Update: Melanie is now an Associate Software Developer at Credit Acceptance.
When Melanie Myers decided to switch careers she made sure that everything added up before taking the plunge. That’s because she was an accountant!
Her attention to detail throughout the Java bootcamp labs made it clear that she has a knack for attention to detail. She always worked hard to figure things out on her own first, but also had the courage to ask for help when necessary. As with any intensive learning environment, Melanie also had a few setbacks along the way but she persevered and now has a fulfilling career as a developer.
Meet Melanie, Accountant Turned Java Developer
How did you get interested in tech?
Even though it wasn’t my career, I have pretty much always been interested in tech news and been a “geek” about different tech products. I read several articles about the high demand for developers in tech and thought it would be something worth trying. Once I dove in, I loved the logic involved with coding as well as the opportunity to always learn something new. It felt more like a game to me than work.
What advice do you have for other women looking to get into the tech industry?
Do some research on some of the great early computer scientists that were women – Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and Jean Bartik just to name a few. It’s really inspiring!
Also, as a woman, make sure to keep connections with other women in tech – either through meetups, Slack, LinkedIn or however you like to keep in touch. Sometimes it can be a little lonely being the only woman or one of the only women in your department so it’s nice to be able to reach out to these connections.
How is the tech environment different from the business environment?
There are a lot of overlaps between the tech and business environments, but two phrases that you are much more likely to hear in tech than business: “I don’t know” and “break stuff.” The tech environment generally encourages a continuous learning environment, and just jumping in and making changes to see if they work is also encouraged. In business, there’s more of an emphasis on documented procedures, business metrics and reports, and discussing changes before they are implemented.
There’s advantages to both ways, but I think the tech environment certainly leads to greater innovation and is more aligned to how workplaces will be going forward.
What were some of your fears transitioning from accounting to tech?
Because my degree and professional experience was almost entirely in accounting, I knew that in many ways it defined my personal brand. The stereotype of an accountant is someone who is very straightlaced and doesn’t really like to think “outside the box.” Since often the best coders are the ones who do think “outside the box,” I worried that tech companies wouldn’t consider me a good fit.
I turned this around in my interviews by explaining that this was the exact reason why I was switching from accounting to coding. I didn’t like being kept “inside the box,” and I love to be creative.
Where are you originally from?
I’ve always lived in Michigan, but up until a few years ago I lived on the west side of the state in Kalamazoo. I moved to Metro Detroit around three years ago to attend University of Michigan-Dearborn for my Master’s Degree. I love Detroit and all the awesome things to do here.
What did you do before the bootcamp, and why did you decide to take the bootcamp?
Before the bootcamp, I worked as Director of Accounts Receivable for a distribution company in Detroit. I supervised a team of several other accountants and managed the invoicing and credit card processing for the company. It was a stable gig, but it didn’t make me feel excited to go to work on Mondays.
I started doing coding courses online, at Codecademy and Treehouse. I attended an Intro to Coding workshop put on by Grand Circus. Grand Circus staffers were there, and I loved how encouraging and welcoming they were. I signed up for a couple mini-courses at GC then decided to make the jump and apply to a daytime bootcamp. I knew that coding was something I loved, and I was willing to give up my current career for the chance of having one I loved more.
What are you doing now?
I work as a software developer for 365 Retail Markets in Troy. I help develop apps for self-service vending services, which are primarily used in company break rooms across the country. We are also expanding internationally, which is really exciting. Grand Circus students probably know us by one of our other vending product names – Verii.
It is an awesome development environment where I get to learn the latest languages and libraries, and there are lots of fun perks – including a monthly snack budget!
What was your a-ha moment during the bootcamp?
I had pretty major Imposter Syndrome when I started the bootcamp. I remember coming to the first day of bootcamp thinking that everyone in the room probably had better solutions to the bootcamp pre-work than I did. Then we took an assessment and I was sure I did the worst in the class. Well, it turned out to be sort of the opposite – I did really well. So, my “a-ha” moment was realizing that “hey, I DO belong here!”
How would you describe your overall experience with Grand Circus?
My overall experience with Grand Circus was very positive – they were integral in giving me the opportunity to become a developer. A bootcamp can’t teach you everything in eight weeks, but it can provide a solid foundation that you can build off of as you progress into a programming career. A coding bootcamp also provides important learning structure and access to experts that you wouldn’t have if you were learning by yourself or online. Grand Circus also provides important help with soft skills, like interviewing, networking, and working in teams. I liked how many GC practices like “stand ups” and “retros” carry over into my development career now as well.
All the GC staff members were always super friendly and supportive, and they created a very encouraging environment. They have even followed up with me several times after the bootcamp to check in and see how things were going.
Describe your job hunt process?
After the bootcamp, I took a break before jumping into the job search. When I did begin the job search process, I was really fortunate to have generally positive responses to the applications I submitted.
Within three weeks of starting my job search, I had two employment offers. They were from two very different companies – one was a large finance company and the other a medium-sized tech company. I liked the flexibility and emphasis on cutting-edge coding languages at the tech company, so I accepted their offer and
have been very happy working here at 365.
What was your best Detroit discovery (business, lunch spot, hidden gem) during your bootcamp?
If the weather was nice, I loved sitting by the fountain in Grand Circus Park at lunch. It’s very picturesque and a great place to relax or read a book. In the intense environment of a bootcamp, it’s really important to give your mind a break and “check out” for a few minutes during the day.
What piece of advice would you give to someone about to embark on a bootcamp?
Believe in yourself! There are a million reasons why something might not work out and you will never run out of excuses if you are looking for them. But at some point you just have to jump in and go after what you want.
Melanie Myers is one of the many Grand Circus students who come from all different backgrounds and now have fulfilling careers in tech. If you like Melanie’s story, come out to Grand Circus for an Intro to Coding workshop or during one of our demo days where students show off their class project to potential employers, friends and family. Here at Grand Circus we love our alumni because “WHEN YOU’RE HERE, YOU’RE FAMILY.”