By Anne Li
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend Apple’s WorldWide Developer’s Conference as one of 350 scholarship winners from around the world. In this post, I’ll go over my entire experience – from applying back in March to attending in June.
I’ve known about WWDC for several years now, and this year was my second time applying for the scholarship – so I have a general idea of what both a winning submission and a not-winning submission look like. Before I get into that, though, let’s cover the basics:
- I’m honestly not sure about this, but if I remember correctly, the application usually opens the second week of March
- The submission window is small – I think around 10 days from when the application portal opens to when it closes
- The application requires applicants to upload a Swift or Xcode Playground along with responses to several essay questions
I was rejected the first time I applied, which was last year. I submitted an Xcode Playground that displayed a graph of a Taylor polynomial for the sine function (link to Github repo). I thought it was really cool at the time, but in retrospect I think it was pretty lame (probably because I don’t remember how to find Taylor polynomials anymore). The playground also gave users the option of changing the center and degree of the polynomial in order to see how those factor into its overall shape.
This year, I wanted to do something involving the algorithms I’d encountered in competitive programming, so I submitted an Xcode Playground that introduced users to breadth-first search and depth-first search. I tried to make it a lot more creative this year – incorporating mazes as a way of teaching the graph-traversal algorithms, and making it more of a game. I also drew some cute illustrations (in MS Paint lol). You can check out my playground here.
Apple paid for my ticket to the conference, as well as a week of lodging, but I was responsible for transportation to and from the conference. Unrelated, but my dad decided to come along as well, though I don’t remember why. Anyways, he mostly hung out in Cupertino and visited random places. I think he also ate at every Chinese restaurant in the area he was staying.
Here’s a day-by-day summary of the conference:
- Orientations, check-in, scholarship winners’ kickoff, etc.
- I got to meet my fantastic counselor, roommate, and some other scholarship winners!
- We also got our badges and a bunch of random stuff from Apple (pins, jacket, etc.)
- Keynote, Platform State of the Union, Apple Design Awards
- One of the most important events of WWDC; Tim Cook (Apple CEO) and other Apple engineers and developers spoke during the Keynote
- A lot of announcements, including Dark Mode for iOS, SwiftUI, Mac Pro, etc.
- I did notice that women were fairly well-represented in the Keynote – several of the speakers and presenters were women. I’m not sure how the numbers compare to previous years, but just a casual observation
- I really enjoyed the Apple Design Awards! One of the winners was a ultrasound app (ButterflyIQ) which I found really cool
- Women@WWDC Breakfast, NCWIT Roundtable Discussion
- The breakfast included a panel of women who’d won scholarships this year, as well as alumni of Apple’s Entrepreneurship Camp. One of our friends was selected for the panel, so we went to watch and support her and the others
- The roundtable discussion was later in the day – we got to talk to Apple Senior Director of WorldWide Developer Marketing Esther Hare and four Entrepreneurship Camp alumni (link to post on NCWIT blog about the experience)
- Mostly just technology labs
- I think almost any WWDC-related blog you’ll find on the web will urge you to attend labs rather than sessions, since sessions are available online after the conference – and I have to agree. Getting one-on-one advice from Apple engineers on any projects you might be working on is infinitely more helpful
- More labs
- One of the best ones I attended was the UI Design Lab; you’re paired with an Apple designer who looks at your stuff and provides feedback on the design
- I don’t have much to say on this, because I had to go to my dad’s Airbnb to get a phone charger, and then he offered to take me to a random Chinese restaurant™ with really good noodles he’d tried earlier in the week and I will exchange half of my soul for good noodles. But I heard Craig Federighi was in the crowd, so I’m still slightly jealous. Also I didn’t get to say goodbye to some friends who were leaving early :’(
- I didn’t go to any sessions or labs on Friday, hehe
- The scholarship lounge is really nice
- The food is okay
- San Jose has a lot of boba shops, including two within a couple minutes’ walking distance from the convention center (I think Gongcha and Breaktime)
- A lot of walking, especially if you decide to explore the city and/or get food outside of the conference and/or get boba
- If you end up going, be sure to check out some of the events taking place at AltConf! AltConf is free and takes place in the Marriott directly adjacent to the convention center. I went with a couple friends to a really great talk by Mayuko Inoue
- I tried to ride the VTA once and got on the wrong one. Apparently I still haven’t learned how to read numbers. I also didn’t pay attention, so didn’t realize I was on the wrong one until ~20 minutes into the trip. In conclusion, don’t ride the VTA unless you’re capable of reading numbers.
If I could go again, I would:
- Have more questions prepared for the labs
- For a couple of the labs, I kind of just wandered by and thought, “Oh, this might be helpful!” And then I couldn’t think of anything to ask.
- Attend more of the breakfasts
- In addition to Women@WWDC, there were two other breakfasts: Black@WWDC and Latinx@WWDC. The breakfast events are chances to hear from lots of different perspectives – everyone’s journey in tech is different, and recognizing that is crucial for anyone trying to promote inclusivity in tech
- Talk to more people
- I got to meet a lot of brilliant people doing brilliant things, but I do wish I’d been a bit more outgoing – though this is something I’m still working on. Sometimes I worry about being the least competent person at tech events, but the people I met at WWDC were extremely friendly and supportive regardless of accomplishment, experience, etc.
How to win a WWDC scholarship
I don’t think there’s a formulaic or clear-cut method to win a scholarship. Sorry if you just read the last ~1100 words just to read this :( . But I do have one piece of advice – start early! Like I mentioned earlier, the submission period is very short, so it helps to have an idea of what you’re going to do before the submission portal opens.
This post started off formally enough and slowly descended into anarchy. I am so sorry. But thanks for reading, and best of luck if you’re applying for a WWDC scholarship in the future!