milspouse coders hackathon

Milspouse coders use hackathons to break into the tech space

This article is a guest blog by milspouse coder Kerri-Leigh Grady

I’ll never forget the look of horror on a neighbor’s face when I told her I was participating in a hackathon.

She gasped, and her eyes darted around a bit, like she was waiting for us both to be cuffed and dragged off. Her concern was understandable since we were both military spouses who lived on a military base, down the street from the brig, and to the uninitiated, hackathons sound like a hard pass for law-abiding citizens.

It took some convincing before she understood that the “hack” wasn’t nefarious, but more like the super popular life hacks on Facebook. The difficulty wasn’t surprising. It always takes some convincing for people who’ve never heard the word “hackathon” before to get comfortable.

Hackathons and tech jobs shouldn’t sound discouraging to milspouses, though. The tech industry, with a growing population of distributed workforces and remote-ready jobs, paves a solid path away from the drastic unemployment and underemployment numbers we see in the milspouse community and offers numerous opportunities for milspouses who don’t want to sacrifice another job to a PCS.

Hacking a path into the tech industry

At MilSpouse Coders, we are shining a light on the opportunities for spouses in tech by hosting an annual hackathon. In 2018, our modest but successful one-day hackathon took place in Virginia Beach, and the winning team designed a product that would allow military families to scan boxes during a PCS and know exactly where Grandma’s treasured silver pitcher is, from end to end. 

Other projects included an app that maps out military lodging and local sights during a road-trip PCS, a database that tracks special knowledge in a membership group, and an Alexa skill that reports on military news of interest. 

Details for the 2019 hackathon

For 2019, our hackathon is hosted by Microsoft’s Military Spouse Training Academy on the Microsoft campus in Redmond. While the in-person event is open to anyone, regardless of military affiliation, we know military life makes travel hard, so we’ve opened the ability for vets and family members to join remotely.

Last year, Operation Code offered a popular code-along to participants who were curious but didn’t feel like they were knowledgeable enough to participate, and we’re very excited that they have generously offered to lead another code-along this year. Those who coded with us last year can learn something new this year, as the project—and even the language—will be different.

Here’s the great news: you don’t have to be a coder to participate, and you don’t have to code to have a tech career. Projects need project managers, product owners, testers, user experience specialists, marketing professionals, and more. In other words, hackathons are a life hack for military spouses seeking a portable, flexible career. 

No matter your skillset, you bring value to a software product, and hackathons are an excellent place to learn what you can bring to the industry.

You, too, can hack a career that will survive military life.

Click the link to read more about the upcoming 2019 hackathon or to sign up for the event.

john cibula coder

John Cibula, Alumni of the Month, September 2019

John Cibula served in the Marine Corps for five years in an intelligence role and as a Recon Marine. It was a fun adventure and character building experience, but not a career, so in 2011, John left the service.

Since John’s mom was a cattle options broker and his dad was a trader, John tried his hand at trading. He joined the family business, but despite his best efforts, he wasn’t making any money.

Traditional education versus coding boot camps

Without a clear path forward, John went back to college.

He wanted to study entrepreneurship and economics, but he never made it out of the general education before feeling like the process was too slow and not useful for him. In fact, John eventually tried his hand at a traditional university setting multiple times as an adult, and the format wasn’t really a good fit. 

It wasn’t fun and the instruction wasn’t getting to the point of what he was there to learn. He had solid grades, and was paying for his education using the GI Bill, but he knew he didn’t want to go through the motions when there might be something better out there.

In 2015, John was back working at a trading firm making minimum wage as an intern. His boss, who wanted to see John thrive, pointed out an article in the Chicago Tribune about Code Platoon. John researched the coding boot camp and followed through on an application. He was accepted, worked hard, graduated, and was placed in a paying apprenticeship.

“Code Platoon is challenging, but that was part of the fun,” says John. “I could see my progress every single day, and it was way more engaging than traditional education.”

In a twist of fate, John went on to work for a trading company, just not as a trader; this time he’s an Associate Software Engineer at the Chicago Trading Company. According to John, he finally makes the money he wants and likes his job at the same time.

“The company I interned with actually hired me and gave me a chance just because I worked with Code Platoon. Code Platoon changed my life.”

