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

Rachel Petacat

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.

4 Questions with Jeff Wang

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 Jeff Wang about the value of a fresh perspective and about the giant LED chandelier he built with his friends.

Jeff Wang

Jeff Wang

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a self-taught programmer. For the past seven or eight years, I’ve held various programming jobs and also programmed a lot for fun. One of the things I like to do is make LED art with my friends! When I’m not doing things professionally, I like to make cool patterns on big LED sculptures.

The biggest sculpture that I’ve worked on is one called the Canopy of Luminous Conjury. Some people say it looks like a jellyfish or an octopus, but I think it’s mostly simply described as a really big LED chandelier. It has a wooden ring that’s 16 feet in diameter, with 7200 LEDs suspended radially towards the center like a chandelier. It was really fun to make and it’s definitely the most ambitious thing that my friends and I have made. We’re still working on more patterns for it.

A photo of the chandelier on display, lit up in purple, with visitors below

The Canopy of Luminous Conjury

Before RC, I was working at an autonomous vehicle company named Cruise. I worked on container orchestration and internal tooling: not really things that run on the car, but things that run in the cloud and local servers in San Francisco that help the car do what it needs to do and also help engineers at Cruise get their jobs done.

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

About a month before I joined RC, I left that job. I was feeling a little bit burnt out and disconnected from what I was doing. I felt that RC being self-directed and unstructured would give me the freedom to pursue a lot of the things that I hadn’t had the chance to explore.

Particularly because I was self-taught, there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge that would otherwise be filled by a computer science degree. So things like writing a new language or using shaders to make cool art or other side projects that I didn’t have as much time as I thought would be enjoyable and fruitful to really dig into. I was drawn to RC to give me a venue to pursue those projects, as well as to join a community of people who are also interested in similar things, to help resolve my burnout. I think it’s been pretty successful!

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

I was just reflecting on that recently. The things that excite me are things that feel new and different. Right now, that means getting new perspectives on programming. That can come from a variety of sources. I’m learning Rust and Haskell, which are a systems programming language and a functional programming language. I haven’t used either of them before, and the way that they’re used is quite different from the things that I have done. So I’m hoping to get a new perspective and spawn new ideas on what is possible and what approaches exist.

I’ve also been working on learning more math, especially linear algebra because it seems like a really useful and powerful tool that I haven’t previously explored too much. Making art with shaders and all that fun stuff is also, in a totally different way, a new perspective on programming.

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

I have many sources of excitement. One is my partner — I really like hanging out with her! I also like reading books and and I’ve been trying to make time to read more fantasy and science fiction. Right now I’m reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. It’s a tome, and it’s been really fun to dive into this fantasy world with a really interesting magic system.


You can see more of Jeff’s work on his GitHub and learn more about the Canopy of Luminous Conjury here.

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

Developing the self-directives

Rachel Petacat

We’re introducing the self-directives, a set of three principles meant to increase the likelihood that people will have transformative experiences at RC. You can read more about each of them on our self-directives page; read on to learn about how we developed them and why we think they’re a great foundation for lifelong self-directed learning.

In the decade we’ve been in business, RC has changed in some ways (our name, our location, our schedule, to name a few). But the core of what we do and why we do it remains the same: we run a free self-directed retreat that supports people in becoming dramatically better programmers, with an integrated recruiting agency that helps Recursers get jobs and supports our operations.

What makes RC special?

Over the years, attending RC has been a transformative experience for many people: Recursers learn a lot, build lifelong friendships, and discover what makes programming meaningful to them. This year we’re focusing on enabling even more people to do those things and to do them earlier. To do that, we reflected on what Recursers who have had really successful batches did, and then considered how to make RC a place where more of that happens.

Entirely self-directed environments are uncommon, and doing a retreat at RC might be your first experience with self-directed education. During a retreat you choose what to work on and learn based on your intrinsic interests. That’s no small thing if you’ve been told what to learn and how to learn it for most of your life. Because everyone is able to follow their curiosity, there are also strong currents of excitement and ambition at RC. But unlike many rigorous environments, RC isn’t competitive; you have the support of a large community of kind, curious, intelligent programmers.

The self-directives

The self-directives are the three concepts we distilled from our reflections on RC at its best:

  • Work at the edge of your abilities. Choose work that challenges you but isn’t discouragingly difficult. By focusing on incremental, consistent improvement, you’ll make lots of progress by the end of your retreat.
  • Build your volitional muscles. Make your own decisions — that is to say, exercise your volition1 — about the work you do and how you do it. No one will tell you what to do at RC; you’ll do things because they bring you joy and satisfaction. Ask yourself: what do I really want to do? And then do it.
  • Learn generously. Joining a community is the main reason to do RC rather than work alone for six or 12 weeks. We celebrate each other’s successes, support each other when we struggle, and benefit from each other’s knowledge. If everyone draws from and contributes to2 the community, everyone thrives.

