Calico 2016 participant joins the Recurse Center in NYC

The Recurse Center (RC) is a self-directed, community-driven educational retreat for programmers in New York City. It has a diverse, active and engaged alumni community of over 1,000 smart, enthusiastic, helpful programmers all over the world. The RC believes that people learn best when they take control of their own education and are free to explore what they’re interested in.  The RC also has an integrated recruiting agency that helps companies of all sizes hire its alumni.

The Recurse Center is highly regarded in the software development community. It is easy to find critiques of its services online. For example in this Quora posting a participant discusses her experiences and states “RC is also the perfect place to be both very productive and very distracting. Productive because you are completely immersed in an environment of coders. And distracting because there are always so many events/talks to attend.”

In her blog post, Mary Rose Cook, says “I’ve learnt most of what I know about programming from Recursers. They helped me get better at code review, get better at explaining things and get better at pairing. They taught me both how and why to dive deep and how and why to be rigorous. They helped me try things that seemed too hard and helped me discover that they were hard but doable.

Calico Challenge 2016 alumnus, Alex Nicholson, is currently attending the Recurse Center and sent us is first impressions. This is what he has to say.

It’s been a great experience so far. Students thinking of applying applying in the immediate term should consider these points I think they may be interested in:

  1. The application process is very straightforward.There is no blacklist and you are able to apply multiple times, even if you are rejected.
  2. It is a good idea to get in touch with an alumni of the program if you are able to before applying. This helps with finding out what you’re getting into because it is quite a unique experience.
  3. The things I think they look for most in interviews are a demonstrated serious interest in programming and improving your craft, and evidence of being easy to work with.
  4. It is very self-directed. You aren’t accountable to anyone except yourself; you can’t be fired or expelled for a lack of progress. The only danger is that you’re wasting the opportunity.
  5. New York City is very expensive compared to Jamaica. Rent alone can easily be upwards of $1200USD/mo. Although you can continue to do paid work like contracting while you’re here, it will distract from improving your craft in a focused way, which is the main point of being here. There are grants available for under-represented demographics in tech (women and people of colour), but it isn’t guaranteed. A frugal person I think can expect to spend about $4500 over the 3 month period.
  6. I find that the best part of being here is the community. There are people from many countries, backgrounds and levels of experience with programming. There is always someone to talk to about whatever area of tech you’re interested in. This can be extremely motivating and also humbling, especially coming from Jamaica which still has a nascent tech community. Everyone is connected via forums and chats, and alumni are generally accessible.
  7. There is a job placement program which helps with resume and interview preparation which is very particular in the tech world. RC gets a finder’s fee whenever they place someone so they have a vested interest in your success in this regard. They are connected to many large tech companies in the US, Canada and UK.

The website has a very good description and my experience has matched this exactly so far:

I will likely write a blog post detailing the application process, my experience and some advice for potential applicants closer to the end of my batch (in August).

Good luck Alex, we hope to hear more in your job post!