Winston Tang Of LeetCode: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Adapt and Innovate: Stay ahead of industry trends and continuously innovate. We regularly update our platform to include the latest technologies and methodologies, ensuring our users have access to the most relevant tools.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Winston Tang.

Winston Tang founded LeetCode in 2015. As an experienced software engineer, Winston created LeetCode to help engineers practice their coding skills and prepare for technical interviews. The online platform quickly gained popularity among developers for its comprehensive range of coding challenges and solutions, tailored to various skill levels and focused on real-world interview scenarios. Winston’s vision was to create a community and a
resource that facilitates continuous learning and improvement for developers worldwide.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Thank you for having me! My journey into software engineering began with a fascination for problem-solving and technology. Growing up, I was always intrigued by how things worked and enjoyed taking on challenges that required innovative solutions. This passion naturally led me to study computer science, and eventually, to a career in software engineering. The idea for LeetCode emerged from my own experiences and the challenges I faced while preparing for technical interviews. I wanted to create a platform that would help others navigate this process more effectively, and that’s how LeetCode was born.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

LeetCode stands out because of our commitment to providing high-quality, real-world coding challenges that prepare engineers for technical interviews. One memorable story is when we received feedback from a user who credited LeetCode for helping them land a job at their dream company. They mentioned how the platform’s comprehensive range of problems and the ability to simulate real interview scenarios were instrumental in their success. This kind of feedback reinforces our mission and motivates us to continually improve our offerings.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Resilience: Building LeetCode was filled with challenges and setbacks. There were times when growth was slow, and we faced technical difficulties. Resilience helped us push through these tough times and keep improving the platform.
  • Vision: Having a clear vision of what LeetCode could become was crucial. I always envisioned a global community of developers learning and growing together, which guided our strategic decisions and product development.
  • User First: Understanding the struggles of job seekers and developers was key. We designed LeetCode with their needs in mind, ensuring that our platform truly addresses the pain points they face during interview preparations.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

AI is significantly disrupting the tech industry by potentially automating many tasks traditionally performed by software engineers. While this has led to concerns about job displacement, it has also created opportunities for innovation and efficiency. For LeetCode, AI has been both a challenge and a boon. It pushes us to continuously adapt and innovate our platform. On the positive side, AI tools have enhanced our platform’s capabilities, making it easier for users to learn and prepare for interviews, which has positively impacted our bottom line.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

Machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) have had the most significant impact on our industry. These technologies have enabled us to develop more sophisticated problem-solving tools and personalized learning experiences. For example, AI-driven recommendation systems can suggest problems based on a user’s skill level and progress, making the learning process more efficient and tailored.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

A pivotal moment for us was when we integrated AI tools into our daily operations and support teams. The introduction of AI for first-tier responses and analysis enabled instant, personalized assistance across diverse scenarios. This integration significantly boosted our efficiency, reduced operational costs, and increased user retention. The immediate positive feedback from users underscored AI’s transformative potential. It became clear that AI could not only enhance the user experience but also fundamentally change our working styles and internal management.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

We are investing in continuous education and training programs to upskill our workforce. This includes courses on AI, machine learning, and data science. The most valuable skills in an AI-enhanced future will be a combination of technical expertise in AI and fundamental skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and ethical reasoning. We encourage our team to stay curious and embrace lifelong learning.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

One of the biggest challenges is keeping pace with the rapid advancements in AI technology. Ensuring that our training programs are up-to-date and relevant requires constant effort. Additionally, fostering a culture of continuous learning can be challenging, as it requires buy-in from all employees and a shift in mindset.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

AI introduces several ethical considerations, such as bias in algorithms, privacy concerns, and the potential for job displacement. At LeetCode, we are committed to developing AI responsibly. We work to ensure our algorithms are fair and unbiased, protect user data, and create opportunities for upskilling and reskilling to mitigate job displacement.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

a. Embrace Change: Understand that AI is here to stay and find ways to integrate it into your processes. For example, we integrated AI to personalize learning experiences for our users.

b. Invest in Continuous Learning: Encourage your team to continuously learn and adapt. We provide ongoing training in AI and data science for our employees.

C. Focus on Fundamental Skills: Emphasize on developing solid foundational skills, such as problem solving, which will stay relevant in the AI era, rather than specific programming languages or frameworks. Our platform offers algorithmic challenges designed to hone problem solving skills.

d. Ensure Ethical AI Practices: Develop and implement AI responsibly. We ensure our algorithms are fair, transparent, and unbiased, and we prioritize user privacy.

e. Adapt and Innovate: Stay ahead of industry trends and continuously innovate. We regularly update our platform to include the latest technologies and methodologies, ensuring our users have access to the most relevant tools.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

One common misconception is that AI will completely replace human jobs. While AI can automate certain tasks, it cannot replicate the creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional intelligence of humans. We address this by emphasizing the complementary nature of AI and human skills, encouraging our users to strengthen fundamental skills to remain competitive in the AI era.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite quote is by Albert Einstein: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” This resonates with me because LeetCode was born out of the challenges I faced during my own interview preparation. Rather than seeing these difficulties as insurmountable obstacles, I viewed them as opportunities to create a platform that would help others succeed.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

One of my main concerns is ensuring that LeetCode remains relevant and valuable to our users as technology and industry standards evolve. This influences my daily decision-making by pushing me to prioritize innovation, user feedback, and continuous improvement. I am constantly thinking about how we can better serve our community and stay ahead of industry trends.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement, it would be to promote lifelong learning and continuous self-improvement. Knowledge and skills are the keys to unlocking opportunities and overcoming challenges. By fostering a culture of learning and growth, we can empower individuals to achieve their full potential and drive positive change in society.

How can our readers further follow you online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter for updates on LeetCode and insights into the tech industry. Additionally, check out the LeetCode website and our social media channels for the latest news, resources, and community discussions.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.