VA Benefits

How to Use Your VA Educational Benefits

So, you’ve decided you want to go back to school or attend a training program. Now you have to wade through all of the VA’s educational benefits options and acronyms. If this process confuses you, then don’t worry. This post will introduce five popular military educational programs–the GI Bill®, VET TEC, VRRAP, VR&E, and SkillBridge–and explain what they fund, how to qualify, and how to apply for them. 

1. GI BILL®

The GI Bill is the most well known VA Educational Benefit. It can be used on more traditional college or university degrees as well as non-accredited training or certificate programs. The GI Bill covers only in-person instruction for non-accredited programs. So, if you choose to attend an out-of-state training program, you will need to move for it.

If you are an active duty Servicemember, a Veteran who served at least 90 days after September 11, 2001, or the spouse or dependent of one of the above, then you may be eligible to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Depending on how long you served, your full tuition costs or a percentage of them will be covered. GI Bill benefits may also include a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) stipend and up to one thousand dollars of necessary books or supplies.

2. VET TEC

Veteran Employment through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) is another option for Veterans and active duty Servicemembers with at least one day left on their GI Bill. Spouses and dependents are not eligible for VET TEC, even if they were given their Servicemember’s GI Bill benefits.

The VET TEC program funds Veterans and Servicemembers who want to attend a high-demand tech training program and start meaningful employment in the field soon after. Although the program requires participants to have remaining GI Bill funding, it will not use any of that time. A student can start a program with VET TEC, and all remaining GI Bill will still be there after completing the program.

VET TEC also incentivizes VA-approved training providers by holding full tuition payments until after the participant graduates and is gainfully employed in the technology field. 

To join a Veteran tech program with VET TEC, you will need to apply for VET TEC on the VA website. You can also check out our VET TEC Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more about the process.

3. VRRAP

The Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP) VA program pays for Veterans who are unemployed from the Covid-19 pandemic to receive education and training for high-demand career paths. Although VRRAP is a temporary program that will stop accepting applications after December 11, 2022, accepted participants will continue receiving benefits into 2023.

VRRAP covers up to 12 months of tuition and fees for an associate’s degree or non-college degrees and certificate programs. The program will also provide a housing allowance based on the Post 9/11 GI Bill’s BAH rates. 

To qualify for VRRAP, you must be a Veteran who is ineligible for GI Bill benefits or other education assistance programs. Like with VET TEC, you must apply for VRRAP on the VA’s website.

4. VR&E

If you have a service-connected disability that limits your ability to work, you may qualify for Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E), formerly called Voc Rehab. VR&E offers funding for education, training, and apprenticeship programs to Veterans and Servicemembers with documented service-connected disabilities.

To qualify, Veterans must have at least a 10 percent disability rating, and active duty Servicemembers must have at least a 20 percent pre-discharge disability rating. 

If you already have your VA disability rating, you can apply for VR&E benefits on the VA website.

5. SkillBridge

Although the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program does not provide funding, it is still a fantastic opportunity for transitioning Servicemembers to receive civilian job training during their last 180 days in the military.

Many SkillBridge-approved training providers will accept the GI Bill or VET TEC. Some, like Code Platoon, even offer scholarships for SkillBridge participants. The application process for SkillBridge is complicated, but we have resources to simplify the process on our SkillBridge page.

If you have questions or need help identifying the best option for you, our recruitment team is here to help. Send me a message or schedule a phone conversation by emailing me at greg@codeplatoon.org.

Greg Drobny is a former Airborne Infantryman, PSYOP Team Chief, political consultant, professional mil blogger, and is Code Platoon’s Student Outreach and Recruitment Manager. He holds a BA and MA in history, as well as a Masters of Science in organizational psychology. He is married with four children who keep him more than slightly busy, and is passionate about helping Veterans find their paths in life and develop the skills needed to pursue their goals.

