of the time limit passed while I was still scratching my head. I went back to the first problem (lowest points). I was able to finish it but I submitted 10 seconds too late. Total Score: 0. No buzzer beater for me.

  1. Maybe start with the first problem next time. (At least when it comes to LeetCode Competitions).
  2. White board.
  3. White board.
  4. White board? Yes. White board. I’ve started keeping a notebook next to my laptop for this purpose. After the first read through of the deliverable my first thought was “huh?”. I went straight for the notebook and started drawing out the different parts of the “puzzle”. Once I saw it more clearly I could think through the logic.
  5. Doing the competition felt a lot different than just doing problems on Leet Code or Code Wars. Having that time limit definitely added a little pressure. Also seeing the #1 Ranked person finish all the problems in 10 minutes was a pretty jaw dropping moment for me. But in a technical interview there are also time limits. I personally felt it was good practice in thinking under pressure and time management.
  6. Coding consistently. I spent time to google syntax and documentation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having to do this. But I feel if I was more consistent with my programming certain things would be more second nature. (“Does .every return a boolean? Was it string[0].toLowerCase? string.charAt(0).toLowerCase? .toLowerCase()? Did javascript have .toCapitalCase?”)

Also, celebrate the wins! I can honestly say I did not feel discouraged at all by doing the competition. I was able to attempt and embrace a harder challenge than I’ve experienced thus far in my career as a programmer. I learned more about myself as a programmer and can reflect on my strengths and weaknesses and think on how to improve them. To me that’s a win.

Fullstack Software Engineer

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