From Acquisition Manager to Java Developer, Meet Michael

Update: Michael’s career in tech continues to grow. He’s now a Sr Scrum Master/Agile Coach at GE Aviation

Working as an acquisition manager, Michael Riley saw firsthand the rapid growth the tech industry has to offer. Michael worked closely with technical teams to recruit developers, and got a behind-the-scenes view at what companies look for when hiring new tech talent. After nearly a decade on the recruitment side of the industry, Michael was ready to transition his career and become a developer himself.

Michael knew there were great opportunities for software developers, but at first – he wasn’t confident that he had it what it takes to be a programmer. “I took the Intro to Coding workshop to break my fear of learning to code.  I found that it was vital to convince myself that I could be successful in coding and overcoming something I thought I couldn’t understand,” Michael explained.  Nowadays, you can find Michael volunteering at our Intro to Coding Workshops, offering support to coding newbies and sharing stories about the development projects he’s working on.

Meet Michael, A Java Bootcamp Graduate

Michael Headshot

Where are you originally from?

I grew up in Oxford, MI, in northern Oakland County.

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

After college, I discovered I was good at sales/business development.  I started my career in inside sales at Compuware in 2001. I started off selling .NET/Java debugging tools to development shops.  This eventually turned into a 12-year career of software sales, selling anything from network monitoring software to enterprise content/document management systems.  

I then transitioned into managed services for application development projects and, through that, I moved into an IT/Software Development recruiting career.  So, for 17 years, I have always been involved with software, services and hiring talent to build that software.

What are you doing now?

Right now, I am involved with numerous projects.  I work for an automotive company, ADMI, that provides analytics, dashboards and technical data to dealerships all over the world.

I have had the opportunity to be a part of discovery projects for autonomous vehicle, supply chain and automotive parts supply analytics.

What are your career goals?

Short Term – For the next 5-7 years, my goal is to to drown myself into everything code. I want to understand the inner workings on complex architecture of enterprise systems.  

Long Term – I would love to have an opportunity to be a scrum-master/Project Manager.  Having the business and development experience, I believe would be a great asset to organizations.  

What was your hardest moment during the bootcamp?

For me , it was understanding core-Java (Code) and the logic, especially at the speed at which I needed to learn everything. I spent 17 years in a career that didn’t use most logic that’s needed in software development. It took my brain a while to wake from that.

What was your a-ha moment during the bootcamp?

SPRING MVC/HIBERNATE – The Spring framework. After weeks of grinding out all the code, database knowledge, everything seemed to come together with Spring. Seeing it on a webpage as a functional Java app was awesome. To this day, I still get excited seeing the final product. It’s something I am very proud of.

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

Family and friends are a big key to success. That was the only way I could get through it. Surrounding yourself with people can encourage you, build you up and ultimately support a big decision to change your career. My wife was the biggest supporter. She’s my best friend.

Michael posing with clown statue

How would you describe your overall experience with Grand Circus?

Life changing, truly.  Having spent years on a career that I couldn’t stand any longer, I dealt with a lot of anxiety knowing that the results of this decision weren’t guaranteed. But… I knew after day one, after meeting the staff at Grand Circus, that it was going to be a “process.”  The support GC gave made me feel like I was a part of a family. 

There are some low days. Frustrating is an understatement. Times when I questioned myself.  But then the GC staff was constantly lifting me up, giving me confidence in knowing that I could do anything. And it worked.  It’s called a bootcamp for a reason and it was so worth it.

Describe your job hunt process.

The job hunt process is like a numbers game. I was super aggressive when applying to jobs but I didn’t just apply to everything I saw. Usually, I applied to around 10-15 jobs per day during the process. While the demand for developers is large, so is the competition.  

But during the bootcamp, they train you well in soft skills. Whether it’s interviews, resume writing or just plain communication skills and working with people. Even though my previous job experience catered to all of that, I still wanted to take advantage of all that GC had to offer. So I did.  With all the connections I had throughout metro Detroit, the actual job that I ended up accepting came through Grand Circus

What was your best Detroit discovery during your bootcamp?

I found 2 great lunch spots.  

  • The Broderick Grille – OMG burgers and parm fries  – I cried a little the day I left GC just for this place alone.
  • La Pecora Nera – Pick anything off the menu – but I recommend the turkey bella sub.  

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

I have a few:

  1. Michael smiling behind computer screenDon’t go in without experience. If I could go back to the beginning, I would have taken a Udemy course or freecodecamp. This will help you understand the basics before you actually learn the basics.
  2. Prepare your personal life. Look at some of your daily habits and activities. Make sure you temporarily remove any distractions for the next 12 weeks. Again, it’s a bootcamp for a reason. Bootcamp is about 400 hours of work.  You are literally cramming about 2.5 semesters of college in 10 weeks.
  3. Beware of imposter syndrome. I had a bad case of it, mostly due to anxiety and fear that I couldn’t learn or understand anything. That was a lie.  Even in the most complex learning moments, topics can be broken down in a way that everyone will get to the end result, they just get there differently. You have the best support at GC. It’s a constant learning environment. Stay there after hours and immerse yourself in it.
  4. TAKE A BREAK, BREATHE. On the weekends, I enjoyed walks in the park and the occasional glass of wine with my wife, maybe a bottle. Find those things away from the digital world we live in and clear your mind.

Thank you Mike for taking the time to share your story! We love watching your career in tech grow and evolve!