Personal Finance 2

The Veteran’s Guide to Debt and Investing

Whether you are active duty or a Veteran, starting your first job or well-established in your career, it is never too early to start repaying your debt and investing in retirement plans. I know that these topics can feel daunting. So I will be sharing a few of my strategies to pay off your debt and invest in your retirement.*

Part One: Pay Off Your Debt 

The money that you borrow charges interest compounded daily. If you only pay the minimum, the debt will keep getting larger. Instead of throwing money at your debt every once in a while, you need a consistent plan to pay it off. 

I recommend trying the “Debt Avalanche” or “Debt Snowball” methods.

If you have high-interest loans, list all your debts from highest to lowest interest rate. Pay all the minimums, and then pay all you can to the highest interest debts first. Once you’ve finished paying off one, continue down the list to the next highest and repeat the process until you’re debt-free.

Debt Avalanche

If you have lots of loans with relatively small balances, try listing out all your debts from lowest to highest balance. Pay all the minimums, and then put all you can towards the loan with the lowest balance. Once that is paid off, continue down the list until you’re done.

Debt Snowball

Part Two: Invest to Retire

Investing is when you put away money now with the expectation (not the hope) that it will grow into more money later. This could be buying a house, paying for your kids’ education, and retiring one day.

The two retirement investment accounts you should start as soon as possible are an Employer-Sponsored Plan (ESP) and an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). When you begin these accounts, the younger you are, the more the investments will grow over time due to compound interest.

If you are employed full-time, you are eligible for an ESP for retirement, like a 401k, 403b, 457b, or TSP. When you contribute to an ESP, the money is taken directly from your paycheck to the plan. Employers may match your contributions up to a certain percentage, and you can contribute up to $20,500 per year in total.

You can start an IRA through a bank, brokerage company, or credit union if you max out your ESP. IRAs allow you to make financial contributions with tax advantages. You can contribute up to $6000 to an IRA per year and access these funds without financial penalties after 59.5 years old.

Both employer-sponsored and individual retirement accounts come in two flavors: Traditional and Roth. 

Traditional contributions are not taxed until you use the funds later. The interest is taxable when it is withdrawn, and the tax rate depends on when you take it out.

Roth contributions are taxed when they go into the account. As a result, the interest and growth are never taxed. The tax rate on the contributions depends on where you earn them, so they are best if you believe you will have to pay more taxes when you withdraw your funds.

However you invest, you will likely go through Vanguard, Fidelity, or Charles Schwab. These big brokerage houses offer a target-date retirement fund, where they invest your money in a medium-risk combination of stocks and bonds. I recommend you start a target-date retirement fund, choose the year closest to when you want to retire, put your contributions into that fund, and walk away.

Part Three: Put Your Personal Finance Plan to Action

You should have everything you need to get started with taking control of your finances. I know this was a lot of information, so I have compiled a list of action items below. Consider assigning yourself the following homework:

  1. List out all your debts with the amount and interest rates, choose a strategy, and pay it off!
  2. Contribute to your workplace retirement plan and start a target-date retirement fund
  3. Open and contribute to an IRA and start a target-date retirement fund
  4. Choose between Roth and Traditional contributions

If you have any questions or want to receive personalized financial advice, please contact a financial advisor.

To learn about budgeting and the best banking options for the military community, check out my other blog post The Veteran’s Guide to Budgeting and Banking.

Jonathan is Code Platoon’s Director of Education and a Senior Software Engineer at Venmo. He has taught nearly every Code Platoon graduate personally and is dedicated to student success. Before Code Platoon, Jonathan taught special education math in Chicago’s Harper High School, which was featured on NPR’s “This American Life.” Jonathan received his BS from Northwestern University and his Masters’s degree in Teaching during his fellowship with Teach for America.

*Disclaimer: This guide is for informational purposes only. Neither Code Platoon nor I am giving you financial advice. Please contact a financial advisor if you have specific questions.