John recommends that vets who find themselves stuck with an education gap to their goals consider taking some risks. “Don’t be afraid to start over, don’t be afraid to try something new. Code Platoon is that kind of leap, and it’s a great opportunity that really just requires your commitment.”

john cibula party

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching over a hundred veterans and military spouses over the years at Code Platoon and John Cibula from Bravo Platoon stands out. A gruff and straightforward recon Marine, it was apparent that he knew where he had come from and where he wanted to go with his career.

John worked tirelessly to master every concept, and when classroom instruction wasn’t enough, he sought out other resources to ensure his success. He was the first software engineering apprenticeship that Chicago Trading Company took on for a Code Platoon graduate, and through his trailblazing, we’ve sent over two additional veterans with two more joining them in December.

-Jonathan Young, Instructor

John Cibula in his own words

I went the route of Recon Marine, which is a specialized infantry unit, and then did two deployments in Djibouti and Afghanistan. When I got out of the Marine Corps, I kind of jumped around from job to job, tried to start a couple businesses. Those failed. So when I was an intern at some trading firm down in Chicago my boss knew I was going to end pretty soon. He threw me a… I think it was Chicago Tribune had an article about Code Platoon. So I read it. I figured I heard about these code boot camps before. I didn’t really have any prospects for a different job. I looked at the price. That’s kind of what got me there. It was awesome.

So then after I finished up my internship, I started after doing the 100 hours of pre work or whatever you had to do, I somehow got through that. And then the next month I started Code Platoon. First few weeks you do algorithms, so puzzles. That was actually my favorite part. It was pretty fun. You just got together, you did a lot of pair programming and you tried to solve a puzzle. Basically you beat your head against the wall and you didn’t think you’d ever get it. And then once you got it, you’d high five and go on to the next one.

I remember having huge headaches. It felt like I could feel my brain growing. It was kind of like the military again where you’re a whole group of people. We’re going through something hard together so you build that camaraderie. It was real fun. And so what I really learned and I like about Code Platoon is they know that you have to be able to adapt because especially software and the military, things are changing constantly and so if you don’t adapt you’re going to die. And they did that. It was great.

I hear now that they’re talking about they’re basically adapting to what the needs of the software community are and they’re not stuck in their old ways which I think is great. What I did learn from Code Platoon is basically you just learn how to learn. Once I learned kind of the base line, I wasn’t really afraid of learning a new language or learning a whole new field I guess basically.

I did participate in the intern program. I bagged a job at CTC. Woo. That’s the one I wanted to do. So now I’m a Java developer. I do front end development. I basically work on applications for our traders to look at price data and some other stuff and make decisions from that. It’s pretty great actually.

john cibula suit

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

juliet code platoon code camp

Juliet Platoon Update Blog

Juliet Platoon is Code Platoon’s 10th cohort of students, and this is where we’ll track their journey from start to finish, and for some alumni, even beyond!

Juliet Platoon starts its coding boot camp journey – 8/29/2019

On August 29, 2019 Code Platoon proudly welcomed 15 new students to our Juliet cohort. The new student reception, hosted by Braintree Payments at Chicago’s famed Merchandise Mart, provided an opportunity for students, staff, volunteers, and alumni to meet each other before class starts. This networking opportunity is just one of many opportunities Juliet students will have as they embark on their training with Code Platoon. 

Juliet cohort is comprised of 10 in-person students and 5 remote students.  Veterans of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force have combined forces to complete our third and final cohort of 2019. These students will begin their software development careers alongside two new instructors, Tom Prete, Marine veteran, and Mike Lee, Navy veteran. 

Mike, who is also a graduate of Code Platoon (Bravo cohort in 2017) is “looking forward to teaching this new group of students and helping them grow into professionals in the technology sector. I am excited to share my experience, both as a student at Code Platoon and professional, to help each student grow to their fullest capacity.” 

Over the course of the program, these students will spend 60-80 hours a week together, participating in lectures and events, completing coding challenges, and learning best practices in Python and AWS, among other skills. They will grow together and culminate their Code Platoon experience with group projects. Group projects are presented at graduation on December 13, 2019.

Join us in welcoming Juliet platoon and wishing them well on their coding journey!

