Posts about Grand Circus News

Community First: [Remotely] Supporting You During This Time

March 24, 2020

Here at Grand Circus, we’ve creatively embraced chaos and change since our start. It’s one of our core values, and our dedication to doing that is even stronger in these unprecedented times. We want our community to know – we’re in this together. 

We’re working alongside each of you to connect resources, people and ideas. 

A lot has happened in the last few weeks and is likely to keep happening for some time. This is an update on the many things the GC team has been working on to continue supporting you. 

To those thinking about joining bootcamp, and joining tech 

We recognize many people are painfully affected by COVID-19, and now seems like an even more uncertain time to make a career shift. Making a career change can be scary no matter what’s happening in the rest of the world. If you’re looking for a sustainable career, the tech industry can provide you with a wide range of great opportunities. It’s our mission to connect students throughout Michigan with employers, and help you improve your quality of life through bootcamp. Right now, this mission couldn’t be more relevant. 

In light of Governor Whitmer’s executive order and maintaining the safety of our community, we have decided to announce that our Q2 April 2020 Full-Time and After-Hours bootcamps will be fully remote until the COVID-19 virus has been controlled to a safe level.

For months, our teams have been training to launch a remote bootcamp model and are ready to support you in this transition. We understand this shift may feel uneasy for some prospective students. We assure you that the Grand Circus family-first, community experience provided in our in-person bootcamps will continue with the remote model. 

“Instructors are trained and already executing the remote bootcamp model. We’re excited and grateful to be able to offer this model to prospective students, during the current outbreak,” explained Peter Guenther, Director of Learning. “It’s a great way to practice the remote work that developers already experience on a daily basis.”

How to Grow: Free and Accessible Introductory Workshops

We’re excited to offer remote free and low-cost introductory workshops that have helped hundreds of bootcamp students jumpstart their journey into tech. The need for social distancing won’t stop our dedication to your learning. 

“We care about your safety, and we aren’t giving up on your career goals! Free remote intro to coding workshops are now available, as well as remote introductory workshops to Front-End, Java, and C#,” explained Patti Wheeler, Grand Circus Events & Workshop Manager. “We believe anyone can be a developer, and that means you. Live workshops are still supporting your educational and growth journey. You don’t have to give up or go it alone.” 

Register for upcoming dates:

“Every prospective students’ story is different, and each financial need is unique. We’ve crafted several options and want to provide a solution that makes sense for you.” Ian Washington, Director of Admissions.

New Financial Support

For prospective students that need financial support to help with the cost of bootcamp tuition, we’ve created new options and have been working diligently with our finance partners to increase financial support wherever possible. 

“Community relief is our main priority, we’re looking for as many innovative ways to help as we can,” said Damien Rocchi, Grand Circus CEO. “Right now, remote workshops to help you get ready for a tech career, the community relief scholarship and removing the deposit barrier are the primary ways we’re removing barriers to a career in tech.” 

Community Relief Scholarship

This scholarship covers half of bootcamp tuition for anyone whose job or livelihood is threatened due to the recent outbreak. We consider you our family, and family sticks together in times of need. To apply for the relief scholarship, mention 

“We’re working with individuals to find out what you need financially and technically, and how we can help you. For April and July bootcamps, the financial assistance is here for anyone who wants it,” explained Ian Washington, Director of Admissions. “Have patience with us getting back to you as we are fielding a lot of requests right now, but please do reach out if you have any challenges that you think will prevent you from using a bootcamp to your advantage. We are pulling out all the stops to make sure there aren’t any barriers between you and getting into tech”

Rising TIDE Grant 

For prospective students considering a Grand Rapids bootcamp, the Rising TIDE grant is available for those meeting certain requirements. 

“We’re grateful to be able to offer bootcamps to those in need. Between the Community Relief and Rising TIDE scholarships, you can get your bootcamp covered,” said John Rumery, Grand Circus Grand Rapids Campus Director. “We do believe that anyone can be a developer, and that the tech community should be as diverse as our at home communities. We welcome all walks of life and backgrounds into our bootcamp, and hope you make use of the alumni support system here.” 

Extended loan options

Our team has been working closely with various partners to ensure finances are not a barrier for incoming students. Because so many prospective students are temporarily without employment, our partners at CLIMB have increased the living expense stipend. Learn more about these new changes and ongoing options on our Finance page

“We’re gonna come out on the other end of this better than we were before,” Jason Scott, 2016 Java Graduate

To alumni

Your continued dedication to the next generation of programmers have empowered us to make rapid changes to better serve our growing family. We thank you for that. 

Some of you have been busy setting up new home offices, upskilling on telecommunication systems and adjusting to remote life. Others were already working in this capacity. One of the great parts of the tech industry is its flexibility, adaptability and resilience. Our graduates continue to show us what’s possible and that employers are still eager to grow and support their teams. 

If you’re a GC grad adjusting to remote life, post a picture on social with #DesksOfGC and let us know how you’re doing!

