Recurse Center

Allie Jones: Textile Designer to Web Developer to Staff Engineer

This is a continuation of our series exploring the paths that Recursers take to RC, what they do during their batch, and what happens after.

Allie is a Staff Engineer at Etsy, and came to RC for a batch in 2013. They also worked as a facilitator at RC from 2015-2016. Before their RC batch, they worked in textile design, and as a graphic designer and web developer.

Allie Jones

Here is Allie’s story:

Before RC

I was always a kid that liked computers. I did the classic 90s online stuff, making fan websites for things that I liked and I got into modding video games. I didn’t realize it was programming!

In my teens I had the classic leaky tech pipeline experience: I was into art and technology and I got into a pre-college summer program and got to take programming classes. It was the exact thing that people talk about: I’m non-binary but at the time I was a “girl” in tech; no one was mean, but it was very clear that I was surprising and it was very weird that I was interested in it. I had never written C++ but everyone else in the class had, and they were like, “Oh, you don’t know how to write recursive code?!” Me and the one other girl in the class had to work together because the 16-year-old boys were not capable of collaborating. I didn’t want to spend another 4 years like this. Even the people running the class said, “I saw you can draw, are you sure you don’t want to do 3D graphics instead of programming?” I won their beginner programming competition, but if this was what getting a CS degree was like, I wanted to go to art school instead.

I studied textile design with a year of glass blowing. I worked as a textile designer in Bangalore, and when I came back to the US, there weren’t any textile jobs, but I got offered a job as a graphic designer at a sign shop. I worked there for 4 years, and realized that I could write code at least as well as the people they hired to do development work. Since it was a small business, I started doing it myself and after 2-3 years I was doing the whole website: the graphics side, building it, integrating WordPress CMSes, e-commerce, etc. I didn’t realize that this was supposed to be the job of 5 human beings.

That’s when I started looking for something like the Recurse Center - I realized that I liked this, and I was pretty sure that I had enough skills to make this a real career, but I didn’t know how to get from where I was to actually being a software engineer.

I didn’t know anyone in tech, and I needed someone to vouch for the fact that I could program. I asked my wife, “Would you care if I went to New York for three months to do this programming thing? I think it might help.” I don’t think she knew the snowball effect it was going to have.

During RC

I went into RC with preconceptions about what “real” programmers did. I interacted with people who I perceived as doing “real” programmer stuff — people in my batch were into Python and Julia and OCaml, and to them, my ability to build a UI that made sense or build a thing in the browser was really useful! They didn’t know how to do that at all and they’d come to me for help with making a UI look better. That was a huge confidence boost for me, and it made me feel comfortable. I became confident enough that I was a “real” programmer even though I wasn’t writing C. The last thing I built at RC was a multi-user whiteboard app that used web sockets in the browser and multiple people could log on and draw on the same canvas from different computers. That was definitely in the category of things that I would not have thought I was capable of making when I started my batch.

The thing RC kind of teaches you is that you can figure anything out, given enough time. Maybe it doesn’t always make sense to do that, but you could!

After RC

I work with a lot of newer engineers at my job, and I think people still get these messages about specific kinds of programming being less serious or less hardcore than others. Do the kind of programming you like, and don’t let sexism stop you. RC was the environment that let me gain confidence, and to describe that it was happening, and that the skills that I had were valuable and I did count as a programmer. I could hang out with people who are writing low-level web sockets code in C and they didn’t think that I was stupid or didn’t count. I was taken seriously, which was different than experiences I had in other computing communities.

Sometimes I can’t believe that this career happened - it seems very implausible. I’m unquestionably a professional software engineer at this point. Now I feel like I can go into less friendly technical spaces and do well and make space. Ten years later, I got promoted to Staff Engineer at Etsy and to me that was a big “I’ve made it” feeling. I enjoy having the technical clout backing to go into these spaces. I’m on the other side of the negative experiences that I had when trying to get into tech. It’s really meaningful to me to now have power and clout and I can make it go differently for the seventeen year old girl that I’m helping learn how to program, or the junior engineer on my team. It feels meaningful - it’s my own personal way to make things better.

I love knowing the RC community is there. In times when I want to get into a technical topic, or I have a specific question or when something’s come up at work and I’m looking for someone who shares technical expertise, it’s great to know that I have this network that’s out there waiting for me.

I have friends I met through RC and it’s been 10 years! I see RC as a pool of potential friends — it’s this group of people who share certain values and nerdy interests with me and it’s nice to know that there’s all those people out there and if I want to meet some new folks that I’ll probably get along with, they’re there.

Jiheh Ritterling: Business to Full-stack Engineer to Educational Game Developer

Sydney Lefevre

This is a continuation of our series exploring the paths that Recursers take to RC, what they do during their batch, and what happens after.

Jiheh is a developer at an educational games company, and recently received a grant to work on her own game. She came to the Recurse Center for a batch at the end of 2018 into 2019.

Jiheh Ritterling

Here is Jiheh’s story:

Before RC

I studied business and finance, but I quit jobs in that area because I was looking for more meaning. I was tutoring to make ends meet when a student helped me realize how powerful games are as a platform for sharing knowledge; harnessing this power became my new career mission. So, even before I started programming I knew games were where I wanted to be, but first I needed to build a foundation. I learned how to program at a bootcamp, and after that I was able to get a job as a software engineer at an ed-tech company for about two years. When I grew confident in my programming skills, I decided it was time to jump into the games industry.

During RC

One of my bootcamp friends went to Recurse, so I knew about it a couple of years before I applied. Since people come to study all different areas of programming, I thought it would be the perfect place to grow my game development skills. I worked with fellow Recurser, George, to make a web-based game in JavaScript called Paw Dyno; it’s a multiplayer typing game where you compete with other players to be the last one on the climbing wall.

Paw Dyno by Jiheh Ritterling

I also created a small Unity project by myself called In Plane View about a 2D character exploring a 3D world, shown only from the 2D perspective. I play-tested the demo at Recurse and received great, useful feedback!

In Plane View by Jiheh Ritterling

I also dabbled in a lot of other projects at Recurse: I learned a bit of machine learning, took part in the Advent of Code, and even joined a ZeroPhone project with others in my batch. It took a while to source all the pieces, and then the first solder turned out to be too small and difficult! I’m still carrying around the parts for one day when I learn a little bit more about electrical engineering, but it was still a really cool experience because I had absolutely no knowledge about hardware or soldering before RC.

That’s the beauty of Recurse. You may have interest in a lot of different areas, but it’s so difficult to start something on your own. But when you have someone else that’s passionate about a topic, and they spearhead a project where you can join and learn and grow together, it makes the journey so much better!

The hardest part of doing RC was focusing on what I actually came to learn. There are so many other cool projects going on and awesome people you want to get to know that you can easily get swept up in the first few weeks. Luckily, the batches shift in the middle and you realize: wow, half of my time here is already over! I need to focus! It took some effort to find the right balance between accomplishing the goals I had set for myself and enjoying my time with new friends and projects.