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.

mccormick foundation chicago veterans

McCormick Foundation awards 2019 grant to Code Platoon

Chicago, Illinois – August 22, 2019 – Code Platoon, a nonprofit working to transform Chicagoland veterans and military spouses into professional software developers through an immersive, educational boot camp and mentorship program, today announced it has received a grant for $50,000 USD from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Through this grant, Code Platoon will use these mission critical funds to thoughtfully and meaningfully grow their program to include more students and more support services. The McCormick Foundation awards grants each year to organizations, such as Code Platoon, which support and advance veterans in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. 

“Veterans and military spouses step forward to serve our country, and they deserve our help. The impact of this generous grant from the McCormick Foundation will help us create more opportunities for our students to learn and grow as software developers,” said Rodrigo Levy, founder and executive director of Code Platoon.

“Transitioning service members and their spouses are in search of a career not just a job. Although coding isn’t for everybody this program provides all the supports in addition to the immersive training to set veterans and spouses up for success and a lucrative career. We’re proud to help support Code Platoon as they continue to grow their organization and serve more veterans and spouses,” said Megan Everett, Director of the Veterans Program at the McCormick Foundation. 

About Code Platoon

Based in Chicago, Illinois, Code Platoon provides software coding training to help local veterans and military spouses find meaningful careers as professional software developers. While some veterans and military spouses do have four year degrees, the only requirements of enrollment are a deep desire to become a professional software developer, a positive work ethic, and a tremendous amount of tenacity. Each student is eligible to receive a scholarship that covers about 80% of their tuition making this career path affordable and attainable. Code Platoon also offers extra scholarships to women veterans who join the boot camp as they are historically underrepresented in technology based careers. Students can also use their GI Bill benefits to complete our program. The program consists of 8-12 students per class who spend 60-80 hours a week together for 14 weeks. Students are taught the Python and Ruby on Rails technology stacks, which are increasingly popular in the software development field. Instruction is a carefully curated mix of lectures, advanced coding training, and team projects, frequently culminating in a local paid internship.

ABOUT THE ROBERT R. MCCORMICK FOUNDATION

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s mission is working with communities in Chicagoland and across Illinois to develop educated, informed, and engaged citizens. Through philanthropic grantmaking and Cantigny Park, the Foundation works to make life better in Chicagoland. The McCormick Foundation, among the nation’s largest foundations with more than $1.5 billion in assets, was established in 1955 upon the death of Col. Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Find out more at www.mccormickfoundation.org.

ABOUT THE ROBERT R. MCCORMICK FOUNDATION VETERANS PROGRAM

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation Veterans Program​ serves Illinois veterans and military families by investing in high-quality and coordinated services in the areas of education, employment, health and wellness. Find out more at www.mccormickfoundation.org/veterans

coding-boot-camp-differences

What sets Code Platoon apart from other coding bootcamps?

As a coding boot camp, Code Platoon provides more than just basic training on software programming for our students. We want to provide the best possible coding boot camp experience a veteran, service member, or military spouse can have, bar none.

That way, the veterans we serve have an option that is not only custom-fit to their needs, but is also the superior choice in every category as a coding boot camp.

Here’s what Code Platoon provides its students, in addition to the fundamental coding education, that sets us apart from other coding boot camps.

We help you land the job through career services

We understand that the vast majority of our students attend a coding boot camp because they want to start a new career in coding. The career services we offer take our graduates the extra mile and guarantee they have everything they need to land the job, in addition to the technical training.

Apprenticeships

This is a linchpin of our In Person program. Over 70% of our graduates get placed directly into a paid internship, which most of the time leads to a full-time job offer at the same company. 

With those for students for whom the apprenticeship is a short-term relationship, they now have specific job experience on their resume, which improves future job prospects. The first coding job is by far the hardest to get, and our apprenticeship program alleviates that.

LinkedIn prep

To get a job, you need to develop your ‘personal brand.’ LinkedIn is the primary platform to display your professional brand, and we spend many hours with our students getting this right. We provide students with examples of successful profiles and offer feedback as they develop their own, so they can have the digital presence required to look like a pro on day one.

Resume prep and coaching

Most veterans don’t know how to translate what they did in the service into terms that employers will value. Knowing this in advance, we help do it alongside them. 