To the entire Grand Circus family 

Our community has already strengthened as we collaborate on ways to support each other. We thank everyone who has stepped up and asked how they can help. From previous instructors to community partners, we appreciate the outreach and are excited to work alongside you as we make new strides to grow the tech industry. 

From Ecologist to Web Developer, Meet Andre Otte

March 12, 2020

If you’re looking to jumpstart your career in tech, there are many paths possible; self-learning, a computer science degree or a coding bootcamp can all teach the technical programming skills employers are looking for. 

Here at Grand Circus, we provide a supportive path that allows students to elevate their existing technical knowledge while ensuring they learn everything necessary to start a new career in the tech industry. While many students start learning to code independently, many come to Grand Circus to expand their knowledge about the industry, employers and what it takes to be successful on a tech team. 

The Grand Circus team works closely with tech employers to understand what skills they’re looking for in new hires, and we guide students with this knowledge as they’re exploring tech positions. Additionally, our bootcamps give students real-world experience of building functional applications that can then be shared with employers. These aspects of our programs are often unmatched in a self-taught environment or through a computer science degree. 

From Ecologist to Web Developer, Meet Andre Otte

Andre knew he wanted to learn programming and worked to identify the best path for himself as he explored online tutorials and the job market. He’s super curious and passionate about coding, but he knew his independent study needed the support of a strong network and soft skills that online tutorials couldn’t provide. That led him to Grand Circus. Combining our technical training with a strong network of more than 350 employers, our coding bootcamps provide a structured, well-connected environment for students to learn in. 

As a part of our April 2019 C# .NET bootcamp in Grand Rapids, Andre was able to network with the Grand Rapids tech community while advancing his technical skills. He’s now growing his career in tech at BizStream, a Grand Rapids-based software development company.

What did you do before the bootcamp, and why did you decide to take the bootcamp? 

After graduating with a degree in biology, I worked for three years as an ecologist at a local non-profit. There were lots of factors that played into my decision to go to bootcamp. I discovered that I really like to code and that it provided me with intellectual and creative challenges I was craving professionally. I was also very attracted to the career and life opportunities that being a software developer provides.

How did you prepare for the bootcamp?

I learned on my own for about eight months before starting bootcamp. I used resources like Team Treehouse, Udemy, and a few books to structure my learning. I spent about 300 hours learning on my own prior to bootcamp. Being prepared set me up really well to hit the ground running when bootcamp started.

I also did a lot of research on the local job market, companies, and the tech industry in general. I really wanted to be certain that I was making a good decision and find the best ways to jumpstart my career transition. 

What was your hardest moment during the bootcamp? 

I got shingles, which kind of sucked. I’ve been told that I have an old soul, so this really confirmed that for me. In all seriousness, bootcamp is very challenging and can be quite stressful at times. It is important to take care of your physical and mental health throughout the process.

During the bootcamp, what was your support system outside of class? 

My support team consisted of my wife, my dog, and my bike. Usually, one of those things helped me recharge or decompress before or after long days of learning, networking, and applying for jobs. 

I also see a therapist once a month, which helps me calm my hyperactive, monkey mind. Being able to sit and talk with someone who is a professional listener makes a huge difference in my ability to see the world more rationally and manage my worries. I think therapy should be mandatory for being human.

Can you tell us about your final project experience? What did you build and how was it working with a new team? 

My team built an app that provides walkers, runners, and bikers routes through Grand Rapids that avoid areas with poor air quality. We used data from air quality sensors that Seamless IoT has set up throughout the city. We used a bunch of different technologies: C#, .NET, JavaScript, SQL Server, Azure, and the Google Maps API. 

It was both challenging and fun working on a team to build the app. It forced us into using some of the practices, like daily standups and using GIT, that most developers use on a daily basis when working in team environments. Building a functional app from start to finish with a team is great practice for what real-world development is like.

[Bonus reads: Rapid Growth Media articles on this bootcamp

UIX: This is the ‘engine of talent’ building Grand Rapids’ high tech/high growth future

UIX: In two weeks, this group built an air quality app that could save lives]

Coding Bootcamp Graduate Andre Otte

How would you describe your overall experience with Grand Circus? 

My experience at Grand Circus was excellent. It was exactly what I was looking for and needed as I moved into the tech industry. I definitely could have taught myself to code independently, but I would have lacked soft skills, a professional network, and my final project showcase, all of which I gained through Grand Circus and were crucial to me landing a job.

Did you have any misconceptions about the tech industry before joining the bootcamp? 

I had misconceptions before starting to look into coding as a viable career option. Mostly, I thought of the stereotypical, math nerd coder, who furiously pounds the keyboard with carpal-tunnel inflicted hands and hides in the corner during meetings. I still haven’t met this person.

What are you working on now? 

I am working as a Web Developer at BizStream. The vast majority of my working time is spent in the code, which is what I was hoping for when searching for a job. The team I am on works on custom software products that have been around for over 20 years, so I do a lot of legacy code maintenance. I also do quite a bit of support and work on new features or migrating the legacy codebase to newer tech.

What’s next for your career in tech? 

