Accelerated Computing

RC: Week one

18 September 2023

Today is the first day of the Fall 2, 2023 batch at the Recurse Center (RC), of which I am a participant.

For the unfamiliar, RC is (to quote from their home page) “The retreat where curious programmers recharge and grow.” I’m attending remotely from London, UK, for twelve weeks.

How I got here

I left my job at Stripe at the start of the month. I’m proud of what I accomplished there, and how I grew as an engineer, but I came to realise that the kind of work I want to do – the kind that energises me and gets me out of bed in the morning – and the way the company is structured are just not compatible. The core platform, computer-go-brr-shaped work I enjoy is largely concentrated on the US West Coast, while engineering outside the US is for the most part product-shaped (launch in new markets, support local payment methods, etc). I am painting a picture with very broad strokes here, so apologies to any former colleagues who read this and feel like I’m not doing the org structure justice, but I don’t want to spend too much time writing about why I left, when what’s ahead is far more exciting.

Time will tell if walking away from a stable, well-compensated job in this current climate will be foolish or not, but right now I’m in the incredibly privileged position of being able to afford to take a bit of a breather from the daily grind of capitalism, so really, why not?

How I’m going to spend my time

There’s a lot I’d like to do in my twelve weeks! There are certainly a lot of things I want to learn, but at a higher level I want to re-learn how to push myself to do hard things, and to let myself get excited by computers again. I want to be asking myself, “how hard could it be?”, on a near-daily basis. Some ideas are a bit more fleshed-out than others, and I’d like to allow for some space to be filled by serendipitous conversations, but so far the rough plan is as follows:


This is where I have the most fully-formed ideas of what to pursue. I’d like to do some/all of the following:


My formal education was (many years ago now) in mathematics, and I’ve been filling-in my computer science gaps over the years. One area I’d like to get a bit more exposure to is the field of compilers (especially, how something like XLA works). I’ve picked up a copy of Vladimir Keleshev’s Compiling to Assembly from Scratch and Andrew Appel’s Modern Compiler Implementation in ML, and am going in with an open mind about an area I’ve always taken for granted.


I’ve always been interested in cryptography at a distance, and in the past have made some progress against the Cryptopals challenges but never made it beyond set 2. If any of my fellow batch attendees are similarly motivated, maybe I can build the activation energy to push through to the later problem sets.


I’ve made a few attempts in the past to start a blog/personal website. Each time I’ve talked myself out of it, usually out of some sense of fear that what I write will be wrong and mercilessly dismantled in the comments section of a Hacker News submission (I acknowledge also the implicit hubris assuming I’d produce anything worthy of submission in the first place!). I know the myriad benefits writing brings, so I am declaring now that I will get over myself and just write, at least weekly for my time in my batch (and, hopefully, beyond).

What will I do afterwards?

TBD! I have some optimism that the hiring market is in a bit of a better place than it was earlier in 2023, and the volume of recruiter messages I’m getting on LinkedIn does seem to back this up. I’d like to find myself somewhere doing something more AI/ML/Performance Engineering-shaped than my previous role. I’ve also not ruled-out the idea of contracting. In any case, I’m trying not to think too hard about this just yet, and enjoy the feeling of not having to think about work for a little while.