Personal Finance

The Veteran’s Guide to Budgeting and Banking

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), eighty-six percent of Active Duty Servicemembers, fifty-one percent of military spouses, and forty-three percent of Veterans worry about their personal finances. 

I have created this budgeting and banking guide for the military community with statistics like these in mind. If you are a Veteran, spouse, or Servicemember and aren’t sure how to make a budget, choose banking accounts, or save money for emergencies, I hope you find this guide helpful.*

Part One: Make Your Budget

At the heart of budgeting is a fundamental question: how much money do you earn and how much do you spend? Having a deep knowledge of your income and outflow is crucial to people of all financial backgrounds. I need a budget. You need a budget. Even celebrities need a budget. 

A budget requires time to set up and implement. You can either set up your budget yourself in a spreadsheet or use software like You Need a Budget or Mint to get you started.

When you create your budget, I recommend choosing between a “Zero-based Budget” and “50/30/20 Budget” styles.

A Zero-based Budget is where you list your income and match it up against your expenses. Make adjustments until the income minus the costs equals zero.

Zero Based Budget

A 50/30/20 Budget is another option. For this budget, you will allocate your after-tax income between two checking accounts and a savings account as follows:

  1. 50% in Checking Account #1 for your fixed expenses like groceries and rent.
  2. 30% in Checking Account #2 for your inessential expenses like movies or dates.
  3. 20% in Savings Account #1 for your debt repayment and emergency fund.

50-30-20

Part Two: Open Banking Accounts

Whatever budget you end up making, you will need at least a checking account and a savings account in your daily life. 

Use a checking account for your daily banking, like receiving paychecks and paying bills. As a member of the military community, you can open a checking account without any fees through USAA Bank for military members or Chase Military Banking.

Use a savings account to build savings for an emergency fund and pay off debt. Your emergency fund should be able to sustain your current lifestyle for three to six months. If that’s too big of a number, start with whatever you can and work your way up.

When you open a savings account, you want an Annual Percentage Yield (APY) of at least 0.5% interest. You can use Bankrate to check for the best available rates when you’re ready to open your savings account.

Part Three: Now do it Yourself!

It’s time to put these strategies to practice. You can follow the action items below to get started on your new budget and banking accounts:

  1. Create and follow either a Zero-based Budget or a 50/30/20 Budget
  2. Ensure you have a checking account with a bank that doesn’t charge fees
  3. Ensure you have a savings account that offers 0.5% APY or higher
  4. Come up with a plan to save an emergency fund able to cover at least three months’ expenses

If you have any questions or want to receive personalized financial advice, please contact a financial advisor.

Jonathan is Code Platoon’s Director of Education and a Senior Software Engineer at Venmo. He has taught nearly every Code Platoon graduate personally and is dedicated to student success. Before Code Platoon, Jonathan taught special education math in Chicago’s Harper High School, which was featured on NPR’s “This American Life.” Jonathan received his BS from Northwestern University and his Masters’s degree in Teaching during his fellowship with Teach for America.

*Disclaimer: This guide is for informational purposes only. Neither Code Platoon nor I am giving you financial advice. Please contact a financial advisor if you have specific questions.

 

Affirm and CP

Affirm Hires Code Platoon Graduates

Affirm, the payment network that empowers consumers and helps merchants drive growth, and Code Platoon have created a new hiring partnership, connecting Affirm’s “Upward Program” with Code Platoon graduates. The Upward Program is a six-month apprenticeship program for software engineers with non-traditional coding backgrounds like Code Platoon graduates.

Two recent graduates–Tanya Dlabaj and Zachary Blackburn, a military spouse and a Marine Corps Veteran, respectively–are the first Code Platoon participants in the Upward Program. 

“I had never written a line of code before Code Platoon,” Zachary said.  “Now I have an apprenticeship writing code in JavaScript through React and Python.”

Zachary and Tanya learned of the apprenticeship opportunity at Affirm after the company hosted a presentation for their cohort members.