Keep learning! My main goal right now is to keep improving as a developer. In my free time, I am reading the Pragmatic Programmer and working on a .NET CORE side project. I should really learn Angular because that is popular in Grand Rapids right now.

What was your best Grand Rapids discovery (business, lunch spot, hidden gem) during your bootcamp? 

Biking is way faster than driving downtown because you don’t have to scour a five-block area for parking and you can blow by backed up traffic in the bike lane (This is a great ego booster as well…). 

Get on your bikes and ride!

-Freddie Mercury, 1978

What piece of advice would you give to someone about to embark on a bootcamp? 

Be confident. If you put thought into the decision to go to a bootcamp and have decided it is a good move, you probably have the tools and skills you need to succeed as a developer. As long as you work really hard and follow the process Grand Circus has established, you will be successful. 

A big thank you to Andre for taking the time to chat with us about his journey into tech and continued learning!

How to get started with C# .NET: An interview with Tommy, lead instructor at Grand Circus Grand Rapids campus

February 24, 2020

How to get started with C# .NET: An interview with Tommy, lead instructor at Grand Circus Grand Rapids campus

We recently sat down with Tommy Waalkes, lead instructor in Grand Rapids for our C# .NET bootcamp to learn all the magical things C# .NET can do. Turns out, there are some pretty awesome analogies that could help you better understand what C# .NET does if you’re brand new to coding or new to back-end.

Tommy Grand Rapids Grand Circus instructor

What’s C# .NET?

.NET Core is a programming framework used in enterprise development around the world that’s heavily integrated with the C# language. This programming language is highly in demand throughout Michigan and beyond.

You can learn more about our C# .NET bootcamps in both Grand Rapids and Detroit here.

Listen the audio interview.

Interview with Tommy Waalkes, C# .NET instructor at the Grand Circus Grand Rapids campus

The transcript below is timestamped to help you find the most relevant parts for you.

Amanda M (00:00):

Hey everyone. I’m Amanda. I’m the director of marketing at Grand Circus. Today, we’re talking to Tommy Waalkes. Tommy is Grand Circus’ C# .NET lead instructor at our Grand Rapids campus. And we’re talking about all things C# .NET. Hey Tommy, how are you doing?

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you like to do outside of the classroom?

Tommy W (00:23):

I’ve been with Grand Circus since 2017. I was hired on for the full-time instructor for the C# .NET bootcamp in Grand Rapids. In my life before Grand Circus, I worked as a freelance web developer. What attracted me to coding is that there’s always a unique or different challenge. Every project’s a little bit different. Every project you’re going to learn something new and that’s, that’s what excites me.

Can you tell me a little bit about C # .NET and explain how someone would be able to use that in web applications?

Tommy W (01:06):

Okay, sure. So C# .NET, the way it’s used is what’s called a back-end language and a back-end language that’s going to deal with processing your data but also deal a lot more with like logic and functionality. And what that means is that it’s essentially the brains of the operation. It does your logic, it does your data crunching, and it deals with pulling data in from different sources and what those skills it kind of builds up is going to be your problem solving, critical thinking. And that’s, that’s part of why I like C# so much. Its really powerful.

What’s your advice for someone who’s considering taking a C# .NET bootcamp?

Tommy W (01:53):

So my advice for somebody who’s interested in C# .NET is to think about your problem-solving skills and spend a lot of time doing very logical and detail-oriented work. The other point of advice I would have is if you’re unsure, I would try and get a taste for both front-end and back-end and see which one feels right.

Amanda M (02:21):

Okay, great. And just a plug for everybody watching this. You can do that through our workshops, right, Tommy?

Tommy W (02:27):

Yes. The intro to coding workshops. I teach them sometimes and we have teams both in Grand Rapids and Detroit of wonderful intelligent, smart, charismatic people to guide you through your first taste of coding.

What’s your advice for someone who is deciding between a front-end or back-end bootcamp?

Amanda M (02:41):

What is your advice for someone if they’re looking at Grand Circus between the front-end courses and then also the back-end classes. And in grand Rapids we offer C# . NET and then we also offer Java and C# .NET at our Detroit campus. So how does someone make the distinction of which pathway to take?

Tommy W (03:01):

That’s a fair question. That’s a pretty big question. I would say if you’re very visually oriented and you want to have something concrete that you can show off and you’re also very somewhat creative and artistically minded, I think you would have an easier time with front-end. I was very visual, so front-end was a really natural fit earlier on in my career. But if you’re very detailed-oriented, very excited about coming up with the best possible engine or solving this really cool out-there problem or just dealing with and examining, taking a critical eye towards data, back-end C# or Java would probably be a better fit for you. But at the end of the day, we [Grand Circus] will still give you exposure to both and that way you can make that decision for yourself.

What skills do you think would translate for someone who maybe doesn’t have a technical background or a business background? What skills do you think would translate well for someone considering a backend language like C# .NET?

