Google Season of Docs: Everything you need to know to get accepted (TCCS #7)

Google Season of Docs: Everything you need to know to get accepted (TCCS #7)

The Tech Content Creator Series (TCCS) is a monthly interview series in which I chat with people in technical content creation roles (technical writers, documentation engineers, developer advocates, and what have you) about their careers. My hope is for their stories to impact, inspire, and motivate you.

The Google Season of Docs is an annual paid internship program by Google that allows technical writers to work on open source projects worldwide. The goal is to help improve the technical documentation of open source projects and also give technical writers a chance to actively contribute to open source.

For this month's #TechContentCreatorSeries, I decided to do something a bit different. Instead of chatting with just one person, I reached out to three current Google Season of Docs interns (Amarachi, Nelson & Funke). They answered some crucial questions and gave tips you should check out if you're hoping to get accepted into Google Season of Docs too!

Key Takeaways:

  • Everything you need to know about the application process is on the Google Summer of Docs website.
  • Try to understand the organization and its proposal correctly before applying. Show them that you have a good overview of what you're getting into.
  • Active open source contribution and participation prior to the selection phase increases your chances of acceptance. Try to contribute to the project and also be involved in the organization's slack, discord, or whatever channel they use for communication.
  • Prior technical writing experience also increases your chances of acceptance. Have a technical writing portfolio of some sort.

Q: First of all, introduction?

Amarachi: My name is Amarachi Iheanacho. I am a technical writer working with Moja Global for this year's GSOD. Moja global helps mitigate the adverse effects of climate change by creating software to correctly estimate greenhouse gas emissions and removals from forestry, agriculture, and land uses(AFOLU).

Funke: I am Funke Faith Olasupo. I am a Backend Developer and Technical Writer. I am interning at Open Food Facts for GSOD'22. Open Food Facts is an open food product database that helps people make better food choices.

Nelson: Hi, I'm Nelson Michael. I am a front-end developer/ technical writer, currently interning with AsyncAPI for this year's GSOD program. AsyncAPI provides the AsyncAPI specification for asynchronous APIs and a set of tools for you to easily build and maintain an Event-Driven-Architecture(EDA). Essentially the AsyncAPI specs are to asynchronous APIs what the OpenAPI specs are to REST APIs.

Q: How did you get interested in technical writing and documentation?

Amarachi: I started writing technical articles because of a piece of random advice on Twitter. I discovered that writing articles not only helped me grasp technical topics better but also gave me clout. Writing articles on a subject demonstrates that I understand that subject.

Funke: It all started with a desire to document the bugs I encountered while coding and how I solved them so that others could learn from them.

Nelson: A friend sparked my interest in technical writing. He was writing a lot at the time, and I was curious. So, I reached out to him to help me get started. With his help, I wrote and published my first article on my blog, and I've just continued on the path since.

Q: What motivated you to apply for the Google Season of Docs program, and how did you decide which project to apply to?

Amarachi: I applied because I wanted to go into DevRel, and the opportunity to create documentation and contribute to open source would be a plus on my resume. Moja Global's plans and efforts for their potential technical writer appeared interesting, so I applied to join them.

Funke: I have always wanted to move away from making minute contributions to being an integral part of an open source project. GSOD sounded like the perfect opportunity for that. Then there's also the pay; nothing beats getting paid to contribute to open source. On applying to orgs, I looked through all the accepted organizations and checked for the organizations whose goals I could resonate with. I also checked their accepted proposal on what they wanted to achieve by the end of this year's GSOD program. Then, I applied to the ones I could relate to.

Nelson: I applied to GSOD for two reasons. I knew it would be an excellent opportunity to learn how documentation works. Also, I knew that having GSOD on my resume would definitely expose me to more opportunities. For my decision to apply to AsyncApi, they made it clear that it would be a learning process, so anyone could apply regardless of their writing experience. I had zero knowledge of documentation, so I figured it would be a good learning experience.

Q: What was your application process like? And, what did you do differently to ensure your selection?