“The Code Platoon career services helped me through the application process (for the Affirm apprenticeship). They helped submit my resume and Rich Luby (Head of Career Services at Code Platoon) gave me interview advice and provided plenty of interview practice before I met with Affirm.”

“Most importantly, he kept me motivated throughout the process,” Zachary said.

“I was looking for a company with a positive work environment, who puts their employees first,” Tanya said. “Affirm checked all the boxes.”

“Code Platoon was essential to starting my career in software engineering. During my cohort, I was exposed to the entire full-stack development process. The support that I received from the instructors and the TAs was amazing. I felt confident interviewing because I had already done the work.”

After completing the 15-week Code Platoon Full-stack Software Engineering program, students interview for apprenticeship opportunities with Code Platoon’s partners like Affirm. Tanya’s selection into the Upward Program is the next step in her journey into tech.

“I’m excited to continue my software engineering journey with Affirm, and I’m grateful to Code Platoon and the career services team who made this a reality,” she said.

“Thanks to Affirm’s open communication line and collaborative partnership approach, we’ve successfully placed candidates who use skills developed at Code Platoon to excel in the interview process,” Rich Luby, Head of Career Services at Code Platoon, said. 

“We are proud of our first placements at Affirm and are confident in our program’s ability to deliver entry-level talent, like Zachary and Tanya, who exceed entry-level needs. I look forward to working with Affirm on their future hiring rounds.”

Affirm is a financial technology company with over two thousand employees and a remote-first workplace. Affirm was featured in LinkedIn’s Top Startups list in 2017, 2018, and 2019 and was named one of Built In’s 100 Best Remote-First Companies to Work for in 2021 and 2022. 

Affirm’s Upward Program apprentices solve problems, develop projects, and receive mentorship from Affirm’s full-time software engineers. The company’s goal is to convert its high-performing apprentices into full-time hires after the six-month program.

The Preferred Hiring Partnership is only one of the ways companies can partner with Code Platoon and access our Veteran, transitioning Servicemember, and military spouse graduates. If you’re a corporation interested in partnering with Code Platoon, visit our corporate partnerships page or contact us at corporatepartners@codeplatoon.org.

If you’re a Veteran, Active Duty Servicemember, or military spouse interested in starting your coding journey, apply to Code Platoon today

Tish Johnson is the Enrollment and Career Services Coordinator at Code Platoon. In this role, she harnesses her college administration experience to manage the enrollment process for admitted students, including processing VA educational benefits. Tish also lends her career coaching and personal branding workshop facilitator talents toward assisting students with their individual career readiness goals. Tish holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Indiana University of PA, and an M.Ed. from Strayer University.

Quebec Platoon Final Projects Blog

Quebec Platoon Final Projects

Before students graduate from our Immersive Full-stack Software Engineering Bootcamp, they have two weeks to form teams and harness their software engineering, project management, and teamwork skills to develop their own web applications. 

Recently Graduating Quebec Platoon students got the chance to present their group capstone projects. Here are their demonstrations:

Our first group is Code Platoon Central, an online portal for software engineering bootcamp students and instructors. Bootcamp students can access their assignments, view lecture materials, ask questions, and search for classmates in this app. Their instructors can make questionnaires, take attendance, and schedule guest presentations.

Check out Code Platoon Central by Aidan Matchette, John Winko, Megan Genauldi, and Markos Sankey, a Marine Corps Veteran and three Navy Veterans, respectively.

The next project is Strongest Link, a web app to make going to the gym more social. Strongest Link fosters connections among gym-goers, displays exercises for specific muscle groups, and hosts a leaderboard where friends can share their personal bests.

The team behind Strongest Link is Kat Wegrzynowicz, Timothy Longmore, Jin Chung, Ivan Trejo, Andrew Simpson, and Shun Ganas. They are a military spouse, two Army Veterans, and Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force Veterans.