Whether it’s for the resume, LinkedIn, or the interview, we help students communicate their military skills without the defense jargon that civilians won’t understand. In its place, students add the relevant civilian terminology needed to get the attention of resume-scanning software, HR professionals, and ultimately the hiring managers.

Interview prep

(whiteboard, behavioral, technical/algorithms)

Interviewing for software roles is different than most other types of interviews because they can get highly technical. Interviewers may even ask an interviewee to solve a coding challenge on a whiteboard or ask technical fact-based questions. Since these challenges are solved live and will throw off even an experienced coder with on-the-spot pressure, the only solutions are preparation and practice.

We help students prepare for all of the different types of interviews, down to the soft skills, professionalism, and confidence that potential employers in the tech industry are looking for.

We train and certify advanced academics beyond just coding

Cutting edge curriculum

The technology landscape changes frequently. We teach timeless fundamentals, but we are also laser-focused on teaching the tools that are in demand.

We even consult with corporate sponsors and partners and conduct our own independent research to determine the best paying and most in demand programming languages. That is why we currently teach Python and Javascript and React.js, an update to our old curriculum specifically tailored to create the best outcomes for our graduates.

We are an Amazon Web Services Training Academy and prepare students for the AWS Cloud Practitioner Certification

A tremendous amount of development now happens in the cloud. AWS is the leading cloud services provider. Certification on the AWS platform is well regarded and in demand, so whether your employer is going to use it or not, it’s a major bonus on your resume.

That’s not even to mention that it will make your job much easier if you do end up using this popular platform!

SAFe Agile Certification

Agile management is how modern teams work. This certification introduces you to the fundamentals of Agile management. You won’t just have the coding skills to do the technical side; you’ll have the project and task management insights that will make you an asset to your team and a rock star on your resume.

Industry best practices (Git, Pair Programming, Test Driven Development)

How do modern teams work? Collaboratively. We teach our students how to store code so that they can work in teams, and we teach how to code together, which is a widely-used programming methodology.

We also teach you to write low-error risk code so that what you create won’t become problematic for others working with your code.

Real World Projects

The best way to build up your skills is to put them into practice on hands-on projects. You’ll get experience working in teams throughout the program, and then finally in a team capstone project. 

You will be collaborating to solve complex problems, simulating a real professional environment. In addition, you will spend a good amount of time working on a personal project to showcase your new skills and put your learning into action.

We connect you with a network of other coding professionals

Veterans and military spouses cite a lack of a network as one of their top concerns when entering the job market. We create a personal network for you, by introducing you to:

Mentors

Every student gets an industry mentor that provides one-on-one support throughout the 14 weeks of instruction. 

Mentors work in the technology industry and help students learn more about working as a software developer. Mentors often have their mentee visit them at their office, meet for coffee, or join them at tech meetup events! 

Teaching Assistants

We have industry professionals who serve as evening teaching assistants every night. Teaching assistants are familiar with our curriculum and can expertly help problem solve as students are completing challenges and assessments. Many of our teaching assistants are former Code Platoon students, providing support as both coding professionals and veterans or military spouses.

Speakers

We bring in industry professionals as guests to talk about specific parts of technology, management, teamwork, and more.

Alumni

Our alumni are successful developers who want to see Code Platoon graduates succeed. Our alumni association meets bi-monthly to support each other and help Code Platoon grow to serve more students.

We understand veteran needs and accommodate them

  • Veterans and military spouses are your classmates
  • We allow time off for drilling
  • We can refund your tuition if you are unexpectedly activated or deployed
  • We collaborate with other veteran nonprofits, like Road Home for mental health services
  • We have experience with VA benefits including GI Bill, Voc Rehab, VET TEC

If this sounds like a good fit for you, click here to apply for our next cohort!

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Katherine Restko, Alumni of the Month, August 2019

Katherine Restko served in the U.S. Army for five years as a crypto linguist. She has a graduate degree in studio art, but after leaving the military, she decided to go down a different professional path. Katherine started searching for coding bootcamps to help her become a developer. Katherine was initially skeptical because of the reputation some bootcamps have as being content mills rather than genuine training centers. “I chose Code Platoon because it was a full-time program,” Katherine says. “Plus, they accept the G.I. Bill, and the reviews were great.”

