Meet Leslie, from Cafe Cashier to Front-End Developer


Leslie Borst joined Grand Circus after years of working in the food service industry. Encouraged by guidance from mentors at GC and beyond, along with the support of the DEVELOP(her) scholarship, Leslie completed the Front-End After-Hours bootcamp in December of 2018. Now in her role as a Software Developer at Grid LLC, she pursues her passions for fixing bugs and writing coding. Leslie took the time to share more about her experience, read more about her story below.

Meet Leslie, from Cafe Cashier to Front-End Developer

What were you doing before the Grand Circus bootcamp?

Before Grand Circus I worked in mostly the food service industry for 16 years, moved around the country a little bit and when I landed back home in Michigan it was time for a more stable career. I started college, and a year and a half after that I attended the Front-End After-Hours bootcamp at Grand Circus while still studying at college and working two part-time jobs.

How are things for you after the bootcamp? 

It has been just over a year and things are going very well for me. My first position fresh out of bootcamp was a perfect fit for a new developer like me. I have learned so much and grown in so many ways. I found my current position at Grid through the Grand Circus Employer Network about a month after bootcamp finished and am proud to say I have been here for over year and still learning all I can.

What brought you to Grand Circus?

I first heard about Grand Circus from my Linux professor at Macomb Community College. He showed us the website and how we can attend a program like that and be working before we get degrees. Later that same summer, my mentor sent me the link to the DEVELOP(her) scholarship offered through Grand Circus and I decided to give it a shot. It was the best decision I ever could have made. The scholarship allowed me to attend Grand Circus, if it wasn’t for that I would have missed out on all the wonderful opportunities and experiences I now have.

What attracted you to tech, specifically being a developer?

I was first introduced to the HTML language in high school when I took an independent class on website development. Later, I became a regular user of the artist social media site DeviantArt. On DA, you can have a premium membership that allows you to alter your profile page using HTML. This was my second encounter with code. I spent more time looking through the code and editing through trial and error than I did promoting my art. Finally, while attending the Art Institute, I took another web development class designed to help the art students build their own portfolio websites. So, it was always an on again off again hobby for almost 15 years before I ever thought I could make a career out of it.

It wasn’t until 2 years ago when I met my mentor and friend Chris DeMars, that he gave me the extra push I apparently needed to make my hobby into a great career. I have never looked back, worked very hard and through it all discovered that I love to write code, create, problem solve and inspire other people to join a career in technology. As a front-end web developer I can combine my artistic skills with my coding skills and make the web a better place one web app at a time.

What was your bootcamp experience like?

My experience at Grand Circus was better than I ever could have expected. The staff was super friendly and always reaching out to help in any way possible. My fellow students were just as scared and passionate about development as me, and it was a totally different environment than in college. It was tech focused, and the people who were there were just like me. It was like I had another family for six months and I learned so much as a developer. There were times it was frustrating because I couldn’t solve a problem or something just didn’t work right in the code, but we all would go through the same struggles at some point in the bootcamp and supported each other. I’m excited to see where everyone’s new skills take them in the future.

What advice would you give new bootcamp students?

Make friends with your fellow students, Google is your best friend and no matter what –– every problem has a solution.

How do you feel you combatted Imposter Syndrome? Did you have doubts before/during bootcamp?

Now that I work in the tech industry I feel imposter syndrome is even more prominent. Getting to know my fellow co-workers and knowing they went through similar experiences helps. Also, when I solve issues or bugs with a work project I feel like I belong in the tech industry– it’s the best feeling in the world.

How has your transition been into your career? How did GC help you?

GC’s employer network is simply amazing. The soft skills and resources they offered were a huge help in finding my first step into the tech industry. Now I have a great entry-level position, and I really love my new career. It doesn’t really feel like work.

Did you have challenges in bootcamp you weren’t anticipating?  

I can’t recall feeling like “oh that was unexpected,” but I’m sure some people have no idea what to expect when they first get to Grand Circus. I knew it would be hard work, faced paced and challenging. The key is to make friendships with your fellow students and your instructor and staff working to help you. When something you weren’t anticipating pops up, you have people around you to lessen the blow.

What resources are the most helpful / were the most helpful in your coding journey?

A great resource I find myself going to time and time again is the amazing developer community on Twitter. Developers from all parts of the industry are very involved on Twitter in the community, and they are some of the coolest people I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with. The internet is full of great information on almost every language, framework and technique that is out there. If it exists in the tech industry, there is documentation on it. Google will always be a developers best friend, but I also had great people around me at Grand Circus, in college and, of course, my mentor, Chris. I would say at Grand Circus the best resources are the staff, the instructors and the employer network. They give you all the tools to be successful, you just have to use them.

What skills from your previous job in hospitality do you draw on today?

The skills I have learned from the food industry are definitely not going to waste. My company is a small software shop and as such we all have close interactions with our clientele. Most of my hospitality experience also required customer service, and I feel this translates well when working with clients. Many other career fields love to hire people from the food industry because of the skills acquired. In hospitality you need a sense of urgency, which in tech can translate to meeting deadlines or bug fixes that need to be implemented right away. Another good one is hospitality tends to teach people how to deal with high-stress situations. When it’s dinner time in a restaurant it can be very hectic and stressful, and when you do it enough it just seems normal. Dealing with deadlines or times when your code just isn’t cooperating can also be stressful and can sometimes require different approaches. The difference is in tech you have a bit more time to rethink how you will tackle a problem.

Any advice you have for someone transitioning out of the hospitality industry? 

Moving from a cook/cashier into tech was pretty scary and seemed as though they were extremely different careers, it helps to know that your previous skillset can be a great advantage to you. I know that Imposter Syndrome is so, so real and can be difficult to overcome. When I first started working as a Developer I was like “I’m just a cook, I dunno if I belong here,” but then you talk to and get to know your co-workers, and find out they all felt that way at some point in their career too. It can be very comforting to know you are not the only person who feels that way.

It also took me a long time to get used to sitting at a desk all day instead of 12 hours on my feet. I still get up every couple of hours to walk around because I feel weird sitting all day. I am to a point now where I really love what I do and I feel like this is what I am supposed to be doing. Imposter Syndrome still creeps up on me some days, but it’s totally normal for everyone no matter what industry you work in.

Is there anything you wish you could go back and tell yourself to do either before or during bootcamp?

No regrets! It was the best learning experience of my very young career and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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