Honest Review of the Recurse Center

My Recurse Center batch(Winter 2 2019 is the best!) officially ended Friday. It’s one of the best experiences I had in my life. I will surely miss it.

I’m going back to my hometown in the suburbs of D.C., take some time to read and relax, and hopefully travel for a bit after while I’m planning my next steps. The most likely outcome is to come back to New York to work.

Reasons to Come to the Recurse Center:

  • You will learn things you didn’t know you didn’t know.
  • There’s a diverse range of programmers with different skillsets. It strikes a nice balance, because you get an opportunity to help and share your knowledge. At the same time, there are always people to learn programming from. Because everyone has different backgrounds, you get to pick up on other interesting things.
  • People at Recurse are super nice and friendly. Recurse has an interview process where they optimize for picking people based on their passion and whether they’re someone Recursers would get along with(That’s my theory anyway). I didn’t interact with everyone in my batch, maybe because we never got a chance to talk or wasn’t on the same wavelength. But I found no one that was outright rude or mean. Yet.
  • You get access to a community of 1500 people on Recurse Center’s private messaging board. That’s one more community you can ask programming questions or other life questions.
  • Collaboration. You do get a chance to collaborate on projects together and pair up, if you choose to do so.
  • Sometimes, while you’re working on your projects alone, it can get lonely, or possibly stuck. What I found inspirational was that there was always someone passionately hacking away and learning when I felt drained, and that I could talk to others to take a quick break.
  • Recurse is free.

Reasons Against:

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees. Let’s say that you need 7k to fund yourself for Recurse. It’s not only 7k, but you also have to factor in the opportunity cost of what you could have been doing when you’re not at Recurse. Which is a lot of monies.
  • You want to focus only on working on your project at maximal velocity. Then it may be better to stay home. There will be distractions(some good, like getting to know some really cool things you didn’t know, but others not as good). James, an alumni, said this: If your sole reason is to come to Recurse to work on your project flying solo, Recurse may not be the best option for you. I mean, you can work on your passion project by yourself right? So expect your original goals to shift.
  • You are an early stage programmer and want to get a job through Recurse’s partner companies. Many of their partner companies mostly want senior software engineers.
  • Sometimes, you feel that you’re not good enough because other people are doing amazing things and you’re either not making a lot of progress, or learning something that doesn’t have tangible results. But the other side of the coin is that the work of others rekindles your fire to learn.
  • New York is hectic and noisy. Well that’s not a Recurse thing, but I couldn’t think of any other con ¯\(ツ__/¯

Recommended Optimal Recurse Strategy:

Get a job that you really love, and take a sabbatical. One of the Recurse facilitators mentioned this before I started my batch. People have a hard time juggling between planning their next steps, and enjoying the Recurse experience. I would have loved my batch much more if I took a sabbatical, didn’t have to worry about interview prep, and went ham!

Some Recursers got their companies to fund their learning experience. This is sick. If you love your job, but want a break, you should definitely ask! You’re going to end up becoming a better programmer, so the company should invest in your 3 month ordeal!

Also, it’s better if you’re not strapped for cash. It’s stressful to worry about money when you don’t have any. It’s good to save up some money so you can go out often and explore New York!

Advice to Future Recursers:

  1. Introduce yourself to other Recursers as soon as possible. The sooner you do this, the less awkward the two of you will be. Sometimes, you never really introduce yourself to each other, so naturally you tend to avoid talking to each other because it’s gotten awkward. It’s a crappy feedback loop, so don’t do it.
  2. Organize study groups and find people to learn together. I recommend this because it’s a lot more fun this way, and you get to clarify missing pieces in whatever you are studying. Or go in-depth through another side discussion.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask to join in on the conversation. But don’t be afraid to bounce as well.
  4. Ask away. Personally I don’t think there is a dumb question. I saw this blog post recently which is relevant(https://thesquareplanet.com/blog/why-dont-people-ask-questions/). It’s pretty safe here.
  5. Give presentations. You get a chance to do 5 minute presentations every week. In retrospect, this is what I should have done more(I gave 2 during my stay). If you’re bad at public speaking, this is an excellent, low-risk way to improve.
  6. Pair program often. There are some interesting tools and ideas that I’ve picked up during the few sessions I’ve had with others.

Overall, I highly recommend attending the Recurse Center for anyone interested.

*Nothing is permanent in life, so this blog post is subject to revision =D.

My Recurse Center batch(Winter 2 2019 is the best!) officially ended Friday. It’s one of the best experiences I had in my life. I will surely miss it.

I’m going back to my hometown in the suburbs of D.C., take some time to read and relax, and hopefully travel for after while I’m planning my next steps.

Reasons to Come to the Recurse Center:

  • You will learn things you didn’t know you didn’t know.
  • There’s a diverse range of programmers with different skillsets. It strikes a nice balance, because you get an opportunity to help and share your knowledge. At the same time, there are always people to learn programming from. Because everyone has different backgrounds, you get to pick up on other interesting things.
  • People at Recurse are super nice and friendly. Recurse has an interview process where they optimize for picking people based on their passion and whether they’re someone Recursers would get along with(That’s my theory anyway). F I didn’t interact with everyone in my batch, maybe because we never got a chance to talk or wasn’t on the same wavelength. But I found no one that was outright rude or mean. Yet.
  • You get access to a community of 1500 people on Recurse Center’s private messaging board. That’s one more community you can ask programming questions or other life questions.
  • Collaboration. You do get a chance to collaborate on projects together and pair up, if you choose to do so.
  • Sometimes, while you’re working on your projects alone, it can get lonely, or possibly stuck. What I found inspirational was that there was always someone passionately hacking away and learning when I felt drained, and that I could talk to others to take a quick break.
  • Recurse is free.

Reasons Against:

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees. Let’s say that you need 7k to fund yourself for Recurse. It’s not only 7k, but you also have to factor in the opportunity cost of what you could have been doing when you’re not at Recurse. Which is a lot of monies.
  • You want to focus only on working on your project at maximal velocity. Then it may be better to stay home. There will be distractions(some good, like getting to know some really cool things you didn’t know, but others not as good). James, an alumni, said this: If your sole reason is to come to Recurse to work on your project flying solo, Recurse may not be the best option for you. I mean, you can work on your passion project by yourself right? So expect your original goals to shift.
  • Your an early stage programmer and want to get a job through Recurse’s partner companies. Many of their partner companies mostly want senior software engineers.
  • Sometimes, you feel that you’re not good enough because other people are doing amazing things and you’re either not making a lot of progress, or learning something that doesn’t have tangible results. But the other side of the coin is that the work of others rekindles your fire to learn.
  • New York is hectic and noisy. Well that’s not a Recurse thing, but I couldn’t think of any other con ¯\(ツ__/¯

Recommended Optimal Recurse Strategy:

Get a job that you really love, and take a sabbatical. One of the Recurse facilitators mentioned this before I started my batch. People have a hard time juggling between planning their next steps, and enjoying the Recurse experience. I would have loved my batch much more if I took a sabbatical, didn’t have to worry about interview prep, and went ham!

Some Recursers got their companies to fund their learning experience. This is sick. If you love your job, but want a break, you should definitely ask! You’re going to end up becoming a better programmer, so the company should invest in your 3 month ordeal!

Also, it’s better if you’re not strapped for cash. It’s stressful to worry about money when you don’t have any. It’s good to save up some money so you can go out often and explore New York!

Overall, I highly recommend attending the Recurse Center for anyone interested. It’s changed my perspective on life, and reinvigorated me to continue learning just for the sake of it.

*Nothing is permanent in life, so this blog post is subject to revision =D.