The technology field, by nature, is always cutting edge. Having a tech job means working at the vanguard of society where you’re experimenting, striving for new solutions, and building toward the future. To many budding coders, this is a thrilling prospect. But the fast pace of this forward-thinking industry can sometimes sacrifice genuine real-life connections.
Grand Circus attempts to address this by fostering a tight-knit community among aspiring developers.
Grand Circus is a coding bootcamp headquartered in Detroit, a city with no shortage of historical and cultural diversity and also a recent addition to the list of emerging tech hubs in America. Inspired by the city it calls home, Grand Circus merges the city’s past and future to inform the way the bootcamp is run.
These ideals lead the school to pave the way for a future where not only strong ties between industry players are formed, but also where diversity within the scene is prevalent. And the first step toward achieving that goal is by making diversity and inclusion initiatives a top priority for its bootcamps.
Grand Circus offers three to six months programs that can help you gain relevant digital skills to launch a job in tech.Apply to Grand Circus today.
Grand Circus: Integration Is Power
“Diversity is just membership. Integration is influence, power, and partnership.” This quote from The Atlantic’s article on diversity in tech has become a grounding and centering principle for Grand Circus.
The numbers agree. According to the 2019 US Census Bureau report, a majority of the Detroit population is Black or African American, followed by White, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, and American Indian or Alaska Native.
“It has always been a core value of Grand Circus that the diversity of our students reflects the diversity of the community where we live,” David, who is also an instructor, said.
As Michigan’s melting pot, he added, Detroit is a great location for aspiring coders to challenge the status quo in tech. It allows for a pool of students from different backgrounds to learn in-demand tech skills and use that knowledge to penetrate the workforce. And Grand Circus is more than happy to facilitate the journey.
“Careers in tech are awesome,” Wolverton said.
“They allow personal freedom, a rewarding career, and an opportunity to give back to one’s community. That’s something that people from every group can benefit from. We hate to see any group inequitably lacking these opportunities.”
But Grand Circus knows that having a diverse range of students in a bootcamp is not enough. To ensure that students have the necessary resources to unlock their true potentials, the school must provide adequate support.
According to alum Jason Scott, Grand Circus successfully delivers on this front. “The staff were so welcoming and reassuring during the entire process. Teaching soft skills that usually are overlooked in urban communities was a huge deal for me as it was the key I needed to get where I am today.”
Now, Jason works at a fintech company while running his own dev firm—a feat that he attributed to Grand Circus’ supportive environment and comprehensive curriculum.
Diversity in Action at Grand Circus
Grand Circus’ ultimate goal is to create a safe, fun-loving, and intellectually curious community of developers who go on to launch dynamic careers in tech. The culture of diversity isn’t an add-on to Grand Circus; it’s the very core of the bootcamp itself.
Jason said, “Almost everything I saw at Grand Circus revolved around diversity. It’s always been about changing the status quo in the IT community.”
To gain a clearer understanding of the diversity at play, let’s look at some of Grand Circus’ running initiatives below.
Student Affinity Groups
Grand Circus has a variety of groups that historically underrepresented students can join. They act as a safe platform for people with similar experiences to connect, chat, receive support, get feedback, and have fun. Currently, there are groups dedicated to students of color, the LGBTQ+ community, women, diverse learners, and mental health.
Jason has been a part of the POC group since its inception and maintained his relationships with fellow groupmates after graduation. “I do believe that those groups are essential and allow current students a safe place to bring up issues that only someone of their culture can understand,” he said.
Communities and Events
Outside of class, Grand Circus runs events to support its students throughout their time at the bootcamp. Some of the recurring events include Tech is the New Black, which takes place annually in February; Latinx in Tech, which is held in the fall; Women in Tech, which takes place in March; and Queer in Tech, which happens in June.
While everyone is encouraged to attend all events Grand Circus puts on, they also hold events geared towards the bootcamp community as a whole. They offer a chance for everyone in the program to get acquainted, connect, and form bonds with one another. Jason found that these events were a great way to develop a community mindset.
“My favorites were the mix and mingles where people who normally wouldn’t interact got a chance to just relax and have fun. I’ve attended a few weekend courses as well for [the] enrichment and those are always great. They also have a legendary Christmas party!”
Now that Grand Circus is fully remote, they are keeping the spirit going with virtual happy hours and parties that happen after everyone is done coding for the day.
As mentioned, support is not taken lightly at Grand Circus. The school offers a host of support services to help students navigate their new journey into tech.
For starters, three teams are designated to help students work through different areas of learning:
- Technical team. The technical team offers mentorship and coaching through lab activities and technical projects.
- Career services. The career services team offers professional resources in regards to a job search which include career prep materials and one-on-one coaching.
- Program managers. A project manager is tasked to oversee every bootcamp program. They check in with students and make sure all learning needs are addressed.
Mentorship and Connection
Connections at Grand Circus don’t stop with the instructors. Grand Circus offers tutoring and mentoring sessions from alumni who have since found their place in the tech world.
“I’ve been a student, alumni, and ambassador because I truly believe in the program and its ability to change lives,” Jason said. “I’ve also mentored at least a dozen people over the last few years and I keep in contact with most of them.”
Grand Circus Culture: A Drive for Variety
When asked to describe the culture at Grand Circus, David said the first word that came to his mind was ‘driven.’
“Staff has a variety of roles, but we all share a passion for the mission and vision of providing a pathway to a career in tech for as many people as possible. It’s an easy vision to believe in because it’s benefiting individuals, companies, and the overall economy. Beyond that, it’s creative, informal, positive, and a bit like a family.”
That family is clearly one that values a diverse range of life experiences and sees them as positive attributes to bring into the tech world. Grand Circus isn’t interested in asking its students to conform or assimilate to the status quo but rather, recognize the value in a variety of experiences and perspectives.
Jason noted that representation matters and a focus on diversity is important to see in the tech world.
“I literally chose the company I’m still at because they had a Black VP of Engineering. I got connected with them through Grand Circus. From the day I graduated until now Grand Circus has always, always, always supported everything I’ve done and wanted to do in this industry. From Damien to Patti and former staff that are still part of the family, it’s been a wonderful experience for me.”
Be Part of a Diverse Tech Community with Grand Circus
The future and the past both have so much to offer the present. With Grand Circus, that authentic connection to history, mixed with the fervor to open doors to the future, has created a bootcamp culture that’s dedicated to welcoming and empowering its students.
As they say, a high tide raises all ships. Grand Circus is committed to being that rising tide in the tech community. If you’re interested in joining the movement, you can begin by filling out an application on the Grand Circus website.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.