by Jonata Corrêa

What I learned from Apple rejecting me for a scholarship to the WWDC

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” ~ Samuel Beckett

Every year, the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) takes place in San Jose, California. The conference is a showcase for Apple’s new softwares and technologies.

Attendees are able to join hands-on discussions with Apple’s engineers. They offer sessions where you can watch the creators of Apple’s developer tools explain in-depth how they work and how you can use them.

WDDC 2017 website

There are two ways to get into the conference:

  • you can register yourself for an opportunity to buy a ticket, and see whether you’re randomly selected, and if you’re lucky enough to win, you have to pay US $1,599 for the ticket.
  • or you can try to win a scholarship. In this case, you get free access to the conference, and you may even get travel assistance.

This year, in order to get a scholarship, you had to submit an application using Swift Playgrounds, which is a platform Apple uses to teach Swift.

This is a Swift Playground

The Decision

In order to better understand my story here is a little bit of my background: I'm a 19 years old Brazilian who’s been part of an iOS Developer Program since the beginning of this year.

In early March, when I was in my first week in the program, and I heard my instructors talking about WWDC. As soon as I learned of it, I felt compelled to join the competition.

But I wasn’t confident, and I started to make excuses about how I wouldn’t be able to win because I did not have any knowledge of how to use Swift Playgrounds, or how to build an proper iOS application.

Most of my excuses were based in some form of the following:

"I’m in this training program from 9am to 5:30pm and in college from 7:30pm to 10:45pm. I'm not going to expend all the rest of my time in some competition which I don't have a chance to win."

Every human being knows how hard it is to go after something you want and how comfortable is to stay in the same place. You can always find excuses and complain about how you don't have time or the ability to do the things you always wanted. But that's exactly the path to achieve nothing in life.

With this in mind, after spending days and days finding excuses, I realized that I was actually closing a door to an opportunity just because I was afraid to fail. I was loosing something not because I wasn’t ready, but because I was not willing to try. Then I decided to learn everything I could and submit my best work with the time I had.

My idea

The decision of creating a Playground was followed by days and days of indecision about what to do or which story to tell. I knew I wanted it to create a game but I didn't know how. Every morning I came up with a new idea just to throw it away by the end of the day.

Suddenly, one night I was having a hard time to create a good walking movement (because I assumed I was going to need one) and I thought: “This thing would be much easier if my character could just fly around.

From there I started to imagine a game where you can be a space explorer with a jetpack (which would mean no walking animation) and have to search planets around for supplies to create a life-friendly environment in the planet. The idea was to teach some aspects about ecology, biology and chemistry in a game and still make it fun and enjoyable.

So in this moment, I decided to build a space game!

The process

I had never built an app, or really even coded besides small projects in college. So I had to learn almost everything from scratch.

Overnight this project became my obsession I started to wake up earlier every day just to learn a little bit more, and code something a little bit better than the day before. And I got to bed thinking about what I had to do in the next day.

Luckily for me I was not alone in the journey. A group of friends decided to join this adventure as well. Having company was the best part, because it helped me a lot to kept going with the work. Having someone by your side working together is a strong motivator.

Together we did two marathons of 24 hours of (almost) uninterrupted coding and so many others smaller sprints in order to get everything done in time.

After this intense period of learning, work and a little bit less sleep than what I believe an human should get.

My final result is the following:

My first game was live, and I was proud of what I have done, for sure it wasn't a master piece, but it was something I built with a lot of effort and forcing myself to learn a lot of cool things.

I finished the game 7 hours before Apple’s submissions were to close, so I had a good amount of time to write my responses to the questions for the submission. And so I did, I wrote everything down and sent the compilation.

The result

After waiting 2–3 weeks, I was in the bathroom and my girlfriend said: “I think you got your response from Apple.”

I ran to the room and checked my inbox:

Rejection letter

Yes, I got rejected, and in the first moment my thought was:

“Oh f***! Everything I did was useless. I did not get the scholarship I wanted because I was not worthy of it.”

But after a while, all the anger faded away and I realized: yes, it was true. I was not worthy of it. From Apple's perspective, my project wasn’t good enough, and there was probably thousands of other applications that were better than mine who also got rejected.

But in this situation (as in every situation where you fail at something), you have two options. Either you let your failure beat you, or you beat your failure.

This was an opportunity to evaluate which mistakes I have made and what I learned in the process. I realized that my project didn’t fully conform to Apple’s guidelines. It wasn’t really all that creative, either.

I also understood that by changing my mind too many times throughout the design and development process, I impaired my work.

But when all is said and done, it was a great experience. I learned a lot, and developed a new skill.

So in the end, even in failing I won. I’m now a better person, a better developer, and a better student.

I have plenty of space to grow, and for sure I’m going to try again next year. And even if I fail again, I'll learn, evolve, and enjoy the journey.

“You never fail until you stop trying.” — Albert Einstien

So that is my message for you all. Never quit. Never stop trying.

Lessons come disguised as failures. Failure is a good teacher if your are willing to pay enough attention.

Thanks for reading!