Amarachi: To earn a spot as a technical writer, we were asked to create technical articles on complex topics like state and transition models, FLINT, etc. I made sure to break down the concepts like I was speaking to a five-year-old. Also, I previously contributed to Moja's Global documentation via a SheCodeAfrica program called "Contributhon". I think it is essential to contribute to an organization's open-source project beforehand to give you an edge.

Funke: I had an interview for two different organizations, and sadly the first didn't pick me. While applying for Open Food Facts, I simply explained how their futuristic goals aligned with mine and how my skill set would benefit the project. Above all, a foodie working on a food project, what enthusiasm!

Nelson: After applying and before my interview, I decided to get involved. I started engaging on the slack channel, answering questions, having discussions, some community calls, and all that stuff just so that my name was a regular. I also made sure I contributed to the project even before the program started. I had a PR merged and raised some issues too. I just made sure I was visible and present.

Q: Were you required to submit a proposal? If yes, what resources or tips did you consult to write your proposal?

Amarachi: Yes. I drew inspiration from Edidiong Asikpo's and Gbadebo Bello's proposals.

Funke: Yes. CHAOSS made interested applicants put their proposals in a public Github repo. I also through those to draw inspiration. When writing a proposal, I would advise everyone to avoid a generalized proposal and state their proposed solution after reviewing the existing documentation of the organization. Your proposed solutions should also tackle the organization's goals for that year's GSOD. Also, remember to highlight your experience as a technical writer and how it will be an excellent tool for improving documentation.

Nelson: No, the org didn't ask for it. That's why I made sure I got involved in the community.

Q: What are some of the challenges you've encountered on the quest to achieve your project goals, and how have you overcome them?

Amarachi: One of the challenges I encountered was finding and understanding the source materials. I have since learned that the solution is to ask questions, ask for resources, ask what the tasks actually mean, and ask for feedback. Also, I found that some tasks can be overwhelming, so it's a good idea to break the big tasks into smaller tasks that I can tackle without losing my mind.

Funke: I was tasked with drafting an Open API file which was new for me. Before that, all I've done is write articles and regular API documentation. I didn't even know what OpenAPI was or how to get started. So far, I've found my way around by asking questions and researching. I reach out to mentors in the organization and senior technical writers. I am currently building the Open API file for this project, and I love every bit of the journey!

Nelson: My biggest blocker at the time was understanding what the whole project was about. I had no idea what an Event-Driven-Architecture(EDA) is. My mentors put together an onboarding video for us where they did an introduction to EDAs, which was quite helpful. I also did a lot of research that helped clear up many things for me. My challenge right now is creating diagrams with mermaid.js; I'm still learning the ropes.

Q: What has your experience been like? What skills have you picked up, and what have you learned?

Amarachi: My experience has been great. I am learning to write better documentation, read large and relatively complex resources and effectively communicate what they mean in a beginner-friendly manner. I have also brushed up on my learning skills (i.e., how to learn effectively).

Funke: It's been a rollercoaster. Linda Ikechukwu, one of the mentors I reached out to when starting my first task, introduced me to a course on API documentation that guided me into the first few phases of my tasks. I have also learned to communicate better because I work with a relatively large team. Above all, I have the opportunity to explore and deeply understand API documentation.

Nelson: It's been great. There have definitely been some challenges, but overall it's been an amazing experience. I always thought you could just write a bunch of articles explaining stuff about a project, slap it together, and you have documentation. Now I think about it differently. I now realize the importance of good structure and information architecture when creating documentation.

Q: What does the future look like for you after GSOD? What are your plans?

Amarachi: After GSOD, I hope to get into developer relations engineering. I hope my background in software engineering, technical writing (especially documentation), and not to mention community building helps me as I journey down that path.

Funke: After GSOD, I plan to work as a full-time technical writer. I also plan to use these improved skills to contribute to other open source organizations to help improve their documentation.

Nelson: Well, I've been holding off applying for jobs in the Dev Rel space because I wanted GSOD on my portfolio, so after this program, it's trying to get a full-time Dev Advocate role for me.

More resources to learn more about GSOD

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