At the start of the program, Katherine didn’t have a strong tech background. “I was artistic growing up,” Katherine explains. “I wasn’t driven to self-sufficiency.” All students complete pre-work before starting the program. Before starting with Code Platoon, Katherine decided to do extra work to boost her sense of preparation.

Within a week, she felt like she was drowning in material, but she was impressed at the attentiveness of the instructors. “They seemed genuinely concerned about the progress of students,” Katherine says. Her sense of stubbornness and camaraderie also helped to overcome difficult moments. “It didn’t take long to vent about the stress of the program and realize that you aren’t the only one. Even though the program was sometimes dizzying, I enjoyed the process of building things.”

Katherine completed the program in December 2018 as a member of Golf Platoon. She started working for Code Platoon as an assistant part-time instructor while continuing to hone her skills and applying for full-time opportunities. In March 2019, Katherine received a job offer conducting business analysis and project management support. She accepted it and took her next step as a developer.

“I’m finally doing something I wanted to do professionally,” Katherine says. “I enjoy it and want to do it career-wise. I’ve studied subjects before that I’ve enjoyed, but when it comes to application, other things can be a little boring. But I don’t have that problem when it comes to code. It’s something I love to learn about and enjoy doing every day.”

“After graduation, Katherine joined Code Platoon as a teaching assistant, eager to give back to the next class of students. Katherine was an incredibly engaging teaching assistant for us. Her energy in the classroom helped create a warm and dynamic learning environment for our students. We are grateful to include her among Code Platoon’s alumni!”

-Rod Levy, Executive Director, Code Platoon

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Edward Wright, Alumni of the Month, July 2019

After serving in the US Navy for eight years as an aircraft mechanic, Edward decided that he wanted to switch careers to a more technology-oriented path. He attended college online for computer science, but didn’t get enough practical skills to actually bridge the gap to a full-time job as he intended. With a wife and children depending on him, Edward wanted to make sure that he had a clear path ahead of him that would lead to an education, income, and long-term potential.

Vocational Rehabilitation

While searching for a practical stepping stone, Edward heard about the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program through the Department of Veterans Affairs from someone he knew, and he applied.

To his surprise, Edward didn’t successfully make it into the program the first time, but he was encouraged by a contact at the VA to try again. During this same time, he relocated and was assigned a new point of contact for the program as well. Despite all the turmoil, Edward reapplied to the program.

Edward mentioned in his application for the Voc Rehab program that he wanted to attend a coding boot camp so that he could improve more on his programming ability than he was did while working on his bachelor’s degree. In fact, he had so much faith in the coding boot camp system that he was ready to pay for his training out of pocket. Fortunately, he didn’t have to make that financial commitment; with some patience, persistence, and a little bit of faith, he was able to make it into the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation program to fund his training.

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Training that works for veterans

Code Platoon wasn’t the only coding boot camp Edward considered when looking at options, but it was the best one for his needs. Code Platoon’s compatibility with the VA’s Voc Rehab standards helped of course, but Code Platoon also offered flexibility on payment options with generous scholarships if Voc Rehab didn’t work out. And no matter how Edward funded his training, Code Platoon’s focus on veterans made it a great choice for a former sailor who wanted to feel comfortable with his peers while training.

Whether it’s taking a second shot at technology education or trying more than once at a VA application for tuition, Edward believes it’s all about continuing to try.

“There was a time when I was leaving the service and I wasn’t sure how much career potential or learning ability I had left. I look back on that now, working for an international company like Grainger, and I can’t believe the difference of where I’m at. I know it sounds cliche, but if I can keep hitting a wall and trying again until I succeeded, you probably can too.”

Congratulations to Edward Wright, Code Platoon Alumni of the Month for July 2019!

As the largest B2B e-commerce retailer with more than half of our sales coming through a digital channel, Grainger has a high demand for skilled software developers. Code Platoon offers an extensive and unique approach to developing technical experts, and we are thankful to them for introducing us to Ed Wright. As a Veteran of the Navy, Ed brings a strong sense of teamwork and service, along with technical skills that enabled him to contribute quickly at Grainger.

– Sean McCormack, VP of Solutions Engineering, Grainger

Transcript of Edward Wright’s Code Platoon video

I joined in ’99, my first duty station was in Virginia Beach. I worked on the F-14 war plane. Working on airplanes, I found that attention to detail was very critical and that was one of the, I guess, traits I would say that I took from that to where I am now.

