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Orbis Talks to Ricardo Mallols, Kodiri.com

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jesse-walker, Technology, Orbis Connect...

 

Kodiri is a gaming platform where users learn the most popular programming languages and libraries by playing against each other. Kodiri was founded by Ricardo Mallols. A community-driven project, created with the support of multiple collaborators from all over the globe.

After announcing Orbis’ official partnership with Kodiri, Jesse Walker sat down with Ricardo to discuss how the platform was originally formed and their admirable work for underrepresented groups and new hiring techniques for organisations.  

 

 

Jesse: Ricardo thanks again for taking some time to speak to us.

Ricardo: Thank you very much for having me today. I'm very excited to participate in this!

Jesse: So firstly, I'd love to give people a chance that don't know you a little bit of background. Can you tell us a little bit about your career in software engineering?

Ricardo: I'm a software developer. I've been working with JavaScript and friends for 18 years now. I've been working with technologies like Angular, React, Vue, jQuery in the old times. Now, I’m working on Kodiri.com.

Jesse: That's awesome. 18 years in JavaScript, the browser has changed a lot… What are some of the coolest developments you think are happening in in the JavaScript space right now?

Ricardo: That's a really good question. So, when I started to work with JavaScript, I’d been working in many different countries for many different industries. I've seen so many things right?!

A long time ago, JavaScript was some sort of toy language compared to things like Java. Now we can see that JavaScript is a much stronger language so you can build amazing stuff in less time.

If we had a time machine back in time, 2005 or 2006, I couldn't have imagined myself doing JavaScript in 2020. But I know things have changed a lot in a positive way and I’m very happy about that.

Jesse: You’re the founder and creator of Kodiri. For those who haven't heard of Kodiri before, what's the 30 second pitch of Kodiri?

Ricardo: Kodiri is an online platform where people can learn coding, or if you feel you already know coding, you can improve your coding skills. It's completely free.

We have a special focus on helping underprivileged and underrepresented communities. Thanks to Kodiri, many people have managed to break into the tech market. That’s probably the most rewarding aspect, right?

Jesse: Yeah that’s awesome. When did the idea of Kodiri first strike you?

Ricardo: I've been involved in many, many, many, candidate interview processes working as a Senior Developer, and when you interview people, you realize that you ask the same questions. It's all about repeating the same thing again and again.

I thought about automating that process somehow. I created an engine where the system and the idea was to ask questions to the candidate. Based on the answers we got back from that person, we would evaluate the performance or the ability to write code.

So that was the initial idea of Kodiri and it worked really well. At some point, I decided to make the leap of faith and release it to the community. So now this platform is not just for me to interview people, it's for everybody to play with.

Jesse: Could companies also use Kodiri in the same way you previously had with candidates?

Ricardo: Yes of course, at the end of the day, Kodiri is an engine that evaluates your ability to write code, I believe this could be beneficial for many different purposes.

First of all, for yourself, you might want to see where you are and compare your performance with other developers. Also, companies can use it to evaluate and to compare technology.

Jesse: So you struck out and said, ‘Okay, I'm going to do Kodiri full time. At what point did you get so busy that you needed more people? When do you start hiring folks?

Ricardo: That happened in 2018. Originally it was just me. Then I realised that many people wanted to learn coding from scratch. People were coming from different backgrounds who wanted to dedicate as much time as necessary coding. This went beyond my initial expectations so I had to expand the team to help me build the platform.

Jesse: How does it make you feel to be a leader? To have people working on something you created yourself.

Ricardo: I think that the feeling is positive. Obviously, to me, the most rewarding aspect of the journey is helping people.

We've been helping individuals and communities from all around the world. I looked at the stats this morning and I think we’ve got people from 97 countries using the platform. Some of these players are based in locations where they are having issues beyond the global pandemic. We're talking about regions that are suffering from military conflicts.

