Tempe, Ariz.,
14:54 PM

Seeing sophistication at State Farm

Harshal Sheth used to think of State Farm® as a bunch of agents selling insurance out of offices around the country. Technical sophistication wasn’t a phrase that immediately came to mind.

After competing in the State Farm Coding Competition, the Yale University sophomore realizes State Farm is nothing like what he envisioned.

"Before the coding competition, I really hadn’t thought of State Farm as a potential destination for me,” the computer science major said.

Like many of his peers, Harshal saw insurance as a necessity to drive their car, or protect the stuff in their apartment or dorm room.

That opinion changed when Harshal got turned on to the State Farm Coding Competition by friend and 2016 State Farm Coding Competition winner and three-time finalist Ankur Sundara.

“Ankur had competed in the competition three other times and told me about it,” Harshal said.

The annual State Farm Coding Competition is a two-stage Java competition for college undergraduate students. Students register online individually or as teams. On the day of the competition, they download the problem statement and upload their solution. The top five submissions were invited, expenses paid, to the Marina Heights Hub for the final.

"Ankur and I competed in the qualifying round together,” Harshal said. “It seemed like an interesting opportunity to try something new and work on a real-world problem, not something out of a textbook.”

The competition also identifies programmers for State Farm.

"The Coding Competition gives students some real-world situations, but for State Farm it serves the purpose of advertising State Farm as a tech company and that we have jobs in the tech field,” said Software Developer Josh Storrs, who directs the competition for State Farm. “We are able to spread that word and make young programmers aware of the opportunities here.”

Josh said the goal for the students in the first round is to implement a solution that will make the test cases pass in the most efficient manner possible. The competitors have four hours to finish and State Farm judges use a script to verify how many tests each team passed along with looking at any bonus completed to choose the finalists. The finalists earn $800 per team and receive an expenses-paid trip to State Farm for an on-site final.

The final is more insurance related. The finalists are graded on the cleanliness of their code and how maintainable it is. The finalists also explain how they came to their solution and what benefit it would give the company.

Finalists are graded on both the code and presentation. The winning team earns $1,500.

"They are pretty good at thinking outside of the box and being creative in their solutions,” Josh said. “We don’t give them a whole lot of time so it is impressive how much they are able to do in a small window. Coming up with a nifty solution and being able to present that solution before a panel of judges, it’s impressive.”

"The competition was incredibly well-run and provided me an opportunity to tackle an interesting problem and present my solution to State Farm executives,” Harshal said. “It's definitely put State Farm on the radar for me, and opened my eyes to the technical sophistication required to make the company operate effectively.”