Recurse Center

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!