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How GEeks go for #CC9900 was cracked!

September 16, 2016
More than 1,000 competitors—the world’s best software engineers, developers, data scientists and solutions architects—from  more than 20 countries, stepped up to the starting block for the first leg of GEeks go for #CC9900, GE’s fiendish programming challenge.
These were the bravest of the brave, considering that almost 165,000 would-be digital athletes stuck their toes in the water and tuned in to GE’s Tweeting Machines chatting in their native binary about their work at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Therein lay the first clues to success.

Once the challenge had begun, many brilliant minds fell by the wayside: only 240 competitors scooped the early-stage ‘MEDALS’ and made it through to the second leg, and half that number persisted to set off on the marathon leg 3.

Then suddenly, before the spectating crowd had even craned their heads toward the finish line, when three clues had yet to be released … 29-year-old physicist Zoltán Szabó burst through in the stylish red hoodie of the Hungarian team!

Zoltán Szabó, winner of GE's Tweeting Machines 2016.

“I was very excited,” says Szabó, who stumbled into the limelight not quite sure whether he’d crossed the line first. “I just hoped I was the first one. ‘Please be the first one’, I thought, because if I’m the second, it’s much worse than … I don’t know what.”

After stretching his brain around possible solutions for 15 days, Szabó, a PhD student in the MEMS laboratory of the Institute of Technical Physics and Materials Science in Budapest was understandably a little delirious.

He described the last leg: “I was thinking about it every day, all the time … I read a lot of research papers for nothing. I gave up again and again. At some point I was very desperate, then I saw many others on Twitter are much more desperate, so I continued.”

Among the resolute, but despairing, @ThingfulNeeds perhaps said it best: “Dear employer, I can’t come in for an indefinite period of time, because I desperately need to win #cc9900.”

Szabó said he agonised for two weeks contemplating that image in stage 3 of the contest: “I spent time coding some histogram, byte and bit extraction and using an analysation tool in Python. I found a guy [online] with a simple command-line program ( I tried some parameters. After the first try I recognised the parameters of speech …”

He excitedly rang his girlfriend Zsófia, “She’s a physicist too. I called her to go home as fast as she can and listen to the freaky sounds because I can’t recognise all the letters—she’s better at understanding human speech than me.” With Zsófia’s help he finally recognised—“And that was the link to the congratulations page!”

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn,” tweeted fellow competitor @j_c_cabrejas when he realised that Szabó would be celebrated on the winner’s podium, and walk away with US$10,000 in prize money and a trip to GE’s Minds + Machines conference in November this year.

Maria Trivellato, GE’s talent acquisition leader across Europe and the company’s Global Foundries, says she’s thrilled that the GEeks go for #CC9900 winner emerged from Hungary. “The talent in Budapest is great,” she says as she prepares to recruit hundreds of skilled digital employees in Hungary to accelerate GE’s ongoing transformation from an industrial company to a digital-industrial force.

How GEeks go for #CC9900 was cracked!