8th light chicago nicole carpenter

Nicole Carpenter, Code Platoon Advocate Spotlight

Code Platoon owes much of its success to volunteers, donors, board members, and others who contribute to the mission of supporting veterans, military spouses, and technology.

This month, we recognize Nicole Carpenter, an apprenticeship Ambassador for Code Platoon. Nicole has not only contributed as a volunteer with Code Platoon, but has also helped place our graduates in high paying tech jobs within her company, 8th Light.

Thank you for being an advocate for Code Platoon, Nicole Carpenter!

About Nicole Carpenter

Nicole’s passion for veterans comes from a personal appreciation of what it takes to transition from military service to coding. Nicole served as a Marine and an Arabic Linguist with distinction before choosing to join the civilian workforce.

Nicole’s professional journey into the coding world started with attending Dev Bootcamp in 2015. Her ability to learn new languages and train in a compressed timeline, both cultivated during military service, translated well into learning coding languages in a boot camp setting. Tapping into both her military and civilian skills, Nicole went to work as a software developer for 8th Light in Chicago, Illinois.

In order to give back to her veteran community, the tech industry, and Chicago, Nicole has coordinated with Code Platoon for several years. She has been a teaching assistant, a mentor, and our first Ambassador by bringing on her company 8th Light as a corporate sponsor.

Code Platoon: How did you approach your leadership at 8th Light to consider a Code Platoon apprentice?

Nicole Carpenter: 8th Light and Code Platoon have had a relationship since Code Platoon’s inaugural Alpha platoon. Our CEO, Paul Pagel, had recommended the first Code Platoon instructor, and a few 8th Light crafters have volunteered in different capacities over the years. 

I had worked with the program as both a TA and a mentor. I mentored a student, Scott Plunkett of Bravo Platoon, and he had expressed a strong desire to work at 8th Light, so I advocated on his behalf to help him secure an 8th Light apprenticeship, though not officially through the Code Platoon sponsorship program.

Of all people, Paul ended up co-mentoring Scott during his 9 month apprenticeship at 8th Light, so Paul was able to intimately see what skills Scott brought to the table from his time at Code Platoon. Paul and the rest of the leadership team actively promote community relationship-building efforts, and since we already had a history with Code Platoon and its students, I decided to set up a meeting to address the potential of sponsorship.

Who did you approach? What was their job title?
I approached our CEO, Paul Pagel. The 8th Light leadership team is very accessible, and because Paul already had experience mentoring a Code Platoon student, I felt he was the right person to ask.

What was the process like at 8th Light to get the apprenticeship approved?
I set up a meeting with Paul and he was highly receptive to the idea of sponsoring a Code Platoon cohort, but we needed to work out the details of how the apprenticeship would be structured and how compensation would be handled. We also needed approval from the 8th Light ownership via the board.

We got the green light and sat down to meet the next graduating class. Once we had interviewed the candidates from Code Platoon, we actually had a lot of great feedback from the interviewers and requested to take on a second intern.

Previous to the Code Platoon apprentice, did 8th light already have an apprenticeship model in place?
The 8th Light apprenticeship model has been in place for almost as long as we have been a company. Everyone who gets hired into the company goes through the apprenticeship program. 

Did you receive any pushback from leadership? How did you handle that?
The biggest pushback was from the fact that we would not get to hand select the individual who would be joining us for the internship. 

The 8th Light hiring process is different from most other Code Platoon sponsorships because we hire for all positions through our apprenticeship program. An apprenticeship for a junior developer with us is typically 6-9 months long, 2 to 3 times the length of some other Code Platoon internships.

We were able to work with Rod to create a special clause of the sponsorship contract that would offer a modified internship that would match Code Platoon standards, but wasn’t the full 6-9 month 8th Light apprenticeship in the event that we were matched with a student that would not fit into our existing apprenticeship model. That introduced additional risk, because the applicants would know that there was a potential that they would not be selected for the more robust apprenticeship program, which could have affected the way the students ranked us as a potential option for them.

What did your leadership think about the Code Platoon apprentices after they started?
Charles and Caroline from Hotel platoon have been great additions to our apprenticeship cohort. They are both extremely bright and fit in seamlessly with the larger apprenticeship cohort!

Is there anything Code Platoon can do to encourage more companies to host one of our students as an apprentice?
8th Light’s existing partnership and familiarity with Code Platoon meant that the sponsorship was less of a selling pitch and more of “how can we further grow our relationship?” I think that getting companies involved in hosting Code Platoon events, giving guest lectures, mentoring, and TA’ing helps to create advocates for the program and students.