I knew I wanted to get into something related to IT or software development while I was in the military, but since I had already started down that road the VA didn’t want to pay for it and so I didn’t have the opportunity to try to transitioning into that area while I was in the military. When I came across Code Platoon, it sounded interesting immediately and so I did a little bit more research and found that it will probably be the best option for me, considering the cost between it and some of the other ones and I will say the location I thought was good for me as well, being here in Chicago.

With Code Platoon the thing I got out of it the most was the way Rod prepared everything before we ever got there. Some of the events that we went to, all the visitors we had, just all those things all put together I just felt like was critical to my success and me just sticking through it. It was a great experience. I would do it all over again. I tell my family members, anybody I’ve come across I would do this all over again. If I could talk my spouse into coming, I would.

The place where I ended up at, I felt was perfect, just perfect for me, and that place is a company called Grainger. At Grainger I’m a front end web developer intern. They’re an industrial company and working in aviation I actually knew who they were before I ever got here. The guys at Grainger were pretty excited to hear that and I just thought it was good for that reason.

edward-wright-grainger

india platoon graduation

India Platoon Update Blog

India Platoon is Code Platoon’s 9th cohort of students, and this is where we’ll track their journey from start to finish, and for some alumni, even beyond!

India Platoon celebrates graduation – 8/16/2019

Code Platoon is excited to congratulate the graduates of India Platoon. We held our graduation on August 16, 2019 at 2:30 PM CST at the location of one of our sponsors, the Motorola Solutions Foundation. Eleven students graduated; five of those used GI Bill benefits, and the remaining five received tuition scholarship in order to attend our program.

Executive Director Rod Levy had this to say about the graduating class: “Code Platoon is proud to graduate its 9th cohort, India Platoon. All 11 students showed great grit and determination over the last 14 weeks, with highlights including innovative personal projects and exceptional camaraderie among the groups as they prepared their final projects. New for India was the help of our summer interns. These rising sophomores worked alongside this class, helping to expand on daily lectures and instruction from our faculty. Congratulations India Platoon!”

India cohort graduates will continue in their journeys with paid software development internships exclusively offered for Code Platoon attendees to further their coding careers. The internships offered this cycle are offered at Chicago Trading Company, Echo Global Logistics, Trading Technologies, Motorola Solutions, Shipbob and DRW. Read more about DRW below.

Juan Martinez, had this to say about his experience with Code Platoon: “Coming out from the military I didn’t have all the tools and experience that was required for me to have a successful second career. Doors were open if I worked in the service industry but I felt that I was destined for something more. When I discovered Code Platoon I quickly realized that this program was the answer to all the questions I was asking. Code Platoon took me in and provided me with the tools and skill sets to become a more appetizing candidate for companies outside the service industry.”

NBC Chicago was present for the graduation of the India cohort, watch coverage of this event here. If you speak Spanish you may be interested to watch this coverage of the graduation broadcast on Telemundo.

India Platoon starts its coding boot camp journey – 5/6/2019

On May 6, 2019 Code Platoon proudly welcomed 11 new students to our India cohort. The new student reception event, hosted by Nerdery in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, allowed incoming students to meet each other prior to kicking off class the following week. Students also got to talk with Code Platoon graduates, volunteers, board members, and staff. This networking opportunity was just the beginning of the unparalleled access to technology firms that Code Platoon students are afforded when they join the program.

India cohort’s 11 members represent some of the finest Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and Air Force veterans and military spouses. Rod Levy, Executive Director of Code Platoon, commented: “India platoon represents an exciting class for us. We are proud to have four of the five branches of service represented at once, and this is also one of our largest classes to date. Each students brings a tremendous amount of life experience with them as they join their new teammates in learning software development skills. I am excited to watch this group grow over the next 14 weeks.”

Over the course of the program, these students will spend 60-80 hours a week together, participating in lectures and events, completing coding challenges, and learning best practices in Python and AWS, among other skills. They will grow together and culminate their Code Platoon experience with a group project. Group projects are presented at graduation on August 16, 2019.

Join us in welcoming India platoon and wishing them well on their coding journey!