Published: Sun 26 February 2017
You wouldn't know it from looking at my blog, but I attended a batch at the
Recurse Center from August to early November last year, and it was the best
experience of my life. Many Recursers write a return statement afterwards
reflecting on their time there, and in the process of writing mine I realised I
have a lot to say about my journey getting there in the first place. Other
posts in this vein are
this one by
Jeff Fowler and this
by Harold Treen.
At the end of 2013, I'd just completed by undergraduate degree and the CSIRO in
Australia generously bent the rules for me by allowing me to do a student
internship anyway. I was taking a quick break and browsing Reddit when I
encountered a blog post about Hacker School. The details are in a server log
somewhere, but I'm reasonably certain it was a Julia Evans post, and they're
tonally consistent on this subject so we'll pretend it was
one. I had an
immediate and visceral reaction
to learning about this magical place, but because of my financial and visa
situation at the time I put it in the back of my mind and mostly forgot about
Less than two years later, I became an Australian citizen. The citizenship
process limits how much time you can spend overseas, but as far as I'm aware
it's open season after you get your passport sorted. I was discussing this with
my mum when she asked me what I would do next with my life. Things were going
pretty well for me at work and the Canberra spring was springing, so I was
pretty content as I was, but she pushed for a better answer until I recalled
RC. She encouraged me to apply, which for her meant nagging me every week until
I submitted my application. Thanks Ma <3.
I wasn't accepted the first time. I was incredibly nervous and flustered during
my interview, and I didn't have a good idea of what I wanted to accomplish
during my batch beyond vague ideas of learning all the Haskell. At one point my
interviewer asked me how I would measure my progress, and I had no idea. I even
thought I did okay and the rejection email stung when it arrived a few days
later. However, I still believed that I was a good fit for RC. It helped that
FAQ states "It's not uncommon [...] to admit
people who we had previously rejected". I decided to reapply in a few months.
In the meantime, I realised I didn't have to wait until RC to begin learning
Haskell. I was a regular attendee of
but still unsure of how to bridge the gap between learning about lenses and
monads and writing real code that does things. I considered myself a pretty
decent user of Git and people talk about how Git is functional, so I
offered to give a presentation I had prepared
before a second time. The co-founder I
spoke to didn't like that idea, but he had been looking into how Git is
implemented, and he said he'd love to hear a talk on Git internals in Haskell.
I had my project.
A few months later, things had gone pear-shaped for me on the work front and we
were heading into the Canberra winter. I left my job and reapplied to RC. In my
mind the worst that could have happened had already happened, so I was much
more relaxed. My interviewer this time had attended RC when they were like me
at the end of 2013, and I think we were able to relate to each other better.
I'd learned some Haskell by working on my Git thing, which I called
and I progressed to the pairing interview. The pairing interview was my first
experience pair programming, and I think it went well, because I got an
acceptance email this time.
Although I was applying in April, I applied to the batch starting in August
because my mum's 50th birthday was in July and attending that was
non-negotiable. I was skeptical of my ability to line up a job starting in
November and it didn't make sense to hang out in Canberra with nothing to do,
so I packed up my life and moved (and myself) back to Jakarta.
I'd given the
presentation on duffer
but it turned out that Haskell and Git were both more interesting than I
realised, and so I continued working on it.
Both my parents
work in IT so their hope was that I
would be able to help them with some projects they were working on until I left
for my batch. Instead, what I ended up doing was showing up at work and
ignoring them for the rest of the day in favour of my project. This was not the
best idea for my relationship with my parents, but I definitely got a lot
better at Haskell. Fortunately for me my parents are incredibly supportive :).
My mum celebrated her birthday in Bali, and I insisted on bringing my laptop so
I could keep my Github commit streak going. This turned out to a good decision
because that day the RC mailing list thread welcoming new batchlings
was started. I ducked out of celebrations and spent a while agonising over the
Two weeks later I was in New York.