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

People cutting cake

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.


A coding bootcamp program like Grand Circus could easily be a strictly technical learning experience. Show up, listen to the lecture, do your work, go home and study, then repeat, with assessments every so often to make sure you’re on the right track.

However, that’d be pretty…daunting.  Studies have shown that working towards a goal solely on extrinsic motivation, or for external reward, is a lot less effective than if the motivation is intrinsically, or internally, motivated.  The feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself, that you’re working towards personal accomplishment as opposed to an external reward. If it was that cut-and-dry, no-fun environment, it would deplete students of that intrinsic motivation!

A good blend of both is important, too, and Grand Circus gives you a little of both.  Yes, you’re working towards a career change that will provide a steady salary and reliable set of benefits.  But also, graduating from Grand Circus means that you become part of the Grand Circus community.  You’ve made it through an intensive learning experience, found new friends along the way, connected with a network that is supportive of you and wants to see you succeed.  The staff at Grand Circus is supportive, encouraging and constantly making sure that the students are taken care of.


Cutting the Grand Circus birthday cakeDuring the bootcamps, our staff works hard to check in with students and their well-being and progress.  Program Managers, the shining knights in armor of the bootcamp program, regularly meet 1 on 1 with students to check-in and make sure they are on track, but also to receive any emotional or motivational support they may need as well.  Instructors and Teaching Assistants will also meet with students 1 on 1 on a regular basis. There are also regular feedback surveys and retros to ensure the students are heard, and any areas of issues or concerns can be addressed. This ensures that we’re taking care of student’s technical growth, but emotional well being and personal growth as well.

GC students and staff grabbing food at the partyProgram Managers are also responsible for making students really enjoy their time here as well!  They put together things like a Scavenger Hunt, elect Culture Captains for each class and then working with them to put on a Culture Party for the classes for them to celebrate their hard work, and we’re even in the midst of our Spirit Week, where students get to dress up based on the theme of the day for a little extra fun.

Additionally, special events are hosted by our Program Managers throughout the bootcamps.  Imagine Rubber Ducky Valentine’s and celebrations for almost every holiday, a Diversity Day luncheon to honor diversity and intersectionality, potlucks with food galore, and so much more.  They also have established Affinity Groups, where people can meet with others of similar experiences can meet and support each other.

Each campus puts their own spin on culture events. Grand Rapids coordinates localized gatherings like video game nights; they’ll also go and grab a meal from one of the many local breweries that Grand Rapids is famous for or some Fro-Yo or hot chocolate during “Brain Breaks.” Start Garden, the accelerator that houses our campus, hosts events encouraging entrepreneurship and diversity (with some excellent snacks)!  These events have a great pool of talented developers and entrepreneurs, and students have even gotten jobs/gigs from this.

What some of the GC family says about the Grand Circus culture:


Kelsey Perdue is the Assistant Campus Director over in Grand Rapids and helps to manage the program on the Westside of Michigan.  Before Grand Circus, Kelsey has managed programs and teams in the health and education fields. She has also done a lot of volunteering and has sat on several boards.

“[In Grand Rapids, we have] smaller class sizes and lots of individual attention, conversations and feedback! That’s a big, unique aspect of Grand Rapids’s campus.  [We] have alums and local industry folks talk about getting a job, but also how to take care of yourself. Tommy [an instructor] does a talk on taking care of your hands for his students.  We remember dietary preferences & may give special goodies, and learn [students’] motivations & fears in the job search process. [We are] so quick to connect them with other GC alums or people in our network that can help them, especially those that they share a background experience with.

Everyone is very student focused. You can trust the whole team to rally around student success. It allows you to have faith in the product.”


Christopher Plemmons is a December 2018 graduate of Grand Circus and became a Teaching Assistant with Grand Circus to stick around and help train others in the art of Front-End.  Before coming to Grand Circus, Christopher ran a small business reselling books he would find at thrift shops and yard sales on Amazon for profit.

“I’ve embraced the “growth-mindset” that is a core tenant of GC’s teaching methodology, and both personally and professionally I’ve felt so much more adept at embracing new challenges.  I have a family in downtown Detroit that will encourage, point me in the right direction technically, and acts as a pool of resources for the new challenges I encounter each day.”


Lisa Lemons is a new lead instructor over at the Grand Circus Grand Rapids location for 2019.  Before Grand Circus, she first wanted to get into video games before discovering a fondness for making software.  After 6 years of developing, adventuring through the realms of back-end, full-stack and then front-end, Lisa brings to Grand Circus a wide array of experiences.  

“I was surprised to find the culture was centered around empathy. What I mean by that is that every situation is approached with the idea that everyone is trying their best with what they have to work with.  That’s something of a… religion for myself. It is always surprising to meet others who feel the same way, let alone an entire company!”

And a note from Montaz Meah II, a GC alum: “Togetherness” is the element unique to the culture of Grand Circus. We learned together, planned together, and built together. Everything was a team effort. At GC, I learned the importance of soft skills: the ability to work with others.”

Coding bootcamps are often life-changing experiences filled with new knowledge, networks and personal growth. It’s important to us that we support students and employees in every way possible, and we’re proud of the culture we’ve built throughout the years. We’re forever thankful to our community who have helped us grow every step of the way.

This blog was written by Dev Waslusky, our Detroit campus Office Manager extraordinaire.