The biggest shift for me at RC was not actually related to what I was working on; instead, it had to do with the community and its inclusivity. Recurse was the first place where I was asked my pronouns.

Back then, I had not yet been in an environment that so actively encouraged everyone to voice out their differences and accept others as they were, and I saw first-hand how important this is to building a diverse yet strong community where each individual feels he/she/they belong. I learned how to be more open-minded and respectful during my time at RC and in my daily life afterwards!

After RC

There were Recursers from all over the world during my batch, and they inspired me to pursue moving to Europe - something I had thought about for a while. I added my game projects from RC to my portfolio and applied to every single game dev job listing in Europe that mentioned any of the programming skills that I had. I ended up getting an offer from MegaZebra in Munich, Germany working on casual games, and got my foot into the games industry like I had been hoping for when I started RC.

It was a small to mid-sized studio, so I learned about many different parts of running a game studio, including game development, DevOps, hiring, and more. After about a year and a half I had enough experience and savings to start working on my own game. I’ve been developing ISLAND_NAME_HERE - a puzzle adventure where you play as a game developer, which was awarded the Draknek New Voices grant this year!

ISLAND_NAME_HERE by Jiheh Ritterling

I also recently landed a Unity engineer position at Age of Learning, an educational games company that partners with a lot of schools throughout the US. As someone who started programming to make games that share knowledge, I’m living the dream with my current job and project. I’m so grateful for my time and learnings from Recurse, which allowed me to enter my current industry while learning new things and making lifelong friends.

Filippo Valsorda: Wikipedia Community Contributor to Cryptography Library Maintainer

Sydney Lefevre

This is a continuation of our series exploring the paths that Recursers take to RC, what they do during their batch, and what happens after.

Filippo is currently a Go cryptography library maintainer. He came to RC for two batches: his first was in 2013 after he finished high school, and his second was in 2017 after he’d worked on the cryptography team at Cloudflare.

Filippo Valsorda

Here is Filippo’s story:

Before RC

I started programming in the Wikipedia community; I started with templates—the community was super helpful and were there to help you figure out stuff. I graduated to building small JavaScript tools for the editors community to automate some of the encyclopedia maintenance tasks, and then eventually to bots in Python. I ended up maintaining an open source project, youtube-dl, and I was also interested in cryptography and security, but was self-taught. That was the programming experience I had when I joined RC the first time; I’d just finished high school (high school was not about programming and we barely ever saw a computer), and the Recurse Center sort of happened when I decided not to go to university.

During his first batch at RC

I saw RC on Hacker News. It resonated with finally having a community to learn programming in. At that point I had seen a total of one programmer in-person total, and having a lot of them around sounded appealing. In my application I talked about doing youtube-dl and some cryptography stuff, but I ended up doing a bunch of smaller things—in a sense it was a bit of a classic mistake! In another, it was actually a good way to use my time at RC because I ended up getting to know a lot of different people and exploring a lot of different topics by working on projects together. I did Iron Blogger, which was a tradition at the time, and I did Set 7 of the Cryptopals challenges, which dropped during my batch. I wanted to be the first one to finish these—I skipped dinner, I skipped that night, and I stayed around the space until very, very, very late. I think I finished them in thirty hours or something like that. I’m grateful that I had the space to do that because I think that’s something that gave me a lot of visibility for my career.

RC worked really well for me from the beginning. I’m not good at structured work, I like to chase whatever is shiny and interesting, and the Recurse Center was just the right amount of structure around me to be able to go and follow curiosity to where it would lead, and learn freely, and have people to discuss things with. It was just space and permission and company to learn and do projects and churn through interesting stuff.

After his first batch

After my first batch, I did some consulting and ended up having clients who had gone to RC—the network of alums and the community helped me get started. Then I got lucky with something: The Heartbleed Test, which I only knew how to make because another Recurser showed me Go during a random evening social. I kind of dismissed it at the time (I was excited because he was excited, but I didn’t really follow up on it), but then Heartbleed happened and I remembered that there was a TLS library in Go that should be easy to modify, so I used it to make a test for the vulnerability. That got very popular, and got me hired at Cloudflare.

I built a profile for myself, gave a lot of talks, and started to contribute to the Go project. I sort of burnt out a little. I left Cloudflare in 2017, and the first thing I thought was, “great! now I’ve got time for another batch.” Next steps: RC, obviously. In between jobs is a great time to do RC.

During Filippo’s second batch of RC

I came in with a bit too high of expectations for myself. I remembered how in the first batch I had done a lot of small things and I thought, “well, that was a waste—I should have used this chunk of time to work on a large, consistent project that I can see developed; you never get this much time to dedicate to a project.” Honestly, I think that analysis is wrong now!

Jobs will give you the opportunity to have to maintain a project; the Recurse Center gives you the freedom to NOT have to ship a large thing at the end of the batch.

As long as you have something to show at the end of the week on Friday about what you learned, I feel like you’re doing RC well, even if it has nothing to do with what you did the week before or the week before that.

The expectations I had set—wanting to deliver this large thing (I started out doing a Go implementation of the Tor protocol), to have spent my time well—now I see that’s not the right way to go about it. I’ve always said that changing your project after you start RC is a good sign. You should have a project you want to do before you start RC, and you should expect it will get tossed and you will end up doing something else that is interesting with other people. Now I understand that changing projects often is also fine: if that’s how your brain works and that’s how you learn and that’s how you follow curiosity, that’s totally ok!

After RC

After the second batch of RC, I got hired by Google to lead the security of the Go project. In a way, the road that led me there started at the RC party where that alum showed me Go! I left in May of this year, but I am still the maintainer of the cryptography libraries in the standard library, including the TLS stack. Now I’m trying to build a new model for professional open source maintainers to get paid to maintain critical pieces of open source that the ecosystem needs. The idea is working as a contractor for companies that need the ongoing maintenance to be sustainable and that benefit from having access to the maintainers, both as advisors and as a way to get input into the roadmap.

In 2019 I had had a project on the back-burner for a while: everyone was still using PGP for file encryption, and I wanted to build a better alternative, something easier to use and more secure. We ended up designing it in a couple days at Never Graduate Week 2019 with my friend and fellow Recurser Ben Cartwright-Cox. It’s now a very popular tool, age-encryption, and it’s only so easy to use thanks to Ben and that NGW.

The community to me is both a number of people with whom I kept a connection on a 1-1 basis as well as all of these connections that happen in other spaces and companies between people because we have the Recurse Center in common.

I can wear an RC pin at conferences and people will come up and be like “I’m from this batch!” I still show up for the Never Graduate weeks, even if they’re online they’re pretty great. I love the tooling that RC has built. !!Con, which uses the same tooling, is the only remote conference I ever attended that felt as exhausting as a real conference because of all of the interactions and people I got to talk to.