Roam is the third project in this showcase. Roam uses geolocation technology to connect campsite owners with travelers looking for budget-friendly places to camp. 

Courtney Smith, Suruchi Khand, Lyman Perrine, Marcin Swaltek, and Phillip Hall, two military spouses, two Marine Corps Veterans, and an Army Veteran, created Roam.

Trippi is another travel app by Quebec students. Trippi users can curate travel resources to plan their next adventure and document past trips for others to follow in their footsteps.

A team of two Air Force Veterans and three Army Veterans, Edgar Zatarain, Justice Caban, Roque Mesa, Brandon Dykun, and Andrew Tran, developed Trippi.

The final project is Doggy Pile. Doggy Pile is a social media website for dog owners to connect with each other and socialize their pets. Doggy Pile also helps users find lost dogs, veterinarians, and dog-friendly businesses in their area.

Check out Doggy Pile’s presentation by Jennilee Toctocan, Adam Cox, John Price, Jesse Dalewalker, and Jennifer Isobe: two Army Veterans and Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy Veterans.

We’re proud of the creativity, innovation, and skills demonstrated during this cohort’s graduation. Congratulations, Quebec Platoon!

Mental Health Blog

Supporting Veteran Mental Health Care

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, between 11% and 20% of Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have post traumatic stress disorder, including combat PTSD and military sexual trauma. When Veterans have a traumatic experience, like combat or sexual assault, they can be left feeling powerless. That’s when PTSD can take hold.

“When I was in the Marine Corps, there was nothing I wouldn’t do for my squad,” Chris Miller, a combat Veteran and Community Outreach Coordinator at The Road Home Program, said. “But you don’t leave the military with your team, so others have to pick up the slack. It’s important as a military community to come together and help each other.”

Chris has worked at The Road Home Program since 2013. In his current role, he connects Veterans suffering from PTSD with the program’s free, evidence-based outpatient mental health services. 

Chris can personally attest that recognizing Veteran PTSD can be complex.

“When I left the military in 2003, I didn’t have flashbacks, so the VA practitioners didn’t recognize my PTSD symptoms. When I moved back to my hometown, my family saw something was wrong and helped me get help.”

The Road Home Program has a list of military trauma response symptoms, including isolation, anxiety, substance abuse, disturbed sleep, and more that can indicate undiagnosed PTSD in Veterans. But these symptoms can be hard to spot, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When dealing with PTSD, two of the more identifiable symptoms are isolation and avoidance,” Chris said. “So when everyone’s quarantining, it’s harder for me to find those who need help.”

“As such, one of the most important things to do if you think a Veteran is struggling is to connect with the family members. They’ve known the Veteran for a long time and know their baseline behavior. They notice something is off first.”

If you know a Veteran experiencing PTSD symptoms, what can you do to help? According to Chris, you have to ask a bit more than “Are you doing alright?”

“You have to have tough conversations and probe deeper,” Chris said. “If someone you know has symptoms that impede their daily functioning, you should encourage them to seek professional help. No matter how hopeless it can seem, PTSD is treatable.”

“Physical healthcare is normalized, and it should be the same for mental healthcare. Some parts of the military still have a stigma around Veteran mental health, but the situation is improving. The VA now collaborates with private sector groups, like The Road Home Project, to provide more Veterans with mental health services.”

The Road Home Program emphasizes military culture in their three programs: weekly outpatient care, weekly virtual outpatient care, and an intensive 3-week outpatient program in Chicago called “PTSD bootcamp.” Their programs are free for all Veterans, regardless of discharge status.

To learn more about the services available, visit The Road Home Program website

If you or a Veteran you know is in crisis, contact the Veterans Crisis Line for 24/7 confidential crisis intervention and support. Call 1-800-273-8255, text 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat

Kayla Elkin is the Marketing Content Specialist at Code Platoon. In this role, she uses her marketing, writing, and editing skills developed from previous positions in higher education and educational technology. Kayla has degrees in English and Sociology from Clemson University and completed the Study in India Program (SIP) at the University of Hyderabad. She lives with her partner in northern Chicago.