Even though I haven’t had the opportunity to meet them personally, I'm sure they are struggling. Building a platform that helps people from all around the world to improve their technical abilities and eventually break into tech. I think that's extremely rewarding.

From time to time we get messages from players, who we've never met, telling us they’ve managed to secure a job. That’s fantastic, right?

Jesse: It comes through talking to you, Ricardo, that you're passionate about underrepresented groups in communities that might be dealing with above average struggles.

What fuels that passion for you? How does Kodiri help these groups?

Ricardo: We had been oriented towards learning JavaScript and related technologies, because I'm a developer, right? We started receiving more players who started to feel the joy of coding, and we realized that we had to expand the list of available technologies.  

We want to expand the community because the more people we have playing with high quality, the higher the requirements are. That's a nice challenge and thankfully we are working with a bunch of collaborators from different countries who are helping us to satisfy the appetite from developers, demanding new challenges, new games, particularly for new, trendy languages and frameworks.

Jesse: How often do you produce and host new challenges?

Ricardo: The way the smaller challenges work is we create a balance. The technology could be JavaScript, React, Vue.js, or HTML. We compare player’s performance and create healthy competition, where developers prove their talent against each other. They can compare their coding style. If they struggle with any questions, they can see how their colleagues solved the question. I think it's useful to compare their style with other developers as well.

We also run public events and challenges, where everyone is officially invited. We have almost 8000 members now!

These use to take place on site. Now, with the global pandemic, we are running all our events online.

Last November, we celebrated an international JavaScript challenge. We had around 200 developers playing by teams from 4 different countries in Europe. That sort of experience is very rewarding.

Jesse: I was thinking about our chat the other day and realised that places like Google saying, ‘Hey, we're not going to care so much anymore about education’, it seems really fitting in terms of helping underprivileged or underrepresented groups break in to tech, because maybe they don't have the same access to the education that others might, but they can build up their coding skills.

Ricardo: I completely agree on that. It essentially minimizes the human bias, because they don’t care where you come from, whether you attended university or not, your gender, your race.

Jesse: That's awesome. Well, so in terms of Kodiri right now, are there any particular features that you have or that you have on the roadmap that you're super excited about?

Ricardo: We are looking for volunteers to join us at Kodiri. We're not experts in languages like Python and Java. We need this to bring more challenging games to these global communities we work with.

Jesse: what about the future of Kodiri? Do you have any visions or hopes for the next few years for coding?

Ricardo: That’s hard to say especially in the current circumstances, but from a technological point of view, we would like to continue adding more challenges and games to the platform.

There are some hot topics out there which I’d like to incorporate, like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

For instance, if people are playing a series of games and for whatever reason, we realise that they’re struggling with a particular type of game. It would be nice in the future to invite that person to learn through different external resources based on their performance or connect them with other players that have proved to be strong in that skillset.

Jesse: Sure! For example, maybe somebody is really good at creating functions, but then they struggle with setting up proper strings. Correct?

Ricardo: Yes!

Jesse: That would be cool. Kodiri is not the only coding platform out there, what differentiates Kodiri from the pack?

Ricardo: The first thing is that we have a special focus on helping people in underrepresented communities. We’re not here for the profit. We are trying to help and support people from a technological point of view.

Kodiri is the only coding platform that runs completely free end to end on mobile and desktop.

In that respect, one of the things that we’ve been focused on recently is trying to soften the learning curve. I find the learning curve a bit intimidating. Coding can be challenging, so one of the things we’ve done is try to simplify the learning curve as fast as possible. If you select the beginner level, it's quite simple and some of the games are just about selecting multiple choice answers. We tried to make coding as fun as possible. That’s probably an important difference with other solutions and platforms out there.

We run a very large network in the UK and we're expanding to other countries now.

What it is today is just the consequence of all the feedback we've been receiving over the last couple of years from many developers from around the world, and that's part of our DNA.

Jesse: Ricardo, you're the man. It's a pleasure to talk to you.

Ricardo: Thank you very much.

 

 

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