Tommy W (04:13):

Yeah, so first and foremost, I believe that anybody can be a developer. So you don’t necessarily have to be perfect at any of this. However, signs that you would make a good C# developer is somebody who is enthusiastic about solving big problems and understanding and tinkering with big systems. The more you learn code, the bigger and broader the systems you can make. Think of it like this. We’re learning how the car is put together in what all the different pieces of the car do. I would say those really critical thinking skills are one. Two is being able to be flexible and be able to research. Because pretty much every single project I have done has had some sort of unique challenge to it that no other product that no other project I’ve touched has had. Then I think the last part is somebody who is constantly curious and constantly eager to learn more. Every single time I teach a class, I learn something new. Right? And there’s this learning should never stop. This curiosity should ever go away.

If someone is starting out for the very first time and has never seen a line of code, where should they get started?

I would recommend they come to one of our intro to coding workshops if they haven’t been already. And also I would definitely search Google for good C# tutorial websites. Two that I recommend would be Udemy, which is a paid in C# tutorials point, which will be a free tutorial on the basic essentials of C#. And fortunately, once you get the basics down for C#, they actually translate to different languages, which is really handy. One thing I would recommend for people who are just learning how to code is it’s 100% okay to have to go and ask for help. Ask a friend, ask a coworker, whoever. The idea being is that people usually want to be very supportive of you when you’re learning how to code. And most people, and this was my experience when I first learned, is I found that by learning how to ask others for help, I could get up and running that much quicker and people were a lot more welcoming than I thought they would be initially.

What if someone doesn’t know anyone else that knows how to code, where do they start?

Tommy W (07:01):

That’s fair. I think there are several really supportive and freely available MeetUps in Grand Rapids as well as Detroit. Where people will be really happy to talk shop with you and teach you some of the basics of how to code.

Amanda M (07:18):

Great. And one thing I’ll add too is that at any point, come to one of our Intro to Coding events, or any of our workshops and we can definitely help you out. We have a great team of instructors.

Tommy W (07:29):

Oh yeah, definitely. I recommend all of our instructors or those intro to codes. They are phenomenal.

Amanda M (07:40):

Great. I think that’s all the time that we have for today, but I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down with me and talk a little bit more about C# .NET and the upcoming bootcamps.

Tommy W (07:49):

Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Amanda M (07:51):

Thanks. Bye. Take care!

Announcing the SEAMLESS Grand Circus Bootcamp in Grand Rapids

January 15, 2020

Some things just go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Tacos and Tuesdays. Grand Circus and SEAMLESS.

Grand Circus and SEAMLESS are thrilled to announce we’ve again partnered. Students will work on a unique, real-world development project using City of Grand Rapids data during the April 2020 bootcamp which is now accepting applications.


SEAMLESS is a consortium of enterprise partners, scouts, startups, public and philanthropic entities who are all solving real-world problems with innovative tech. Last year our April bootcamp students joined SEAMLESS to develop an air quality app that parsed a stream of data from more than a dozen sensors placed around Grand Rapids.

Students in the C# .NET full-time, and after-hours Front-End bootcamps, will work with and learn from the SEAMLESS team and several members of the SEAMLESS consortium like Amway, Steelcase, Whirlpool, Faurecia, Emergent Holdings, BISSELL and Mercy Health. Applications are open for the April C# .NET & After-Hours Front-End SEAMLESS cohort.

What does this mean for C# .NET and After-Hours Front-End April 2020 bootcamp students (you)? 

April C# .NET, and After-Hours Front-End bootcamps will work with and learn from the SEAMLESS team to identify innovative solutions to real-world problems their team is working on. Students will then apply the tech skills they learn in bootcamp to build web apps that address these problems. This hands-on experience gives students unmatched portfolio-building projects, professional connections at SEAMLESS and the City.

Perhaps best of all, students will help solve real-world challenges in the Grand Rapids community! 

To learn more before applying, watch the SEAMLESS video or RSVP to the SEAMLESS Career Night!

How do Grand Circus students get real-world development experience in bootcamp?

Last year, the spring 2019 SEAMLESS-partnered bootcamp used a City dataset to build an air quality application. The students worked with data from Long-Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) air quality sensors.

Check out this excerpt from Rapid Growth Media featuring our students’ awesome work from the past SEAMLESS bootcamp:

[One team] developed software that finds the healthiest walking path between two points in the city based on where the ozone (O3) and particulate readings are lowest.

[Another team] concentrated on calculating air quality measurements at the address level, using complex mathematics to weigh and blend the readings from the 16 different sensors around the city. Incorporating the vectors of weather forecasts, the app can extrapolate those air quality readings over the course of a week or more.

Rapid Growth Media

Coming up in March, our current class of bootcamp students will be demoing their projects using more real-world data at Demo Day.

Grand Circus is West Michigan’s only coding bootcamp offering accelerated coding education. Both SEAMLESS and Grand Circus are deeply connected with the West Michigan tech ecosystem. Most importantly, both organizations are committed to growing tech talent to support growth in the region. 

Want to learn more?

4 Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

January 8, 2020

Are you talking yourself out of joining bootcamp because of thoughts like “I could never learn that” or “I’m not smart enough to be a developer” or “I’m so bad at math!”

