recurse center application / cindy wu

Recurse Center is a programmer's retreat, where we are given the time and space to reconnect with the joy of persuading computers to do things. What unites us is intrinsic desire to become dramatically better programmers and the will to work in earnest for six or twelve weeks making this aspiration a reality. Time spent at Recurse is guided by three self-directives:

All this magic happens within a community of talented humans that value and practice kindness and understanding.

Today I am opening up my Recurse Center application in efforts to demystify what the written application can look like.

For context, I submitted my application on December 1st, 2022, had my conversational interview the same day, completed my pairing interview on December 29th, and started my 12-week batch January 3rd, 2023. If you want to apply and have questions, I am happy to talk.

Recurse Center is unlike any community I've encountered in this life.

Code CracklePop

Please link to a program you've written from scratch.

What is the most fascinating thing you've learned in the past month?

Surfing cold water is refreshing! I surfed cold water for the first time this month in Santa Cruz, Bolinas, and Pacifica. Until this month, I've only interacted with the O'ahu surfer community. Surfers can have the reputation of being territorial especially towards outsiders. The surfers in the Bay Area were so welcoming, especially in Bolinas. Maybe it is because they saw I was wearing Locals, the flip flops you buy at the local CVS in Hawai'i.

The most fascinating thing about the community in the Bay Area is how quickly the surfers in a new place took me in as one of their own. I went to buy a used board off Craigslist from an old-timer Daly City. He immediately offered to pencil down on paper surf spots with recommendation of visiting during low or high tide.

For over a decade I've been an active participant in the national caver community in America. The culture in caving normalizes that when a caver needs you, as a caver you go out of your way to help them. There is a practical reason for this. Often if a caving team gets stuck, the only hope for rescue is either self-rescue or rescue by experienced cavers. In most cases the police and firefighters aren't trained in underground terrain. Because of the practical reasons of cavers helping cavers in moments of danger and distress, the culture has spread to one where cavers consider other cavers family. I wasn't so sure about this type of camaraderie in surfing, but the Bay Area has shown me otherwise.

What do you want to be doing in two years?

In January of 2025, I would like to be finishing an IC software engineer role at a company of a size of 50-200. At that point, I'd like to revisit founding a startup as the technical co-founder or moving to a new team or company to continue as an IC software engineer.

Out of college I played the Co-Founder/CEO role for 8 years. Then played the technical co-founder role for 3 years. I am trying to change careers and am interviewing for IC software engineer positions and have a few offers.

Why do you want to attend RC? How would attending RC be different than working on your own?

For the last three years I've been building solo. I am a self-taught programmer, so while I am very confident I can make code work where I would like to grow is in understanding what it means to make code *right*. I feel the best way to learn this is to work side by side with more experienced programmers. I think RC can offer me this experience and what I can offer is my enthusiasm for programming!

My desire to learn how to make code right comes from an intrinsic interest in building resilient systems with code and more broadly IRL in society.

Beyond that, I would like to develop a deeper understanding of the elements of style and aesthetics of programming. I don't know if I have a good *feel* for exemplary style. My hope is that interfacing with more programmers will help me transition from a state of "don't know what I don't know" to a state of "know more what I don't know." Maybe some of my peers will be excited about this journey too!

What would you like to work on at RC?: E.g., things you want to learn or understand better, projects you want to build or contribute to, etc. Consider where the edge of your abilities is, and where you'd like it to be at the end of your batch.

I am drawn to RC because of the people! For me, there are three things I look for in my next opportunity, in order of importance 1/ the people I work with day to day 2/ remote-first because I don't want to leave Honolulu 3/ the role involves me writing code.

Below are things I want to work on and explore, but I expect if given the opportunity to participate in Recurse Center where I land will be largely dictated by the overlap in interest with my peers.

My interests include, but are not limited to:

Matrix protocol, IPFS/Filecoin, Go, Rust, SICP, applied category theory, CRDTs, local-first multiplayer apps, Clojure, DAOs, frontend frameworks, type safety, steward-ownership, building equitable open-source communities

Describe your programming background in a few sentences.

Like many kids from the 90's I spent a lot of time with computers whether that be pretending to be asleep hiding under the covers with my Worm Light playing Pokemon Blue on GameBoy Color, writing scripts to play custom background music on my Xanga, or personalizing my AIM away message.

My first memorable experience getting my computer to do something it wasn't designed for was installing and running a Super Nintendo emulator. Josh, a family friend older than me, set up a file on my desktop called "Don't Delete Me" and in that file I learned to turn on this, that, and that other thing to live vicariously through the life of a young farmer building a new life in Harvest Moon.

In college I made my first game in Java for CSE 142 at University of Washington. Then in CSE 143 I copied a few lines of code from a friend for an assignment and almost got kicked out for cheating. I stopped programming computers after that.

Leaving computers behind, I became mesmerized with programming biology. I built DNA logic gates to silence genes, designed an anthrax therapeutic for the U.S. Army, and programmed immune cells for a universal vaccine.

Then for a decade I taught myself Ruby on Rails and Javascript to build the crowdfunding platform with my best friend Denny.

For the last 3 years I was building a local-first instant-ui multiplayer reference manager using Next.js, Typescript, Rust. I stopped working on this project, but continue to use it as a daily personal tool.

Have you worked professionally as a programmer?

Yes? For the last 3 years I wrote all the code for my startup. For 8 years before that I ran a small engineering team for my startup. I have offers right now to join companies as a senior software engineer, but would like to delay jumping into a job and try Recurse Center instead.

Do you have a Computer Science degree or are you seeking one?

No and no.

What other commitments (work, life, family) would you have during the batch?

None. I would like to keep surfing every day, which can happen after 5PM ET/11AM Hawaii Time.

How did you first hear about RC?

  • Other

I can't recall exactly, but probably through one of these connections:

Jeff Maxim - I hired Jeff Maxim through Recurse Center's recruiting service. Paul Biggar - At the end of the Paul's Recurse Center batch before he founded Dark, he and I went to the island of Bimini to volunteer as shark research assistants. Sonali Sridhar and Dave Albert and Nick Bergson-Shilcock - Y Combinator founder alumni network

How long ago did you first year about RC?

  • 3+ years ago

What convinced you to apply today?

  • I was just reminded about RC

  • I'm ready to switch careers

  • I'm ready to switch programming jobs

  • I'm ready for a professional sabbatical

  • It aligns with my family schedule

  • It aligns with my work schedule

  • I was rejected in the past, and waited until I could reapply


Published by cindy 1 year ago on Saturday the 18th of February 2023.

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