Educative Writing Competition: an interview with our winners

Sep 08, 2020 - 10 min read
Celeste Salopek

“Ignoring women is ignoring money, potential, and advancements.”

Our Story, YaaW

Last month, Edpresso and the YaaW (Our girls, Our future) program joined together in an effort to develop the core skills of the Women in the Technology track. The YaaW Summer Program is a talent accelerator that is used to harness economic opportunities for women. Edpresso and YaaW worked together on a competition to encourage technical writing skills. Read on as we explore our competition, the history of YaaW, and an interview with the winners.

What is YaaW?

The program has a technical and financial track, both of which work towards their mission to “empower women with world class professional development".

The technical track “allows students to develop a skill set that will help them get a running start as soon as they begin their career”. They focus on HTML, C++, Python, Django, and JavaScript.

YaaW was started by Diana Wilson when “her research led her to conclude that there is one main factor depriving the world of $28 trillion dollars in the economy” – women.

Wilson began YaaW to ensure the economic development of African women. “According to the McKinsey Global Institute, if women had the opportunity to participate in the economy equally to men, this could happen in just 7 years.”

As per the YaaW program’s mission: “The YaaW program provides comprehensive certification courses, extensive online training software, and experiences with hands-on social impact projects constructed to ensure that every participant masters the fundamental skills requisite for employment at top financial and technology corporations.”

“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.”

– Kofi Annan, Noble Peace Prize winner

Answers mission

Answers publishes short, free articles and is the daughter-site of Educative, an online learning platform committed to making learning and teaching more accessible.

Educative’s mission is to cultivate a community where developers can learn and share to maximize their economic opportunity. This includes writing. At Answers, we know that technical knowledge isn’t the most important thing when it comes to good technical writing. What’s really important is the clarity and simplicity of the writing itself. But this can take time.

What is Technical Writing?

Technical writing involves the documentation of complex technical processes. It is highly coveted, specific, and valuable skill. Many students who are working to become software developers see it as tertiary. However, writing serves a large purpose in tech.

Everyday, developers are writing, whether that is discussions on Slack, writing bug reports, creating technical documents, or writing clear documents for project planning.

If you are a skilled writer, you will be able to avoid situations that come from poor communication, like a business with an unclear product suggestion because they don’t understand how it works. Or maybe you need to communicate with a less experienced team member on a complex project.

Strong writing skills will help you to find and keep a better job.

According to software engineer Ben McCormick: “When I’ve interviewed software engineers, I see a variety of problems. Most of these mistakes come down to a lack of preparation, not tailoring their message to their audience, and not knowing how to structure the information they know about themselves in a compelling way. These are the skills that you’ll learn from a good class on writing, and develop through practice writing.”

However, the majority of software developers do not necessarily pursue training in writing. Rather, they choose to learn as they go, which can be difficult and time-consuming.

The blame for this falls on no one other than the world we live in. It should be easy to practice your writing. They have these programs in place for coding, so why not for writing? Especially when we know it is a skill that makes you more marketable?

Educative Technical Writing Workshop: Winner Announcement

YaaW and Educative came together for a Technical Writing competition to focus on these skills specifically. YaaW students could compete against their peers in a technical writing competition.

The YaaW technical track consists of four groups:

  • Beginner Software Engineering
  • Beginner Web Development,
  • Intermediate Software Engineering
  • Intermediate Web development

One winner was chosen from each group, each of which consisted of three students for the beginner groups and two students for the intermediate groups. Each group was given one topic to write on. We are proud to announce the winners below:

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An interview with the winners

Answers was lucky enough to be able to talk with each of these inspiring women about their experiences with tech, how they were introduced to it, and advice that they have for before just beginning to code and/or starting to get into technical writing.

While speaking with them, we were blown away by the commitment and hard-working mentality held by each woman. Princess and Abena, for example, became interested in programming while bored during COVID. Abena told us the setting of summer in the middle of the pandemic gave her the time and opportunity to code, something that she usually would not have had time for.