Chris Miller

Sharing a Road to Veteran Mental Health

Over the course of his career, Chris Miller has held positions including Marine Corps Towgunner, sushi chef, mental health worker, full-stack developer, and community outreach coordinator. Chris shares his journey from overcoming untreated PTSD after Service to helping Veterans and their families get mental health treatment at The Road Home Program at Rush University. 

“I’ve seen what happens when military mental health is neglected, and I’ve personally suffered those consequences,” Chris said. “I have also seen what recovery looks like and what it takes to start that journey.”

Chris’s journey to providing mental health services started after facing untreated PTSD symptoms himself.

“After I got out of the military, I didn’t have flashbacks, so I didn’t recognize my PTSD symptoms,” Chris said. “I moved back to my hometown to figure out my next career move, and my family saw something was wrong. Salute, Inc. also helped me out, and I knew I wanted to give back someday.”

At home, Chris started working in inpatient mental health care at a children’s psychiatric hospital and went to culinary school as well. When he and his family moved a few years ago, he was looking to get out of the culinary world. So, he started working for The Road Home Program in 2013.

In his community outreach coordinator position, Chris connected Veterans suffering from PTSD to The Road Home program and visited Veterans’ organizations–including Code Platoon–to raise awareness. 

Chris gave a brief about The Road Home Program to our students and sat in on the class. From this experience, he found coding interesting and saw the possibilities to help Veterans with technology. He decided to leave The Road Home in pursuit of this vision.

“First, I worked with some Veterans I knew on a tech startup company,” Chris said. “We created a mobile app that connected Chicago-area Veterans with hiring companies, support groups, and mental health services. Even though that venture fizzled out, I wanted to learn more coding, so I applied to Code Platoon.”

At Code Platoon, Chris attended the 14-week (now 15-week) Immersive Full-stack Software Engineering Bootcamp, Hotel Platoon. After graduating from Code Platoon and completing a six-month full-stack development internship, Chris applied for an IT position at Rush University. He connected with his former boss and learned his old position at The Road Home Program had reopened. 

Chris decided to take his new tech skills from Code Platoon back to the program:

“Learning full-stack web development at Code Platoon definitely helped improve my position at The Road Home Program,“ Chris said. “The psychiatry departments are not very tech savvy. Since the Covid-19 pandemic had started, we had to learn how to leverage technology to continue providing services during lockdown.”

“I keep up our website, maintain virtual systems for tracking research participant data, and help create a database for outbound referrals. I like putting these small systems together.”

When asked about future goals, Chris replied:

“I’m enjoying my work at The Road Home Program. It’s great to be growing a clinic, and I want to continue to be a part of it. If I can use my experiences to help lead other Veterans down the road to recovery, I will accomplish my mission.”

If you want to help support the The Road Home Program or learn more about their available services, visit The Road Home Program website

Kayla Elkin is the Marketing Content Specialist at Code Platoon. In this role, she uses her marketing, writing, and editing skills developed from previous positions in higher education and educational technology. Kayla has degrees in English and Sociology from Clemson University and completed the Study in India Program (SIP) at the University of Hyderabad. She lives with her partner in northern Chicago.

Teamwork in Tech

Adapting Military Team Building Skills to the Tech World

Imagine a small town. Every day, the townsfolk gather in the same field to let their cows graze. While popular research suggested that the cows would overgraze the pasture, research by (Nobel Prize winner) Elinor Ostrum shows that these communities ably manage their own resources.

People often do their best work in small, communal teams. But as time passes, teams have gotten larger and messier. The tech industry recognizes this, and it is pivoting to Agile teams and a focus on workplace culture. This transition is marked by trust that technology companies place in their employees to manage themselves.