What advice would you give a Code Platoon ambassador in approaching their leadership team?
Besides the fact that sponsoring has a positive impact on the greater software community, the students come out of the course generally well prepared for their roles. If you work for a company that has the capacity to support and grow junior talent, Code Platoon grads are coming in with a pretty robust tool belt, both technically, and generally in terms of leadership. 

How was the Code Platoon apprentice in your organization similar to or different from other interns or new team members?
We have two interns, Caroline and Charles, and they are pretty different from each other. Caroline is brilliant and kind and picks up on concepts with a freakish ease. Charles works extremely hard, and exhibits leadership qualities around the office, volunteering his time and effort to continue 8th Light’s mission of building bonds in the Chicago tech community. Both will be successful in their careers at 8th Light and I would be lucky to have either on my personal team.

If you are like Nicole and are interested in becoming a Code Platoon Ambassador or connecting our graduates with internship opportunities, please contact Rod@CodePlatoon.org.

nicole carpenter with code platoon students

Don Bora

Don Bora, Code Platoon Advocate Spotlight

Code Platoon owes much of its success to volunteers, donors, board members, and others who contribute for the mission of supporting veterans and technology.

This month, we recognize Don Bora, a volunteer board member for Code Platoon. Don’s insights from within the tech community have enabled Code Platoon to provide the best education possible for our students. In addition, Don and his company, Eight Bit Studios, have actively supported Code Platoon for projects like student videos and even a podcast about our executive team.

Thank you for being an advocate of Code Platoon, Don Bora!

About Don Bora

Don has been a professional software developer in Chicago since 1990 and has had the great fortune to work at many types of companies employing varied technologies.

After benefiting so much from his beloved city, Don decided to give back to the Chicago community. He sought out opportunities to lend his experience to those who might benefit. He began mentoring at the Founder Institute and then The Code Academy. In the summer of 2011, Don co-founded The Mobile Makers Academy and was the lead instructor, ushering much needed iOS development talent into new careers. Don also mentored at Dev Bootcamp.

Don has been an outspoken advocate for women in tech, and in general, seeks to bridge the tech employment gap by exposing the fun and creative side of programming. He frequently mentors both high school and college students who display an interest in technology and coding. Don is also a partner and co-founder of Eight Bit Studios. He loves meeting new developers, seeing their tremendous potential, and giving them the opportunity to be great.

Don Bora in his own words

I’d always been interested in military service. I had thought about joining when I was in high school, but the timing was never right for me mentally. And so, finding a way to give back to that community that I respect so much was just fantastic for me.

I think one of the things I bring to the table with Code Platoon as a board member is previous experience with a boot camp. I co founded Mobile Makers, a boot camp for mobile app development in 2012. That got me through some really, really rough patches. With students, with learning how to teach, with learning how to deal with placement issues and ongoing curriculum. And really, run a boot camp for long times. I think that I’m able to bring that experience to Rod and to the board to kind of keep top of mind the fact that we’ve got students in our care. That we’re beholden to them and their future careers, and there’s quite a lot at stake when it comes to what they’re going to do next.

So, every once in a while, I get lucky enough to be invited to come and talk to the students. Maybe Jon will have me come in and run a workshop. Or, one time, they asked me to mentor, which was a great honor and so much fun. It does me a world of good to help people who are really hungry to learn what they’re being taught. For me, it’s a mission thing. I really think everyone can code. I don’t think I’m special, or anybody who’s been doing it as long as I have, is anything special. Anybody can learn it if they’ve got the grit and determination to sit down and really learn the skills. So whenever I see anybody putting in that effort, I feel driven to help get them over the finish line.

You’ve got very few boot camps that are mission driven like Code Platoon. In fact I don’t think I know any in Chicago that are mission driven. So that makes it really stand out, and really something special. Code Platoon, what we’ve decided to do is look at the marketplace with the other technical board members, and understand what the market need is, see where it’s going, see what’s maybe going out of fashion, what’s coming in to fashion. The jobs that are hot, the jobs that are kind of not right now, and really retune the whole program to go to where the technology is going. And it’s really a credit to John as well, for taking up that mantel and learning the new technologies as they come out. It’s really impressive to see a bootcamp do that.

So I’m one of the co founders, and I help run Eight Bit Studios. I run the technology team. And, we employ about, I would say, about 80% of our technology team comes from a bootcamp. Something I’m really, really proud of. And we’re able to grow people’s careers and help them find a different path. And man, when they find that path on their own and they come to us out of a bootcamp, they are hard workers. They have found something as adults that they want to do, and it changes the game completely for them. It’s fantastic.