Starting a batch at the Recurse Center

9 min read July 01, 2024 #rc #programming

Today is the first day of my 12-week batch at the Recurse Center! As I mentioned in my first post, one reason I wanted to restart my blog was to share my experience as I go through my batch. I am doing this in part to help keep myself accountable, and in part to offer a window into my time at RC for people I've told about it and who were curious.

What follows is some background on why I chose to attend RC (and why now), as well as a semi-structured list of things I want to learn or work on, things I'm hopeful about and excited for, and anxieties I want to work through.

§Why RC?

I have been programming professionally for close to 8 years. I've spent most of that time in ML-adjacent roles at startups, which has been a blessing in that I got to explore and contribute to many different things (machine learning, NLP, backend development, data pipelines, infrastructure, and more), but also a curse because I have felt persistent pressure to learn something at just enough depth so that I could use it to build a new feature or product, as fast as I could. While I have felt able to invest some time into exploring some topics in depth,1 I've also often felt like I've been playing tetris while running on a treadmill, and like I needed to learn everything yesterday. I wanted to hit pause, take a breath, and get some time to learn things in depth, without externally imposed deadlines.

That is exactly what RC aims to provide, and more — most importantly, a community.

§Why now?

I first learned about RC several years ago from Dan Luu's blog, went on its website, looked through the application, and mentally filed it away under "Would be good to apply some time in the future."2 But the fact that RC batches require a full-time commitment of 6 or 12 weeks, meaning I would have to take a break from work, (and that the application had multiple open-ended steps) stopped me. It didn't feel like the best time.

Then, several months ago I discovered Nicole Tietz-Sokolskaya (awesome) blog, which had a link to the RC application in the footer. And then, just over a month ago I was lucky enough to attend PyCon US, where I met Will Lachance, who at one point also brought up RC and encouraged me to apply. Will also generously offered their time to answer my questions about RC and the application (as did Nicole). It still didn't feel like the best time, but I realized it never might.3 Plus, my experience over the past couple of years, in both work and life, the good and the difficult, helped realign me towards a growth mindset, so I felt like RC would be a good fit now more than ever before.

So I applied, and here we are!

§Why 12 weeks?

I originally planned to attend for only 6 weeks, but then increasingly felt that time would completely fly by (which some accounts of previous Recursers corroborate), so ended up confirming for 12 weeks instead. This decision caused challenges (I had to leave my current job and put future plans on hold, possibly missing out on some things), but I hope it pays off in the long term.4

§What I want to do

The goal for Recursers is to become "dramatically better programmers" by working on projects that are "at the edge of their ability" but also bring them joy, and "learning generously" by sharing their process with others and participating in the community.

I have a lot of ideas for what I want to learn and work on, and I will almost certainly not be able to do it all. I am still figuring out what would really be at the "edge" of my ability — enough to push myself, but not so much that I would get discouraged.

§Technical skills

Some ideas I have right now are:

Some other things I might want to explore that are currently less concrete:

What I've learned so far, though, is that interacting with other Recursers and learning about what they're working on might upend those goals by presenting me with things to do that I hadn't even considered. I want to stay open to that, so most of the above is subject to change.



That I will have a great time, make friends, gain an amazing community, and grow, professionally and personally.


I don't want these to get in the way, but I do want to express them to get them out of my brain.

§That's all for now!

If you got to the end, thank you for reading! If you're interested in following my journey at RC and beyond, consider subscribing to my feed! I plan on posting at least once a week for the duration of my batch.

Huge thanks to Nicole Tietz-Sokolskaya and Will Lachance for encouraging me to apply to RC and offering their time to help me!


Notably, I managed to learn enough Rust to build a somewhat complex production ML application at a previous job. It was definitely not the best Rust code out there, but I had a blast working on it, and it massively improved performance over the previous Python application (which I had also built, so its performance problems were likely my fault), using a fraction of that application's computational resources at significantly higher loads. That was fun.


Aside from everything else, I appreciated how much the Recurse Center's website explicitly promoted including women, trans/queer folks, people of color, and other groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in programming circles. It really helped me feel like I would be welcome.


There are definitely worse time than others, though. I feel very privileged that I have the ability and resources (read: enough savings) to do this now.


Again, I know that being able to do this is a very big privilege.


Also, I have a character flaw in that I often internalize things I really like as part of my identity. I noticed this was happening with how big a fan I became of Rust, to the point that Zig just existing in a seemingly similar low-level, systems programming domain started to feel like it was threatening Rust's success, especially with posts like this. Learning Zig felt like one way to get over whatever this part of me is afraid of.

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