Coding is Solving Puzzles: Meet Eli Stone

Eli Stone Alumni

When COVID-19 precautions caused a series of closures at the escape room where he worked, Eli Stone decided to shift to a new career. After enrolling in a daytime JavaScript bootcamp with Grand Circus, he found that coding, like escape rooms, is all about solving puzzles. Since graduating, he’s been honing his craft and sharing his skills as a volunteer. Read on to learn more about Eli’s experience.

What were you doing before bootcamp?

I was working daytime in an escape room. I’m still there part-time. We had closings during the pandemic and it got me thinking about a more sustainable job. I knew about Grand Circus, so I decided to check it out.

It was exciting. To be honest, I really like challenges. Maybe that’s why I love escape rooms.

What was the transition to bootcamp like?

Even going from working daytime to being in school daytime is totally different. It was a total time adjustment and I had a lot less free time. At work, when my shift ends, I’m not taking work home with me, but with bootcamp I’d also have homework. There were some pain points and frustrations, but I was able to learn to push myself harder and overcome those moments. 

What coding bootcamp did you enroll in?

I did the front end bootcamp. That was HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. We went on to use some JavaScript libraries and we did a lot of Angular and NodeJS. It was more full stack than just front end.

We’ve changed the curriculum a bit since you graduated. We now offer full stack JavaScript and extended the bootcamp by a couple of weeks.

I knew a little about the changing curriculum. I think it’s awesome. I’m not gonna lie — I’m slightly jealous. I wish I’d had those extra couple of weeks.

Our learning team has tried to create a remote bootcamp that feels like being in the classroom. What are your thoughts on the remote learning experience?

My bootcamp experience was totally remote. It would have been cool to be in a classroom, but I’m actually glad it was remote. A lot of jobs now are looking for experience in remote positions. I’m able to say that I was basically a little fetus of a coder before I joined this remote bootcamp and now I can work with APIs and build apps. So hey, maybe I’m worthwhile for this position. I think that it’s an extra edge.

What have you been doing since bootcamp graduation?

I’m still looking for a traditional, daytime position, but I’ve been able to keep sharp with my code and learn new skills. I have directed my learning by looking at job postings and seeing what experience they’re looking for. Even if I’m not going to apply for the job, I can use job postings to direct my studies.

I’m leading a couple of different workshops with DevU. I’ve been doing some volunteer work with another Grand Circus alum. That work has an accessibility focus — we’ve added text descriptions to some flyers and hopefully we’re going to be doing some accessible web design for an arts collective in Grand Rapids. I’m also working on a startup company where I’m doing some UI work with Godot game engine

Even though it’s not the greatest pay [while looking for a daytime position], my other projects have just been fulfilling in their own way.

Tell us more about your volunteer work.

I really love it. It’s very much a thing that I do just because I enjoy it. And I’m looking forward to the next steps. Even working on the flyers has been cool. I got to learn more about accessible text descriptions and look at all these images. If you have a creative mind, I think it comes naturally. 

What’s your experience going through Grand Circus bootcamp and entering tech as a queer-identifying person?

I participated in Quiltbag [the Grand Circus LGBTQ+ affinity group]. I didn’t end up going to every session because sometimes I was pushing through a lot of hours on a project, but I went to quite a few. It was always a good time. I was the only person from my cohort there, but there were people from the C# bootcamp and some alumni who popped in. 

We’d chat about anything from projects to pop culture to what’s going on in our lives. I didn’t feel uncomfortable in my cohort or anything like that, but I could feel extra comfortable in Quiltbag. 

Since graduating, in my jobs, I’ve just been respected as a professional in tech. I don’t know if that will be my experience forever. I’m sure there are some places and people out there who are more close-minded, but so far, I haven’t had that kind of experience.

What thoughts do you want to share with someone thinking about making the jump to a career in tech?

A lot of people from all walks of life have been with Grand Circus. The environment is not as “tech bro” as you think, especially in this area. There are all sorts of developers. More and more people are getting into coding and what the typical coder looks like is starting to change. 

Do a little bit of studying on your own just so you don’t feel too overwhelmed if you’re going to join a bootcamp, but it’s not that intimidating. You don’t need to know advanced calculus and be a math wizard to code. As long as you have the drive and passion, you can really do it.