Posts about Student Profiles

Meet Colton, a Java Coding Bootcamp Graduate

October 5, 2017

Our students have always come from a diverse set of backgrounds, but this was a first! Colton was a student in our October 2016 Java Bootcamp cohort who changed his career from deckhand in Charlevoix to developer.

Even though Colton graduated back in December 2016, he continues to stay involved with the Grand Circus community and is a great resource for current students or those thinking about joining a coding bootcamp. Continue reading for insights on his bootcamp experience, how Grand Circus can help you make a career change too, and why Colton landed a job before graduation!

Meet Colton, a Former Deckhand Turned Java Developer

What did you do before the Java bootcamp? Why did you decide to enroll in a Grand Circus coding bootcamp?

Before the bootcamp I was working at various manual labor or customer service jobs. Most recently I was working on a tugboat as a deckhand on the Great Lakes. I had always wanted to solve problems and help people, but I didn’t think it was possible for a single person to have a large amount of impact. I wound up living in Silicon Valley for six months and realized that I met people every day who created lots of impact, because they had the tools to do so. That tool was coding, and I knew after that I had to get involved in the industry. After saving up some money, I looked up and applied to several bootcamps, and the rest is history.

Where are you working now? What was the application and interview process like?

Since the bootcamp I’ve been working as a Java developer for Moosejaw. It’s a Michigan-based outdoor retailer with headquarters in Madison Heights. I was introduced to the company when they came to speak at Grand Circus and applied that day. There was an initial phone screening, and then a day where I did a high-level interview with the CTO and then a technical interview with the developers. After I received an offer, there was about a week of straightening out details and negotiating before I signed on.

What are your career goals?

My immediate goals are to move up to a more senior developer position, or if the right opportunities arise, into a technical project management position. I’m constantly working on my skills outside of my job in areas where I am weak so I can progress faster. As far as long-term goals, the sky’s the limit.

What was the most challenging aspect of bootcamp?

I think the final project was the hardest part of bootcamp for me. Not only do you have to zone in on your coding and actually build a working system from the ground up, but there’s also all of the design and creativity that goes into the final project. And on top of that, the group has to devise its own system of project management/organization. It’s a lot on your plate all at once, but you come out the other end a stronger developer.

What was your a-ha moment during the bootcamp?Coding Bootcamp Student Presenting

I think the closest thing to an “a-ha” moment I had was just realizing that coding is all about accepting that you don’t know how to do something, and being comfortable with that. Every day, every new task, there will be parts of coding where you will have absolutely no idea how to proceed. This can cause panic until you internalize it’s all part of the gig. Coding at its base is problem solving. You do what you can. You research, you ask questions to people who might know more than you, and eventually you figure it out, and you start clueless again on something else. It’s a daunting process of learning and self-discovery, but I find it incredibly rewarding.

During the bootcamp, what was your support system?

Mostly I relied on colleagues and the community at Grand Circus to get me through. I recognized early on that I’m trying to accomplish a huge life and career change in 10 weeks, so I had to take it very seriously. All I did was code during that time, and if all you’re doing is coding, Grand Circus is a great place to do it.

How would you describe your overall experience at Grand Circus? What’s a highlight for you?

Overall I have to sing praises for Grand Circus as it worked out for me. I met good people and instructors, I learned a great deal in a short amount of time, and the highlight, of course, was getting that first job offer.

What was your best Detroit discovery during bootcamp?

A friend from GC invited me to a place called Motor City Wine in Corktown, where they have jazz and wine. We ended up turning Thursday nights there into a tradition. It’s a great place to relax and unwind after you’ve been coding all week.

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

Work really hard! You have 10 weeks to change your life around completely. It’s not like college where you get an A in the class and everything is all good. Go learn as much as you possibly can in the short time you have! Attend every GC workshop or local meet up you have time for. You paid for this resource, it’s great, now get the most out of it!

Anything else you’d like to share? is my email. I’m always up to answer questions about coding/interviewing or anything else Grand Circus related. Cheers!

Women in Tech: DEVELOP(her) Scholarship and Bootcamp Field Notes

August 23, 2017

While there were dozens of men who invented, improved and created the first computers, women were an essential and fundamental part of the development of modern programming. Today women are a presence the tech industry sorely lacks and sorely needs.

Each of us is fighting a whirlwind of career and job challenges that are often hard to wrap our strengths around. Such challenges are particularly fundamental to the experiences of women in the workplace. Those challenges are further magnified by the minority gap in tech. The DEVELOP(her) scholarship is our way of being responsible stewards of the coding knowledge we have at Grand Circus. It’s a scholarship and bootcamp combo that are awarded to women who want to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors (Grace Hopper, anyone?).

The DEVELOP(her) recipients train in the coding skills necessary to launch careers in tech, and participate in the tech industry’s growth.

