What I Learned About Grand Circus in my First Month

photo of the Grand Circus team in Detroit Michigan

Did you know… Did you know, in 2018, 89.1% of daytime bootcamp graduates were employed within 180 days of graduation?

It’s one of many things I’ve learned about Grand Circus since starting a month ago. This tech hub in the heart of Detroit is a busy space with a lot going on. Even if you get our monthly email newsletter and follow us on social, it can be easy to miss some of the fantastic projects happening here. For someone who is just starting with the company, it can be a lot to take in. But the more I get to know about Grand Circus, the prouder I am to be a part of it.

photo of the Grand Circus team in Detroit Michigan
(I’m the one on the bottom right)

What I learned about Grand Circus in my first month:

Progress can happen very quickly.

Detroit Michigan building renovationsWorking at a startup, I anticipated my workload and responsibilities would move and change quickly. What I didn’t anticipate is how quickly everyone and everything around us also moves.

Week one of being here, there were quite a few buildings on Woodward Ave. that lacked windows. By week two, new windows were being installed. It may seem small, but new windows are a sure sign of progress and evidence of how quickly Detroit is revitalizing.

So much has already happened since I started: apprentices from our first cohort have interviewed and many have started daytime positions, two coding bootcamps have begun, we’ve hosted evening classes in coding and marketing, a new café opened in the M@dison building (check out Ashe Supply Co.), our team has grown (and is hiring!), plus tons more.

Technology moves quickly, startups move quickly and Detroit is moving quickly. This fast-paced progress is why it’s important for our staff, students and coding curriculum to move quickly, too. Eight weeks of in-class work covers a lot. It’s an amazing two months that will prepare students for the next chapter of their professional lives. No sleep for the wicked, right?

Diversity in technology more important than ever.

The American population is a mix of diverse backgrounds, cultures and amazing people. The folks who run, operate and build the tech industry must reflect that. Right now, diversity in tech is vastly lacking.

Within the next 30 years, whites will account for less than 50 percent of the American population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. If we don’t embrace this shift and ensure minorities are trained in tech, the nation will be faced with a serious skills gap.

Additionally, various studies found that “diversity leads to economic growth.” Ensuring that minorities and women have the right resources and safeguarding them from unequal pay are important for a healthy economy.

Diversity is also important from a product development standpoint. The “lack of diversity stifles innovation,” according to Fast Company and similar publications.

Embracing and empowering diversity is a process, and it’s one we’re consistently working toward here at Grand Circus. It’s something we’re conscious of from both staff and student perspectives.

Staffers come from diverse backgrounds: 53% of the staff are women, 38% are people of color and 45% of the crew were born outside of Michigan. On the student side, we offer our Diversity Fund to aid women and minorities in getting the financial assistance they need to enroll in bootcamps. And, we’ve partnered with Code2040 for their 2016 Residency, a program designed to empower Black and Latina/o entrepreneurs.

The nation has a long way to go in cultivating diversity in tech, but we’re excited to a part of the process.

Advancing the tech industry needs to a collaborative effort.

There are thousands of companies with a wide range of tech needs. The skills needed for those positions change rapidly, and it’s important for employers and educators to come together for a common goal: educate and employ tech enthusiasts.

Employment gaps are growing in the tech industry, and the supply of trained professionals can’t seem to keep up. As higher education continues to fall behind, specialty institutions, like coding bootcamps, become feasible college alternatives.

Being in Detroit allows us to partner with local companies that have a need for entry-level developers. Local businesses, such as Rocket Mortgage, Blue Cross Blue Shield and GM, have become a vital piece of our process. Hiring teams can then meet students, discuss the organization’s specific needs, assess our curriculum and hire students upon graduation.

Our partners give us a clear understanding of what our bootcamps need to cover, and they help us develop soft skill lessons to prepare students for employment. As Detroit’s need for trained tech professionals increases, we keep the conversation open about what adjustments we need to make to ensure all bootcamp graduates are employable. We must work together to ensure the supply and demand of tech professionals align.

Additionally, we’re always chatting with fellow coding bootcamp institutes, coworking spaces and tech organizations to ensure our environment and curriculum match the national needs of tech companies. For example, we had the privilege of meeting with #YesWeCode, an organization dedicated to getting 100,000 low-opportunity youth trained in tech, this month to share ideas.

The collaborative even reaches international levels. A tech education company from Bermuda visited our space to learn more about what we do and how we can work together.

Grand Circus is always evolving.Grand Circus team

I was excited to start with Grand Circus because I saw the opportunity as more than just a job. It’s an opportunity to truly impact individual lives, the city of Detroit and the tech industry as a whole. Upon starting, it was immediately apparent that the rest of the Grand Circus crew is here for the same reasons.

To start 2016, our crew gathered for our first-ever company summit. It was a jam-packed day of collaboration, planning, scrumptious food, great tunes and team building.

We discussed our team aspirations and outlined steps we need to take to fulfill those goals. At the core of this, our goals touch on two major trends: find additional ways to support our students and ensure anyone interested has the opportunity to enroll in a coding bootcamp.

Feedback is a gift—it’s a phrase we live by. We are constantly evaluating what we do, identifying gaps and seeking ways to improve. This comes in many forms: finding new ways to support students, locating additional avenues to support diversity in tech, taking our Intro to Coding workshops to the suburbs, aligning with new financing partners or adding new courses to our public curriculum.

In short, there’s never a boring day here at Grand Circus. We thrive in a constant state of change.

Downtown Detroit is beautiful, even when it’s cold.

I have to admit, I was a bit anxious about starting a new job in the middle of winter. Knowing that downtown Detroit is a very walkable city was great. Knowing that I’d have to do the walking in bitter temperatures was less than appealing. In my first week, I used my phone to calculate how long it’d take to walk to lunch locations.

By the second week, however, I almost forgot that it was 15 degrees outside. I got so mesmerized by the beautiful buildings and their renovations, the sprawling artwork, and all the friendly people I encountered that the cold became less bothersome. Plus, the views from Grand Circus are especially beautiful when it’s snowing.

We highly recommend our bootcamps.Students at Grand Circus coding bootcamps

Really, we do. It’s not just a sales pitch: 100% of Grand Circus staffers have recommended our coding bootcamps to friends or family. We truly believe in the coursework we’ve created, the opportunities bootcamps open and the value bootcamps can bring to people’s lives. We’ve watched it firsthand.

Time and time again, prospective students explore the possibility of joining a bootcamp with a bit of hesitation. It can be scary to take the leap… and to make the financial investment… but the Grand Circus crew has done a fantastic job at bridging the gap between education and employment opportunities.

After the hard work is done and students graduate, they watch the door open to new career options they never thought possible. Saying it simply: coding bootcamps change lives.

I’m strolling into month two here at Grand Circus, and I’m excited to see where the rest of 2016 takes this organization. We’ve got a ton of great stuff coming up, and we’re thrilled to have you as a part of it all!