From Tugboat Deckhand to Java Developer, Meet Colton

Update: Colton is now a Software Engineer at Intrepid Control Systems

Our students have always come from a diverse set of backgrounds, but this was a first! Colton was a student in our October 2016 Java Bootcamp cohort who changed his career from deckhand in Charlevoix to developer.

Even though Colton graduated back in December 2016, he continues to stay involved with the Grand Circus community and is a great resource for current students or those thinking about joining a coding bootcamp. Continue reading for insights on his bootcamp experience, how Grand Circus can help you make a career change too, and why Colton landed a job before graduation!

Meet Colton, a Former Deckhand Turned Java Developer

What did you do before the Java bootcamp? Why did you decide to enroll in a Grand Circus coding bootcamp?

Before the bootcamp I was working at various manual labor or customer service jobs. Most recently I was working on a tugboat as a deckhand on the Great Lakes. I had always wanted to solve problems and help people, but I didn’t think it was possible for a single person to have a large amount of impact. I wound up living in Silicon Valley for six months and realized that I met people every day who created lots of impact, because they had the tools to do so. That tool was coding, and I knew after that I had to get involved in the industry. After saving up some money, I looked up and applied to several bootcamps, and the rest is history.

Where are you working now? What was the application and interview process like?

Since the bootcamp I’ve been working as a Java developer for Moosejaw. It’s a Michigan-based outdoor retailer with headquarters in Madison Heights. I was introduced to the company when they came to speak at Grand Circus and applied that day. There was an initial phone screening, and then a day where I did a high-level interview with the CTO and then a technical interview with the developers. After I received an offer, there was about a week of straightening out details and negotiating before I signed on.

What are your career goals?

My immediate goals are to move up to a more senior developer position, or if the right opportunities arise, into a technical project management position. I’m constantly working on my skills outside of my job in areas where I am weak so I can progress faster. As far as long-term goals, the sky’s the limit.

What was the most challenging aspect of bootcamp?

I think the final project was the hardest part of bootcamp for me. Not only do you have to zone in on your coding and actually build a working system from the ground up, but there’s also all of the design and creativity that goes into the final project. And on top of that, the group has to devise its own system of project management/organization. It’s a lot on your plate all at once, but you come out the other end a stronger developer.

What was your a-ha moment during the bootcamp?Coding Bootcamp Student Presenting

I think the closest thing to an “a-ha” moment I had was just realizing that coding is all about accepting that you don’t know how to do something, and being comfortable with that. Every day, every new task, there will be parts of coding where you will have absolutely no idea how to proceed. This can cause panic until you internalize it’s all part of the gig. Coding at its base is problem solving. You do what you can. You research, you ask questions to people who might know more than you, and eventually you figure it out, and you start clueless again on something else. It’s a daunting process of learning and self-discovery, but I find it incredibly rewarding.

During the bootcamp, what was your support system?

Mostly I relied on colleagues and the community at Grand Circus to get me through. I recognized early on that I’m trying to accomplish a huge life and career change in 10 weeks, so I had to take it very seriously. All I did was code during that time, and if all you’re doing is coding, Grand Circus is a great place to do it.

How would you describe your overall experience at Grand Circus? What’s a highlight for you?

Overall I have to sing praises for Grand Circus as it worked out for me. I met good people and instructors, I learned a great deal in a short amount of time, and the highlight, of course, was getting that first job offer.

What was your best Detroit discovery during bootcamp?

A friend from GC invited me to a place called Motor City Wine in Corktown, where they have jazz and wine. We ended up turning Thursday nights there into a tradition. It’s a great place to relax and unwind after you’ve been coding all week.

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

Work really hard! You have 10 weeks to change your life around completely. It’s not like college where you get an A in the class and everything is all good. Go learn as much as you possibly can in the short time you have! Attend every GC workshop or local meet up you have time for. You paid for this resource, it’s great, now get the most out of it!

Anything else you’d like to share?

ColtLeese@gmail.com is my email. I’m always up to answer questions about coding/interviewing or anything else Grand Circus related. Cheers!

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Rina Caldwell

Rina is on the Grand Circus marketing team. She's a writer, hiker, introvert and coffee drinker, too.

1 thought on “From Tugboat Deckhand to Java Developer, Meet Colton”

  1. Allan P. Cuva says:

    Thanks for the continued inspiration Colton and congratulations on your success! I heard about GC on WJR radio about 3wks ago, was lucky enough to meet Kyle there on an unannounced Saturday morning visit last week, and am looking forward to the Learn Coding journey!

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