In celebration of women in tech, let’s take a look at the bootcamp field notes from last cohort’s DEVELOP(her) scholarship recipients. We’ll start with Lhea and Lydia, who completed the Java bootcamp.  


Lhea Copeland, Java Student
Mid-semester Field Notes

DEVELOP(her) scholarship recipient

“Honey-child-let-me-tell-you, takingGrand Circus’ Java Bootcamp has been the best decision that I have ever made in my life.

The fact that it is the best decision of my life does not imply that it has been an easy experience. This life as a Black woman in tech has been, as Talib Kweli once said, a Beautiful Struggle.

During our first week of bootcamp, my classmates and I took a Soft Skills class on “The Impostor Syndrome”.  I realized immediately that I suffer from a severe case. The first week of bootcamp was intense because inside my head I wondered: what do my classmates think of Black folk? Do my classmates think I am as smart as them? Will anyone want to work with me? Does Grand Circus regret choosing me?

My fears, my imposter syndrome, were so strong that it sometimes distracted me from paying attention to my instructor.

And I realized, as a Black woman in tech, I will always be one of a very few Blacks. I will always be one of a very few women. This fear that I am not good enough, smart enough, skilled enoughor the fear that others will not SEE me as good enough, smart enough or skilled enoughis one that I must face. And I must face it soon.

Grand Circus has been a wonderful experience for me because I am learning more than just Java. I am learning how step outside of my comfort zone and present my code to an audience. I am learning how to assert myself in the presence of men, assert myself in the presence of whites. And, I am learning that I am not always right; my way is not always the best way. I am learning how to take feedback. I am learning how to take criticism.

Learning to be confident in myself and the code that I write has been the most challenging part of the bootcamp.

The most rewarding part has been getting over my “Imposter Syndrome”. Another woman who received a DEVELOP(her) scholarship told me that she loves my tweets and that she’s checked out my GitHub and she’s impressed with my code. That meant THE WORLD to me. My teachers told me that I have a good grasp of object oriented programming. That meant THE WORLD to me. During soft skills, I presented my elevator pitch to the entire cohort, all three bootcamps.

And they clapped. They were impressed.

After 4 weeks of bootcamp, I can finally say, I am smart enough. I am good enough. I deserve a seat at the table.

And I am so thankful to Grand Circus for giving me the opportunity to prove myself.

I am so thankful for how Grand Circus has changed my life.

Lydia Latocki, Java Student
Mid-bootcamp Field Notes

Midway mark: The bigger picture is not so fuzzy.
Midway through GC-Java Bootcamp and our secondary focus has been on gearing up for the job search and the interview process. I am seeing the bigger picture more clearly now in week five, which was not the case the second-week into this endeavor. During the earlier stages of bootcamp looking through job boards, my vision of career path and job placement were similar to walking into Namaste Flavours Indian Restaurant of Farmington during the lunch buffet, immediately taking in all the delicious aromas, previewing the buffet and not knowing what was inside any of the interesting colored dishes right in front of me. Where to start?? What if it is not as tasty as the one right next to it? Will it be too hot?? Not spicy enough?? Am I taking too long to decide while the restaurant fills with seasoned patronswill all the best goodies be gone before I take my portions?? What if I put too much on my plate??DEVELOP(her) scholarship recipient

Fortunately, I love Indian cuisine and am not afraid to try pleasing aromatic dishes no matter how crazy they look initially. With the help of Cody Grant, GC Engagement Manager, pointing to a great article covering the variety of roles, skills needed and titles, I began to understand various job postings and company profiles more clearly. Many titles in the article did not match what is happening in Detroit, but the roles and skills are similar. I could more clearly match all the variety of topics we are touching on in Java Bootcamp to the day-to-day description of positions on job boards. This began to clarify the tech industry workflow and where I may fit in as an Entry-Level Java Developer.

The next few weeks will likely be stressful for me as I try to gain facetime with employers and they review my github entry-level code. The dominant fear from classmates has been focused on taking a “white board tech text” during interviews, where candidates are asked to solve problems without the help of an IDE auto filling code solutions. From past experience, I recognize the importance of talking to what I know and not embellishing beyond what I have learned so far. It is reassuring to know that everyone in the Tech field is still learning, and that my other qualifications will show value to an employer right away, due to experience with many types of internal and external stakeholders. Now I see that all Tech professionals are sowing the spicy seeds of a challenging and evolving career – and replanting all the time.

Foremost, I plan to keep my eye on the prize: Entry-Level Java Development employment within a team of enlightened Technologists solving problems and making cool tools that improve tasks and possibly bring knowledge to users through simple functionality. That will be akin to a scoop of Anjeer Badam for the close of lunch – the amazing fig and roasted almond ice cream. Yumm. 


Want to learn more about these powerful ladies? Read our first blog in the DEVELOP(her) series: Meet the 2017 DEVELOP(her) Scholarship Recipients! And stay tuned as we continue to follow their journey in starting new career in tech.

