Rich Epsy - Ensnare

Providing Local Networking Resources to Code Platoon Students

One thing that distinguishes Code Platoon’s Bootcamp program from others is the opportunity our in-person students have to be part of a highly-competitive internship program. All of our in-person graduates will compete for coveted internships with some of our major Chicago-area corporate partners. Roughly two-thirds of graduates will be placed in a paid internship.

During the month of March, our Kilo Platoon students had the opportunity to meet and network with technology leaders from two of our internship partners – Ensnare and JP Morgan Chase & Co. to learn about internship opportunities.

Ensnare is an emerging security technology company. The company is a patent-pending, next-generation IoT security solution designed to deliver community safety by capturing the digital fingerprint of assailants and providing essential forensic data leading to the detection, capture, prosecution, and conviction of violent crime perpetrators.

Rich Espy (pictured), co-founder of Ensnare, and several of the company’s developers met with Kilo Platoon at their Near West Side offices. They shared their unique approach to agile development and provided a pre-launch glimpse of the technology they will be deploying. Ensnare will provide one member of Kilo Platoon an internship opportunity at the conclusion of the 14-week class.

In addition to his work at Ensnare, Rich is also a member of the Code Platoon Board and served as an intelligence officer for the United States Marine Corps.

The Platoon also had an afternoon of networking and presentations from the technology team at JP Morgan Chase. The company provides merchant services worldwide and has more than 50,000 technology employees at 18 worksites around the world. Internships for Code Platoon students at JP Morgan Chase can lead to full-time roles as part of the company’s Military Pathways Program for Veterans.

Iggy Kahn- Chase

Iggy Kahn (pictured) a Managing Director in the Chase Merchant Services group led the company’s presentation to Kilo Platoon. He was joined by several technology leaders and developers, including previous Code Platoon graduates currently working at Chase. Iggy is a Veteran U.S. naval flight officer who flew 76 combat missions and earned three air medals. He also serves on the Board of Code Platoon.

For more information on the Code Platoon internship program, visit https://www.codeplatoon.org/the-program/internships/

Brenna Koss is Code Platoon’s Development and Operations Coordinator. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina Greensboro in Political Science and French. In her free time, Brenna loves to travel and spend time with friends and family. Follow Brenna on LinkedIn.

Code Platoon COVID19 Update

Code Platoon and the COVID-19 virus

Like most Americans, Code Platoon is navigating uncharted waters as we adapt to restrictions designed to lessen the spread of COVID-19 virus. From social distancing to remote workplaces; increased use of remote video to new approaches to delivering information and education – we are adapting to a new reality.

With the spread of COVID-19, Code Platoon has set up a comprehensive plan to make sure current students can continue their Coding instruction utilizing remote strategies with the full support of our instructors and program staff. Despite the crisis, our programs are continuing in the safest manner possible.

Our small team is currently working remotely due to the virus, but thanks to video conferencing, messaging platforms and cloud-based services we remain connected to our students and the classroom on a regular basis.

Our ability to stay plugged into the current Kilo Platoon and the soon to commence Alpha Part-time Platoon during the COVID-19 pandemic is powered by the generous support of our partners and sponsors including Instacart. Instacart is a technology company that operates as same-day grocery delivery and pick-up service in the U.S. and Canada.

Over the last few weeks, consumers have relied on Instacart as an essential service provider to get the groceries, household goods and personal healthcare items they need. As consumer demand has increased, the Instacart shopper community has stepped up as household heroes for families across the country.

Code Platoon has relies on grants from corporate partners including Instacart to ensure that our classroom and operations are powered by the latest technology. These grants are especially useful in providing funding for video conferencing equipment and services.

Without the support of our partners, Code Platoon may have lagged in its ability to respond and adapt to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 virus. Instead, their generous gifts have allowed for the seamless transition of our support team to move to a remote working model, while not missing a moment of important interaction with our classroom.

Follow Code Platoon on Facebook and Twitter for updates on COVID-19 efforts. We encourage our Code Platoon community to stay healthy and safe during these challenging times.

Jim Hennessey is Code Platoon’s Director of Marketing. Jim brings a strong background in no-profit marketing and start-up enterprises to the mission of Code Platoon. Jim is a graduate of Clemson University and currently lives in Chicago. Follow Jim on LinkedIn.

kilo platoon

Kilo Platoon Update Blog

Stay up to date with Kilo Platoon through the coding boot camp journey and beyond!