We’re here to tell you: 

These thoughts and feelings are so common.

So many incoming bootcamp students feel like they don’t have the right background or skillset to start a successful tech career. These are feelings that many of our students (and people generally!) have when trying something new. It is called Imposter Syndrome and read on for some tips to overcome it. 

What’s Imposter Syndrome? 

It’s the imaginary feeling that you’re not good enough, but everyone around you is. You feel that you will be “found out” as not capable enough. At Grand Circus, from the very start you’re given the resources and support to combat these feelings including career mentorship, program managers and a team of instructors and teaching assistants.

Our graduates came from a wide range of professions; customer service, teaching, finance, retail, marketing and beyond. You belong in tech, no matter where you come from!  

4 tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

  • Write an “I DID” list: Like a to-do list, reflect on some moments in your life that you faced self doubt and how you overcame that to reach your goals.
  • Focus on your progress: Even by inquiring about Bootcamp, you’ve already made the step so many people are afraid to. Think back to when you inquired and what you’ve done thus far to decide if this could be the right move for you.
  • Attend an on-campus info session: Meet alumni who have been in your shoes and chat with our friendly admissions team in Grand Rapids or Detroit. We have a few coming up this week – save your seat.
  • Read more about scholarships: We believe the tech industry should reflect our community and we’re proud to offer a Diversity Scholarship to incoming students of underrepresented backgrounds, consideration for a Develop(HER) partial scholarship for women, and consideration for the Rising Tide grant for Grand Rapids residents. (In your application, indicate you’d like to be considered for scholarships). People of all backgrounds come to Grand Circus, and these are some ways we can support them.

A New and Improved Career Services Program

September 5, 2019

We believe anyone can be a developer, and have designed a program that not only supports students as they get their first job in tech, but equips them with knowledge that will be used well beyond that first, entry-level position in the industry. 

The goal of our coding bootcamps is to ensure every graduate is career ready. We combine technical training with career services to prepare students for both the career search, which starts during the bootcamp, and the job they’ll earn after graduation. Our curriculum is constantly evolving to match the ever-changing needs of the tech industry, and we’ve made significant additions to our non-technical training and career readiness programming to best prepare graduates for careers after bootcamp.

New and Improved Career Services: Our Approach 

Grand Circus’ career services lead to incredible outcomes because we built the curriculum with a design-thinking approach that focuses on andragogy (adult education), and specifically to build students’ skills to meet hiring manager expectations. 

We started by deeply understanding incoming student needs — fears, anxieties and future dreams while diving into a career-change accelerator that is a coding bootcamp. Next, we surveyed a diverse set of employers to understand which character traits and interpersonal skills can show immediate contributions to a team. These surveys included insights from hiring managers, HR professionals and savvy technical recruiters to cover a range of recruitment methods and ensure we’re teaching skills that matter the most during their hiring processes. 

Once we collected the data, we brought together our career services team with learning leaders to create meaningful workshops that teach students effective job-seeking techniques, what it’s like to work on a team, and how to build successful career habits that students will use before and after graduation. 

With these new sessions, there is an increased focus on interviewing practices, in-person communication skills and individualized self-assessment. This ensures students can understand actions that won’t result in their desired career outcomes and allow them to course correct with solutions.

The major goal of improving our career-readiness training was to create self-aware job seekers who, at any given moment, could assess whether their own actions were leading them towards or away from their established career goals. 

By focusing on creating job-ready individuals, we transitioned to more impactful sessions that equip students with job-seeking knowledge they’ll use to earn their first career in tech and will continue to serve them as they transition to future jobs. These new lessons increase the amount of planned discussions and draw on leading industry research.

Career-Readiness Curriculum: Some of Our New Offerings 

Imposter Syndrome & Feedback Workshop

Many students come into a coding bootcamp with the feeling of “I don’t belong” or “I’m not good enough to work in tech.” Changing careers is challenging and so much of it is having the right mindset for the transition. In this session, we highlight ways to identify imposter syndrome and how to reduce chronic self-doubt. 

Students also learn the most effective ways to give and receive professional feedback and practice these new skills one on one. This helps students gain a new confidence as they grow their careers and work alongside diverse teams. 

Career Inspiration and Exploration

Students learn how to plan, search and execute the career-search process with custom Grand Circus resources that provide motivation and the necessary accountability in the job search. Students gain a tactical understanding of how to build positive habits, score future goals and navigate the best job boards online.

Employable You

Standing out to employers often starts with a resume or LinkedIn profile, and we help students elevate both. This session teaches students how to craft a professional online presence with LinkedIn, using its magical potential — from appropriate profile photos, summary, experience, skills and endorsements, to finding groups and companies. Our hiring tips to help students perform a social media audit and polish their technical resumes. 

Interview Prep and Mock Interviews

Interviewing for a tech position typically includes both behavioral and technical elements. We expose students to both styles, giving them several opportunities to prepare and practice for the experience. 