Something I like about RC is that there are people of all backgrounds there: on one hand, you get the people that are very junior who still know what it’s like to figure out something for the first time, and they can see what’s hard or easy to understand about a new project; on the other hand, you have people who have been in the industry 30 years and know font rendering inside out, and can tell you everything about how fonts have been rendered on all of the platforms because they have written half of the implementations and are taking a break from being a director at Google or something like that. Mixing that was definitely a lot of the value that I got from RC, from both sides of that interaction.

Dylan Nugent: Engineering Manager to Infrastructure Engineer

Caroline Grand

This is a continuation of our series exploring the paths that Recursers take to RC, what they do during their batch, and what happens after.

Dylan came to RC in the spring and summer of 2020 and now works as a Senior Software Engineer at Google.

Dylan Nugent

Here is Dylan’s story:

Before RC

I was interested in computers from a young age; they fascinated me. I messed around with making games when I was pretty young, and I was fortunate enough to go to a high school with a CS program. In college, I did a bit of volunteer system administration stuff, as well as studied computer science and had internships. I took the traditional path into software engineering I suppose!

Before Recurse, I was a manager of the data engineering team at a mid-sized start-up. I’d been in management for a little over a year at that point and I’d hit a point in my career where I was feeling like I was no longer doing things that deeply interested me. I didn’t remember why I wanted to do this in the first place: I was tired of it, it was super stressful, and I was generally burnt out. I’d heard about the Recurse Center two or three years earlier from colleagues at a prior company, and I wanted to refresh my programming skills and go back towards being an individual contributor, so I applied in September of 2019.

During RC

When I came to RC, I planned to work on a DNS server that I was writing from scratch, but something that I found really early on was that it was really fun and engaging to sit down with someone else and ask them what they were working on. Early in the batch, we started a networking club where we would meet every Friday and chat over different networking topics. I paired with a lot of people chasing down bugs, and I paired on one bug that ended up being a bug in Node itself.

In the first week of RC, I had conversations with an alum after presentations and realized that I was talking with someone who really knew what he was talking about. He had built the DNS infrastructure for Cloudflare, and made really interesting suggestions for things to experiment with and check out.

That conversation stuck out to me because I could have taken three months and worked in a vacuum in my bedroom, but I couldn’t have had spontaneous conversations with people like this, and I wouldn’t have known how to reach out and get that kind of knowledge.

I’ve been in other environments that have been learning-focused, like college, but it didn’t feel to me like this was a student/professor conversation or anything like that - it just felt like everyone was chatting about things they were interested in!

During those first few months of COVID I was in my apartment, and it was really good to still have an online community to chat with and to get support from. Everyone was obviously experiencing this dramatic shift in our lives at the exact same moment. The transition itself was rough, but there were the social activities and the support groups and things like that which actually were really helpful. On the programming front, I learned a lot about how to program remotely, collaboratively and it was a good period of time to learn what it meant to go fully remote.

After RC

I planned to go back into the software industry following RC, and using RC’s career services made sense.

RC’s career services are great - the process is very much unlike how applying to a job normally is. I had conversations about what I was interested in, and they put in a lot of effort into finding jobs that matched what I’d discussed.

RC’s career services doesn’t feel like a thing where you’re being pushed to take an offer. Everyone is supportive and helpful in trying to find the job that’s right for you no matter where that is.

Now I’m a software engineer on Google’s Speech Platforms Privacy team - we work on the data infrastructure that powers speech research for devices like Google Home, and also automatic captioning on Google Meet or YouTube. I still like learning by doing and sharing what I’m working on. That mechanism of explaining concepts is always a good way to learn, because in the process of explaining something, you have to understand it a little bit better. I haven’t done as much of that recently, but while at RC I did my first tech talk at a conference. A lot of what I do currently is reading things that spark curiosity, and I learn through work too, but most of my learning comes from outside of work.

I’m pretty active on Zulip and I keep in touch with a lot of the people whom I befriended during my batch, and I go to the NY-area social events.

Something about the size and selection of the RC Community, I feel like it never really feels like I don’t know who someone is at all. Conversations on Zulip have a tendency to be really good, and it’s really refreshing to have nice conversations around software stuff on the Internet with relative strangers.

There are a lot of websites that are notably not like that, but because the Recurse Community is a community of people who all value the same things, especially curiosity and kindness, and doing our best to be excellent to each other (to quote Bill and Ted), it works really well.

Max Pekarsky: Product Operations to Software Engineer to Freelance Developer

Sydney Lefevre

This is a continuation of our series exploring the paths that Recursers take to RC, what they do during their batch, and what happens after.

Max is a freelance developer working with Execute Program, and came to RC for a batch in 2019. Before RC, he worked in product operations at Codecademy, and took a software engineer apprenticeship with the New York City mayor’s office.

Max Pekarsky

Here is Max’s story

Before RC

I took a CS class in high school as my first real exposure to programming, and I liked it way more than I expected. It was great to build things. I think of coding and music as sort of being parallel, and I was writing a lot of music, and so writing code was just another means of artistic self-expression. It’s like, Oh, I can write music and write a song for my friends, or I can write some code and make a game for my friends. I think there’s a moment where you write some instructions for the computer, and the computer does the thing you asked it to do. That moment just clicks for some people, and it definitely clicked for me. I thought, “this is awesome.”

I ended up not studying CS in college. I worked in a bunch of other fields, and eventually made my way into tech working in operational and product roles. For a while I led a team of programming tutors at Codecademy, and at some point I realized that I was enjoying the technical conversations and the technical work more than the operational work.

My mentor at the time was not a Recurse Center alum, but had heard all these great things about RC. I started reading through the website, and it totally sold me. I was a self-taught developer and had been following my way through tutorials and I wanted to slow down and start to fill in some of that missing CS background, and actually understand what the code I was working on was doing. In high school I went to band camp for a couple of years, and they were some of the best summers in my life, being totally immersed in making music with other musicians for three months. I made incredible progress as a musician in those summers, and it’s what made me the musician I am today, and reading the Recurse Center website I was like, this is the same thing, but for programming! I can just sort of hang out with other developers in a no pressure environment and just better my craft.

During RC

I don’t think everything clicked right away. I think one thing that I love about RC (and I’m definitely not the first person to come up with this) is that RC is really transparent about what it is. A lot of organizations tell you what they are, but you need to read between the lines, whereas RC is really straightforward. What you read is what you get, and so from the moment I got there it was kind of what I expected, which was wonderful–just really nice people! I think at some point I realized, and I think a lot of my batchmates realized, that RC wasn’t going to just be about (for most people, at least) the technical discoveries and the technical learning.

You were doing as much personal learning: how to direct your own work, figuring out how to get help from your batchmates, and sort of finding a way to work that worked for you for your personal growth. That was a big shift for me.