Kilo Platoon starts their coding journey

On January 6, 2020 Code Platoon proudly welcomed 23 new students to our Kilo cohort. During their first week of class, Kilo students heard from our alumni on best practices, both in and out of the classroom, as they start their journey with Code Platoon. In addition, the new student reception, hosted by Code Platoon at our classroom, provided an opportunity for students, staff, volunteers, and alumni to meet each other during the first week of class. This networking opportunity is just one of many that Kilo students will have as they embark on their training with Code Platoon. 

Kilo cohort is comprised of 12 in-person students and 11 remote students. Veterans of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army National Guard, and Air Force have combined forces to complete our first cohort of 2020. These students will begin their software development careers alongside our two full-time instructors, Tom Prete, Marine veteran, and Noa Heinrich, an AmeriCorps graduate with a passion for our mission. 

Noa is “looking forward to joining this wonderful community at Code Platoon. I can’t wait to see just how far my students will go as they learn more about software development and find careers in the growing technology sector.”

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 April 17, 2020.

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

kilo alumni visit

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 Internships

Monday January 13, 2019 marks the beginning of Juliet Platoon’s internships! Seven of our most recent graduates will embark on their new careers with our corporate sponsors including: DRW, Chicago Trading Company, 8th Light, and Grainger.

The week following graduation, also known as Interview Week, included four to five interviews for each student, allowing them direct access into these companies and an opportunity to learn about the different roles available to them. The Code Platoon team helped students prepare for these interviews through mock interviews, whiteboarding practice, and group interview sessions with industry leaders. Thank you to all of our volunteers who helped our students prepare! 

Over the next three to five months, our newest alumni will extend their learning through full-time paid internships at their host companies. This experience will continue to help our students grow into well rounded software development professionals. 

Join us in wishing them luck in their new professional roles!

Juliet Platoon celebrates graduation

Juliet Platoon, our 10th class, graduated on Friday December 13, 2019 at 2:30pm at JP Morgan Chase. Thirteen students graduated, with 9 students utilizing their VA benefits and 4 students receiving scholarships from Code Platoon. Four of the five branches of service were represented, with 7 Soldiers, 3 Marines, 2 Sailors, and 1 Airman completing our program and embarking on careers in software development.  

Executive Director Rod Levy commented, “All 13 students of Juliet cohort showed great grit and determination over the last 14 weeks, with highlights including innovative personal projects, incredible networking opportunities, and a commitment to ensuring every fellow student, in-person and remote, achieved their greatest amount of success. New for Juliet was the addition of VET TEC, an innovative program offered by The Department of Veteran Affairs that helps more veterans find training opportunities in software development. The addition of VET TEC helped Juliet become our largest class to date.”

Juliet cohort graduates will continue their journeys with paid software development internships and apprenticeships exclusively offered to Code Platoon alumni to further their coding careers. The internships available for Juliet include Chicago Trading Company, DRW, Narrative Science, 8th Light, and Grainger.

Juliet_Introduction

Newly minted Code Platoon alumni, Michael Blaha, recounted his time at Code Platoon, “Code Platoon is not only a program that instructs you how to become a software engineer, but it also connects you to a large network of professionals that can guide you into and through the industry. One of the advantages to the Code Platoon environment is that you get to do this while connecting with a family of veterans that are participating with you.”

Thank you to our newest corporate sponsor, JP Morgan Chase, for hosting Code Platoon! Located on the 56th floor of Chase Tower, guests of Code Platoon took in breathtaking views of the city and enjoyed the celebration and reception. In 2020, JP Morgan Chase will host Code Platoon graduates for internships and help provide opportunities for networking in the field. Iggy Khan, a JP Morgan Chase Managing Director and Code Platoon Executive Board Member noted, “It was inspiring to meet the students. Their graduation presentations demonstrated the incredible skill they attained over the past several months of training. I am sure their future employers can’t wait for them to join. I wish each of them the best of luck with their new careers.”

Congratulations, Juliet Platoon!

Juliet_Graduation_December_2019

Javascript React event for Juliet Platoon

At Code Platoon, we think it’s important to expose students early to the fact that they’ll encounter more than one programming language in their careers as developers.

We specifically teach Python and Javascript at Code Platoon. After the first half of the program, where the students focus on Python and the full-stack Django framework, they move on to Javascript and the front-end React framework. As a new software developer, switching between two different computer languages can be difficult, but switching between two different languages AND frameworks simultaneously can be downright mentally debilitating.

