I write a lot about Google Code-In, for good reason; It has -for better or worse- changed my life. In 3 days, the contest starts once again, and this time I'm returning as a mentor for Drupal🙌, so I figured I'd talk a bit about how it all works and share some tips to win.

What do you actually do in Google Code-In?

It's always difficult to put this into words because Google Code-In has a very unique format. Nevertheless here's my attempt to answer the most common questions. Check out the official FAQ for even more info.

What is Google Code-In?

  • It's a global online competition - i.e, you can participate from anywhere, anytime.

Who can participate in Google Code-In?

  • All you need is to be between 13-17 year old (i.e, you have to be within that age range when you register.)

When do I start?

  • You can register at any time during the 7 weeks the contest runs (Tuesday, October 23 17:00 UTC till Monday, December 10 17:00 UTC)

Do I need to know programming/will I be programming throughout the contest?

  • You don't have to be a programmer from the start, though it's an advantage. In fact, it's possible to win the contest without doing any programming at all! 90% of participants start out as normal teenagers (We don't end the same way though :))

Why should I spend my precious holiday time on Google Code-In?

You'll be supported by an international community of volunteer mentors from our participating organizations to help you learn and succeed. Google Code-in is a gateway to learning new skills as well as learning the importance of collaborative and open software development. At the end of the contest, you can show your friends, teachers, and family members the work you did on a public project used by thousands or even millions of people! If you plan on working in tech, chances are that many of these skills will be useful at your job.

That all sounds nice, but what do I win?

  • One task will get you a digital certificate of participation
  • Completing 3 tasks gets you a very cool Google t-shirt + ^
  • Each organisation will choose six finalists to receive hoodies + ^
  • From these six finalists, each organisation chooses 2 winners. You get to experience a fully paid trip for you and a parent to Google Headquarters in California! (and other cool stuff too, previous winners have gotten flagship phones, laptops, and lots of t-shirts/swag!) + ^
Swag! Can you spot the Google Pixel 2 XL? PC: Erika Tan

Interesting, what will I be doing in Google Code-In then?

  • This year, there are 27 participating open source organisations. They each have their own "tasks". There are lots of ways to help these orgs, so tasks come in 5 different categories:
Category Example Task
Coding - Make drop down menus scrollable
Documentation/ Training - Write Mifos X Installation Guide For Developers Using Fedora
Outreach/Research - Create video on usage of OpenMRS talk
Quality Assurance - Report a bug in Pocket Code
Design - Create a design for a Drupal T-shirt
  • As a student, you'll claim a task that interests you. Once you complete it, you'll submit your work on the website. A mentor (a human on the other side), will check it. If there are any improvements to be made, the task will be sent back so you can work on it. Once it's all good, your task will be approved. Then you can claim another one, and the cycle continues!

I am from Mauritius

That's good news! Cyberstorm.mu- a group of Mauritian developers- help students in Moris polish their skills for Google Code-In. We have physical meetups at College du St. Esprit, Quatre-Bornes during the holidays to teach you programming and more (for free, of course). In the last two years, there have been 2 finalists, one winner and many who made it to top 10 in their orgs - all from Mauritius! If you're interested, write to us on Facebook, or DM me.


What are some things I can do to improve my chances of winning?

Do your research properly - If you have an issue or a question (trust me, you will), Google is almost guaranteed to have an answer for you. This gets you your answers faster as you don't need to wait for your mentor to come online, and the mentor has less work too. win-win :)

Be respectful towards the community and help each other out - Be polite with everyone - other participants and mentors included.  Try to help other participants out with their troubles if you've gone through these issues yourself before. Do not pester your mentors to review your tasks 10 minutes after submitting it. Remember, they are devoting their free time towards GCI, and have a life too.

Review the work yourself before sending it - This will ensure your task does not get sent back after waiting for a review for 24 hours just because of a stupid typo. If you completely check your work and do this frequently enough, the organisation will recognize your work as high quality, and a sense of trust will be built between you.

Focus on learning, not winning - This advice (passed down to me by my own mentor) sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. The first time I participated in GCI, I made this mistake of obsessing over winning and it affected the quality of my work and my over-all involvement with the community. The second year, I learned a lot more, and the work just felt rewarding when I didn't stress over winning.

Work on tasks that will be useful to the community even after GCI - Many organisations have "filler" tasks, in order to reach the minimum task limit and/or to have enough tasks for everyone to work at the same time. Consider these two tasks: 1) Sign the Code of Conduct of {organisation} and 2) Fix {bug} in {software}'s  UI. Obviously, the contributions from task 2 are more useful to the organisation, and thus likely to be valued more.

Focus on one organisation - Organisations choose their winners individually, so organisation A won't count your work in org B while choosing their winners, and vice-versa.

Don't limit your work to tasks and GCI - This really shows your commitment when you go out of your way and contribute outside of tasks. This is ultimately Google's goal with GCI, that we stay and contribute after the contest, just for the heck of it. That is what open source is, after all.

I'm wrapping up this post and linking to some other winners' posts you can check out:

Marco Burstein's 5 tips to win Google Code-in

Aadi Bajpai's How to Google Code-in

Anamika's GCI Trip

My mentor Tameesh's write-up.