Self-directed learning is hard. I started studying compilers, and it’s an intimidatingly large subject for somebody that’s never had any structured learning with it. To me that’s sort of classic RC: I sort of threw myself into the middle of this big subject and it’s sort of like, figure it out! There’s books on the shelf, there’s the internet, and I’ve got batchmates that’ve worked on this professionally, and I have to push myself out of my comfort zone and go read up on these resources and decide how much is enough. I spent three weeks on this stuff and I still felt completely lost. I had batchmates who did PhDs on this stuff, so at what point can I walk away from this and still feel like a success? So I decided that I’m going to pull as much as I can together, I’m going to do a technical presentation, there’s going to be people in the audience to whom this is going to be laughably simple, and that’s ok! And I’m going to walk away after a month having learned a bunch, knowing that there’s so much still to learn.

After RC

After RC, I got my first full-time job as a web dev, which was awesome because that was one of my big goals. I worked there for a couple of years, and now I’m doing freelance and contract work and probably going back to full-time work.

RC’s career services were really helpful, and I applied to a bunch of jobs through RC. The job that I ended up taking wasn’t one that I found through RC, but Career Services still helped me negotiate and manage the whole process, which is really wonderful. I’m really grateful for that.

I’ve got a close group of friends from RC and we have a weekly meeting. Initially our goal was to study Rust together. There’s a joke in the TV show “Community” where there’s a Spanish study group and they never study Spanish, so after RC we decided to sort of keep hanging out and study Rust, but we never actually study Rust. We’ve been meeting weekly through the pandemic for the last 3 years and we talk about our personal lives, but we also talk tech, and it’s been super helpful to have a little community. Each of us is in a different kind of job and we can support one another. We try to meet up in-person once in a while, including at Never Graduate Week.

The Rust Club

When there are events at RC, I try to show up, and when I think about my job searches, RC is the first place that comes to mind. When I want help on a technical topic, I definitely go to Zulip. I talk with incoming Recursers, and I’ve given mock interviews to Recursers looking for jobs. RC occasionally reaches out to connect me with like-minded Recursers, or whenever I can help out, which is great!

I mostly still learn on my own, but I’m a lot more comfortable with the discomfort of doing it. Learning on your own is hard, and after RC it’s a little bit easier, or a little bit more okay that it is hard.

I definitely never feel like the smartest guy in the room at RC, and I think it was the first place I felt real psychological safety, and that totally unlocked my ability to learn.

The community you’re a part of at RC is incredibly generous and friendly and kind. Of everyone I’ve met through RC, “kind” is the first word that comes to mind.

Jean Cochrane: Community Journalism to Data Viz to Backend Engineer

Caroline Grand

There’s no one path that Recursers take. People come from a variety of backgrounds and explore whatever area of programming they’re interested in. In this series, we talk with alums about their paths before, during, and after RC.

Jean is a backend engineer for Sendwave, and came to RC for a batch in 2018. Before RC, she worked in web development and data analysis for a consultancy working with nonprofits, local governments, and journalists.

Jean Cochrane

Here is Jean’s story:

Before RC

I came to programming through a kind of strange path, although I think a lot of people do, so maybe there is no such thing as a strange path to programming! I started out doing a completely non-programming related thing. I was working for a community newspaper in a volunteer capacity in Chicago, doing graphics and comics journalism, and that led into doing some amount of data visualization. I got really into data viz, and I think that was a natural funnel into web programming.

Eventually, I decided that I was not really interested in the journalism component and was more interested in web programming, so I started working in civic tech in Chicago. I worked for a small consulting company called DataMade that worked with journalists, nonprofits, and state and local governments building websites and web apps, and doing some amount of data analysis, too. That’s how I got sucked into it–it was a little bit unintentional, but it was something that I just kind of fell in love with through the process of doing it, and also through the process of realizing all the cool things that I could do with it.

I had grown from a junior developer to more of a mid-level engineer, and was starting to max out on the technical growth path at DataMade since it was very small. I had a feeling of being uncertain of what I wanted to pursue next. I had heard of RC through folks at !!Con who loved it, and who said I should apply. It was an opportunity to pause in my career and take a little bit of time to reflect–so I left my job, and did RC.

During RC

At RC, I worked a lot on machine learning, which wasn’t super intentional. I hadn’t gone in thinking that I was going to spend a lot of time doing machine learning, but there was a quorum of people in my batch who were interested in it. We had a couple of disillusioned Math PhDs who were excited about working on it, so I led a study group on a book on neural networks called Neural Networks and Deep Learning by Michael Nielsen, and we all worked through that together.

I don’t do a lot of the machine learning stuff today, but it taught me about my own learning style, and in a way that’s been very important. Before RC, I identified as very self-directed and my learning happened through spending a lot of time alone with texts.

I think the experience of working with people who are experts in an adjacent field that helps them understand the material made me realize how much faster I learn in groups — having peers and mentors in the learning process is a huge force multiplier for my own learning.

That’s something that is still useful for me day-to-day. Anytime I want to learn something my first thoughts are always: what’s the concrete project this is going to be applied to, who are my peers that I’m going to work with, and who are my mentors?

After RC

After RC, I got a job working at a company called Sendwave. I work as a backend engineer, and I’m focused on the performance of Python code and Postgres queries, which is what I’ve loved doing for the past couple of years. The mission is fantastic, and there’s a unique engineering culture that’s very RC influenced. I really enjoy working at an RC partner company!

The job search process through RC was great. They did so much work to find companies that they thought I would be interested in based on the technologies I wanted to use and the types of missions that I was interested in.

I interviewed at a couple of start-ups I thought were doing fascinating technical work on human-computer interaction, but Sendwave won me over because the mission felt important. The stack was a technical stack I’d worked with and was excited to dive deep on, so it just felt like a great fit. It was really helpful to get so many recommendations from Sydney and Sonali and the whole recruiting team just to give me a couple of options and a window into what I wanted. I knew I wanted to work for an RC company because I wanted to experience an engineering culture that was similar to RC.

Today, I interact with the RC community mostly through Zulip. It’s comfortable for me; I like the forum style, and the discussion is super active and also really interesting. I also attend !!Con, where there are a lot of Recursers, and Never Graduate Week.

It’s amazing, the degree to which you can remain deeply involved in the space, despite not living in New York and not actively being in batch.

I do a lot of my learning today through work. I organize technical talks at Sendwave once a month — it’s a vibrant channel for chatting about technical stuff. And we actually just launched a reading group for Structure and Interpretation of Computer programs–I’m really excited for that. I read it alone the year before I went to RC, and I’m excited to learn it in a group now!

Dave is stepping down next year

This is a joint post by RC’s founders: Nick Bergson-Shilcock, Sonali Sridhar, and David Albert.

Our cofounder, David Albert, will be leaving the company in March of next year. While sad, Dave’s departure is amicable, voluntary, and thoughtfully planned. We all remain good friends and still care deeply about RC.

Read on for details, and why Dave has decided to stop working at RC.

