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Orbis lays down a challenge to IT talents

Orbis has launched a unique contest with the hope of inspiring more Bermudians to pursue careers in the field of information technology.

Global head of Orbis retail group Alvin Mok emphasised the importance of technology for the firm, saying that in its retail offering, the fund manager hopes to leverage technology “to revolutionise the way people invest”.

The Orbis Challenge tests entrants' coding skills by asking them to create a player for a classic arcade game.

“After successfully hosting the Orbis Challenge at MIT and the University of Toronto, we wanted to bring it to Bermuda, where our global headquarters is located,” Mr Mok said.

“There are incredibly smart people in Bermuda, and, particularly, a truly untapped pool of IT talent. With the Orbis Challenge, we're hoping to engender a passion for technology in Bermuda, and hopefully meet some excellent programmers in the process.”

Software developer Ted Herman said the idea for the contest actually came about in the middle of a hurricane.

“During Hurricane Igor, Alvin and I were holed up in his apartment for over 48 hours,” Mr. Herman said. “In the process, we got to talking about games and programming, and started discussing creative ways for Orbis to find great programmers.

“I had done some programming competitions before, and we liked the idea of doing a competition as an event. The trouble is that most competitions are incredibly boring you write obscure algorithms or you parse data and, if you're lucky, manage to stay awake and complete your code. But there are other ways to inspire people's programming talents. “So, in Alvin's apartment taking shelter from this hurricane, it dawned on us why not have people create a player for a classic arcade game?”

Orbis colleague Matt Marshall added, “A classic game was really the perfect choice for us, since contestants can write code for them in simple programming languages. By using simple languages, we're able to judge a programmer's talent rather than just their exposure to software.”

Mr Marshall added: “We knew we wanted to hold a challenge in Bermuda, but wanted to refine the competition first. We hosted our first challenge at the University of Toronto in November of 2010, and we were amazed at the response.”

Mr Mok said Orbis relies heavily on technology and believes it can significantly enhance the investing experience for clients.

“By making investing simple and straightforward, we have the opportunity to help clients make better investment decisions,” Mr Mok said.

“Our approach to technology is to build something great rather than to settle with off the shelf offerings; and it takes a lot of talented people to achieve such a goal in a high quality and timely manner.

“In addition to our more conventional recruiting practices, we wanted to apply a little creativity to attract the best and brightest minds this is how the Orbis Challenge was born.”

All entrants will compete in one category.

Entrants must be 18, and Orbis does ask that they have one year of programming experience, but formal qualifications (a degree, etc.) aren't required.

Participants can register at the Challenge website, www.orbischallenge.com

For the competition itself, Orbis provides players with a customised version of a classic arcade game, along with a sample player.

The sample player programme provided can follow instructions, but it lacks any strategy or decision-making capability.

Competitors will programme the artificial intelligence component of the player, and will be judged on the quality of their programming and the strength of their strategy.

The registration deadline for the contest is September 7, and the event kick-off is set for September 10. Some $2,250 in prizes are being offered.

To prevent any participants from gaining an unfair advantage, Orbis does not disclose the specific game they will be programming for prior to the start of the challenge.

Orbis Challenge: Software developer Ted Herman with Orbis colleagues Chloe Pearman and Matt Marshall

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Published August 30, 2011 at 10:30 am (Updated August 30, 2011 at 10:29 am)

Orbis lays down a challenge to IT talents

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