We hope the self-directives will work like RC’s social rules3 to produce an educational environment supportive of deep work, collaboration, and growth for everyone at RC.

Working at the edge of your abilities, building your volitional muscles, and learning generously are things you have to experience for yourself and understand on your own terms: there are as many ways to put the self-directives into practice as there are Recursers. If you attend RC, you’ll generally wind up doing these things by the end of your retreat. Over the next few weeks we’ll be incorporating the self-directives into our website, admissions process, onboarding, and day-to-day batch experience. We hope that from day one they help you have a better and more productive batch, with less of the uncertainty inherent in learning how to direct yourself.

If these ideas resonate with you and you’re interested in joining a community of programmers where you can expand the edge of your abilities and exercise your volitional muscles, apply to RC!

  1. Michael Nielsen, a former Recurser and RC research fellow, described this as the process of “growing ones’ sense of choice, and of responsibility for choice” in this essay about volitional philanthropy. The idea is that your volition is like a muscle you can strengthen: every choice you make at RC will teach you something about yourself and further improve your ability to reflect and decide on what you work on and learn. And just as no one can lift weights, run a mile, or practice speaking a new language for you, you can only build your volitional muscles by actively making decisions about what you do.

  2. To borrow Robin Sloan’s phrase, practicing learning generously means working with the garage door up: it is a willingness to share the (messy! incomplete!) process of learning and growth as well as an invitation to discussion and collaboration.

  3. In addition to looking to the experiences of Recursers, we looked to the social rules when developing the self-directives. They’re a wonderful example of simple principles which, when taken as a set, produce an environment that is friendly and supportive of taking risks, asking questions, and learning. They’ve also got a great collective name, which makes them easy to refer to and recall.

Pausing mini retreats

Rachel Petacat

We’ve decided to pause mini retreats, and are no longer accepting applications for them. It’s possible we’ll re-start them in the future when we reopen our space, but as of now the last mini retreat will be Mini 3, 2022.

We started offering mini retreats in 2018 as a way for people who would make great Recursers to do a batch and join the RC community if they couldn’t afford to take the time away from other obligations for six or 12 weeks.

While RC is operating online, the benefits of offering mini retreats are significantly reduced: doing a batch is now more accessible and less expensive than ever. We also believe it’s harder to switch mindsets from work or school to RC for a week if you aren’t also attending in our space, and getting the benefit of a physical retreat from your day to day life.

Running mini retreats, like running any part of RC, has costs. The largest one here is communication: in light of RC’s new self-directives, we don’t believe people can pursue working at the edge of their abilities, building their volitional muscles, and learning generously in just one week without the benefit of attending in the physical space.

That’s not to say it’s impossible, but it’s much more difficult, and we actively advise people here for mini retreats to choose work that’s a little less ambitious or to work in a heads-down way so they can get things done. That’s antithetical to the self-directives.

If we decide to offer mini retreats again when we reopen, we’ll share the news on our blog and will update this post!

If you’d like to join a community of over 2,000 programmers who are committed to pushing themselves, becoming more self-directed, and supporting each others’ growth, you can apply for a six- or 12-week retreat!

Join the Recurse Center as an Operations Assistant (we’re hiring)!

Update: As of February 1st, 2022 we’ve filled this role and are no longer hiring.

Update: As of January 25th, 2022 we’re pausing inviting additional candidates to interview. We’ve already heard from and scheduled interviews with a great number of strong applicants, and we’re likely to make an offer soon.

We’re hiring an Operations Assistant. This is a full-time role that can be done remotely from anywhere in the US. It could be a great fit for you if you want an administrative job (with good benefits and supportive colleagues!) that has a positive impact, while leaving you enough creative and intellectual energy to pursue your interests outside of work.

Read on to learn more about the Recurse Center 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.

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.

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.

About this role

By helping to operate and improve RC, you can have a huge impact on our small but steadily growing community. Your work at RC may not change the world, but it will change individual people’s lives.