Our interview prep sessions teach students to become an interview “STAR” by learning about the interview process, the dos and don’ts of communication, nonverbal cues and the STAR method (Situation or Task, Action you took, Results you achieved). Our team covers best-practice strategies for technical and behavioral interviews, and works alongside students to develop a story-telling approach and create rapport with interviewers.

Additional Career Services Resources: 

As students work through the career search, our team continues to be a resource throughout each step by answering questions, making employer introductions and providing individualized feedback. Some of the other ways we support students include:

Career One-on-One Sessions

These weekly, private coaching sessions are designed to clarify career goals and deliver on career-assistance needs. Students can ask questions privately and dive deeper into their own personal career ambitions. During the first session, we co-create a plan that is curated for their career success during and after bootcamp. After the first session, each 1:1 session also contains a theme or prompt to keep the job search progressing for each individual. 

Resume & LinkedIn Work

Following our Employable You session, students begin building their technical resumes. They get access to a complete Grand Circus resource guide with best practices on how to craft their profile into one that will stand out to hiring managers. With more structured opportunities for resume review, students get personalized feedback and gain a clearer understanding of what employers are looking for. 

Company Info Sessions


Each bootcamp, we feature a variety of employers to talk about their hiring process, work environment and answer any questions. After the presentation, students get the opportunity to network with employers and explore if their openings are a right fit for their career goals. 

Earning a career in tech takes a lot of dedication, hard work and investment from our students. Before joining a coding bootcamp, however, it’s important that students understand the necessary commitment and prepare themselves for the hard work ahead. The investment in learning should provide a new appreciation for the level of difficult work that you complete, and a greater understanding in how to teach yourself new technical skills, whilst having a toolkit to tackle your job search.

We believe that anyone can be a developer, and our career services team is always identifying new ways to support that. We’re excited for these new sessions to support incoming students as they explore exciting tech opportunities. 

Grand Circus 2018 Outcomes Report

August 15, 2019

It’s here! The 2018 Outcomes Report. 

We’re excited to present to you the Grand Circus 2018 Outcomes Report. 

At Grand Circus we know that joining a coding bootcamp is a big time and financial commitment. Transparency is important to us and future students. To help ensure incoming students understand the opportunities available with the support of our coding bootcamps, we spend an incredible amount of time gathering the data, fact checking, reviewing and editing to ensure that what we present to the public is accurate. We’re thrilled to share more data this year, including outcomes from our first 26-week After-Hours Bootcamp that graduated in December 2018 as well as education background information for our graduates. 

Other data highlights include:

  • From 2017 to 2018, the number of students trained increased by 35%
  • Despite the significant increase in trained students, we maintained a strong graduation rate of 89.2%. 
  • In addition, more students landed technical roles and hiring happened faster! The total graduate employment jumped to 89.1% (from 87.2% in 2017)
  • 45% of grads landed jobs within 30 days of graduation, compared to 31% in 2017.

Read the Full Outcomes Report

2018 year was another strong year of growth for Grand Circus. We trained more locally hired entry-level software developers than any other program in the state. These graduates join a community of 1,500+ alumni and 300+ employers — the largest tech community of its kind in Michigan. Since the 2017 Outcomes Report, Grand Circus has delivered significant impact across Michigan. Among the highlights, we:

  • Improved student outcomes while significantly increasing the number of students trained 
  • Implemented substantial upgrades to our curriculum
  • Extended our already deep network of employer partners
  • Increased access to a tech career for more Michiganders and deepened our support of underrepresented groups
  • Continued to strengthen our partnership with Facebook

Take a look inside of the Outcomes Report to dig deeper into the details behind these highlights. 

Invest in Yourself: We’re always making improvements, and you can, too!

July 30, 2019

Over the last six years, Grand Circus has worked closely with the tech community to train and graduate more than 1,500 students. Our community, offerings and collaborations with the tech industry have grown exponentially in this time, and so has our commitment to ensuring these opportunities are obtainable for anyone interested in them. 

As of our last outcomes report, nearly 90% of students have successfully earned careers in tech. We’re now working with more than 300 employers, supporting their growth by training Michigan’s newest tech talent. We are successful because our students are successful, and because we work together to create a meaningful community. 

This year, our journey continues as we work toward improvements for our 2020 workshops and bootcamps — encouraging even more individuals to invest in yourself. If you want to become a developer, you can do this, and we’re here to help. We’re excited to share some of the projects we’re working on to better serve the GC family. 

Always Evolving. Always Growing. Working to Improve Your Career Outcomes.

The tech industry moves fast, and that means our team, curriculum updates and offerings need to evolve quickly as well. We’re currently working on several updates to better prepare students for our bootcamps and life after graduation. 

Some of the improvements we’re working on: 

Pre-Bootcamp Workshops

In 2018, we rebuilt our evening and weekend workshops to ensure we were providing a path that properly supported students interested in joining a coding bootcamp. For many in our community, the idea of earning a career in tech seems like an impossible feat. We know that anyone can be a developer, but some start the journey with zero coding knowledge and little clarity on how to begin. 

