Experiencing WWDC as a scholar
Talented people. Free food. Lots of excitement.
It’s been almost a month since WWDC ended, but I haven’t come across the time to share this, so here goes;
Some call it luck, others call it hard work, but I never could’ve done it without the both of them on my side.
I’ve been chosen to be one of the lucky winners to attend Apple’s WWDC this year, making me a two time WWDC scholarship winner! Getting selected as a scholarship winner last year already made me the happiest man in the world, and I just feel so thankful that I’ve been chosen again this year.
For those who are keen on applying, keep an eye out on developer.apple.com/wwdc for their scholarship application on June of every year.
KLIA ➡ Transit @ Narita Airport Tokyo ➡ Eat good sushi ➡ SJC
After a painfully-long-18-hour of sitting on planes, I finally arrived at San Jose international airport. Unlike last year, Apple provides all their scholarship winners a place to stay this year, at San Jose State University. The picture below is taken in the exact room I stayed in, and the cool dude sitting on the bed is none other than my roommate.
Lets fast forward to orientation day. We all walked from the University Campus to San Jose McEnery Convention Centre to pickup our badges, and some WWDC swag (including a black hoodie, and some pins).
After that, we had to head over to Hammer Theatre (which is 5 mins walk away) to get briefed on how to make the most of WWDC 2017.
Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos during the presentation. As some of the things they are showing us might be private property. The hall is quite small for a crowd of 350 scholars, and the seats are pretty cramped too, but nonetheless, Tim Cook made up for it.
Yes, Tim Cook appeared out of nowhere to take a group photo with us. And judging from the way that everyone rushed to take a selfie with Tim right after the group photo, I’m pretty sure this is the highlight of the day.
At the end of the orientation, we got a chance to talk to some of the apple’s engineers and get to know their story, get to know what they are working on, and even get some tips on how to be improve yourself.
As with the rest of the event, this is also an opportunity for us scholars to network and connect with some of the smartest people in the world. So an advice to people that are planning to attend, get your business cards ready! If you don’t have one, go ahead and make one just for this event.
Before we end the day right there and go back to our dorms, Apple have a yet another surprise for us scholars, an Apple TV. However, it was the same thing they gave us last year as well, which means I have two Apple TVs now… and only one TV at home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset to get another Apple TV (who would be?), but an Apple Watch for a change would be nice 😉.
Kicking off Day-1 of WWDC is the most anticipated session of all time, which is the keynote. This is the event where everything latest and greatest is being introduced.
Why of course, I’m not going to go through what they announced on the keynote 💁🏼. But if you want to know what was announced in WWDC 2017, check out MacRumour’s WWDC roundup.
I think they did a pretty good job summarising the things that had been announced. But one thing they missed out is ARKit. Personally I think it’s pretty cool. By the time of writing there are already a ton of developers that had came up with mind-blowing demos, madeWithARKit might just have the coolest demos I’ve seen, so definitely check it out if you’re interested.
I’m beginning to start to feel sleepy around lunchtime, and I tried VERY hard to stay awake, not wanting to miss out any of the WWDC action going on here. But hey, who can blame me? The time difference is equivalent to staying up til 4am back in Malaysia!
We went back to the dorms around 5pm, met some new friends, have a chat with them, play some pool (they had a pool table at the dorms), and then ate a burger for dinner. I went straight to bed at 10pm, preparing for an exciting day ahead.
This is pretty much how the rest of the days starts off with. Wake up, check the WWDC app for events that I’m attending, meet a new friend or two (you can never run out of interesting people to talk to) while walking to the convention centre, and have an amazing breakfast (it’s free!).
I woke up particularly early today, to make sure I could get an appointment for the UI/UX Design Labs. Fortunately, I managed to get an appointment at 4:30pm.
Events in WWDC is separated into two main categories, which are Sessions and Labs.
A session is where a speaker goes up on stage and talks about a specific topic (such as the keynote on WWDC day 1), or an event (such as The Bash which I will talk about later) that people can participate in.
Labs is a more intimate sitting where attendees can go to specific booths that is categorized by their department, and meet the Apple engineers themselves to ask questions on particular topic, or just to meet and chat with them. Some labs are by appointment only (such as the UI/UX Labs mentioned above), while others are not.
Ask anyone what to do and they will tell you to go to the labs without blinking an eye. That is the prime advantage of being at WWDC. The sessions are recorded anyway, and you can always watch videos online. But the labs give you a golden opportunity to network and get your minds blown by the Apple engineers. And if you don’t have a particular technical question to ask them, just ask them anything general related to their line of work.
I’ve learnt so much from the designers at UI/UX Labs. They had these empty wireframe of the IPhone printed out on an A4 sized paper, and once I showed them my app, they immediately starts sketching out ideas that can make the app better.
Other than going to the labs, I also tried to meet as many people as possible. I was a very shy person (I still am!) and I made my mistake of not meeting enough people during last year’s WWDC. This year when I went back I felt much more comfortable, and I started talking to strangers. To my surprise, most of them are actually very eager to tell you their story. Unlike the conservative culture in Malaysia, most of the people there love what they do and they’re not afraid to share them with you.
I might also add that being a scholarship winner have special privileges as well 😏.
- Walking around in that badge with the red strap that says “scholarship” is already a good enough conversation starter. I’ve had curious attendees that came up to me and asked “hey, why is your badge red?” and I’ll let them know that we’re scholarship winners, and they’ll congratulate us, and the conversation just starts rolling.
- Apple engineers are more forgiving when I ask silly questions, and they are patient enough to teach you a thing or two.
- Hand out your resumes!
The Bash is the final event of WWDC. It’s the night where every single attendee gather at one place and just let loose. Good food and drinks are served. Unfortunately I couldn’t have alcoholic drinks as the legal drinking age in U.S. is 21, but it didn’t stop me from having fun 😄.
We were having alot of fun until it’s 11pm and the sky starts drizzling. Most of people decided to go back to the dorms, but me and another friend stayed to talk to a couple of gentlemen. One of them is a previous year (2016) Apple design awards winner, and the other guy have been doing software applications and mobile apps since 1993!
I was showing off my XcodePlaygrounds that I made for the WWDC submission, and he was telling me he had a 12 year old son and asked me what motivates me to get into app development.
I asked him lots of questions (come on, he had over 24 years of experience in the field!) and tried digging for some information that would help me get better at application development. I later found out that he had made a fortune selling off a couple of companies in the past, and now he’s behind some of the most popular apps on the Apple Watch. Remember what I said about talking to people and getting your minds blown?
We ended up walking back to the dorms at 12am. I wouldn’t recommend doing that if you’re alone though. The neighbourhood can get pretty sketchy at night.
And just like that, WWDC had come to an end. An event that is supposed to last a week went by in what feels like mere minutes. An event that is supposed to be to showcase Apple’s new software and technologies ended up being a life-changing experience for so many individuals like myself.
For those preparing for next year’s WWDC
The process usually goes something like this:
- Write an app of some sort (based on the requirements given)
- An essay describing your app, in less than 500 words
- An essay telling them how you’ve considered sharing your coding knowledge and enthusiasm for computer science with others, again in less than 500 words
- Provide your personal info (name, age, email, etc.)
- Provide School/membership information. This is documents to proof that you are eligible for the scholarship. Note: Only student or a member of STEM organisation can apply for the scholarship