Tech Teams Work Differently than Military Teams

Tech team structures can confuse the outsider. Luckily, Kelly Cronin, a lead ThoughtWorks consultant and Code Platoon Beyond Tech workshop leader, is here to help our students understand how tech teams form and empower them to build better teams. 

“Code Platoon students have such a breadth of teamwork experience already,” Kelly said. “That’s why I focus on what their future tech teams look like and the psychology behind them.”

Many of the military teams that Code Platoon students have been part of are what Kelly calls “Command and Control” models. Military teams are traditionally formed around a rigid hierarchy: the top makes the decisions and information flows down from the leaders like a waterfall.

While some tech companies use such rigid models, many workplaces have focused instead on Agile structures. Agile teams are built around motivation, community, and trust instead of structure and control. Agile team members are still given goals and problems to solve, but they are encouraged to develop their solutions and control their projects from end-to-end.

“You will likely end up in a hybrid between silos and Agile teams,” Kelly said. “You will need to push for clarity, define your teams’ roles, and try to be as cross-functional as possible.” 

Soft Skills Build Strong Teams

During one workshop, Kelly asked students what qualities they appreciated the most during their military service. Some students defaulted to skill-based qualifications, but many others pointed to soft skills like “listening” or “having each other’s backs.”

The tech workforce also prefers these qualities. According to a 3-year multimillion-dollar Google study, the highest-performing teams were the ones most committed to psychological safety and equal air time, not the ones with the strongest skills. 

“The best team members feel safe to ask questions, make mistakes, and be vulnerable with each other,” Kelly explains. “Every team member has the same amount of time to voice their opinion. When team members disagree, they engage in constructive conflicts, and everyone votes together on how to proceed.

“You don’t have to be friends or even like each other very much to make this work. You just have to have established norms, mutual goals, and an understanding that you are there to fail or succeed together.”

Learn More Beyond Tech Transitioning Skills 

Kelly’s teamwork workshop is just one of eight topics covered in Code Platoon’s Beyond Tech curriculum. Beyond Tech teaches our Veteran, active duty Servicemember, and military spouse students the norms and conventions of the civilian technology workforce. Other interpersonal Beyond Tech topics include overcoming imposter syndrome, diversity and inclusion, and interview prep. Learn more about our Beyond Tech curriculum.

Kayla Elkin is the Marketing Content Specialist at Code Platoon. In this role, she utilizes her marketing, writing, and editing skills developed by previous positions in higher education and educational technology. Kayla has degrees in English and Sociology from Clemson University and completed the Study in India Program (SIP) at the University of Hyderabad. She lives with her partner in northern Chicago.

Teaching to Tech

From Teaching to Technology

Teachers have many skills that make them excellent candidates for the tech workplace. Decision-making, adaptability, management, and problem-solving are skills that good teachers and programmers have in abundance. 

Like many educators during the Covid-19 pandemic, Kat Wegrzynowicz, a military spouse and former special education instructor, left teaching. She decided to pursue a new opportunity in a tech career and started Code Platoon’s Immersive Full-stack Software Engineering Bootcamp three years after her husband, Greg Wegrzynowicz, graduated from the same program.

Kat was a special education teacher and case manager for eight years. In 2014, she met Greg, three years after he retired from the Marine Corps. They got married in 2019, the same year he graduated from Code Platoon.

Then, the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

“My teaching career felt out of control due to Covid,” Kat said. “So I left teaching full-time and worked that school year remotely as a contractor.”

With more free time on her hands, Kat explored her interest in coding. She taught herself JavaScript fundamentals and did some peer programming on Zoom with a friend of her husband. 

“I had some great experiences but needed to strengthen my knowledge to be more competitive on the job market,” Kat said. “Once I got to that point where I needed structure, I thought of Code Platoon. I knew they had a great program based on Greg’s experience.”

As a military spouse, Kat’s benefits options were limited. Military spouses don’t qualify for VA benefits like VET TEC, and Kat’s husband already used his GI Bill. But, when Kat was accepted, she qualified for one of Code Platoon’s military spouse-eligible scholarships. She received the full-tuition Women in Technology scholarship.

