Short interviews before CEOI 2020 – Joël Huber, contestant of the Swiss team

May I ask you to introduce yourself in a few words?

My name is Joël Huber, I’m from Thalwil, which is near Zürich, Switzerland. Besides doing informatics and mathematics, I really like making music. I’ve played the guitar for 11 years, the saxophone for 8 years and I sing in a choir. I’m 18 years old and I’m still eligible to participate in next year’s IOI.

How have you been preparing for the competition? Has COVID-19 affected your preparation? If so, how?

My preparation mostly consists of solving problems from past Olympiads like CEOI, IOI, BOI, COCI, etc. My preparation hasn’t changed much since Corona “happened”, and we couldn’t go to school anymore. We still had school – just online, from home. Our teachers gave us quite a lot of tasks to do by ourselves. Also, most of the non-school events and lessons took place – just online, so I tried to keep my normal schedule.

When did you start dealing with informatics more seriously?

I started one and a half years ago. At a preparation event for the Swiss Mathematical Olympiad, a leader told me that the Swiss Olympiad in Informatics also existed. I already knew programming, since I liked (trying) to program (smaller) computer games, but I had no clue of informatics. I started in beginner workshops, got into the winter camp, and there I started understanding and enjoying it. Since then, I’ve been doing it a lot.

Which achievement(s) of yours are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the IOI Bronze medal that I got last year. Back then, I was very new; I started understanding the basic facts and algorithms in the winter camp, and a bit more advanced stuff in spring – I learnt implementing a segment tree in a nice way at the end of April, and the IOI took place in early August. My IOI Bronze medal was very close, I was less than 3 points over the medal cutoff. Getting this medal showed me how much progress I was able to make in such a short period of time, but most importantly, it showed me that given enough motivation, many things suddenly become possible.

What do you like doing in your free time?

Besides informatics and mathematics, which I do a lot in my free time, my biggest passion is music. I’ve played the acoustic guitar (classical music) for 11 years now and it’s a very nice way to make me calm down and just enjoy the music. Saxophone on the other hand is different: I play the saxophone mostly in a wind orchestra and an ensemble, as the saxophone is a very good instrument to play with other people. I also listen to a lot of music, mostly classical music.

What are your plans with informatics? What would you like to do as an adult?

I haven’t thought about my future yet. I’ll finish school next year, and I’ll probably take a break for one year (also because there is compulsory military service in Switzerland). I don’t know what I’m going to study afterwards, but probably either mathematics or computer science.