One gold and three bronze medals out of four competitors: that would be routine for some countries, but it meant a lot to Brazil in the 2011 edition of IOI. It was the best result of the country ever, achieved after more than a decade of continuous hard working by many people, including some professors and colleagues of mine from the University of Campinas – Unicamp – and the University of São Paulo – USP – but also from many other places. Like some friends of mine, I got more proud of that result than I would be of a World Cup title.
I had the opportunity to participate on the training for selecting the Brazilian competitors for the 2003 IOI and, despite scoring very bad at that selecting contest, I left it motivated to keep studying and practicing. In the years that followed, I tried my best in the South American and the Southwest European ICPC contests and achieved a humble result of three bronze medals. But the best part of it was that I learned a lot during those five years and so did most of my colleagues that went on the same direction, building a network of professionals that indicate each other for interesting jobs.
I do not think it is very common that IT undergrads follow the path towards an OR specialization, but that happens more often among those that engage in programming contests that valuate algorithm design and implementation skills. Such contests represent a great opportunity to leverage the area in Brazil, since the training required by the new generations can be supported by a number of professors that had their abroad doctoral studies sponsored some decades ago. Despite how far we are from devising strategic plans to excel somehow, good ideas here and there (even if decades ago) and the passionate effort of great individuals are playing an important role to the development of our country.