Alumni Insights: Advice for Students Considering a Coding Bootcamp

Let’s be real — joining a coding bootcamp is a big commitment. There’s a lot to think about, plan for and research. It’s a path that has helped more than 1,500 coding bootcampers gain the skills they need to work in the tech industry. Nearly 90% of our grads earn a technical position, and they learned a lot along the way.

How have others been successful in their journey to earn a career in tech?  

We asked alumni for their best advice to help future bootcampers. Here’s what they had to say: 

Preparation is Key 

Before you apply to a coding bootcamp, educate yourself about the tech industry, bootcamp experience and what it takes to learn programming. Students who have done this research are more likely to get accepted into the bootcamp. Some bootcampers don’t get accepted the first time they apply, and that’s okay! We have a ton of great resources to help you get started. What does “good preparation” look like? 

“I would highly recommend going to Intro to Coding workshops before your bootcamp starts. Do research on the language you’ll be learning and jobs you can get with those skills.  Be prepared and get out of your comfort zone early.”

– Lanna Brasure, 2017 C# .NET Grad, Full Stack Software Engineer at Powerley

“To prepare for a coding bootcamp, I would highly recommend using online resources like CodeCademy, FreeCodeCamp, or Udemy. Each of these are beginner-friendly learning materials for people with little to no experience in programming.”

– Chandler Keyes, 2017 Java Grad, Fullstack Software Developer at Interaction Gaming

When you’re accepted in the bootcamp, the preparation continues! Passing Unit 1, at home pre-work, is mandatory to start the coding bootcamp. For some students, the work can be intimidating. Familiarizing yourself with programming early can ease this early tech learning. It’s also important to plan for life’s necessities for the time that you’ll be in the bootcamp — from childcare to transportation, proactively plan for what you’ll need so you can dedicate your time to learning to code. 

“Once accepted, I went over the pre-work multiple times, and got active in the bootcamp Slack channel. The community is here to help, and was an invaluable resource in getting through my pre-work. I also got myself into the bootcamp sleep schedule/routine ahead of time. I was up by 6:30, in bed by 10 for a week prior. During bootcamp, I was downtown typically from about 7:30 to 7:30 (Pro Tip: Avoid rush hour traffic and get your labs done at GC), so being on that sleep routine ahead of time was a big help.”

– Michael Gleeson, 2017 Java Grad, Software Quality Assurance Analyst at Detroit Labs 

“I wish I had been more honest with myself about childcare needs while balancing my workload.  I tried to do everything and started feeling burnt out midway through the bootcamp.  I am lucky enough that I was able to get more childcare so my partner wasn’t totally saddled with the kids every single night.”

– Kristy Currier, 2019 C# .NET After-Hours Grad, Software Developer at Tyler Technologies

Recommended Resources: 

Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions 

Aren’t quite sure where to start? Been accepted but you’re stuck on Unit 1? Or are you having trouble with a lab in the bootcamp? No problem! We provide several resources to help you find an answer. And if your own research doesn’t provide clarity, ask a classmate or GC staff member! Especially in development, it’s okay to not know the answer. Sometimes what’s most important is knowing how to find the answer. This is a key lesson we cover in every bootcamp. 

Work together with your classmates, or stay after to get help with an instructor. It’s always important to get help when you need it. It’s really easy to fall behind so if you’re not understanding something; always ask those around you.” 

Chandler Keyes, 2017 Java Grad, Fullstack Software Developer at Interaction Gaming

Recommended resources:

The Journey is Different for Everyone

Bootcamp graduates come from a range of backgrounds — from baristas to psychology majors and just about everything in between. What’s most important is that students are problem solvers, hard workers who are excited about a career in tech. We can help you with the rest. 

In any classroom, it can be easy to compare yourself to others. Are you learning as fast as others, are your assessment scoring as high as your peers, did your classmate earn a position more quickly, do they have more professional experience? These are some of the questions that you may ponder throughout your bootcamp. Everyone is different, especially in a bootcamp environment where students are coming from all walks of life. 

“Own your story/experience! Every single person in your class will have a different background and bring different strengths/weaknesses to the table.  Maybe you struggle, maybe you’re switching industries entirely, maybe you’re the oldest/youngest in the room, maybe -insert-whatever-here. Some people will have job offers before they finish GC, and that’s awesome.  Others will hustle for a few months post-graduation and that’s awesome too. Continue to be real, to own your own story, and pursue positions that you WANT to be involved with and proper opportunities will present themselves.

And if you’re a perfectionist — don’t be afraid to break stuff!  A good majority of the bootcamp (and arguably development as a whole) is smacking headfirst into failure on a daily basis.  The quicker you accept that as fact, the quicker you can remap your brain to rolling with the failures and keep pushing through to a solution.”

