First Checkin: Live from Recurse Center
Published (gregorian) (ornellember)
So I said I was going to write about Recurse, but I really wasn’t sure what specifically. I find it a lot easier to write about things after they’ve happened than during. Here we go though: we’re at the halfway point of my half-batch, so let’s talk about it!
First off, what’s Recurse?
AKA, what the hell am I talking about?
Since June 27, I’ve been participating in a Recurse Center batch. The Recurse Center (AKA Recurse) is a self-directed educational retreat for programmers. There’s some light framework - facilitators, guidelines -, but no teachers. It’s not a bootcamp. You’re just learning what you personally want to learn, among peers who might have 6 months or 40 years of experience coding.
Your time at Recurse is called a batch, and you can do a full batch (12 weeks) or a half-batch (6 weeks).
Recurse is running 100% remotely at the moment, so I think only a few people are actually in New York. I’m sat in Amsterdam and enjoying the sweltering, tropical Dutch summer.
Why am I doing this?
I’ve been working professionally as a programmer for a little under 3 years, and I was starting to feel like:
- On a day-to-day basis, I wasn’t really excited about coding
- My fear of breaking things was holding me back (moving to a platform & devops team, where one mistake could cost developers a lot of inconvenience, at best, or break the whole site, at worst, made me afraid and slow)
- I wanted a supportive community
- I wanted to be more inspired by developers around me
- I wanted to learn useless things, or things that weren’t directly applicable to my job
- In particular, I wanted some space to learn some hardware, because it’s been one of my pet interests since I got interested in sex tech.
What’s it been like?
It’s been really great, and really challenging. I was lucky to talk to alums who gave me some great advice before I started, and that’s been super helpful.
I’m basically existing in a bubble right now where my career doesn’t matter.
The level of freedom means there are virtually no external constraints. My only constraint is my own willingness to commit to the principles of the program, which are, incidentally, mostly about leaning into your instincts, being generous with your learning, and doing what you want to do. That’s… different.
One example of this: the first week, something happened with someone I was pairing with, nothing too bad, but I wanted to address it, so that we could have a good, productive working relationship in the future. I went to a facilitator’s office hours, and among other questions, I talked about this very broadly. I explained what my strategy was for the conversation I wanted to have. The facilitator was like “yeah, that sounds like good feedback, and it’ll probably be have a great impact. But also, just a reminder, you don’t have to work with this person, whoever they are. If you want to just not address it, and not pair with them again, that’s totally fine.”
And it blew my mind. I was like whaaat? I don’t have to put myself in circumstances that are even mildly uncomfortable? I don’t have to fix stuff? I can focus on doing what I’m here to do?
Related: a big challenge, funnily enough, has been re-learning to code in a supportive environment. I’ve been around some very supportive individuals at my jobs, but ultimately, I think Black women coders have to be on the defensive a lot. When we encounter a new person, we often have to implicitly or explicitly prove our knowledge before being respected enough to do our work, which is a massive waste of time and energy. Especially when you consider that, of course, we also have to look humble, but also be assertive, but also open-minded and vulnerable, but also have thick skin, but…
At Recurse, not only do most people assume I know what I’m doing, but even more importantly, whether or not they do has no bearing on my success.
I’d been working in spite-driven development mode for so long that I was kind of struggling to find positive sources of motivation. After some guided group self-reflection and some experimentation, I think I found it. Talking to other people who are kind and have cool interests, and who also happen to be, kindly, interested in my interests, has been hugely soothing. It is rekindling my love for technology, including software. And it’s not in a way that’s fuelled by ego and bravado, but rather by my curiosity and appreciation of the people I’m building for (shoutout to my fellow recurser Asya for putting that into words last week).
What have I been working on?
Concretely, I’ve been learning Rust, learning about hardware, and…
I’m still not very comfortable with technical writing in public. I’ve seen this scenario play out enough times to know that there are people who look at underrepresented minorities’ technical writing as justification for their deserving their career or not, and who try to make trouble for them. That thought is a downer, and it usually stops me from writing as deeply as I do at work, or as light-heartedly and curiously as I otherwise do on this blog. And lightheartedness and curiosity are why I write in the first place.
Hopefully I’ll get over that mental block so I can blog about some things I’ve been working on more specifically.
But generally, aside from this aside, I got a Microbit v2 microcontroller, and I’ve been fiddling with some hardware, going through the Embedded Rust discovery book, going through Rustlings, I built this personal site, built this calendar, also built it in Svelte, and probably some other stuff.
I’ve also been taking a morning Dutch class, so I should be at level A2 by the beginning of August.
And I pimped out my desk: got my first mechanical keyboard, a futuristic-looking mouse, generally cute accessories - I’m in a femme phase right now and there’s a lot of dusty pink around. I have lots of affirmations and reflection post-its that I’m rotating periodically. The three on my desk right now are, in chronological order of writing:
- people’s doubts do not alter my path (week 1)
- I made this space for me. This space was made for me. (week 1, later)
- Do it for the joy, not the ego (week 3)
IMO you can tell my mentality is evolving. for the better.
Please lmk if you have more specific questions about Recurse or my experience! You can email me at (ornella dot friggit at protonmail dot com) or reach out on one of the platforms in the footer. I’d love to talk. Tot ziens!