Your daily responsibilities will be a collection of important operational work. Concretely, this includes:

  • Data entry to keep our internal database of job posts updated. The core of our business is matching our alums with compelling jobs. We can’t suggest roles we don’t know about, nor do we want to suggest roles that are no longer open.
  • Answering emails from people applying or recently admitted to RC.
  • Classifying transactions (in QuickBooks) and managing invoices (in FreshBooks) to make sure we get paid and have an accurate view of our company finances.
  • Coordinating with colleagues, partner companies, and our accountants to handle administrative work.

While varied, all this work has some important things in common: its value is clear; it’s well-defined so you can easily see when you’re finished; and it stays at work, so you can shift your focus to the rest of your life when you sign off for the day or weekend.

A collaborative environment with supportive colleagues

We work hard to foster a culture that’s collaborative, trusting, and thoughtful. Here are some things you’ll find working at RC:

  • Clear company-wide goals and the reasoning behind them. You’ll have an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish together and why.
  • Our belief in self-direction isn’t only for Recursers, it also influences how we approach our own work. At RC, you’ll have the freedom and the responsibility to decide how to structure your time and work.
  • Weekly one-on-ones to give and receive regular feedback and help you work through frustrations or challenges with your work.
  • 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.
  • A culture of 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.

Good work-life balance and benefits

All of us at RC work hard and care deeply about what we do. At the same time, 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 all of us can contribute effectively 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.
  • Three months of paid parental leave, which you can take within a year of having or adopting a child.
  • 15 days of vacation (we effectively 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 five or more hours of overlap with 9am-5pm 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

No job is perfect, and this one is no exception. Here’s what we think the biggest downsides are:

  • Much of the work is unglamorous, and some of it can be rote and repetitive. While our community and team culture are highly intellectually engaging, the daily work for this role is not.
  • This role occasionally requires checking and responding to emails while on vacation. We generally avoid this by having colleagues take over when we’re out, but sometimes we can’t (e.g., during our winter break when the entire company is off).

A few other things to know, which might be upsides or downsides depending on your perspective:

  • RC is a dynamic place — some might say chaotic. You need to be comfortable with some amount of uncertainty to be happy working here.
  • The salary for this role is $50,000. It is also eligible for de facto profit-sharing through optional annual bonuses (these tend to be small and are in no way guaranteed, since they depend on our overall company performance).
  • We are a profitable, privately held business. We do not plan to ever sell or go public, and so there is no equity or chance of a big financial windfall.

What we’re looking for in candidates

These are the criteria we think are essential for success in this role and which we’ll be evaluating during interviews:

  • You understand what this job is (and isn’t) and want to do it. We want to hire someone who’s happy doing this and who won’t want to leave in six or 12 months.
  • You’re detail-oriented. You’re careful, learn from your mistakes, and care about doing a good job.
  • You’re trustworthy. You’re honest, ethical, and able to deal with sensitive data responsibly.
  • You communicate clearly. You can express yourself clearly in conversation and text, and you can write clear, error-free emails with a conversational but professional tone.
  • You’re open to feedback and know (or can quickly learn) the core skills for doing this work. You need to be comfortable using and learning how to use a range of software tools.
  • You’re intellectually curious. This helps with almost any type of work, but more importantly, it’s a key part of our company culture.
  • You understand RC and want to help make it successful. This doesn’t need to be your life’s mission but you do need to understand what RC is, how your work contributes to its success, and want to be part of a thriving team.

We also have some logistical requirements:

  • 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).
  • Your work day has at least five hours of overlap with 9am-5pm ET.
  • You’re fully vaccinated. All RC employees must be fully vaccinated, even if remote (we still meet up in-person sometimes).

Lastly, it’s great if you have some experience or familiarity with any of the following: bookkeeping, support, data entry, recruiting, marketing, the tech industry, or the world of computer programming. But none of these things are necessary and you can be a strong candidate without any of them.

What to expect from our interview process

Our interview process has three parts: an email, an initial Zoom call, and a half day of interviews (also all over Zoom).

Email us

The first step is to email ops@recurse.com with your resume or publicly accessible LinkedIn profile. Please confirm in your message that you meet the logistical requirements above and include short answers to the following questions:

  1. What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve learned recently?
  2. What are one or two things that attracted you to this job?
  3. What’s your biggest concern about RC or this role?

None of these are trick questions. Instead, like every part of our process, they’re meant to help us assess how you meet the requirements listed above. Please don’t write more than two or three sentences for each answer. Please do use thoughtful, conversational English and proof-read what you write (writing clear, error-free emails is part of this job).

Initial Zoom call

We’ll let you know within one week of when you apply whether or not we’d like to proceed with a call, which is the second step of our process. These calls are between 30 and 45 minutes long. This is an opportunity not just for us to learn about you, but for you to learn more about RC and to suss out if this role might be a good fit for you.

