23 Feb International Coding Contest Chooses New Orleans for First American Site

New Orleans’ success in technology isn’t going unnoticed. UNO and local software development firm Flow Digital are partnering to host the International Coding Contest on April 27 at UNO – the first time ever the contest is coming to the U.S.

The worldwide computer science competition began in Austria in 1999. College students everywhere simultaneously compete against each other by solving programming puzzles provided by Catalysts, an Austrian software company. Currently the contest attracts more than 4,500 college students from 12 countries and 50 cities. 

coding contest

Walter Gugenberger

Austrian native Walter Gugenberger founded Flow Digital in 2017 and helped recruit the competition to New Orleans years after he spent a semester studying at UNO. Click here to register to participate.

“The Coding Contest is a way to build up local talent and retain young professionals who might look outside Louisiana for jobs,” Gugenberger said. “It is a crucial opportunity to show these students that Louisiana’s job creators are committed to their futures.

“While attending University in Austria, I always saw the posters in our school, but unfortunately, I never took the time to compete in the Coding Contest. My brother-in-law works at Catalysts, and he asked me if I thought that people in the U.S. would like the concept of it. So, I told him I’d contact the computer science department at UNO to see if they’d be interested. To my delight, Dr. (Mahdi) Abdelguerfi and Dr. (Christopher) Summa loved the idea.”

Read on for a Q&A with Gugenberger about his journey in the New Orleans tech community. And if your company would like to sponsor the International Coding Contest, contact Gugenberger at codingcontest@flowdig.com by April 14.

NOLABA: Tell me about your journey from UNO to founding Flow Digital in New Orleans.

“I went to the University of Innsbruck in Austria, and Innsbruck is one of the sister cities of New Orleans. The two universities have a large student exchange program, so I decided to come here for one semester with two friends of mine initially. But, I loved it so much that I called my parents to ask if I could extend my stay for a second semester. After that I kept coming back to visit friends I made here, and one of them introduced me to my now wife almost exactly three years ago. After finishing my Master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Linz, my then-fiancée and I applied for a K-1 visa and were approved. I initially moved to Washington, D.C. with my wife Ellen, we got married in St. Louis Cathedral shortly after and then returned to New Orleans in August 2017. I founded Flow Digital to provide solutions for companies that would like to take advantage of digital transformation. I have a background in logistics consulting and therefore mainly focus on how to optimize supply chains and workflows, whether via big data analytics and AI, IoT or block chain.”

NOLABA: What advice do you have for graduating students to stay and find their dream tech jobs rather than move away?

“New Orleans has two main advantages: low cost of living combined with a high quality of life. We have (mostly) great weather, we have genuinely nice people, crawfish boils and we are not stuck in traffic every time we go anywhere. My advice would be to stay here, take advantage of this growing community and build something to make this a better place. In Silicon Valley or New York, you will be a tiny fish in a massive ocean. Here, you can become so much more, and you can do it on your own terms.”

NOLABA: How can our pipeline of tech talent get even stronger moving forward?

“I think New Orleans is already on a good path of getting good talent.We just need to make New Orleans even more attractive for possible employers and
entrepreneurs. We have large and small IT businesses down here, and we have great schools. While we have reasons to be optimistic, we must not forget to keep giving back to our communities. A large advantage of coding is that everybody can learn it, so we can use that to our advantage by training people even without a formal education. Someone does not need a university degree to be able to build a working software application.”