“I was nervous at first to pursue software engineering and attend Code Platoon,” Kat said. “Being in education, I was used to working with mostly women. I’d also heard that other bootcamps are very competitive, with students that feel threatened by each other’s success. But at Code Platoon, the staff, instructors, and students have all been supportive and inclusive.

“Emma (the Diversity and Inclusion workshop leader) showed my class some challenges women in technology face. She gave the women students the idea to be more mindful about connecting with other women in coding. We started a Slack group to network and help each other out.”

After graduating in May, Kat will seek positions at inclusive companies that offer learning opportunities for her first tech job. She has no preference for remote or in-person work if the company has a good workplace culture and a supportive environment for junior developers.

“I encourage anyone interested in coding to consider Code Platoon. Their program offers a lot of advantages. 

“When I left teaching, I didn’t think there was a place for me in technology. But Code Platoon showed me that tech has a place for anyone who can dedicate themselves to it.”

Are you a military spouse interested in attending Code Platoon? View our scholarship options for military spouses and apply to Code Platoon today.

Kayla Elkin is the Marketing Content Specialist at Code Platoon. In this role, she utilizes her marketing, writing, and editing skills developed from previous positions in higher education and educational technology. Kayla has degrees in English and Sociology from Clemson University and completed the Study in India Program (SIP) at the University of Hyderabad. She lives with her partner in northern Chicago.

Military MOS

What Was Your MOS?

Most of us who served in the military have been in a place where we ask ourselves, “what kind of civilian job does my military experience translate into?”

For some, transferring military experience is more straightforward than for others. If you were a nurse or a motor pool mechanic and want to remain in those fields, the experience transfer is obvious. Internal medicine and combustion engines don’t magically change outside of DoD purview.

But for many Servicemembers, this is no easy thing. I was an Airborne Infantryman who became a PSYOP Team Chief, which is pretty limited outside of military life (except for being a mercenary and a politician, but I digress). Those in a similar position have to think a bit more, and that can often seem daunting, given what little messaging is out there on this subject. 

Transferring your military experience is more simple than many people make it, and here’s why. Consider the world of software development. This seems like a stretch for some Servicemembers, as there aren’t a lot of military specialties that directly correlate to programming, but that’s thinking about it the wrong way.

Here is the better way of looking at it: your military service sets you up for success in numerous ways. Chief among them are the educational opportunities available to you. Servicemembers now have more options than ever for learning a new skill, and they already have a foundation for doing that quite well.

When you went through Basic Training (or boot camp, or equivalent), you entered a world you had never been a part of before. It was entirely new, and you were suddenly immersed in an all-day, every-day newness – a flood of novel information streaming at you in a way you had never experienced. 

And yet, you succeeded. Despite the overwhelming nature of your situation, you adapted and adjusted to your new normal. 

More than anything else, this background is what can prepare you to learn new skills and transition into a new career. It doesn’t matter that your military specialty doesn’t transfer directly to another job – what matters is that you have a foundation upon which to build.

Most students who attend Code Platoon haven’t been software developers before or even written that much code. 

Our students come out of everything from the Infantry to the motor pool, from the medical field to linguistic analysis and military intelligence. They succeed because they know how to adapt to a fire hose of new knowledge hitting them in the face. They’ve done it before, and so have you.

Don’t let your military specialty define the rest of your life. You can choose to move beyond that, and Code Platoon is a place of like-minded people who can help you enable that transition. 

Greg Drobny is a former Airborne Infantryman, PSYOP Team Chief, political consultant, professional mil blogger, and is Code Platoon’s Student Outreach and Recruitment Manager. He holds a BA and MA in history, as well as a Masters of Science in organizational psychology. He is married with four children who keep him more than slightly busy, and is passionate about helping Veterans find their paths in life and develop the skills needed to pursue their goals.