The journey into tech is different for everyone; that’s part of the reason coding bootcamps have become such an effective path into the industry. Hard-working, passionate individuals from all walks of life can dedicate themselves to the learning process and create amazing, sustainable careers.
At Grand Circus, our coding bootcamps are designed to provide students with insights and resources to both start and grow a career in tech. These lessons go beyond the technical expertise and help graduates adapt to the ever-changing tech industry. This empowers our graduates to earn new careers and then create a unique path for themselves in the industry, filled with their own career advancement aspirations.
“The learning never stops,” explained Tyler Hensley, a 2016 graduate.
From Pizza Delivery Guy to Team Lead, Meet Tyler Hensley
Even before joining a Grand Circus bootcamp, Tyler dedicated himself to the learning process and researched tech opportunities. For the year leading up to his coding bootcamp, Tyler self-taught himself programming skills through online tutorials while saving tips from his day job to cover the cost of tuition. This helped him adapt to the fast-paced environment of a bootcamp. Four years after graduation, he’s now leading a team of technologists while advancing his leadership skills and finding new ways to make a positive impact on his team.
What did you do before the bootcamp, and why did you decide to take the bootcamp?
Before the bootcamp, I was a local neighborhood hero: the pizza delivery guy. I was finishing up my four-year associate’s degree back in 2015, and my friend Nick told me that he was starting Grand Circus. I just got my associate’s degree in science, I didn’t really know what career I was going to start with a science degree. Scientist?
The Grand Circus pitch sounded great! It was a place to jumpstart a career in a high-demand, well-paying industry. Tuition was a four-digit number at the time. The reported job placement rates were high. No experience or degree required (although the experience DEFINITELY helped). I ultimately made the decision because I wanted to have a resilient career so that I’ll be able to care for my parents one day like they did for me.
Before the bootcamp, did you have any coding experience?
Other than that, I knew I wanted to join Grand Circus a year ahead of time, so I spent that year self-teaching. I made and hosted my first website online. I created a simple Android app on my phone. . I took plenty of free to cheap courses on what seemed practical at the time.
How would you describe your overall experience with Grand Circus?
Grand Circus is plenty of things to me. It was a springboard into an actual career. It was a place where I’ve made friends. As far as the experience, it was awesome!
Before starting bootcamp, I hadn’t made it to downtown Detroit that often, so being at the heart of the city was great. There’s always plenty of coffee and tea. I did yoga for the first time. I was exposed to so many awesome restaurants. The Instructors were passionate and great people. To this day, I still see them around and we always take some time to say “hi.” The experience gets a solid 10/10 rating from me.
Did you have any misconceptions about the tech industry before joining the bootcamp?
It seemed VERY intimidating at first. Before I started down with the self-teaching path, it seemed like a career only reserved for the most tech-savvy folks. Now that I’ve been doing this for a few years, I can say that it does take effort, but modern languages are designed to be understood. There’s usually some type of documentation that can be referenced to if something doesn’t seem to work.
How has your life changed since GC?
Pretty dramatically. Pre-GC, I lived in the small town of Monroe, MI. I was delivering pizzas, and had recently finished up my four-year associates degree (these things take time). I had a roommate in a triplex. I didn’t venture outside of Monroe often, so my entertainment and food choices were limited.
Fast-forward to life post-GC, I’ve got a top-floor apartment right across from Eastern Market. I’ve gone to so many cool shows and events that I wouldn’t have known about since they’re in Detroit. Saint Andrews Hall has cheap tickets, and now that I live here, I don’t have to account for travel costs or parking. I’ve got real insurance and actually go to the dentist and eye doctors almost as much as I should. I’ve had the luxury of being able to travel internationally to places like Costa Rica and Iceland. I go out for lunch and dinners more often, which could be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. My quality of life has definitely improved.
What type of projects are you working on now? What’s your official job title?
I’m officially the Team Lead of Software Quality Assurance at Rocket Loans, which is part of the Rocket Mortgage Family of Companies. Our goal as an automation-focused company is to provide a service (in this case personal loans) that is easy to use and quickly accomplishes a goal. You can complete a Rocket Loan in less than 10 minutes one morning and have the money in your account the same day.
