Recurse Center

Why you should work at RC

We’re hiring a Facilitator to help build the best place to become a better programmer. Read on to see if this job might be a good fit for you or someone you know.

This role offers meaningful and impactful work, novel challenges with opportunity for growth, a collaborative environment with supportive colleagues, and a healthy work-life balance with good benefits.

Below, I’ll expand on and provide evidence for each of these claims. I’ll also share some good reasons not to work at RC, the most significant downsides of this job, what we’re looking for in candidates, and what to expect from our interview process.

This post is long, but whatever time you invest reading it will pale in comparison to the time you spend at your next job. It’s worth investing the time to find fulfilling work that fits with the rest of your life.

Meaningful and impactful work

By helping to run, improve, and grow RC, you can have a huge impact on a small but increasing number of people.

People love RC. Alums routinely tell us RC was one of or even the most impactful, important, meaningful, productive, or educational periods of their lives. We’ve helped people go from poverty to six-figure salaries. We’ve helped people accomplish things they never thought they could. Female programmers have told us RC is the reason they decided not to quit the industry. Other alums have told us RC changed how they think about programming, education, and even how think about themselves and relate to people. One alum summed up her thoughts on RC this way:

We work to make RC as accessible as possible. That’s why RC has been 100% free for all participants since we started, and why we’ve fought to keep it that way for the past eight years. It’s also why we provide need-based living expense grants to people from groups traditionally underrepresented in programming. We have now disbursed over $1,500,000 in grants since launching the program in 2012. All of this money has gone directly to people who identify as women, trans, nonbinary, Black, Latinx, and/or Native American to pay for living expenses during their time at RC.

Novel challenges with opportunity for growth

RC is an odd institution. We run a programming retreat, community, and recruiting agency, and all three are integrated with and support each other. 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, and instead provide time, space, resources, and a supportive community in which to grow.

We have big ambitions but we aren’t a venture-backable company. We’ve been around eight years but still make big changes.

As one-seventh of the company, your work will matter. We’re always making structural improvements to all aspects of our business, and as a Facilitator you’ll have a big role in helping us do that, and the autonomy to propose and lead projects. There isn’t a blueprint for how you’ll do this, and whoever we hire will hopefully make the position their own. In the past facilitators have led the installation and documentation of a computing cluster for Recursers, proposed and drove the adoption of one-week mini retreats, 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. An important part of facilitation at RC is improving the experience of doing a batch for Recursers. This 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 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.

A collaborative environment with supportive colleagues

We’re hiring for this role because Alicia, one of our two current Facilitators, has decided to leave RC to pursue a Master of Public Health degree this fall. Alicia told us last year she wanted to pursue an MPH, well before she’d even started applying to schools. This was good for Alicia — she didn’t have to worry about hiding things from her colleagues or feel awkward during longterm planning conversations, and she could ask me for letters of recommendation — and this was good for RC because it gave us ample time to plan a smooth transition.

We believe that it’s best for the team and for RC that we foster a transparent and trusting company culture. Towards that end, here are some of the things you’ll find here:

  • Clear company-wide goals and a framework of why we have them.
  • As such, you’ll have an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish together and why we’re doing it.
  • Quarterly planning and off-sites to decide on our work for the upcoming quarter, and weekly all hands to track and discuss our progress on our goals.
  • 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.
  • Complete organizational transparency. You will have access to whatever information about RC you want, up to and including how much money we have in our bank account.

Good benefits and a healthy work life balance

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 you in doing your best work in a sustainable way, so you and all RC employees 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.
  • A 401k, with a 3% non-elective contribution from RC. The company contributes 3% on top of your salary to a 401k for you regardless of how much or even if you choose to contribute yourself. RC also covers the annual administration fees.
  • Three months of paid parental leave, which you can take within a year of having or adopting a child. In addition, you can do an optional one month of working from home after your three months of leave. We also have a lactation and wellness room, and adopted new policies to make RC more family friendly last year.
  • 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 observe seven additional federal holidays. We also have five days for personal development, which you can use for anything that supports your personal and professional goals and growth.

