Posts about Grand Circus News

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 consistency 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.

Job Search Statistics

April 27, 2019

Sometimes when you’re looking for a job, it can feel like success is all around you but somehow just beyond your reach. We’ve worked with over 1,000 graduates to secure employment in tech, so we’ve got some data to share to say hey – you aren’t alone.

And remember our favorite fast fact – you only need one “yes” to land a job. Keep up the good work, friends!

Job Search Trap: Victim Mindset

April 18, 2019

It sucks hearing “no” when you’re looking for a new job. The “nos” can feel so deeply frustrating after you put it all out there in your interview. Then, stack onto that overwhelming feeling the fact that other people seem to get one job offer after another job offer? Now that rejection is starting to feel personal. Have you started to feel like the job market is out to get you? That those glowing stats about a booming tech economy were all false flags?

Stop it right there! You’re falling into a common trap of the job search – the victim mentality! This mindset can have crushing consequences toward success in our job searches – and we want to help you course correct.

What is victim mindset or victim mentality?

A victim mindset, or victim mentality, is the belief that the world is out to get you, that good things aren’t, won’t, or can’t come your way, and that there is little for you to control in your circumstance. Frequently, victim mentality will create blanket statements around the success of others to highlight the difference between that and their apparent failure. It can often sound like reading negative intentions from neutral feedback, developing deep explanations for why things are happening without definitive proof, or gaining relief from receiving empathy from others instead of from positive outcomes.

It can kill a job hunt by turning an otherwise stellar candidate into a forlorn, frustrated human who’s either unwilling to take risks – or who’s taking all the wrong ones. To employers, a victim mindset is representative of a lack of self-awareness, a lack of personal responsibility, and a general negativity that could hurt overall workplace culture. Victim mindset can be so pervasive in job hunts that Glassdoor even has this great blog about it. A few things we’ve heard graduates send up the flag of victim mentality?

  • “I didn’t have as much experience coming in before bootcamp, so I won’t be able to find a job.”
  • “I’ve applied to 200 jobs, I should really have an offer by now! Everyone else does.”
  • “I had 10 years of experience in my field before this, I should have to take an entry level position.”
  • “I don’t have a degree, and everyone else who has a job right now has a degree, so I can’t get a job.”

Hear those common themes of generalities and a lack of personal control over individual circumstance? Us too. Bad news? Employers can hear it too – and they really don’t like it. Given the choice between a happy, positive, capable candidate and a capable candidate who sounds like they’re blaming others, they’ll take the positive one.

Good news? Fighting victim mindset takes the power from others and gives it back to YOU!

You’re a powerful human being doing something incredible – you took huge strides to change your individual circumstances by leaving something known to embrace the possibility of something better. You are in control of a lot more of your circumstances than you may remember right now.

How can you fight it?

If you find yourself slipping into this others-based mentality, there are a few ways to fight it and put yourself back in the driver’s seat.

Challenge Thoughts of Blame and Judgement

Victim mentality is simply that – a mental state. Challenge your own thought process by going on a judgement purge – stop blaming others for 48 hours. This isn’t to say that others aren’t involved in your issues, but to put yourself back in control. A quick tip to counteract the tendency to blame others – look at yourself in the mirror and ask (regardless of how you feel):

“What is my role in the situation?”

In most cases, you’ll see that you have the power to choose your response. Will you hold a grudge? Will you take accountability for the things that you can change? Dig in to this LifeHacker article for more details on embracing a Creator Mindset.

Action: For every job worry woe that you feel yourself placing blame elsewhere, ask “what is my role in the situation?” to create some ownership over the situation.

(re)Embrace Growth Mindset

Remember that every failure, frustration or obstacle is, in fact, a learning opportunity. How many times were you overwhelmed or challenged by something before you mastered it? (Chances are – a ton.) It’s super normal to need to practice your elevator pitch and your interview responses. Interviewing is a skill set – even if it seems like it’s just talking and answering questions. If you haven’t practiced (and failed, and grown from) interviews, then you haven’t been growing in this arena.