Throughout the last year, we’ve worked closely with our workshop instructors (Hey GC alum!), students and bootcamp staff to understand where we can make improvements and provide an even better path into a coding bootcamp. 

Our learning materials, slides, projects and classroom structures are getting an overhaul for our Fundamentals of Web Development, Intro to Front-End Development and Intro to Back-End Development workshops. Now, students will have the opportunity to more thoroughly engage in hands-on exercises, gain a better understanding of the differences between each programming language and have access to new resources that will help them in their path to earning a career in tech. These workshop updates will allow more students to get exposure to opportunities throughout the industry and increase the accessibility of our bootcamps.

Unit 1

Once a student has been accepted into a bootcamp and pays their deposit, they receive Unit 1. Unit 1 is an opportunity for them to start learning programming before in-class instruction begins, build small projects with the support of tutorials, and get a better feel for the pace and type of training they’ll get exposed to throughout the bootcamp. This work is done at home and takes about two weeks. 

Revamping this curriculum will improve students’ readiness for the bootcamp by providing more coding practice and increased interactivity. Because students come from a range of backgrounds, we strive to ensure everyone starts day one with similar programming skill sets so we can quickly train them in new materials. Everything included in our Unit 1 will be reworked and these improvements will support our goal of getting students fully immersed in the GC learning experience — even before in-person classes start. 

Bootcamp Classroom 

Everyone learns differently, and we strive to create a classroom experience that reflects those needs. We’re constantly evolving our learning materials, resources and classroom support. 

One big project our team is working on is video content to cover various bootcamp lessons, rather than solely relying on instructor-led sessions. These videos allow students to rewatch content as necessary and engage with lectures at their own pace.  Additionally, reducing the instructors’ lecture time gives them more flexibility and availability to provide one-on-one coaching and support as students work through hands-on projects. This content can also be used after graduation should individuals need a refresher. 

Career Services 

The growth of our graduates shouldn’t stop once they earn their first entry-level tech position. Our Career Services team works to equip students with the knowledge to not only earn their first position, but to evolve and grow their careers — through new positions and raises — with the support of valuable resources and knowledge. 

New sessions and support resources have been crafted to train students in becoming self-aware job seekers. After spending time to better understand the students’ mindset, then surveying employers, we’ve rebuilt our Career Services to cover the topics that teach the soft skills that matter the most to local employers and have the biggest impact on the career search. We’ll now have more group activities, increased planned discussions and new lessons that will help students build valuable job-seeking habits. 

We’re always making improvements, and you can, too! 

Anyone Can be a Developer

Our goal is to ensure a career in tech is accessible to everyone. We recognize that there are many paths to learn programming — independent study through online and printed resources, a Computer Science Degree or by joining a coding bootcamp. We also recognize that a wide range of individuals are interested in this career path, many of whom don’t have any technical background. Throughout our six years, we’ve seen firsthand the transformations possible with the support of a coding bootcamp. There is no one “right path” in learning to code. It’s all about determining what’s right for you. 

Coding bootcamps are a big time and financial investment. When compared to the alternatives, however, they are often the most efficient and effective path into the industry. And for our graduates, they’ve been a gateway to endless career opportunities. 

Worried that you don’t have what it takes to earn a career in tech? Many of our students experience Imposter Syndrome, the feeling of self-doubt, and most begin with very little technical experience. Our constant evolution of resources and trainings is creating more opportunity for those seeking a sustainable career in one of the nation’s fastest growing industries. We’re excited to expose even more to these opportunities and support them as they invest in their futures. 

Announcing Grand Circus Front-End After-Hours Bootcamp in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids

July 22, 2019

We kicked off our first partnership with the City of Grand Rapids almost exactly a year ago. That partnership was designed to grow Grand Rapids’ tech talent by increasing our outreach to arm folks with basic coding skills and knowledge of technology careers. Since May 2018, the Rising TIDE project has trained nearly 500 people in basic coding skills. This program has made it possible for many to continue with advanced training and start a new career in technology. 

Timing is Everything

Over the last year the City of Grand Rapids established its first Office of Innovation. This team is tasked with testing new technologies and ways to deliver services to the community, updating and improving their open-sourced data portal, and working with external stakeholders to improve local and regional issues. 

This got us thinking. A new office committed to service delivery and partnerships, our community’s interest in coding skills and careers as evidenced by the success of Rising TIDE, and the positive reception we have with employers made us think we could do more together to prepare local talent for new careers in tech. The first exploration meeting with City officials was alive with energy and possibility – and the Grand Circus Front-End After-Hours Bootcamp in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids was born. 

A Bootcamp for All

This bootcamp teaches Front-End programming with an After-Hours schedule. It was important to us and the city that working adults could access this training. It meets in the evenings from 6:30 – 10pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from October 2019 – March 2020. Students will also receive career services to successfully prepare for and execute their job search. 

We talked a lot about barriers to training in our initial meetings. Luckily, the Rising TIDE Grants are available to residents with financial need. They offset the cost of bootcamp tuition and provide stipends for things like loaner laptops, transportation needs and childcare assistance. 