Just the facts

Dave will continue full-time in his current role until early March 2023. After that, he’ll be a (very part-time) contractor for another year. He’ll remain a major shareholder and will remain indefinitely on both RC’s board and our informal advisory board.

Dave’s leaving because the ways in which he wants to grow and contribute no longer align with RC’s needs as an organization. Specifically, he wants to work as a programmer at the edge of one of a handful of specific technical domains, and the problems he wants to work on aren’t ones that matter to RC’s success.

The three of us have tried to come up with a creative solution that would both allow Dave to continue working on RC and let him do the type of work he yearns for. Unfortunately, we don’t see a way to do this, and none of us (especially Dave) is interested in any sort of ceremonial role that isn’t truly valuable to RC. Dave has thought about this for years, and as much as he doesn’t want to leave RC, he knows he’d regret it in a decade if he doesn’t make this change now.

Looking ahead

Dave has had an immeasurable impact on RC, and his legacy and influence here will continue even after he’s left.

While there’s no good time to lose a valued cofounder, Dave’s departure comes at the best possible time. Our team, focus, and prospects for the future have never been stronger, and by sharing this change with so much notice we can ensure a smooth and effective transition.

We are sad to no longer work together every day after so many years of close collaboration. But we are happy to end our work relationships as friends, and we are all extremely optimistic about the future of RC.

Toward that end and lest there be any doubt: Nick (Cofounder and CEO) and Sonali (Cofounder and Head of Recruiting) remain committed to working full-time on RC for the long-term. The challenges and opportunities our company faces in the coming years thankfully align extremely well with the type of work we want to do and the ways Sonali and Nick want to grow.

At RC, we believe in following your curiosity and exercising your volition. Dave’s decision to step down provides a perfect example of both.

Never graduate,
Nick, Sonali, and Dave

P.S. After nearly 13 years of working on the company, Dave plans to take a year off from work and will spend much of that time programming for fun. Expect to see him hanging out and programming at RC a lot next year.

The three RC founders on a boat to Fire Island

Back in 2011 when RC was just the three of us, and we tagged along on another company’s team offsite for a free trip to Fire Island.

We’re hiring an Online Facilitator! (US remote)

Update: As of June 30th, 2022 we’ve filled this role and are no longer hiring.

Join the Recurse Center as an Online Facilitator and help us operate and improve our remote educational retreats for programmers! You’ll work with the rest of the team to run retreats, manage our online spaces, and support Recursers attending remotely.

Read on to learn more about RC, our interview process, hiring rubric, the role, and what we think is good (and bad) about this job.

If this role isn’t for you, please consider sharing it with others. If we hire someone who found this job because of you, we’ll donate $250 to the non-profit of your choice.1

A unique business and community

RC is a unique institution. We run a free and self-directed programming retreat, a community of over 2,000 alums, and a recruiting agency, all of which are integrated and support each other. Our revenue comes from recruiting fees paid by our partner companies when they hire alums we refer to them.

Our views on education are unorthodox. We reject the overt and subtle coercion of school and believe people should get to decide what they learn and why and how they learn it. We don’t have grades, teachers, or any kind of curriculum. Instead, we provide time, space, resources, and a supportive community in which to grow.

Our approach to recruiting is similarly unconventional. While many recruiting agencies operate on a “quantity over quality” basis by referring any candidate they can find to as many jobs as possible, RC is different. We work hard to understand what Recursers and our partner companies are looking for, and only make introductions where we think it genuinely makes sense for both parties, after confirming mutual interest. We also stick with companies and Recursers throughout the interview process, checking in and offering support.

Until 2020, we ran our retreats in our space in New York City. We’ve been operating online since the pandemic struck (we plan to operate both online and in-person once it’s safe to do so, but we have no idea when that will be).

When we do return to in-person operations, we’ll continue running our online retreats. Running virtual batches has made RC more accessible to people from across the world, and we want to continue to make online batches available to people for the foreseeable future. That’s why we’re hiring an Online Facilitator now: while we don’t yet have plans to reopen, we want to make sure we can support online and in-person retreats when we do, and that means growing our team!

The role

As an Online Facilitator you will work on the day-to-day operations of the retreat, including hosting office hours, running events, helping onboard new Recursers, and moderating our online spaces. You’ll also have the autonomy to make larger improvements to the retreat so that RC supports more people in having transformative experiences during their batches.

There are many ways you might do this, and we want whoever we hire to make this position their own. In the past, facilitators have led the installation and documentation of a computing cluster for Recursers, developed a Code of Conduct, made RC more family-friendly, and made numerous improvements to our recruiting process, including building a corps of mock interviewers.

You will also face hard problems. Improving the experience of doing a batch for Recursers involves a lot of one-on-one work with folks who are currently at RC, making policy changes that affect the entire community, and supporting Recursers who are struggling or in difficult situations. There often aren’t easy solutions to these kinds of problems, but you will always have the rest of the team to draw upon when you need support.

The team

We currently have five people working on the retreat, and you’ll work closely with them: there’s me, the Head of Retreat; Dave, one of our co-founders; Mai and James, our Facilitators; and Caroline, our Operations Assistant. You might also occasionally work with the rest of the team.

While you’ll be the only online-only facilitator, as of right now our entire team is working remotely, and you’ll have several months at least to get ramped up in this role while we continue to operate online. Once we reopen our space you’ll continue to collaborate with the team, but will be expected to exercise more autonomy in running and improving online batches.

Clear goals, transparency, and feedback

We work hard to foster a culture that’s collaborative, trusting, and thoughtful. Here are some of the things you will find that support this culture:

  • Clear company-wide goals and the reasoning behind them. You’ll have an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish together and why. In 2022, the goal you will focus on is dramatically increasing the impact RC has on people by helping them follow our self-directives.
  • Organizational transparency. You will have access to whatever information about RC you want, from how much money we made last month to our bank balance to the history of our decisions and experiments.
  • Direct, kind, and constructive feedback. This helps us quickly resolve disagreements and work together more effectively.
  • A writing review stream in our private chat and an accompanying culture of review. We copyedit and review all our writing, from blog posts to tweets.
  • Weekly one-on-ones to give and receive regular feedback and help you work through frustrations or challenges with your work.

Work that matters

As an Online Facilitator you’ll support Recursers in making the most of their batches. People come to RC for many different reasons and from a wide range of backgrounds in order to dramatically improve as programmers. Every batch is different, and every batch is full of fascinating, curious, kind people.

People genuinely love RC. Alums routinely tell us RC was one of or even the most impactful, meaningful, productive, or transformative period of their lives. We’ve helped people find their first programming jobs, meet lifelong friends and colleagues, and discover what they really want out of their lives and careers. Alums have told us RC changed their approach to programming, their beliefs about education, and even how they think about themselves and relate to other people.

Our community loves RC so much that they collectively donated over $350,000 to help us make it through the pandemic. When our business did better than expected and it turned out we didn’t need the money for operational expenses, we used it to restart our grants program. Since launching the program in 2012, we’ve given over $1.7 million directly to Recursers who are women, trans, non-binary, Black, Latina/o, and/or Native American to pay for living expenses during their time at RC.