Action: Find a friend to mock interview you for a 45 minute time period. Get feedback, and do it again.

What about the best that could happen?

Sometimes, when we’re stuck in a victim mentality, we’re stuck in a perpetual worst-case scenario. We’re so stuck in a negative “what if” spiral that we avoid the work of finding work so we don’t have to feel bad. Think: “I don’t have enough experience like this role wants so I won’t apply because they’ll definitely reject me.” But what about the best case scenario? You have 70% of the experience they want, you apply, they think you’re great…and you get the job offer. How great would that be? But it can’t happen if you don’t apply.

Action: Reframe your negative thoughts to a “best-case scenario” and take action from that mindspace.

Action over inaction, every time.

You can spend time focusing on what’s going wrong, or you can spend time taking action to make things go right. Feeling down because that recruiter didn’t call you back? Send them an email to get back in front of them. Feeling upset because you didn’t get the job offer? Ask your interviewer for feedback. Frustrated you didn’t ace the technical interview? Tackle it again with a friend to help you identify where you went wrong. Taking action puts you back in control.

Action: Identify the last three things that made you feel powerless in your job search and take one step that puts you back in the driver seat for each.

Get real.

How much time have you really and truly put toward finding a new job, and all that entails? When you go to meetups, are you creating genuine connections, or hanging with a familiar face at the snack table? Are you creating thoughtful, tailored responses to applications, or copying and pasting from job to job? Only you can know the answer to how much effort you’re truly putting in – and don’t lie to yourself! Put more attention to the area where you feel you’re putting in the least amount of effort – and try different things to see what works best!

Action: Create a SMART goal to accomplish by the end of the week that’s tailored to the area where you need to increase your effort.

Victim mindset isn’t a sign that you’re a bad person or that there’s something wrong with you. It’s merely a thought process to notice, name, and then take steps to change. Hopefully this post has helped you identify a few ways victim mindset could be affecting you, and will help you take positive steps in the future.

When You’re Here, You’re Family: The Culture of Grand Circus

March 19, 2019

Everyone knows that “Workplace Culture” is all the rage these days.  Culture is a buzzword used to apply to businesses and their values, attitudes and more –– describing the overall experience an employee would be expecting when coming into the work environment.

However, “culture” is a little bit different when it comes to a bootcamp program like Grand Circus.  This culture that has been established and shaped over the years at Grand Circus, and has kept more than just employees in mind.  Students are part of this culture as well, adding to the dynamic ecosystem of Grand Circus that makes this experience unique. Having a strong, supportive culture that allows the students to understand that they are part of something unique helps them through the demanding aspects of the bootcamp program. (more…)

Our Top Resources for Negotiating a Raise or Promotion

March 13, 2019

What’s more daunting than a career change into a new industry? Not much, except maybe the sneaking suspicion that you have earned a raise – and you’re not sure how to go about getting it! With raises and general financial talk often being a bit taboo, we know finding good, reliable information can be difficult. Is this someone’s opinion, or does it really actually work?

Well, we’re happy to say that we’ve scoured the internet for our four most useful resources for negotiating a raise. Take a look: (more…)

Emotional Intelligence 101: Impacting Your Job Search

March 1, 2019

So many things go into your job search – not the least of which is how you present yourself and how you interact with others. For many, this can be the most daunting part of looking for a new job – it’s not honing the skills that’s scary, it’s wondering whether or not you nailed the interview (or, fearing the 100 ways you didn’t!). At Grand Circus, we want to help folks get BETTER at all of the things that could help them change a career, and we know that improving emotional intelligence is a great way to improve your overall career search success. (more…)

Learn to Code In Beer City: Announcing a Free Workshop Series

February 11, 2019

Learn to Code. In Beer City USA!

Grand Circus is serious about our core values. It’s part of our interview process for new employees and contractors. We share them with prospective students during Info Sessions and our Intro to Coding workshops.  During our bootcamp orientation we make sure all students understand what our values are and how important they are throughout the bootcamp.