Grand Circus provides a number of pre-bootcamp workshops to help folks prepare for the bootcamp application process — and are required to be eligible for grant funding. The first, Intro to Coding Workshops, are designed for people curious about code but have little to no experience. Our more advanced workshops build upon the basics to help students learn more advanced concepts and experience coding web pages from scratch. 

Students in the Front-End After-Hours Bootcamp in partnership with the City will enjoy three other unique program aspects. 

Special Bootcamp Features

#1 Use Open-Sourced Data to Build Projects

Employers tell us that they want to see student projects that center around real-world business cases as much as possible. Students in this Front-End After-Hours Bootcamp will build a final project using data collected by the City to solve a real world problem while showing off their coding skills.  

#2 Interact with SmartZone Businesses

It’s important for all of our bootcamp students to interact with diverse employers. Through employer panels, bootcamp students will interact with companies in the City’s SmartZone, a specially designated zone that contains high-tech high-growth businesses. Students will benefit by hearing directly from experienced industry professionals and forming relationships during the bootcamp experience. 

#3 Learn from City Employees

Most people don’t think of city government when they think of technology and innovation. However, the City has robust customer service responsibilities, many of which utilize a combination of software and hardware. Employees from the City’s information technology and innovation departments will give students unique insight on relevant topics like coding for the customer experience, quality data, data collection, governance structure and more. 

Learn More

If you’re interested in learning more about how to start a career in tech, join us on Wednesday, August 14th for our event ”How to Earn a Career in Tech without a Degree.” Then, join us for a special Info Session with the City of Grand Rapids to hear about the types of data they collect and see a student project demo. Register for the August 22nd Info Session here.

From High School Math Teacher to Software Engineer, Meet Spencer

May 1, 2019

Throughout Grand Circus’ six years, we’ve had students from a range of backgrounds join coding bootcamps. One profession that consistently does well in our programs is teachers. These individuals come to us with a growth mindset, adaptability, excitement and passion for tech, and readiness to help others in their cohort.

Spencer is a great example of such success. He’s such an avid learner, he’s even taken two coding bootcamps to continue advancing his skills – even after he found employment in tech! Spencer is now a Software Engineer at Ford Motor Company and continues to remain involved in the Grand Circus community. He’s taught several of our free and weekend workshops – helping others begin their journeys into tech. 

From High School Math Teacher to Software Engineer, Meet Spencer


Before Grand Circus

What did you do before coming to Grand Circus?

I was a high school math teacher.  

What brought you to Grand Circus?

A desire to learn coding to transition into a developer career.

What attracted you to tech, specifically being a developer?

I enjoy how empowered I feel when working as a developer. It is an extremely satisfying experience to dream up and design something, and then bring it into existence. Each day I feel like I get to solve meaningful and interesting problems that demand creativity and energy.

Bootcamp Experience

What was your bootcamp experience like?

My bootcamp was a really rewarding experience. Under the tutelage of David and Adam, I built the confidence and foundational skills I needed in order to transition into a developer role. I enjoyed the mix of quizzes, projects, and group exercises that I encountered. I think Adam and David did a great job scaffolding the content and hitting on the key concepts that I have encountered day after day in my new role.

What advice would you give new bootcamp students?

I would say work your hardest and stay curious. Success isn’t about learning everything, but rather building habits and skills that you will employ to conquer challenges as they come.

How do you feel you combatted Imposter Syndrome? Did you have doubts before/during bootcamp?

I try to focus on just being better everyday. As time has gone on it has been easier to let go of this fear of not knowing everything and to instead grow more confident in my ability to tackle new problems as they come. My doubts largely centered around the worry that I needed to have some sort of Computer Science credentials or knowledge in order to be successful.

What was the most unexpected part of bootcamp?

I think the most unexpected part was the myriad of people coming from so many different backgrounds.  I think this makes the program unique and speaks volumes to how literally anyone could be successful through a bootcamp if becoming a developer is something that inspires them.

Did you have challenges in bootcamp you weren’t anticipating?

I took a lot of time in considering a bootcamp and the path I wanted to take, so a lot of the challenges I experienced were ones I anticipated. However, you don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes it took longer than I wanted to pick up a new idea or concept.

What resources are the most helpful / were the most helpful in your coding journey?

I think the projects were the most helpful teaching resource employed. Nothing can replace just getting into a project and gaining experience. Working with others was also extremely helpful because it exposed me to other ways of thinking and solving problems.

Is there anything you wish you could go back and tell yourself to do either before or during bootcamp?

I would actually tell myself to consider back-end development more openly. Over the last few years I have found myself excited more by and drifting ever further towards working on and building APIs, servers, and programs that fall into this realm.

Career Transition

How has your transition been into your career? How did GC help you?

My transition has been excellent. During my first year on the job I had the opportunity to improve and refine my JavaScript skills in a big way. I was also exposed to a variety of topics in and around development. This exposure has helped me focus my energies during my second year and I am happy with how I am progressing as a developer. GC played a huge role in getting me a pivotal interview and preparing me to be successful on day one of the job.