Marilyn, a member of Team FemCode, started coding exactly a year ago, but she had only worked in C++. However, when she joined the YAAW program, she had to do Python.

She told us, “I had been meaning to study Python because I’d hear from a lot of people that it is really easy. So, I decided to register for the Python intermediate class even though I didn’t have any of the basics yet."

She continued: "A week before the beginning of the program, I began to learn all the beginner topics. I watched videos, read articles, and by the end of the week, I was ready to start with YaaW.”

Every member of Team REA (Anointing, Emmanuela, and Rufia) told us that they had never coded before they joined YaaW. Anointing majored in mathematics and decided to get into coding.

She told us, “I had a project that I wanted to get done, and it involved some knowledge and software development. The project was about coding and students in Africa, helping them to learn information through assessment module apps. I wanted to do it on my own, but I didn’t have any knowledge of how to start. So I began coding."

Emmanula knew that, as a mechanical engineering major, she would need to code eventually. Rufia, as a community developer in-training, “saw the opportunity and wanted to try it out because I had a course that worked with young ones who were trying to develop. I needed to get some more knowledge so that I can pass it to my young Africans. I have a passion for experiences that young people need. It’s like an opportunity to help them.”

Still, this competition was not focused on the technical ability – it was focused on the writing. I was interested in how the winners view the role of writing in software and web development. Each of the young women we talked to expressed that writing fills an important role and is an important skill.

Anointing told us, “I remember my chemistry teacher said something I will never forget. He said, ‘You can see how well someone understands a topic by how simply they teach it.’”

Emmanuela brought out the importance of sharing your ideas with others, she said, “if you have the knowledge in your head, but you don’t know how to tell other people about it or give other people that knowledge, then they won’t be able to use all the tools you have in your head.”

Rufia expressed a similar sentiment: “sharing is caring – when you share, you learn more. Not everything is correct, but when you share with other people, and it’s not correct, they will help you to know the right thing.”

Through writing, we are able to encourage the passing of accurate knowledge, but in a way that everyone can understand because, as Linda said, “when people write articles, it gives you a lot of opportunity to learn differently. If you do not understand one way, you may be able to understand another.”

Writing advice from our winners

No matter what you’re writing about, there’s always the dreaded start that can make the whole process feel impossible. Regardless, according to our YaaW winners, there are a few hacks you can follow to jumpstart you into your article.

First, like Adwoa, “get your topic. Once you have your topic, ask yourself questions about the topic. Then, based on these questions, you will be able to figure out what sort of content is required.”

Or, like Temidayo, you can think of writing as similar to painting a picture: “Writing is basically painting a picture that you have in your mind in such a way that someone looking at your picture will be able to see exactly what is in your mind.”

If that sounds too abstract, do like Abena who looks at other templates to get an idea of where you are going.

She said, “I would say to look at other templates because then, at least, you will have an idea of what it should look like. If you are someone who doesn’t like looking at an article, if you look at the code and code it, you can explain it to yourself and write it down. Then, you can revise what you wrote and make it sound better.”

No matter what, it is always important to remember that, as Marilyn said, “You do have to start from somewhere – nothing is too small, just try and put down words how you understand them, read other articles, and improve your diction to be able to put what you are saying in better words that people will understand.”

Still, you cannot forget to plan because, as Milicent told us, “You need to plan where you are going to go. When you plan, you will be able to know the structure of where you are going to go, what you are starting with, and what you are going to end with. ”

Bottom line, writing is a process. It is something that takes a lot of practice, planning, revision, and time. But, it is necessary, and can be a lot of valuable fun.

Wrapping up

Thank you to YaaW for opening up their organization to Educative’s Technical Writing competition and giving their technical track an opportunity to develop a soft-skill that is not focused on nearly enough. The only way our world will improve is through communication, which leads to understanding in all sorts of ways.

So, congratulations again to the winners and all the participants of our first Technical Writing competition. Now, go out, and teach!

WRITTEN BYCeleste Salopek

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