Note: This was originally posted summer 2015 on a now deleted personal site and reposted here.
So now that a few days have passed. I wanted to give some of my thoughts on the .NET bootcamp taken through Grand Circus in Detroit, MI. I’ll go through all aspects of the bootcamp, but for those of you looking for the executive summary version: Grand Circus met all of my expectations and exceeded them on several points.
Time Required 10/10
The course ran for eight weeks in spring 2015 from 9am - 5pm. Going past 5 wasn’t expected and nearly everyone left at five or a little earlier. The Grand Circus agreement indicated that they reserved the right to remove a participant after 4 absences, tardies, or early departures; but as long as you were staying current with your learning this seemed to be an area of flexibility.
Pros: If you have a job and can arrange the hours to be after 5, then you’ll still be able to work. For me, I was always on top of my learning, and after a major medical crisis started with an immediate family member only days before the bootcamp began, the ability to leave early a few times or arrive late was a lifesaver. This isn’t App Academy which expects 60-70 hours/week of time and into the evening individual/group hacking sessions as a part of your course. You can still have a tiny bit of a life.
Cons: This isn’t App Academy. Time coding is time learning, and you’ll probably learn less overall then if you attended a coding bootcamp in San Fransisco, New York, or Chicago.
In fabulous downtown Detroit. We’ll maybe not fabulous, but it is a very nice location overlooking Comerica Park, Fox Theater, and the Opera House. Traffic and construction are, as usual in Michigan, hell. Since I lived about 8 miles away and near Woodward, I was able to take the bus, ride my bike, or drive as I wanted(depending on weather or Tiger home games).
Pros: Grand Circus is the only coding bootcamp in Michigan.
Cons: Unless you’re dying to get out of Michigan there really aren’t any.
This is one of the least expensive bootcamps in the nation. For eight weeks you pay a fee of $5,500. Go anywhere else in the country and you’ll be paying over 10k easily. The only other bootcamp that even comes close on cost is Startup Institute in Chicago, but they’re geared to training people who want to go into startups. Go figure. Grand Circus has a broader focus.
Pros: Extremely affordable. One of the best values in the country.
Cons: This is actually a big one. Grand Circus has no payment options except pay in full upfront. There is a potential scholarship of $1,000 for minorities/women, but that’s it. Other schools have arrangements for deferred/installment payments, financing options, or even collecting a portion of your first year salary. None of that is available here. You either have the money or you don’t attend.
Pros: pre-work let us get started faster than if we had to do it all during class time. Everyone should come in with a base of common knowledge and this is how we get there.
The course work is well designed with employer needs taken into account. We covered ASP.NET, MVC, MVVM, entity framework, Linq, databases, WebAPI, single page applications, and many additional topics. Time dedicated to soft skills were also part of the program. This included working on teams, networks, resume writing, LinkedIn, and similar topics.
Pros: For the time we had, we covered the essentials needs to step into a junior level .NET developer job. Soft skill time was also very beneficial. Grand Circus offers the only .NET bootcamp that I know of.
Cons: None. All the employed graduates say they’re using what they learned from day one. The only complaint would be that there is so much more to learn, but eight weeks is what we had. I disagree, but others might think soft skill time should be outside the regular course hours.
Grand Circus Staff 10/10
The entire staff was focused on our learning and job search. Everyone was easy to approach and talk with about any concerns. Feedback was solicited daily for the first half of the bootcamp, and then twice weekly after that. Any concerns were addressed the next morning, and our program manager, Taylor, kept on top of everything.
Pros: Couldn’t have asked for more.
Job Placement Support 7/10
6 of 10 in my cohort are employed three weeks from the end of the bootcamp. I think this is the fastest placement that Grand Circus has had with any of its bootcamps. One of the reasons is that GC started working with a tech staffing company(we’re not naming names here, sorry. Never burn a bridge.), and they were able to place two graduates. Unfortunately, my cohort and the Java cohort a few weeks before us, became deeply dissatisfied with the staffing company. I’m not going to go over all the details, but in the opinion of the graduates of my .NET class, and the Java graduates I spoke with, the consensus was that the staffing company over-promised and under-delivered. It also appeared that starting salaries for graduates who found employment on their own were significantly higher than if they were placed by the staffing company. Besides working with a staffing company, Grand Circus did do everything they could to connect graduates with companies. Company visits during the class were enormously helpful, as were alumni visits. Several people were hired as a result. Of the 4 in my cohort not yet employed, one appears to have suffered a personal/health crisis and is not actively looking for an IT job, and another commuted 2 hours a day from Grand Rapids and knew from the beginning that’d he’d be mostly on his own since he lived so far away(although he appears to be the next to get hired). That leaves me and one other graduate actively looking, yet not employed. Though to be far to Grand Circus, we both turned down the same job(2 were available) through the staffing company for similar reasons: pay seemed low, and no benefits were offered. Two others from our cohort did accept and are now working. For me, I would like to be working in the next 30 days. I have some applications out, but nothing has passed the phone screen yet. I plan on reaching back out to the staffing company in another day or two just to see what else they have.
Pros: You’re not alone in your job search. Grand Circus has contacts, and working together with a staffing company, even if it’s a bit rocky, does increase the speed of graduates getting jobs.
Cons: This isn’t your east/west coast bootcamp with near 100% placement a month after graduation. You will need to do some real legwork to get a job. Grand Circus staff support is amazing, but can’t get a job for you. The staffing company is heavy handed, and you’ll likely make less than if you’re a direct hire.
I would readily recommend any of the Grand Circus bootcamps to others looking for an intensive introduction to the software industry.