Our core values also drive our community partnerships and outreach.  

For example, one our values is: OF THE PEOPLE.  We know every neighborhood is different, so we work hard to adapt to what matters locally.

learn_beer_citySo in West Michigan, what is one of the quintessential industries and products that really matter? Hint: It’s two words and cold?  

Answer: Craft Beer. (more…)

Grand Rapids: Meet our New Instructors!

February 1, 2019

Grand Rapids first Front-End After-Hours in 2019 will be taught by two amazing and talented developers; Lisa Lemons and B.J. Clark. Working together, Lisa and B.J. will each teach different sections of the After-Hours bootcamp, which includes 24 weeks on in-class instruction plus two weeks of at-home Unit 1.

Not only will students benefit from learning front-end development from two different perspectives of  working professionals, they will also have two mentors to help guide, motivate, inspire and support after graduation.

Welcome to the family Lisa and B.J.!  Get to know them better with this Q & A:  (more…)

Announcing our Partnership with Seamless IoT

January 25, 2019

Since opening the Grand Rapids campus in 2017, the Grand Circus team has been focused on talent development for local employers: providing students with the technical and soft skills that West Michigan employers need to effectively grow their businesses.

At the same time we are always looking for opportunities to support and partner with organizations that provides technology, mentoring and connections to West Michigan’s startup ecosystem.  

partnership_seamless_logoIn the fall of 2018, we began discussing the potential to partner on a pilot program with an amazing organization that also shares space with us at Start Garden: Seamless IoT.   

Seamless IoT is a consortium of enterprise partners and scouts around the world that looks to identify entrepreneurs working on cross-sector innovations and then connecting and providing access to a greater ecosystem of innovation.

“As we continue to fuel West Michigan’s tech pipeline, we need partners like Seamless and Start Garden to connect our graduates to area employers,” said Damien Rocchi, CEO of Grand Circus.

The partnership idea was simple:

Seamless has a very entrepreneurial and innovation driven organization with multiple enterprise partners working on technical solutions to real world problems.

Grand Circus has a cohort of smart, curious, tenacious students learning not only how to code but also exploring the breadth of careers in tech.

It became a clear collaboration to partner and provide Grand Circus bootcamp students exposure to real-world innovation on coding projects currently being worked on in Grand Rapids. As a result, Seamless could help mentor and observe the next generation of talented Junior Developers- and perhaps get new, diverse insights from their projects.

The end result is our April 2019 C# .NET Bootcamp, in partnership with Seamless IoT.   

This partnership builds local knowledge and technical capacity critical to supporting our activities and making West Michigan a leader in innovation,” said Mike Morin, Director of Seamless IoT.

Through the partnership, students will receive training in C# .NET and soft skills. In addition, students  will be provided with invaluable experience in next-generation innovation and an introduction to companies at the forefront of bringing global innovative solutions to Grand Rapids.  Students will demonstrate projects at Demo Day and be provided interviews with the Seamless consortium members such as Priority Health, Amway, Steelcase, Whirlpool, Faurecia, BISSELL and Mercy Health.


This new partnership aligns perfectly with the Grand Circus mission. We believe anyone can earn a career in tech.  We also exist to serve our employer network and help them source the talent they need to grow their organizations. Partnering with Seamless IoT will give students a unique experience that will only help them on their career journey into tech.

Let’s roll. Apply by March 1 for a $1,000 discount on tuition.


Google Recruiters’ Tips for Job Seekers: Resumes & LinkedIn

October 13, 2018

Google was on site to have their recruiters give their best advice to job seekers during our first Women in Tech Symposium.  Women and men from metro Detroit gathered to hear different speakers and workshops on a wide range of topics. In my final year at U of M, I cannot help but think about all that I need to do to make my job search as successful as possible.  In this blog, I am going to take you through some of the highlights and most important tips from “the Googlers.”

Job-Seeking Tips from Google Recruiters

Your Resume Should be Evolving