I work on the internal platform for our operational team members that review loan applications that couldn’t be automated. We also have the public-facing site for clients to actually take out a personal loan that I’m a part of. Most of my involvement with these projects is building out automated tests so that we are able to more quickly and confidently deploy enhancements to both of these projects.
You graduated about four years ago. How have your responsibilities changed since starting in the tech industry?
Moving from Engineer to Team Leader was the most dramatic shift in responsibilities. As an Engineer I was more focused on “doing the thing.” We had features that needed to be deployed, so I was responsible for testing, deploying, and monitoring these features.
Now I’m able to contribute more to architectural decisions. I participate in interviews. I’m scheduling 1:1 time with my team members. I’m going to leadership meetings. I still stay very involved in the engineering side of things, but I now also have the leadership responsibilities.
There has been a lot of change throughout the company. I’ve been there for more than three years and have a lot of tribal knowledge about how things are done. Being a Team Leader gives me more access to insights throughout the business and pushes me to document everything that’s in my brain so we can share that with the growing team.
What new skills have you learned since graduating from the bootcamp?
Many roles in the tech industry recently transitioned to working remotely as we work to flatten-the-curve for COVID-19. How has this move to remote work impacted your team?
We’ve always had flexibility in working from home at Rocket Loans. There has never been an explicit policy around it, but our company has been very open with it. It’s a big company, more than 100 people, and we’re firm believers in empowerment. We’re all responsible adults and can do our work anywhere.
Being completely remote has definitely increased our need for meetings. When you’re in the office, it’s really easy to get that quick communication. Communication happening at the same time allows you to get clarification quickly and ensure you’re all walking away with the right information. Emails aren’t always the most effective. Instant messaging is great, but requires you to wait for responses. Out of necessity, we’ve definitely had more meetings and they’ve been beneficial.
One thing that I do like about these meetings is you get a little sneak peak into people’s home life. Sometimes I’ll bring my baby niece into the video call. It feels like the personal connections have changed and gotten better in some ways. While in person, we always have stand ups three days a week so we’ve continued that. Now they include reminders about taking breaks, moving around, going outside and personal wellness. Our team has done some virtual happy hours, too.
There are day-to-day things that have been affected, but it’s extremely nice to know that I have job security. As the country goes through its highest unemployment rate, I know I’m fortunate to have a career that can be done virtually.
Were there aspects of the coding bootcamp that helped prepare you for remote life?
Our final project was a great way to learn how to best communicate with others when you’re not in the same space. The work required more than the in-person hours. We’d go home to do work simultaneously.
Learning GitHub is huge, too. Every developer needs to understand version control whether you’re in person or remote. Having a process in place for version control is so important when you’re remote so you don’t need to keep checking in with everyone.
What advice would you give to someone considering a coding bootcamp?
Do research on job placement, you’ll find it’s really great.
Do research on salary prospects, those are also great.
Do your research on the actual bootcamp. Look at the data that the bootcamp has already gathered and evaluate how they can help your career.
Make sure you have the time and monetary stuff figured out so you don’t have that stress.
I also had a lot of success with trying to teach myself first. Even if it’s a language different from the bootcamp you’re taking, many of the fundamentals transfer over and it’s important to be able to learn.
What advice would you give a recent graduate starting the career search?
Meetups are a great place to network and meet people that are currently in the industry (and many are hosting virtual options!).
Stay sharp on your skills and make a couple of cool projects to show off. Having a real project to show off is an easy way to quickly show your capabilities.
The job search is a job itself. Spend at least 40 hours a week after graduation applying for jobs, dusting off your resume, and upskilling.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Grand Circus has been the best investment I made in my life. It was an investment in myself that led to great career opportunities, which will allow me to travel and do things I wouldn’t have been able to before.
Thank you so much Tyler for taking the time to chat with us. It’s always great to catch up and hear what you’ve been working on! We’ve loved being a part of your journey and are so proud of everything you’ve accomplished.