We love watching the personal and professional growth that happens as grads jumpstart careers in tech. Students dedicate themselves to coding bootcamps, learning a new skill and preparing themselves for professional success. Often, this journey is started with Imposter Syndrome, little or no coding experience and a ton to learn. We love catching up with some of our alumni to see what they’ve been up to and how life has changed since their time at Grand Circus.
Reflecting on Four Years in Tech, Meet Alexis Marien, a Software Engineer at GE Aviation
When Alexis interviewed for a coding bootcamp, she talked to the Grand Circus admissions team on the phone from her commercial truck. One of our more interesting bootcamp interviews and one that helped establish Alexis as a lifelong Grand Circus family member. We could immediately see her dedication and problem-solving personality. Technology was always an integral part of her life, and she was looking for an accessible, affordable way to advance her professional opportunities.
During her time at Grand Circus, Alexis was always outgoing and excited to make new connections. That enthusiasm has only grown throughout her time in the industry. She has supported future students through our Intro to Coding workshops, is an advocate for equity and inclusion in tech, and is always willing to answer questions about her experiences in the industry.
What did you do before the bootcamp, and why did you decide to take the bootcamp?
When I was in college it was the peak of the recession and the funding I had to finish college had dried up. I either needed to take a break from education or take out a loan.
I started as a commercial truck driver. I did that for three years and knew I wanted to be done driving by the time I was 30. I saw a lot of opportunities in tech and quit driving commercially when I was 28.
Grand Circus really helped me understand the financial side of things, so I took out a loan.
The bootcamp was really accessible and tech has always been interesting to me. I like automating things. I like things that are efficient. I like eliminating waste in my day-to-day life; there are so many spaces for that in coding. My dad was a software engineer. He built me my first machine when I was seven. I didn’t know what it was like to not have the Internet in a time when everyone was just starting on AOL; I really had an advantage there.
How would you describe your overall experience with Grand Circus?
It was super intense. A lot of people ask me this as they consider a bootcamp. It’s important to be honest about what this experience is and that you need to drop everything if you’re going to do this well.
You’re going to learn a lot about what the tech environment is really like. You’re going to learn programming that will help you establish a career and keep you growing. The soft skills were the most valuable part.
It’s also going to prove to yourself that you can do this. The reputation for coding bootcamps and Grand Circus continue to grow, and now there’s a huge shortage of STEM and CS graduates; this is such a viable source for entry-level employees. Grand Circus can help you build your reputation as a solid, entry-level developer. Even if you’re doing this part-time, you have to be ready to fully commit to this. It is an intense experience.
I cried twice, but it was worth it. Trial by fire. You have to be self-motivated in the bootcamp and after you graduate. Grand Circus will support you, and it’s up to you to put in the hard work. It’s about creating your own opportunities and seeking them out.
Did you have any misconceptions about the tech industry before joining the bootcamp?
Funny enough, no. I think my dad was the stereotype of the basement tech nerd. His company was in France so he had three computers set up in the basement, and he would be down there all day. I always had the impression that it was very male-dominated and not a soft industry. I think that’s changing. I’ve tried to make myself a big part of that change in my workplace.
Businesses are starting to recognize the importance of equity. You can hire a million women, but if they’re leaving in three months – it doesn’t matter. We have a lot of work to do in this area, and I’m a big advocate for open discussions about equity and inclusion in tech.
How has your life changed since attending your Grand Circus bootcamp?
I don’t recognize my life from four years ago. When I think about it, I feel like I’m watching someone else. I’m healthier — mentally and physically. Financially, it’s like night and day.
Every part of my lifestyle has completely changed for the better, especially my confidence. I’m not afraid to try new things and to fail. I can draw on previous times that were very difficult, and I’m here despite that. I’ve taken a lot of risks and falls; I’m still better than I’ve ever been. A lot of people are strong and they don’t know it yet. Grand Circus really built a path that allowed me to make my own future.
