Bartender to Tech Consultant: Josie Wheeler Tells Us About Her Career Change

Josie Wheeler

Meet Josie Wheeler, a Grand Circus grad and Process Architect at Accenture. We caught up with Josie to learn about her career journey before, during, and after coding bootcamp. One thing that excites us about her story is the way she moved from bootcamp to a consulting role. She doesn’t write code every day, but she’s found a career in tech that offers variety and opportunities for growth.

Tell us about your career path before bootcamp and how you came to Grand Circus.

Before Grand Circus, I worked in the restaurant industry, as a bartender and doing events. I think I looked into Grand Circus for about a year before deciding to do the program. It wasn’t just an easy decision. 

[During that year], I talked with developers and people who went to school for computer programming to learn what my job would be. The different options are very confusing for someone who has no knowledge about coding. I did one of the Intro to Coding classes. That was my first insight into development.

When did you attend bootcamp and what do you do for work now?

I graduated [from Grand Circus bootcamp] in June of 2019. I got a job at Accenture with their apprenticeship program and recently transitioned to a daytime role as a Process Architect. I design and create automations that do jobs. My role is on the consulting side of things. I do not do any coding, but I have to go into [the code] to figure out what’s going wrong. Even though I’m not using the coding language that I learned at Grand Circus, understanding how code works has helped me. 

[I’m also responsible for] testing and communicating between the developers and the business. Grand Circus prepared me to work with people and work through challenges. I still have to do that with my job.

What was your bootcamp experience like?

It was definitely hard. I’m not gonna lie. But honestly, it was the most satisfying thing in my life, because it was so rewarding. When you make it through and finish your final project, you feel so confident and ready to get started with your career. So as much as it was overwhelming and scary, you have the support and guidance that you need, which I think is important.

One of my favorite parts was how we [the students] all came together. Everyone in my cohort worked together. A lot of us would stay after hours to finish our homework. Now that it’s remote, I know they’re still doing that — having Zoom calls after class and banding together.

A lot of Grand Circus grads go into internship programs for more training. What was your apprenticeship program like?

When I joined the apprenticeship program, we had two weeks of training in Chicago [before starting on a project]. They guided us through the entire apprenticeship program. I’m part of the Technology Development Program (TDP), where they [provide opportunities to] learn and get certified [in various programs]. So, not only do they assign you to a project where you get first-hand experience, but they’re also making sure you have that time to become certified.

One thing to add is this: I never once felt like I was an apprentice. I was always a part of the team. I was always involved in everything. There were no restraints on what I could do. I felt supported and was given the same opportunities as everyone else.

How long did it take you to find the apprenticeship?

I graduated from bootcamp at the end of June. I started this role in mid-September. During that time, I was searching for jobs daytime but also was bartending on the weekends, doing food delivery through GrubHub and DoorDash, and working on different art installation projects. My main focus was job searching. You definitely have to put the effort into finding the job. It’s not just handed to you at the end of bootcamp.

I noticed that people who had a college degree did have an easier time finding a job, where I had a bit more of a struggle because I do not have a degree of any sort, but I had a lot of support from Career Services. They would reach out to me, if not daily, definitely weekly. A month or two into my job search, I wasn’t getting much traction, so I sat down with one of the guys from Career Services. We reviewed my resume and changed it up. They really work with you to get a job. It’s important to them.

What are the things that you do to keep growing in your career?

The networking definitely doesn’t end once you get a job. At Accenture, we like to call [these activities] “plus ones.” We have new apprentices coming in. I’m going to be working with an apprentice every day. In addition to working with the apprentices, I’ve joined the Great Place to Work committee on my project. We host happy hours. We also held an event talking about systemic racism, what it is, what we can do to fight it, and how we can all come together to change things. Currently, I’m working on a half-day event to discuss unconscious biases, and how we can unlearn [them].

For me, [these plus ones] keep me going. Things can get repetitive after a while. Doing things that I’m passionate about makes me want to show up every day.