Many companies have stated policies that aren’t followed in practice, but that’s not the case at RC. For example, every one of us took at least three weeks of vacation last year, and I (RC’s CEO) am currently planning paternity leave for later this year after my wife gives birth.

What we’re looking for in candidates

  • You have high emotional intelligence (“EQ”).
  • You have excellent communication skills both online and in person.
  • You can think systematically and are good at project and people management (you won’t have direct reports but you will need to be able to coordinate the efforts of many people).
  • You are secure with your self, and are comfortable giving and receiving candid feedback.
  • You are intellectually curious, excited about programming, and ideally have some background in it.
  • You have good judgement, do what you say you’re going to do, and you do it well.
  • You share our core beliefs about education and our business. Dissent and skepticism are great, but if we don’t all agree on enough of the big things we’ll never get anything done.

Lastly, there are some things you might think are required for this role but aren’t. You don’t need to have a specific degree (or any degree at all), you don’t need to have worked at a “name brand” company, and you don’t need an existing connection with RC to be a strong candidate. You also don’t need to have any professional programming experience, though we welcome candidates who do.

Downsides of this job and working at RC

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

  • You will sometimes have to deal with hard situations, most commonly tricky people problems. When something goes awry or there’s conflict in our community, it’s our job to help resolve it. This can be frustrating and emotionally draining.
  • Some of the work is unglamorous (we’re a seven-person company, so we all have to do some amount of mopping up, figuratively and occasionally literally).
  • We regularly host events for our community after normal work hours, and this role requires attending many of them.
  • The salary for this role is $100k, which is much less than you could get as a programmer or in many other roles at tech companies.

In addition to the things above, which we think are objectively bad (who wouldn’t prefer more money?), there are parts of this job that are subjectively bad. That is, they’re bad depending on your perspective or personality. These are:

  • RC is a dynamic place — some might say chaotic. You need to be comfortable with some amount of uncertainty to be happy working here.
  • Relatedly, we are small and our success is far from certain. This is exciting or stressful (or both) depending on your perspective.
  • The type of work you do will vary week to week or even day by day. This isn’t a role where you can spend 90% of your time doing just one thing.
  • This role will have you working and interacting with a lot of people. You don’t need to be an extrovert to succeed here, but this role is likely not a good fit if you find interacting with a lot of people overly draining.
  • This is a full-time role, and you need to be able to work on-site at our office in Brooklyn, NYC. Given the nature of our work, the whole team works largely overlapping hours (i.e., we’re not the type of place you can do a 2pm to 8pm shift).

What to expect from our interview process

Our interview process has three parts: an email, a phone call, and a day of in-person interviews at RC.

The first step is to email with your resume or publicly accessible LinkedIn profile. Please include short answers to the following three questions:

  • What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve learned recently? (This can be about anything and certainly does not need to be related to RC.)
  • What are your career goals for the next few years? (For example, how are you looking to grow, and what type of work would you like to be doing three years from now?)
  • What’s your biggest concern about RC or this job?

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 a few sentences for each answer. Please do use thoughtful, conversational English and proof-read what you write.

We’ll let you know within one week of when you apply whether or not we’d like to proceed with a phone screen, which is the second step of our process. Our phone screens are between 45 and 90 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. As such, up to half of our time on the call will be reserved for you to ask us questions.

The third and final step of our process is a set of on-site interviews at our office in New York. 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 every RC employee, as well as a few Recursers, and ask lots of questions. At the end of the day, you’ll choose an RC employee to give feedback to (about your interview with them, or any other part of our process you’d like to share feedback on). We do this both to hear your feedback and because giving direct feedback is an important part of working at RC.

A few extra things to know

  • Most of the company gets in around 10am and leaves around 6:30pm, but some of us come in early and/or stay later.
  • We’re personally and institutionally committed to combating sexism and racism.
  • 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 are happy to sponsor visas when possible. We cannot sponsor H-1Bs, since the soonest someone could start work on a new H-1B is October 2020, which is not feasible for us (we may be able to transfer existing H-1Bs).
  • We’ll pay for your travel and a night of accommodations if you’re coming in for interviews from out of town. If you’re coming from really far away, we may ask you to do an extra video interview before inviting you to an on-site.