Good work-life balance and benefits

You will work 40 hours a week and can do so remotely from anywhere in the US. If you’re in New York and like in-person work, you can work from our sunny office in Downtown Brooklyn as often or seldom as you like.

You’ll have friendly, supportive, diverse, and intellectually curious colleagues. We all care deeply about RC’s shared success, but we also never forget that this is, at the end of the day, a job. All of us have lives and loved ones outside of work, and we know you do, too.

We strive to have a culture that supports our employees to do their best work in a sustainable way, so that you can contribute over the long run. Here are some of the things you’ll find here to help with this:

  • Full health, vision, and dental insurance. RC covers 100% of the premium for the standard plans for all employees, as well as their partners and families. RC also pays the full premium for basic life insurance.
  • A 401k. RC contributes 3% on top of your salary to a 401k for you regardless of how much or even if you choose to contribute yourself.
  • 12 weeks of paid parental leave, which you can take within a year of having or adopting a child.
  • 15 days of vacation (in practice we have unlimited vacation, but we have a number to make sure people actually take it), a 10-day winter holiday (Dec 23 to Jan 1), and nine additional holidays. We also have five days for personal development, which you can use for anything that supports your personal and professional goals and growth.
  • Flexible hours. You can choose any eight consecutive hours with six or more hours of overlap with 9am-6pm ET (most of the team works 9am-5pm or 10am-6pm ET).

Many companies have stated policies that aren’t followed in practice, but that’s not the case at RC. For example, our CEO Nick took two months of parental leave when his son was born in 2019, and was able to fully unplug from work during that time.

Downsides and other things to know

Like all jobs and companies, this one is far from perfect. Here are the biggest downsides we see.

  • We’re a small team, with lots to do, and there’s a good amount of context-switching you’ll need to do as a facilitator.
  • Relatively low pay (if you’re a programmer located in a major metro area). The salary offered for this role is $117k, regardless of where you’re based.
  • We’re not a rocket ship. While we aim to continue growing, our growth has been modest and is funded entirely by revenue. We’re not going to sell or IPO, so there’s no equity or big pay day potentially looming. Instead, our goal is to be a Small Giant. We’ve been privately owned, operated and profitable for over a decade, and we want to remain so indefinitely.

Our internal hiring rubric

Instead of a vague list of requirements, below you will find the exact rubric we will evaluate everyone on, along with an explanation of why we think each criterion is important. We don’t see any point in keeping our criteria a secret: interviewing is stressful enough as it is – you shouldn’t have to also guess what we’re trying to evaluate you on.

Every part of our interview process is intended to help us evaluate one or more of these criteria. We need to get a positive signal for each criterion (and ideally no negative signals) in order to confidently make an offer.

Criterion
Explanation
High emotional intelligence
You’ll need to support Recursers in having transformative experiences at RC, and be comfortable giving and receiving feedback and handling difficult conversations and decisions.
Intellectually curious
Important for fitting in with our team and culture, and connecting with Recursers.
Self-directed and collaborative
Self-directed because we expect you to be proactive, and able to recognize and address issues in real time and solve them independently or with the team.

Collaborative because there’s no way you’ll succeed on your own — you will need to work closely with most or all of the company and Recursers.

Systematic thinker
You can handle both the day-to-day tasks of running RC, and think about ways to make structural improvements to the retreat.
Clear communicator
You’ll spend lots of time talking to others, hosting events, and communicating with the community via emails and Zulip, our internal chat.
Knows how to program
You have experience programming and learning to program, and could hypothetically pair with a Recurser and answer technical questions.
Pleasant to work with
A requirement of everyone we hire.
Understands and is aligned with RC and our values
You will be responsible for creating and maintaining the learning environment at RC, which means understanding and believing in our values and beliefs about education.
Career goals are aligned with this role
You want to work remotely in the long-term, and are comfortable interacting primarily on Zoom. You don’t want a full-time programming job – while you’ll have the opportunity to pair and program while working at RC, it isn’t a significant part of this role.

What to expect from our interview process

This process is designed to evaluate the criteria listed above, and for you to evaluate if this role is a good fit for you.

Step 1: Email us. Please email ops@recurse.com with your resume and/or publicly viewable LinkedIn profile, along with short (1-3 sentences) answers to the following questions:

  • What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve learned in the last month?
  • What’s your biggest concern about RC or this job?
  • Share one or two things that attracted you to this job.

Step 2: Initial call. A 45-minute call with me (Rachel), James, or Mai. I’ll have some questions for you, and there will be plenty of time for you to ask me any questions you have about RC, this role, or anything else.

Step 3: A virtual on-site. You’ll spend a day working closely with several members of our team on things you’d be doing as an Online Facilitator. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to ask questions! We’ll give you a $250 Amazon gift card (or if you prefer, make a $250 donation to the non-profit of your choice) in appreciation of your time if you reach this stage.

Step 4: Reference checks and offer. As a final step before making an offer we will ask for and speak with two references.

After each step, we’ll do our best to let you know within two business days if you’re advancing to the next stage. (The exception to this is the final step, when it will likely take longer to let you know if we’re making an offer, in part because of the time it takes to schedule and speak with references.)

Other useful things to know

  • You need to have US work authorization and work from one of the 50 US states (we’re unfortunately unable to sponsor visas for this role).
  • All RC employees must be fully vaccinated, even if remote (we still meet up in-person sometimes).
  • If you’re considering applying, you should spend some time reading our about page, blog, and User’s Manual to get a sense of our company and your potential coworkers. You can also check out what other people say about RC.
  1. If you tell someone about this job and we hire them, we’ll donate $250 to a non-profit of your choice. How? We’ll ask whomever we hire if they found out about this job from a specific person. If they did, we’ll reach out and ask that person what non-profit they’d like us to donate to.

4 Questions with Avinash Sajjanshetty

Mai Schwartz

In this series, we sit down with Recursers in batch to learn about the work they’re doing at the Recurse Center and what they’re most excited about right now! In this installment, we talked to Avinash Sajjanshetty about his path to programming and why he’s obsessed with databases.

Avinash Sajjanshetty

Avinash Sajjanshetty

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I grew up and did most of my schooling in a small village in India, so I didn’t have much exposure to computer programming, but computers always fascinated me. My first distinct memory of seeing computers was going to the bank! It was a long time before I had a chance to use one or have my own. I started learning Python from an online MOOC by Udacity. That’s where I started discovering what programming even is and the way you solve problems with it.

I wrote a little app for my nine-year-old nephew. It was just a command line app in Python that taught him math. I used built-in text-to-speech functionality to have it randomly generate two numbers and then it would ask him to either add or subtract them. And that felt really good! I felt like I was solving something. It was really tiny and really simple, but that’s how I got interested.

