Software is more than code, its includes the people and communities that form around them. Code and humans are irrevocably inseparable (for now…) and while at the Recurse Center we are focused on writing code, building projects, and exploring new concepts it’s hard to ignore the people and the human elements in the mix.
Often when I’m asked to describe the Recurse Center, I tend to talk more about the people and ideas being shared instead of the physical space or even projects we work on. To me, RC is a place with incredibly generous, kind and smart people that you intensely learn and exchange ideas with for a few weeks. For this entry, I’m going to take a softer tone and just riff on the amazing welcoming people and culture Recurse fosters.
Winter is coming…
After applying and being admitted to the Recurse Center, for the Winter 1 batch I soon realized it’d be a cold ~14 weeks in NYC with a city full of strangers. Spanning November to February, that meant spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and my birthday in mid-January far away from close friends and family. In reality, it’s not too bad for me; I have extended family that I’m staying with but for the other dozens of Recursers I can’t imagine its as easy.
I really appreciate the never ending effort from faculty and fellow Recursers to foster a welcoming environment for great ideas and work to breed. There are faculty organized board game nights, speaker nights, and other-non-code centric events to provide welcome breaks between hours of work on projects. Outside of this, I want to recognize fellow Recursers who also step up to organize, share events and make time to make everyone feel a bit more at home. Putting together informal trips, dinner parties, and get togethers around the holidays highlights that it is a community.
Striking a Balance
A counter balance of this in the Recurse Center manual under Advice is to
... Avoid distractions as general advice on how to use your time at RC. Being in beautiful New York City in the heart of SoHo there’s just so much to do. It’s easy to take a nice day off and wander Central Park. I did just that on the first week, and got to know Pieter M. and Yorman A. very well while getting lost from my shoddy navigating skills. We had a engaging conversation about the differences in culture and programming around the world and had a good time. But underlying all of it it, were we furthering our goals
to Recurse to become better programmers. In a big way, we want to make sure we maximize our success and minimize our distractions. But moving hundreds of miles away from your support networks and challenging ourselves to push our personal limits on our projects is hard.
Striking a balance
From Coursera’s course on learning to learn, stress, anxiety, and fear are counterproductive factors to learning; I shared some of those feelings early on during RC, but after the first day and on going it got easier. Becoming more adjusted, it became easier to learn build and share openly on projects. But getting there takes time and social events catalyzed the progression. I would assert that building a welcoming environment builds better software and it’s reflective in the open source culture we have today. RC really tries to foster a welcoming community for people to be at their best and excel. In the end, we should balance enjoying the moment and work during RC that build into our own personal goals of becoming a better programmer.