From Customer Service Specialist to Developer, Meet Tori

Meet Tori, a graduate of our C# .NET BootcampA single mom looking for ways to make life for her family better, Tori was drawn to tech by notoriously flexible schedules and the lack of need for formal computer science training.

Tori graduated from the C# .NET Bootcamp in June of 2017, and has since landed an internship that lead to a full-time position at BrainGu. In this position, she has helped the company accomplish two “firsts:” the hire of a junior-level developer and a woman. Tori has also supported the Grand Circus Grand Rapids campus as the Teaching Assistant for the previous C# .NET bootcamp, and we love that she’s now coworking so close to our classroom. Keep reading for more tidbits on her bootcamp and employment experiences, and how Grand Circus can help you make a career change, too!

From Customer Service Specialist to Developer, Meet Tori:

What was your career before bootcamp? Why did you decide to enroll in a Grand Circus coding bootcamp?

Before bootcamp I worked a few different jobs, mainly customer service. I had tried going to college a few times, but it just wasn’t a good fit for me. I actually remember the moment I decided to enroll for a bootcamp: I was driving home from dropping my kids off at school and I realized, “There just isn’t an industry that I can get into without any formal education that will be flexible enough for a single mother… except the tech industry!” I had heard about how progressive companies can be for their employees with schedules and vacation (plus the great salaries were a definite perk) and I decided that was where I needed to go to make a great life for my family.

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

I just started a full-time position as a software developer with a small tech innovation lab called BrainGu. The whole application process was fairly laid back. I was hanging out in the Grand Rapids Slack channel and the co-founder of BrainGu, Matt, posted a job opportunity for a developer and I jumped on it right away. After chatting a bit about what Grand Circus had taught me and showing off my GitHub, he wanted to meet up for a coffee and talk more. I didn’t hear back from Matt for a week after that, but I was determined to make sure I was given a chance to prove myself to this company. I sent Matt an email every few days letting him know I was still interested and left a few voicemails as well. Finally we met for coffee and he offered me a chance to do a small contracted program for them as a sort of try-out for a position. After learning a whole new language (Python) in a week and busting out a Slack API in another week, I was offered an internship. It wasn’t until near the end of my internship did I learn that Matt had been on the fence about taking on a junior developer but my persistence in getting that coffee meeting and my stellar soft skills won him over.

Tori working remotely

Tori is loving her new position with BrainGu!

After my internship had ended, I was not offered a full time job with the company; I was told there just wasn’t a position open yet, but we would keep in touch. I checked in about every two weeks, letting them know what I was up to. After about 3 months, I got a phone call from the co-founder offering me a full-time position with BrainGu. I happily accepted.

What are you career goals?

I would love to stay with BrainGu. They have a great culture and the flexibility I need as a single mother. I love everyone I work with and I really feel like I belong. Plus, and not to poke too much fun at BrainGu, they need my female influence and I love to taking on the challenge of making sure they are inclusive. In the grander scheme, I just want to have a fulfilling career that allows me to take care of my family. My dream is to work in the space industry and help humans explore the stars.

What was the most challenging part of bootcamp?

The hardest part was realizing that I couldn’t just breeze through the course. School was easy for me as a kid and teenager, so the concept that I had to actually buckle down and work hard to learn everything was a new concept. I had just expected to soak up all the knowledge easily but it wasn’t like that at all. I had to really work hard for it, but in the end, it make it all the more satisfying when I completed the bootcamp.

What was your ah-ha moment during bootcamp?

My “ah-ha” moment was probably during midterms. We finally got a chance to put a lot of what we learned together and when I had to explain aspects of code to my teammates, I realized that I actually got it and could help my teammates get it, too.

During bootcamp, what was your support system?

Tori and a group of coding bootcamp classmates

Tori and her classmates were always there to support one another throughout the bootcamp.

Basically everyone was my support system. Knowing that Tommy (GR instructor) and Kelsey (GR Assistant Campus Director & Program Manager) believed in me kept me believing in myself. And my entire class was great at making sure we had a great time together and lifting each other up. I also have a few friends who are programmers that were always there for me when I had questions and they always reassured me that I would get it.

How would you describe your experience at Grand Circus? What was a highlight for you?

It was an amazing experience, for sure. I loved meeting new people, learning new things and growing as a person. It was tough, I’ll admit. There were plenty of times where I didn’t think I could do it, that I would fail. But I learned to really commit to the program and get through it. And I honestly feel like I left the bootcamp a better person. My best highlight was with midterms. Two of my teammates were having a hard time putting everything together and it just wasn’t clicking. I made sure to explain all of our code to them and get everyone on the same page. The following assessment after midterms, those teammates ended up getting almost perfect scores. I was so proud!

What was your best Grand Rapids discovery during bootcamp?

I had worked in the city before, so there wasn’t too much for me to discover. If anything I was able to suggest places to eat and hang out to other classmates. It may not be exciting but I did discover that SoHo Sushi makes A+ sesame chicken!

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

Never be afraid to reach out and ask for help. You’ve already made the big decision to do this bootcamp, now you have to see it through. It’s going to be hard and there are times you might regret signing up for it, but Grand Circus has such a great support network and they all want you to succeed.

Anything else you’d like to share?

The life of a developer is a constant rollercoaster. You’re going to feel on top when your code is working and you’re going to feel like garbage when you can’t figure something out. This is totally normal. I’ve watched even the most senior of developers Google coding problems. You can’t remember it all but as long as you do your best, you will do great.

Thank you Tori for taking the time to chat with us and share your experience. You’re an inspiration and we’re so proud of everything you’ve accomplished.

Are you a single mom looking for a career with endless growth opportunities? Or working in the service industry but want a more sustainable career?

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Amy Hinman

Hey there! I'm the Marketing Assistant and former program manager of the Grand Rapids DEVELOP(her) cohort. With a background in nonprofits, writing and editing, I'm here to tell Grand Circus stories, and invite others in along the way. I can also be found dreaming of bikes with internal gears, making homemade ice cream, or creating something useless out of yarn.

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