There’s a popular music streaming application in India called Gaana. I was looking at their API at one point and found an exploit, which gave me access to all of their users. It was wild. So I wrote a blog post about it, about how I sort of accidentally hacked into this and got access. That was seen by someone who liked the code I had written and they reached out to offer me a job.

What brings you to RC at this particular moment in your life?

I first learned about RC from Julia Evans’s blog around 2015 or 2016. I think I first read the posts about writing a TCP server in Python. At the time, I didn’t fully understand what went into TCP or how someone would implement something like that. That really inspired me and I kept tracking RC over the years.

However, I never thought I could get in. Then later, a colleague of mine Krace got in while we worked together. And since he was an amazing mentor to me at my previous job and I worked so closely with him, I felt like, okay, maybe there is a chance for me sometime in the future. This was probably 2018.

Now I’ve been at my current job for almost five years and I was bored and I wanted to take a break. I got a sabbatical and at the same time I applied at RC. To my surprise, I got in, and it ended up aligning really well with my three month sabbatical from work. So I feel like I got really lucky! All the pieces lined up and clicked into place at the right time.

What are you excited about right now, programming-wise?

For the past year and a half, I’ve been obsessed with distributed systems, so I’m trying to learn and read as much as possible about them. I was going through an online course and then slowly I started going deeper and deeper and trying to understand even more.

A few months ago I worked on a side project where I tried to generate billions of rows as quickly as possible using SQLite and that led me to explore databases more deeply. I started learning how exactly databases store data on the disk, what makes a database fast, and the different ways that people use them. At my day job, I’ve been using databases for so long, but I don’t think I really understood the internals of how it all really works.

So I find databases really exciting right now, and systems programming more generally. At RC, I wanted to explore compilers and networking. In the next couple of years, I want to transition my career from back end work to systems programming.

An image from the Write Your Own Database workshop Avinash led at RC

An image from the Write Your Own Database workshop Avinash led at RC

What are you excited about right now, outside of programming?

I used to read a lot and at some point that habit stopped, so I have picked up books again. After watching the movie, I started reading Dune and became obsessed. I just finished the first book, I’m looking forward to the second, and I think I’ll finish the series very soon.


You can see more of Avinash’s work on his website and GitHub.

If you’re interested in learning and working alongside programmers like Avinash, apply to RC!

We’re hiring a Head of Marketing (US remote)

Do you want autonomy, clear goals, and work that matters? Join RC as Head of Marketing.

There’s a better way to learn: one that relies on diversity and nurtures curiosity. We’ve been building it for over a decade.

Now, you can join the Recurse Center and help more people discover RC and transform their lives through self-directed, accessible, and community-driven education.

In the long run, you can help replace the now dominant view — explicitly or implicitly accepted by most of the world — that growth is the result of curricula, fear, competition, and coercion. Together, we can show that curiosity, collaboration, and community are more conducive to growth, and that deciding what you want to learn and how you want to learn it is a fundamental right and within the capacity of people of all ages.

Read on to learn more about RC, our interview process, hiring rubric, the role, and what we think is good (and bad) about this job.

If this role isn’t for you, please consider sharing it with others. If we hire someone who found this job because of you, we’ll donate $250 to the non-profit of your choice.1

A unique business and community

RC is a unique institution. We run a free and self-directed programming retreat, a community of over 2,000 alums, and a recruiting agency, all of which are integrated and support each other. Our revenue comes from recruiting fees paid by our partner companies when they hire alums we refer to them.

Until 2020, we ran our retreats in our space in New York City. We’ve been operating online since the pandemic struck (we plan to operate both online and in-person once it’s safe to do so, but we have no idea when that will be).

Our views on education are unorthodox. We reject the overt and subtle coercion of school and believe people should get to decide what they learn and why and how they learn it. We don’t have grades, teachers, or any kind of curriculum. Instead, we provide time, space, resources, and a supportive community in which to grow.

Our approach to recruiting is similarly unconventional. While many recruiting agencies operate on a “quantity over quality” basis by referring any candidate they can find to as many jobs as possible, RC is different. We work hard to understand what Recursers and our partner companies are looking for, and only make introductions where we think it genuinely makes sense for both parties, after confirming mutual interest. We also stick with companies and Recursers throughout the interview process, checking in and offering support.

The role: Head of Marketing

As Head of Marketing you will be the first member of the team focused solely on marketing. Like Seth Godin, we believe marketing is a chance to serve, and when successful, a way to make positive change.

We are here to serve two groups: the people who attend our retreats to improve their lives (Recursers) and the people who pay us to help them hire a diverse range of programmers (employers at our partner companies).

Of these two groups, the first – Recursers – are our priority. Not because we don’t care about employers (we do, and they provide all of our revenue) but because success with Recursers drives success with employers, and you can only have one top priority.

Autonomy and support

You’ll have a lot of autonomy and freedom to decide what you want to try and how to try it. This role is great for someone who likes to take ownership, think holistically, and run experiments to see what works.

For many years, most people have found RC via word of mouth. Our team has focused on making RC a great experience and community, and improving how we run our recruiting agency. While we’ve experimented with some marketing ideas we’ve not made any sustained efforts. You will explore and figure out what type of marketing is most effective and what to focus on: perhaps it will be partnerships, content or performance marketing, SEO, or something completely different.

While you will have significant autonomy and be the only person focused solely on marketing, you will not be alone. You’ll have support from the rest of the company, because we don’t think marketing is separate from or tacked onto the rest of our business. We think it’s fundamental to what we do and you will collaborate closely with many members of the team, including me (RC’s CEO).

Clear goals, transparency, and feedback

We work hard to foster a culture that’s collaborative, trusting, and thoughtful. Here are some of the things you will find that support this culture:

  • Clear company-wide goals and the reasoning behind them. You’ll have an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish together and why. In 2022, the goal you will focus on is to get 250 qualified applicants, at least half of whom identify as women, trans, and/or non-binary and at least 10% of whom identify as Black.
  • Organizational transparency. You will have access to whatever information about RC you want, from how much money we made last month to our bank balance.
  • Direct, but kind and constructive feedback. This helps us quickly resolve disagreements and work together more effectively.
  • A writing review stream in our private chat and an accompanying culture of review. We copyedit and review all our writing, from blog posts to tweets.
  • Weekly one-on-ones to give and receive regular feedback and help you work through frustrations or challenges with your work.

Work that matters

Your work as Head of Marketing will help more people discover and benefit from RC, and people genuinely love RC.

Alums routinely tell us RC was one of or even the most impactful, meaningful, productive, or transformative period of their lives. We’ve helped people find their first programming jobs, meet lifelong friends and colleagues, and discover what they really want out of their lives and careers. Alums have told us RC changed their approach to programming, their beliefs about education, and even how they think about themselves and relate to other people.

