My week as a hardware-leaning programmer at the Recurse Center & tips for future Recursers!

I attended the Recurse Center last year for one week in a mini batch. It was a great experience and I highly recommend it to all my friends!

What did I do during my week at RC?

  • Make my first PCB
    • Finally teach myself Kicad
    • Learn how to & mill my Kicad PCB design in an Othermilld
    • Learn about PCB etching
  • Visit NYC Resistor
  • Practice pair programming on some audio processing code
  • Make awesome new friends!

What did I get out of attending Recurse Center?

  • Made awesome new friends! Recursers are people passionate about programming from all over the world. Because RC is a retreat, it was more intimate than a conference.
  • Reconnected with my love of programming! 
  • Worked on side projects in a supportive environment: I learned so much more than I would have working on side projects at home just via conversations and being exposed to random people’s enthusiasms
  • Joined a wonderful supportive, diverse community: There’s a Zulip for RC alumni for staying connected afterward and there’s Never Graduate Week every year for alumni.
  • Exposed myself to positive engineering culture: RC has an engineering culture to aspire to and proves that this kind of programming environment is possible
  • Visited NYC
  • Got perspectives outside of the Silicon Valley start-up scene
  • Learned a lot about different programmers’ perspectives:

Who might enjoy attending Recurse Center?

Lots of people who love programming! Here’s some specific situations where RC might be a great option (by no means a complete list).

  • People who want to take some time off to work on a passion project e.g. video game, data analysis project, etc.
    • Also summer interns & new graduates looking to take some gap months
  • People burned out on their industry jobs who want to reconnect with their love of programming
  • People who are seeking diverse programming friends
  • People who are just starting out and exploring the programming landscape

Tips for future Recursers

Getting the most out of RC as a hardware-leaning Recurser

Most Recursers are pure software-based programmers. Here are some tips if you plan to attend RC, but are more interested in working on the more embedded/hardware side of things.

  • Having a programming periphery skill means that you have a lot to teach others — look for people who want to learn. I met some folks working through nand2tetris and got to share my love of ALUs!
  • If you want to be on top of things, spend the week before RC doing some prep, getting parts, etc.
    • If you are not on top of things, plan to make a trip to Tinkersphere where you can buy parts in person. Note that they do not have readily accessibly CAD drawings of many of their parts, so you will have to replicate it on your end.
  • Definitely visit NYC Resistor while you are in town
  • People are excited about Rust! It’s a good opportunity to learn Rust! I bet it would’ve been also a good opportunity to play with MicroPython

Having a successful & fun RC mini experience

  • Decide what your priority is for RC and focus relentlessly on that
  • Stick it through the first few days: the first two days at RC were overwhelming and felt like some sort of extended networking event. It gets better once you get the introductions aside I promise!
  • Be realistic — for me, this meant being honest that my priority was to be rejuvenated by being in this positive environment. This meant that I spent more time connecting with people. I’m lucky that I did get time working on programs.
  • Sign up to give a mini talk
  • Go to dessert club. The desserts in NYC are amazing! We went to Spot Dessert Bar
  • If you can spare it, buy a flexible plane ticket because you will not want to leave. 🙂 I ended up staying a week longer than I expected.

Bonus: Evening & Weekend Fun in NYC/Brooklyn

  • Rock climbers! Visit Brooklyn Boulders
  • Go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Go for a run in Prospect Park
  • Explore the Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn and admire the bridges
  • Attend a Broadway musical’

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