Interviews

The third and final step of our process is a set of online interviews. These interviews are meant to be as representative as possible of the work you would do at RC. Throughout the course of your interviews you’ll get a chance to meet with several RC employees and ask any questions you have. If you reach this stage, we’ll give you a $200 Amazon gift card as a thank-you for your time, regardless of if we make an offer.

We’ll let you know within two weeks of your interview whether or not we’re making an offer (we can usually tell you faster than this, but we ask for and speak with references, and sometimes it takes a few days to coordinate these calls).

Other things to know

  • 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.
  • We’re currently a team of nine full-time employees. We plan to be a team of about 12 full-time (plus one or two part-time) people by the end of the year.
  • While our whole company currently works from home, some of us will eventually return to working in our office in Brooklyn. Some roles (including Operations Assistant) will remain open to being fully remote even after we return to our office. Of course, if you’re based in New York, you’re welcome to work from our office, too.
  • 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 Ashley Li

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 physicist Ashley Li about her interests in machine learning and cultural theory.

Ashley Li

Ashley Li

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I recently graduated with a masters in physics. Thus far, basically all of my work has been in academia doing research. My specific area in physics was dark matter detection so that’s taking detectors from deep underground, analyzing the particles they see, and hoping for something that hasn’t been seen before.

I’m also starting to get involved in digital humanities, which has always been an interest of mine. I’ve been learning and contributing to various research groups on internet culture.

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

I had just graduated and I felt like my programming knowledge was a bit ad hoc. I always learned what I needed for each project, but I never really had the time to do machine learning by itself in any formal way or in the form of personal projects. I wanted the opportunity to work on just programming that I’m interested in, alongside other people.

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

I have an ever-growing list of things! One of the most consistent things I’ve done throughout RC has been the electronic music group. We meet weekly to work through a course on electronic music theory, make music ourselves, and talk about it. I wanted to have part of RC be a creative outlet and explore the things that just made programming fun. At the beginning, I thought this would be more of a side quest but it’s been really interesting and I’ve learned a lot.

I’m really excited about machine learning. It’s a cool field, it’s a great statistical tool to use in research, and it has applications in many different types of research. I’m also exploring ways to use it to produce cultural artifacts by itself.

ML is typically described as a black box, which I don’t think is entirely right. Personally, I think it should be treated no differently from any other statistical tool for analysis. The ways that it gives predictions are not obvious to human observers, but that’s true of most statistical tools. There’s an expectation that machine learning should tell you why something happens.

At the same time, there’s a certain degree of complexity to it that gives it some autonomy that works pretty well in art. So it’s interesting to me as both an analysis tool and as an object of study in its own right.

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

Earlier, I mentioned my interest in Internet culture research. The Internet has changed the way society and culture function and I’m interested in cultural critiques specific to the Internet — for instance, meme studies.

I’m interested in the functions of Internet content and memes and modes of affirmation, such as upvotes and likes. I think it’s particularly fruitful to look at through the lens of the Frankfurt school of critical theory, which was developed in the mid 20th century with a major focus on critiquing the culture industry. It’s still relevant now, even though time has passed and the historical context has changed immensely.


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

4 Questions with Joseph Dumont

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 hydrogeologist Joseph Dumont about the motivation he’s found in following his curiosity, experimenting, and building relationships at RC.

Joseph Dumont

Joseph Dumont

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a hydrogeologist. Until recently, I worked in the environmental field on water resource and environmental remediation projects. Now I’m trying to make a transition into tech. I’m not entirely sure what that will look like, but RC is my space to learn and experiment with different projects — and to see what other people are working on too.

I’ve always had an interest in programming and I’ve been doing it casually for a long time. At work, I started using programming tools to make my job easier and to help with data analysis. I found myself becoming more and more interested in pursuing those things more exclusively. But there wasn’t really space at my old jobs or there wasn’t a vision for a feasible role doing that, so I’m making a different path now.

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

I had a friend who went to RC five years ago and she really encouraged me to apply, so I’ve been checking RC out from a distance for a long time. With batches being virtual now, and the fact that I quit my job during the pandemic, I felt like it was a good time to make a change and things just came together.

It’s been great! It’s been a wonderful social outlet. I know that may sound ridiculous because it’s virtual, but it’s still the most new people I’ve met in a long time. Even though it’s on Zoom, it’s been nice to meet nerdy people and have interesting conversations.