Our community loves RC so much that they collectively donated over $350,000 to help us make it through the pandemic. When our business did better than expected and it turned out we didn’t need the money for operational expenses, we used it to restart our grants program. Since launching the program in 2012, we’ve given over $1.7 million directly to Recursers who are women, trans, non-binary, Black, Latina/o, and/or Native American to pay for living expenses during their time at RC.

Good work-life balance and benefits

You will work 40 hours a week and can do so remotely from anywhere in the US. If you’re in New York and like in-person work, you can do as much or as little of your work from our sunny office in Downtown Brooklyn.

You’ll have friendly, supportive, diverse, and intellectually curious colleagues. We all care deeply about RC’s shared success, but we also never forget that this is, at the end of the day, a job. All of us have lives and loved ones outside of work, and we know you do, too.

We strive to have a culture that supports our employees to do their best work in a sustainable way, so that you can contribute over the long run. Here are some of the things you’ll find here to help with this:

  • Full health, vision, and dental insurance. RC covers 100% of the premium for the standard plans for all employees, as well as their partners and families. RC also pays the full premium for basic life insurance.
  • A 401k. RC contributes 3% on top of your salary to a 401k for you regardless of how much or even if you choose to contribute yourself.
  • 12 weeks of paid parental leave, which you can take within a year of having or adopting a child.
  • 15 days of vacation (in practice we have unlimited vacation, but we have a number to make sure people actually take it), a 10-day winter holiday (Dec 23 to Jan 1), and nine additional holidays. We also have five days for personal development, which you can use for anything that supports your personal and professional goals and growth.
  • Flexible hours. You can choose any eight consecutive hours with six or more hours of overlap with 9am-6pm ET (most of the team works 9am-5pm or 10am-6pm ET).

Many companies have stated policies that aren’t followed in practice, but that’s not the case at RC. For example, I took two months of parental leave when my son was born in 2019. Even though I’m CEO, I was able to fully unplug from work during that time (I intended to take my third month of leave in 2020 but the pandemic disrupted my plans).

Downsides and other things to know

Like all jobs and companies, this one is far from perfect. Here are the biggest downsides we see.

  • We don’t have existing marketing expertise. You will know more about marketing than anyone else at the company.
  • Relatively low pay (if you’re located in a major metro area). The salary range for this role is $120-150k, regardless of where you’re based.
  • We’re not a rocket ship. While we aim to continue growing, our growth has been modest and is funded entirely by revenue. We’re not going to sell or IPO, so there’s no equity or big pay day potentially looming. Instead, our goal is to be a Small Giant. We’ve been privately owned, operated and profitable for over a decade, and we want to remain so indefinitely.

Our internal hiring rubric

Instead of a vague list of requirements, below you will find the exact rubric we will evaluate everyone on, along with an explanation of why we think each criterion is important. We don’t see any point in keeping our criteria a secret: interviewing is stressful enough as it is – you shouldn’t have to also guess what we’re trying to evaluate you on.

Every part of our interview process is intended to help us evaluate one or more of these criteria. We need to get a positive signal for each criterion (and ideally no negative signals) in order to confidently make an offer.

Criterion
Explanation
Clear communicator
Marketing is communication — we can’t imagine anyone who could be great at this role and not be able to communicate clearly in both writing and conversation.
Self-directed and collaborative
Self-directed because we expect you to take ownership over (and drive results for) how to get more qualified applicants.

Collaborative because there’s no way you’ll succeed on your own — marketing can’t be divorced from the rest of the business and you will need to work closely with most or all of the company.

Intellectually curious
Important for fitting in with our team and culture (and, we think, understanding and helping to communicate what makes RC special).
Pleasant to work with
A requirement of everyone we hire.
Understands and is aligned with RC and our values
You will be trusted to help craft and deliver our message, and you need to be able to do that in a way that is true to our mission and values.
Wants a role defined by high-level goals rather than specific types of work
We want to hire someone who will help us solve a problem, and you should be excited (or at least willing) to do whatever incidental work is necessary to do so.
Has a broad understanding of marketing and deep expertise in some aspect of it
We’re looking for someone to bring marketing expertise into our organization, but we won’t know the type of marketing that will be most effective until we hire someone to work on and understand our marketing problem(s).
Highly experimental and biased towards thoughtful action
A common thread we’ve found researching marketing for this role is the importance of experimentation, because even expert marketers can’t always predict what’s going to work.
Analytical enough to understand and productively think in terms of our metrics
You need to be able to do this if you’re going to take ownership over and drive results for getting more qualified applicants.

There are some things you might think are requirements but aren’t. For instance, it does not matter where (or if) you went to college, and you don’t need any programming knowledge to be a strong candidate. All the things we think are necessary for doing this job effectively are listed in the table above.

What to expect from our interview process

This process is designed to evaluate the criteria listed above, and for you to evaluate if we might be a good fit for you.

Step 1: Email us. Please email ops@recurse.com with your resume and/or publicly viewable LinkedIn profile, along with short (1-3 sentences) answers to the following questions:

  • What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve learned in the last month?
  • What’s a book (or talk, thinker, etc) that has significantly influenced how you think about marketing?
  • What marketing achievement (in or outside of work) are you most proud of?

Step 2: Initial call. A 45-minute call with me (Nick). I’ll have some questions for you, and there will be plenty of time for you to ask me any questions you have about RC, this role, or anything else.

Step 3: A virtual on-site split across two days. During the first half-day, you’ll have time to talk to several of us about the different aspects of RC — what our challenges are getting enough qualified applicants, how our retreat and career services work, and marketing work we’ve tried in the past. You’ll also have a chance to talk with an RC alum about their experience.

If the first half goes well, we’ll invite you back for a second (and final) half-day of calls. We’ll ask you to prepare and share your thoughts based on what you’ve learned about RC so far, including your thoughts on our marketing challenges and what you’d try. We’ll give you a $500 Amazon gift card (or if you prefer, make a $500 donation to the non-profit of your choice) in appreciation of your time if you reach this stage.

Step 4: Reference checks and offer. As a final step before making an offer we will ask for and speak with two references.

After each step, we’ll do our best to let you know within two business days if you’re advancing to the next stage. (The exception to this is the final step, when it will likely take longer to let you know if we’re making an offer, in part because of the time it takes to schedule and speak with references.)

Other useful things to know

  • You need to have US work authorization and work from one of the 50 US states (we’re unfortunately unable to sponsor visas for this role).
  • All RC employees must be fully vaccinated, even if remote (we still meet up in-person sometimes).
  • While this job is fully remote, it will require that you visit NYC once we resume running our retreats in-person so you can experience them first-hand.
  • If you’re considering applying, you should spend some time reading our about page, blog, and User’s Manual to get a sense of our company and your potential coworkers. You can also check out what other people say about RC.
  1. If you tell someone about this job and we hire them, we’ll donate $250 to a non-profit of your choice. How? We’ll ask whomever we hire if they found out about this job from a specific person. If they did, we’ll reach out and ask that person what non-profit they’d like us to donate to.

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