– Kassie Jones, 2018 Java Grad, Software Engineer at Amber Engine 

“I would tell students or recent graduates: don’t compare yourself to others, your story is not the same as someone’s story. It’s okay if you don’t get the job before bootcamp [ends] or two weeks after you graduate or if you don’t get the new topic right off the bat it will eventually click in and in no time it’s going to be a breeze. Be patient and focus on yourself.

– George Almonte, 2019 Front-End After-Hours Grad, Development Support Intern at Oplogic

Grand Circus Provides the Structure & Network to Support Students’ Dreams 

There are many ways to learn programming. For bootcamp students, our classrooms provide a supportive, insightful learning environment led by instructors and teaching assistants and supported by program managers and career services specialists. We’ve built a culture that not only creates a valuable learning experience but also nurtures the emotional well being of every student as they go through this career transition. 

“Everything GC did supported my career in one way or another — from my teacher teaching me the best practices in code and challenging me to do better every day to my career services representative giving me the tips on landing a job, tweaking my resume and connecting me with employers. The resources and connections can help anyone that wants to become a programmer achieve it. GC is a fantastic place to start when looking to earn a career in tech.”

– George Almonte, 2019 Front-End After-Hours Grad, Development Support Intern at Oplogic

“I took a huge chance by quitting my full-time job and taking a bootcamp. It was something I had been working toward on my own for a few years but needed structure and a learning environment to succeed. It was the best decision of my life. I am so happy in my current role and excited about where my new career path will take me. It truly is a good fit for me and I love learning new things every day.

Also, the bootcamp was almost like an adult summer camp, but with hard work and lessons. You’re in this bright, energetic environment where everyone is there for the same reasons and eager to learn. You have so many resources available all the time and someone is always willing to help. Plus you develop a bond with your cohort and also I may be biased because summer in the city is great. If anyone ever has any questions I am more than happy to offer advice and my point of view.”

– Samantha Mazzola, 2018 C# .NET Grad, Software Developer at United Shore

“Networking and personal recommendations were huge for me. Many of my interviews would not have happened without the help of Grand Circus staff. Grand Circus’ name carries weight in Grand Rapids. “

– Andre Otte, 2019 C# .NET Grad, Web Development Intern at BizStream

“Grand Circus is amazingly connected in the community and well rounded for adults to transition industries.  I think a common misconception may be that it will make the transition into a career in development “easy.”  The transition isn’t easy; it takes hard work, dedication, and serious hustle. If you can do those three things, Grand Circus is a great channel to do it through.

– Kassie Jones, 2018 Java Grad, Software Engineer at Amber Engine 

If You Want a Career in Tech, a Bootcamp is Worth the Hard Work 

And it’s just that — hard work. Learning any new skill takes persistence and problem solving. Students put in a ton of effort to achieve their dreams, and we’re here to help every step of the way. Students should take the commitment seriously and be realistic about the expectations of the program. 

“Nothing will be handed to you at bootcamp, the teachers and staff will give you guidance and help but you are 100% responsible for putting in the work you need to be successful at Grand Circus.  Expect to work and be excited for your growth along the way.”

– Kristy Currier, 2019 C# .NET After-Hours Grad, Software Developer at Tyler Technologies

“Be certain that you want this. A coding bootcamp is like going all-in in poker. It’s high risk/high reward. You’ve got to be able to give it your all. If you can get through that final project, trust me, you’re going to be just fine.” 

– Michael Gleeson, 2017 Java Grad, Software Quality Assurance Analyst at Detroit Labs 

“I can’t stress enough that what you get out is what you put in. That’s why it’s important to have an open mind and a sense of humility. This bootcamp is many things, but it is not an automatic guarantee of a job. If you’re going to make this commitment, you need to be willing to put in the work. Not just while in class, but at home. Do extra research. Do the extra exercises. Stay after class and mingle/learn with your fellow students.  Anything and everything you can do to maximize your time and experience will go a long way to helping you find that first new job. Grand Circus puts you on the path, it’s up to you how far you go.

– James J Burger, 2017 Java Graduate, Developer 1 at  Dominos

A big shout out to our alumni for sharing their tips. 

Grand Circus graduates work at more than 350 companies. Explore the job market and figure out what type of tech jobs appeal to you, and we can share insights on what those companies are looking for in new hires. 

Whether you want a fast-track option to earn a new career or need a more extended program to balance life’s responsibilities, we have a schedule option that can work for you. Our full-time bootcamps are Monday through Friday, 9am – 5pm; our after-hours bootcamps are Monday, Wednesday & Thursday 6:30pm – 10pm.

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Jennifer Cline

Content enthusiast. Data addict. Jewelry-Making Cat Lover. Jennifer Cline is our Senior Marketing Manager, happily managing much of our website and social presence. After earning her a degree in Journalism from Wayne State University, she stumbled into a love of marketing and has been having a blast ever since.

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