From Ecologist to Web Developer, Meet Andre Otte

If you’re looking to jumpstart your career in tech, there are many paths possible; self-learning, a computer science degree or a coding bootcamp can all teach the technical programming skills employers are looking for. 

Here at Grand Circus, we provide a supportive path that allows students to elevate their existing technical knowledge while ensuring they learn everything necessary to start a new career in the tech industry. While many students start learning to code independently, many come to Grand Circus to expand their knowledge about the industry, employers and what it takes to be successful on a tech team. 

The Grand Circus team works closely with tech employers to understand what skills they’re looking for in new hires, and we guide students with this knowledge as they’re exploring tech positions. Additionally, our bootcamps give students real-world experience of building functional applications that can then be shared with employers. These aspects of our programs are often unmatched in a self-taught environment or through a computer science degree. 

From Ecologist to Web Developer, Meet Andre Otte

Andre knew he wanted to learn programming and worked to identify the best path for himself as he explored online tutorials and the job market. He’s super curious and passionate about coding, but he knew his independent study needed the support of a strong network and soft skills that online tutorials couldn’t provide. That led him to Grand Circus. Combining our technical training with a strong network of more than 350 employers, our coding bootcamps provide a structured, well-connected environment for students to learn in. 

Andre Otte

As a part of our April 2019 C# .NET bootcamp in Grand Rapids, Andre was able to network with the Grand Rapids tech community while advancing his technical skills. He’s now growing his career in tech at BizStream, a Grand Rapids-based software development company.

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

After graduating with a degree in biology, I worked for three years as an ecologist at a local non-profit. There were lots of factors that played into my decision to go to bootcamp. I discovered that I really like to code and that it provided me with intellectual and creative challenges I was craving professionally. I was also very attracted to the career and life opportunities that being a software developer provides.

How did you prepare for the bootcamp?

I learned on my own for about eight months before starting bootcamp. I used resources like Team Treehouse, Udemy, and a few books to structure my learning. I spent about 300 hours learning on my own prior to bootcamp. Being prepared set me up really well to hit the ground running when bootcamp started.

I also did a lot of research on the local job market, companies, and the tech industry in general. I really wanted to be certain that I was making a good decision and find the best ways to jumpstart my career transition. 

What was your hardest moment during the bootcamp? 

I got shingles, which kind of sucked. I’ve been told that I have an old soul, so this really confirmed that for me. In all seriousness, bootcamp is very challenging and can be quite stressful at times. It is important to take care of your physical and mental health throughout the process.

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

Andre Otte posing with a dog

My support team consisted of my wife, my dog, and my bike. Usually, one of those things helped me recharge or decompress before or after long days of learning, networking, and applying for jobs. 

I also see a therapist once a month, which helps me calm my hyperactive, monkey mind. Being able to sit and talk with someone who is a professional listener makes a huge difference in my ability to see the world more rationally and manage my worries. I think therapy should be mandatory for being human.

Can you tell us about your final project experience? What did you build and how was it working with a new team? 

My team built an app that provides walkers, runners, and bikers routes through Grand Rapids that avoid areas with poor air quality. We used data from air quality sensors that Seamless IoT has set up throughout the city. We used a bunch of different technologies: C#, .NET, JavaScript, SQL Server, Azure, and the Google Maps API. 

It was both challenging and fun working on a team to build the app. It forced us into using some of the practices, like daily standups and using GIT, that most developers use on a daily basis when working in team environments. Building a functional app from start to finish with a team is great practice for what real-world development is like.

[Bonus reads: Rapid Growth Media articles on this bootcamp

UIX: This is the ‘engine of talent’ building Grand Rapids’ high tech/high growth future

UIX: In two weeks, this group built an air quality app that could save lives]

How would you describe your overall experience with Grand Circus? 

My experience at Grand Circus was excellent. It was exactly what I was looking for and needed as I moved into the tech industry. I definitely could have taught myself to code independently, but I would have lacked soft skills, a professional network, and my final project showcase, all of which I gained through Grand Circus and were crucial to me landing a job.

Did you have any misconceptions about the tech industry before joining the bootcamp? 

I had misconceptions before starting to look into coding as a viable career option. Mostly, I thought of the stereotypical, math nerd coder, who furiously pounds the keyboard with carpal-tunnel inflicted hands and hides in the corner during meetings. I still haven’t met this person.

What are you working on now? 

I am working as a Web Developer at BizStream. The vast majority of my working time is spent in the code, which is what I was hoping for when searching for a job. The team I am on works on custom software products that have been around for over 20 years, so I do a lot of legacy code maintenance. I also do quite a bit of support and work on new features or migrating the legacy codebase to newer tech.

What’s next for your career in tech? 

Keep learning! My main goal right now is to keep improving as a developer. In my free time, I am reading the Pragmatic Programmer and working on a .NET CORE side project. I should really learn Angular because that is popular in Grand Rapids right now.

Andre Otte bike riding

What was your best Grand Rapids discovery (business, lunch spot, hidden gem) during your bootcamp? 

Biking is way faster than driving downtown because you don’t have to scour a five-block area for parking and you can blow by backed up traffic in the bike lane (This is a great ego booster as well…). 

Get on your bikes and ride!

-Freddie Mercury, 1978

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

Be confident. If you put thought into the decision to go to a bootcamp and have decided it is a good move, you probably have the tools and skills you need to succeed as a developer. As long as you work really hard and follow the process Grand Circus has established, you will be successful. 

A big thank you to Andre for taking the time to chat with us about his journey into tech and continued learning!