Three reasons to apply (and three reasons not to)

We frequently describe the Recurse Center as being like a writer’s retreat, but for programming. What does that really mean, and why do people choose to uproot their lives and families to move to New York to do RC? In this post, I’ll try to answer that question, but instead of describing what RC is (which we’ve done elsewhere), I’ll share a few reasons why people should consider applying to RC, as well as a few reasons why we might not be a good fit.

Consider RC if…

  • You’re a professional programmer, and you’re not growing as quickly as you’d like in your current job. Good programming jobs provide lots of challenges and opportunities for growth, but even great jobs can become monotonous, and most companies understandably prioritize building useful features and fixing bugs over employees’ growth and education. If you’re not growing as much as you’d like (or worse, you’re stagnating) where you currently are, considering coming to RC. You’ll have three months to focus on becoming a better programmer —not deadlines, company politics, or shipping code.

  • You’ve never worked as a programmer, but you enjoy it, and would like to get way better. Perhaps you’ve just discovered programming in the last few months, or perhaps it’s been a hobby for years. Regardless, RC is designed to help you get the support, guidance, and resources you need to become a better programmer.

  • You have a project, area of interest, or programming skill you’d like study or work on deeply for three months. Maybe you want to learn about distributed systems, or become a more effective debugger, or build your first substantial project in a statically typed language. RC is a fantastic place to do any of these things, since it gives you the freedom to focus on what you want, the time to make real progress, and a large network of friendly, helpful, motivated, and intellectually curious people with expertise in almost any area of programming you can think of.

RC isn’t a good choice for everyone

And for good measure, here are three reasons why the Recurse Center might not be a fit for what you’re looking for:

  • RC isn’t a good fit for people who don’t like managing their own time or setting their own goals. We do everything we can to make RC a supportive environment, and there are lots of people to draw on for advice and help, from facilitators to residents to fellow Recursers and alumni. But at its core, RC is self-directed, and most of the structure we do have is opt-in, not mandatory. There isn’t anyone at RC to tell you what you must learn or must work on, and while there are plenty of people available to provide support, it is ultimately up to you to decide what you want to focus on here.

  • RC isn’t a good fit for people who only want to work on their own. While everyone at RC spends some of their time here quietly working and learning on their own, a huge part of RC’s value comes from interacting with other people. And while we do our best to make RC conducive to focused, solitary work (for instance, we have two dedicated quiet rooms), we’re still not as good as a library or private office for this.

  • RC isn’t a fit for people who just want to make something that works, and don’t particularly care how it does. All of us fall into this category sometimes: We’re trying to build something, and we just want to make it work and don’t care if we understand how it does. In many ways, that’s the point of programming: To make things that actually work. But RC’s focus is education, not just making things run. That doesn’t mean we don’t value building things, but it does mean that RC is probably not a good fit for you if your current priority isn’t becoming a better programmer.

If you’d like to spend three months programming and learning alongside friendly, smart, motivated, and intellectually curious people, consider applying to the Recurse Center.