Advice for new Recursers

Rachel Petacat

The Recurse Center operates on a schedule of overlapping batches, which means that when a new batch starts, half of the people in the space are entering their second six-week rotation at RC. On the first day of each batch we give welcome talks to help give the new batch a sense of what to expect from their next twelve weeks at RC.

We’ve recently started inviting the people starting their second half of RC to stand up during the welcome talks and share some advice with the new folks. They always have really wonderful things to say, and so last week we started an advice stream on Zulip, our internal chat system, to allow alumni to chime in.

We realized that some of the advice people have shared could be helpful for programmers everywhere, not just Recursers. We’ve included some of it below – we hope you find it useful!

On setting goals

Andrea FeyDon’t try to do all the things, unless that’s really what you want to do. Set a goal or two and get feedback from your peers about whether your goals are clear and attainable.”
- Andrea Fey, Winter 2014

Gonçalo Morais“It is okay to change your goals. I wanted to dive deep into Node.js when I got to RC, but after a week I decided to spend the 3 months learning Haskell just for the sake of it. And it was glorious.
- Gonçalo Morais, Spring 1, 2015

On pushing yourself

Ilona Brand “If a project makes you uncomfortable, question why that is. If it’s like: ‘Ah! I can’t do this, it’s too hard!’ then it’s probably worth doing since RC is such a good environment for that. If it’s more like: ‘Eh, am I even into this?’, try to get to the bottom of why you feel that way before immediately turning away. My biggest and best project at RC made me so uncomfortable because of how hard I thought it would be that I also thought I wasn’t interested in it. Turned out I was just afraid, which made it all the better of a project!”
- Ilona Brand, Fall 1, 2015

Sumana Harihareswara“It’s fine to ask people if they might want to pair program with you. Sometimes you will be rejected. That is fine. If you never get rejected maybe you’re not taking enough risks!
- Sumana Harihareswara, Fall 2, 2014

On managing stress

Nat Welch“Write a lot. When you feel tired, go to sleep. RC will still be there when you wake up. Burn out isn’t any fun.
- Nat Welch, Spring 2, 2015

Veronica Hanus“We’re all coming from different places/types of experience, and people are really aware that certain things (outside stuff, inside stuff, just learning so much so fast) can be hard and affect different people differently… if you can deal with your stress right away, you can get back to doing what will make you happiest in the end: building stuff.
- Veronica Hanus, Fall 2, 2015

Tim Sell“If you have a really bad day or two days, or week… just make sure you come into the office anyway. Sometimes turning up is the most important thing.”
- Tim Sell, Summer 1, 2015

On being flexible

Liz Sander“It’s nice to have one or two big projects to focus on, but don’t worry about getting sidetracked for a day or three. I spent a few days learning Prolog and, although I still can barely write a basic program in it, I learned so much.”
- Liz Sander, Summer 2, 2015

David Hargat“One day, I didn’t have my laptop. I decided to spend the day pairing with people and reorienting myself and my goals… and it turned out to be one of my most productive days at RC. I recommend to anyone who feels even slightly lost to forget about your projects for a day - talk to people, pair with people, ask for advice, float around.”
- David Hargat, Fall 2, 2015

Lindsey Jacks“It’s totally okay to spend time learning something and not focusing on a project. I always got scared by the ‘What are you working on?’ question, when really a perfectly reasonable answer is ‘Learning more about how x works.’
- Lindsey Jacks, Fall 1, 2015

On taking care of yourself

Richard Harrington“Take walks during lunch. As Javier Ernesto Olaechea (S'13) told me during my batch, Friedrich Nietzsche said you should never trust any thought you have when you’re sitting down. I wouldn’t go quite that far – I’d say you can have them while sitting down, but make sure to confirm them while on a long walk.”
- Richard Harrington, Summer 2013

Andrew Drozdov“There’s so much to be done while at RC, but make sure to take care of your health. Eat well, sleep well, and try to get a little exercise each day, even if it’s a walk around the block.”
- Andrew Drozdov, Spring 1, 2015

Michelle SteigerwaltGet a journal and be honest in it! When you’re done, you’ll have an amazing souvenir of all the personal growth you’ve accomplished!”
- Michelle Steigerwalt, Spring 1, 2015

And finally…

Pablo Torres“Keep this handy at all times.”
- Pablo Torres, Winter 2014
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