If you’re a women in tech, and are looking for support you can check out some of our other blog posts. Or, keep an eye on our calendar for future events catered to women.


Meet Melanie, Java Coding Bootcamp Graduate

August 14, 2017

When Melanie Myers decided to switch careers she made sure that everything added up before taking the plunge. That’s because she was an accountant!

Her attention to detail throughout the Java bootcamp labs made it clear that she has a knack for attention to detail. She always worked hard to figure things out on her own first, but also had the courage to ask for help when necessary. As with any intensive learning environment, Melanie also had a few setbacks along the way but she persevered and now has a fulfilling career as a developer. 

Meet Melanie, Accountant Turned Java Developer


From Property Manager to Developer, Meet Shug

June 21, 2017

Meet Front-End alum, Shug!Students in each coding bootcamp come from an array of backgrounds, professions and life experience. This classroom composition creates a supportive environment for all of our students, and allows the uniqueness of each student really shine. I’m excited to be doing this blog feature on Shugmi Shumunov, a graduate of our Front-End cohort of August 2016. Shug’s outgoing personality and infectious smile shined as he worked through coding exercises, labs and projects. No matter how challenging the coding bootcamp became, Shug always worked hard and had a positive attitude. He was always willing to help, volunteered much of his time to support others, and did it all with passion and excitement. I had the delight of working with him at Detroit Startup Week, and have enjoyed watching his career grow and flourish.  (more…)

Meet the 2017 DEVELOP(her) Scholarship Recipients!

June 1, 2017

DEVELOP(her) scholarship recipientsThe tech industry should reflect the the diversity of our community. It’s a core value that Grand Circus stands behind in everything we do. With just 26% of computing jobs being filled by women, we’re always looking for creative solutions to the problem.

Last year, we were proud to launch our inaugural DEVELOP(her) coding bootcamp. It gave 19 women an opportunity at free tech training and assisted them in finding a career after graduation. This year, we were proud to award our first round of DEVELOP(her) scholarships, which provides full-tuition funding to a select number of ladies and can be used toward our full-time coding bootcamps.


From Recruiter to Back-End Developer, Meet Milliza

March 23, 2017

Meet Milliza!Milliza joined the Grand Circus family as a Java coding bootcamp student in October 2016. While still in
bootcamp, Milliza was offered a position at
United Shore as part of their Developer-X program, where she is currently undergoing training in .NET alongside 18 fellow Grand Circus alums, including five of her classmates and graduates from previous Java, DEVELOP(her) and .NET (C#) cohorts. While we miss having Milliza in the space, it’s great to know that she’s surrounded by so many familiar faces!

Read on to learn more about Milliza’s journey from a tech talent recruiter, to a developer herself. (more…)

A Mission to Diversify the Tech Industry: DEVELOP(her)

November 30, 2016

I first discovered Grand Circus when I heard about the Apprenticeship Program, a course that provides non-traditional pathways to high-demand tech careers for those underrepresented in the industry. My first thought was, “Where can I find a job that allows me to make a real change that will impact my community?”. Lucky for me, Grand Circus was hiring!


Front-End Alumnus Spotlight: Landall Proctor

November 15, 2016

Here at Grand Circus, our family is constantly growing. We are so fortunate to have students that get so invested in our programs that they continue working with us to support new tech enthusiasts long after their programs have graduated. Meet Landall Proctor, a graduate of our August 2015 Front-End coding bootcamp.

More than a year after his bootcamp ended, Landall continues supporting the Grand Circus community by sharing his insights, wisdom and coding knowledge. He’s contributed in tech Meet Grand Circus Alum Landall!panel discussions, taught our Traveling Circus workshops and is constantly available when we need some alumni expertise. And lucky for us, he works just two doors down the road as a JavaScript developer! It has been great watching him grow his coding skills and seeing him share that with the community. I’m very excited to introduce you to one of our rockstar alumnus! (more…)

From Teacher to Java Developer, Meet Chelsea Gallagher

November 4, 2016

Chelsea Gallagher Grand Circus Front-End Alumnus

What’s more stressful than final projects in a coding bootcamp? Final projects while planning a wedding! That’s right, Chelsea Gallagher planned a wedding all while being a student in our June 2016 Java bootcamp! In addition to this, Chelsea took extra initiative to find a tutor so she could brush up on her skills during the weekends. With this type of drive, she was the first student to secure a full-time position in her bootcamp where she now works as a system developer for PCE Systems. Get to know Chelsea’s complete story in our blog! (more…)

Tell us how you #DefineTheNerd

October 28, 2016

You’re such a nerd.

Yes, you sitting there reading this blog. But not in the way you think.

For too long, the word “nerd” has been getting a bad rap. When most people think of the term, a simple, and often stereotypical, image comes to mind. As a company that works to train the next generation of tech employees, we see the effects of this unfortunate stereotype all too often. People often pigeonhole “techies” and developers with the dictionary definition of the word “nerd.” (more…)