I’m in a place that I can take care of myself and others better than I could have before. I get to be around other people who are in the same position. I can be a part of that solution for others now. I am completely independent and in charge of where I’m headed. I even have a pet cat now, which was a big step for me because I never knew where I was going to end up next, I didn’t want to put an innocent animal through that much transition if I could help it.
What type of projects are you working on now?
I am a Software Engineer at General Electric Aviation. I recently transferred to their headquarters in Cincinnati, which is a big move!
There’s more going on in the headquarters, so I work more on their design system to keep their UI consistent across applications. This work covers the user experience, and I work on a framework that they’re implementing to their application.
My father taught me there are two things you need to remember in this industry: never take anything personally and always be flexible. I analyze if I’m happy with what I’m working on and if I’m not, I always have a conversation with my manager or HR. A good company will empower you to grow.
How did this move to GE Aviation Headquarters come about?
I do a lot of volunteer work and event coordination at my company and I’ve been able to get to know a lot of people on different teams. Everybody is busy and they’re focused on their projects. Volunteering helps establish those meaningful connections across teams.
In my very corporate, conglomerate environment, as soon as I say I’m bored, they get energized about other opportunities for me throughout the company. I’ve always wanted to live and work in a metropolitan city, and being in Cincinnati will allow me to do that. They had an open position on a growing UI project. It was a little bit of luck, but luck doesn’t work if you aren’t looking for opportunities.
What are you most excited about with this move?
There are a ton of opportunities in our headquarters. It’s a younger team, more my age and speed. I’m working right downtown, I can go out and have lunch and drinks very conveniently with my coworkers. Coding is such a combination of logic, UI artistry and collaboration; I’m excited to create new relationships with my coworkers so we can make a positive impact together.
How has your work style changed during your time in tech?
I don’t wait around for work to be given to me. It’s important to challenge yourself and be excited about what you’re working on. As you grow, you start to better identify your strengths and what resources to look at when you need guidance. I feel much more comfortable with giving advice on how things should be built and work. I can work more independently and have ownership of my projects because my team recognizes I can do this and I know when to ask for help. I can work faster this way; I know I don’t have to check in with the team.
What new skills have you learned since graduating from the bootcamp?
How do you stay updated on technology?
I really like Front-End Masters. They have different learning pathways. I’m going through the Vue one right now to get myself ready for this next project. They have classes on everything from entry-level to advanced topics.
Reddit has some great conversations about what’s happening in tech, new programming advancements, and projects that you can learn from. Subreddits are very helpful, too. Don’t be afraid to talk about work with your other tech buds and strangers.
If you could go back and give a younger version of yourself a piece of advice, what would you say?
Believe in yourself! I believe in myself now.
What advice would you give to someone considering a coding bootcamp?
Do free online coding lessons. Get to know your future classmates as soon as you can. You’re going to be depending on each other a lot and spend a ton of time together. Establish those relationships early and continue them after graduation.
During bootcamp, don’t sacrifice sleep or your self-care. Once your sleep schedule is off, everything else dominos from there.
What advice would you give a recent graduate starting the career search?
Get a lot of practice marketing yourself. Practice your elevator pitch. Practice bragging about yourself. There’s no shame in this.
At GE, we do something called Bragging Rights — a safe space for people to tell others about themselves: where they came from, struggles they’ve overcome, and what they’re doing now. It’s a time to give ourselves credit. It’s an invitation-only, in-person gathering with no computers or phones. Attendees can take notes on pen and paper, and they can clap when they hear something good. We pay attention to body language and listen to each others stories. It strengthens relationships, our understanding of each other, and our ability to talk positively about ourselves.
Anything else you’d like to share?
You’re going to be far more fulfilled if you see something like programming as more than a job. When you do more with your workplace outside of your job requirements, that investment will help this be more fulfilling and less stress.
A huge shout out to Alexis for chatting with us as she was preparing for her big move to Cincinnati. We are so proud of everything you’ve accomplished and wish you the best at GE Headquarters in Cincinnati.