I was doing some formal computer science education and my only interaction there was limited to other students. For someone in my position, who’s aiming for a career change, it’s really valuable to interact with people who are taking sabbaticals from their careers and talk with people already working in the industry to get a better sense of what I can do. So that’s been very reassuring and helpful.

Image of Pure Data patch

A sample patch that Joseph made in the electronic music group at RC. It’s in Pure Data, a visual programming language for signal processing and interactive computer music.

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

I have an ever growing list of things! One of the most consistent things I’ve done throughout RC has been the electronic music group. We meet weekly to work through a course on electronic music theory, make music ourselves, and talk about it. I wanted to have part of RC be a creative outlet and explore the things that just made programming fun. At the beginning, I thought this would be more of a side quest but it’s been really interesting and I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve also been picking up JavaScript, learning some web technologies, and putting together my first web app, which is something that feels practical and essential for a career changer. I’ve been trying to balance those two things.

I took a survey approach and dipped in and out of some other groups just to explore. I started learning Rust and I hope to go back to that once I finish up this web app.

It’s a long list! It’s been very motivating seeing the projects other people work on, especially at Friday presentations. Other people’s enthusiasm is infectious, and it’s exciting to see what’s possible. It’s cool to know I can continue to participate and learn from the community beyond my batch.

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

A lot — I feel like a spring that’s been pulled back! There are lots of new beginnings coming. I’m maybe going to move in the winter and I’ll be applying for different jobs.

I’ve been swimming a lot lately, which has been very exciting for me. Actually, the web app that I’m building is related to that. I’m trying to swim outdoors year-round, so this project is about water quality and updating with weekly environmental sampling results, so that you know if it’s safe to swim in the bay or the ocean. I feel like using a tool I made myself will help keep me motivated as water temperatures drop.

I’ve also been oil painting and that feels really nice to play with. This moment feels a little scary, but it’s exciting. It feels like a nice moment for changes in a changing world.


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

4 Questions with Meri Leeworthy

Mai Schwartz

In this series, we sit down with current Recursers to learn about the work they’re doing at the Recurse Center and what they’re most excited about right now! For the third installment, we talked to Meri Leeworthy about how her experiences as an artist, activist, and new mom led her to programming.

Meri Leeworthy

Meri Leeworthy

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I have a background in both art and activism. I was making performance art for a while and I started to use some different technologies in my performances. At one point, I bought a second-hand receipt printer and I spent a long time trying to find a hacky way to customize it — and to do that live, causing it to glitch out as part of the performance. So I was doing that in Python and that’s one thing that made me realize I really enjoy programming.

I’ve also been exploring a few different sides of activism for years now. I worked with some direct action campaigns and mutual aid projects. More recently, I worked with an organization that supports LGBTQ+ prisoners to create a newsletter distributed among people in prison, which is a really important way of trying to build connection and community and solidarity in a highly controlled environment.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve focused on creating a participatory media platform for grassroots organizers. The goal is to create a community-owned platform that can better support communication and knowledge sharing among organizers. It’s an infrastructure project in a way, similar to how people run social centers or community radio.

There are other people on the project, but I’m the only developer. When I started working on it, I had really limited knowledge about web development, but I just kept iterating on the idea to build different proofs of concept, learning new tools and tech stacks along the way. I went from working with all JavaScript to starting to learn TypeScript and GraphQL and taking on more complex projects from there.

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

One thing is that I have a baby now. I realized that I would like to keep doing programming while supporting my family, and that maybe a good way to continue learning over the long term would be to have a job. It’s kind of funny thinking about getting a tech job when most of my experience has been in this activist context, so I was interested in doing something that from the perspective of employers would legitimize all of the work and learning that I’ve done on my own, as well as continue it. That was one reason for thinking about RC.

The other reason is that I was really interested in going deeper on some tricky parts of the project that I’ve been working on and having some time to really dig into it, as a way to both further my learning journey and make that project happen.

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

I’m really excited about conflict-free replicated data types (CRDTs), and I’m lucky that a few other people in the batch share this interest. Also distributed systems in general, which I had not learned about at all before starting RC. A lot of the peer-to-peer networking software community sits really in line with the values that drive me to do the work that I’ve been doing, in terms of undermining existing power structures and using technology to support communities to be more autonomous.

So it’s been really exciting learning about CRDTs, especially how they can support peer-to-peer offline collaboration. I’ve also been learning about the Secure Scuttlebutt protocol and other decentralized data stores, which has been really interesting.

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

I have a feeling that my baby is going to start laughing soon and I’m really excited for that to happen. Also taking them to swimming classes.


You can see more of Meri’s work on her website and GitHub.

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

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