Detroit coding bootcamps jump-start tech careers

Becoming a computer programmer takes hard work and, usually, a lot of time. But a program in downtown Detroit is looking to speed things up and flip the process on its head.

Stay at home mom. Career advisor for Wayne State. Class A commercial driver. That's how things started for some at Grand Circus before their program began -- and then they left a computer coder. 

"At Grand Circus we run coding bootcamps, which are 12 weeks long. They're full-time immersive programs and, what they do is, they take people interested in the career of technology all the way through to getting a job," says Grand Circus CEO and cofounder Damien Rocchi.

Getting its name from the park it overlooks, the program boasts a 98 percent graduation rate over its 5-year history, with countless lives changed.

"There's really only so far you can go as a truck driver. I wanted to grow. Computers, really, were something I had been around my entire life and it finally dawned on me, I can do this for a living," says graduate Alexis Marien.

Stories like hers fill the building at Grand Circus.

"I was a newly single mom, so I needed to work and I wanted to get into the tech scene but I didn't know where to start," shares graduate Shathar Campbell.

So she started the program. Twelve weeks later she was working as a developer for a tech startup in Detroit.

Even those that are already in a career but want to make a change have turned to the program.

"I realized I didn't want to keep doing that job. I just sort of turned the career advisor hat on myself and asked myself all the same questions that I asked the students, and that led me down this path," says graduate Landall Proctor. He's now a web developer at DTE Energy. 

Grand Circus recently hit a pretty big milestone, too, with training its thousandth student. 

"That's something that when I started Grand Circus, I didn't think we'd ever get to, but that's been pretty exciting for us," Rocchi says.

And through the challenges, by the end, those that travel with you become like family.

"What's great about Grand Circus is that it's a little community and they help you and they nurture. They help you with networking; they help you with your insecurities. I had, like, two or three nervous breakdowns here," laughs Campbell, "but they helped me through it."

The program isn't cheap. Tuition is a little less than $10,000 for the 12-week course. They do offer scholarships and help along the way.  

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