However, the students were fortunate to have the guidance and React expertise of Quinn Stephens, a Developer at Table XI, to introduce and teach Javascript’s React framework. Quinn covered the core ethos of React and walked them through the main concepts, Functional and Class based components, State and Props, and the Lifecycle methods to build their first React Application.

After the React workshop, the students were enthusiastically confident in their ability to tackle more complex React concepts like Hooks, a recent addition to React, and refactor their code and future challenges to accommodate Hooks. Now the students have the ability to create a full-stack applications using Django and now, thanks to Quinn Stephens and Table XI, React.

It’s always a delightful feeling seeing students empowered to take on challenges and problems with the tools they learned in the 14 weeks at Code Platoon. Thank you to Quinn Stephens of Table XI for continuing to support Code Platoon and our students.

Juliet Platoon visits Table XI

At Code Platoon, our students are introduced to concepts outside of traditional programming instruction. Our most recent cohort, the student’s of Juliet Platoon, had the pleasure of participating in an Agile training workshop hosted by Mark Yoon, John Newfry, and Gayle Silverman of Table XI. During the workshop, students learned Agile processes and how to structure and deliver a project using Lego bricks. 

table xi coding

First, the students broke off into two teams of four and had to work together to meet the requirements of a project that was requested by their client, John Newfry & Gayle Silverman. Their project? To build a vehicle that can handle the terrain and species of another planet. The workshop’s lead instructor, Mark Yoon, taught the students the Agile process of Iterations and the elements of an Iteration. 

table xi lesson

Throughout the workshop the students were tested in asking the right questions, working together, and delivering a successful project to the client. Through each iteration the students learned, evolved their strategy, and accelerated their velocity; successfully meeting the requirements of their client.

table xi instruction

The students left the workshop with a better understanding of how to work in teams and with clients, while most notably learning the importance of failing quickly. 

Thank you to Mark Yoon, John Newfry, and Gayle Silverman and the rest of the team at Table XI for continuing to support Code Platoon and our students.

table xi group shot

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!

 

code camp alumni video 2019

Celebrate Code Platoon 2019 guests show generous support for the mission

Celebrate Code Platoon 2019 was held on November 14 from 6:00-10:00pm in Chicago. We were graciously hosted by Nacional 27. With over 170 friends of Code Platoon in attendance, we celebrated our fourth year of serving veterans and military spouses and helping them find careers as software development professionals. 

Executive Director, Rodrigo Levy, hosted the program portion of the evening, where he reminded our guests that 36 veterans and military spouses will graduate Code Platoon in 2019, bringing our total alumni base to 85. We are particularly proud that we helped those veterans and spouses who need help the most: 85% of our graduates were enlisted, which means they don’t necessarily have a college degree or any college at all. We have helped address veteran unemployment, and not to put too fine a point on it, veteran underemployment. The median income of our graduates when they enter Code Platoon is $33,000; when they leave it’s $65,000 and on their way to much more. And they get to enter a career that won’t disappear in 5 or 10 years, and has virtually no limits.

DRW, Partner of the Year, 2019

Brig. General (Ret.) Stephen Curda, PhD, Executive Director of Illinois Joining Forces, gave the keynote address, highlighting the unique position Code Platoon has in helping our nation’s heroes find full time careers in the growing technology field. Our 2019 Partner of the Year, DRW, is an exemplary company, who is answering the call to help our veterans and military spouses by providing paid internships upon graduation. We proudly shared this video with our guests to highlight DRW’s commitment to Code Platoon. 

Code Platoon Alumni, 2019

The program ended with our second annual alumni video, featuring recent graduates and their experience with Code Platoon. Our alumni then came to life, hosting our first annual paddle raise, where guests could pledge their support for Code Platoon by raising their paddle and contributing funding directly to our students! We are proud to say that we were able to raise over $45,000 through the paddle raise. Thank you to our Friends of Code Platoon!

Celebrate Code Platoon 2019 was a success, in large part, thanks to our event sponsors including DRW, G2, Motorola Solutions, Hyde Park Venture Partners, SEI, OCA Ventures, Jill and David Greer, and David and Peggy Rogers. These sponsors, along with our guests, helped to raise over $93,000 for our program! These contributions will be 100% invested into our program, helping more veterans and military spouses find our program and start a new career in software development. 

For those that couldn’t join us at Celebrate Code Platoon 2019, it’s not too late to support our 2020 classes of veterans and military spouses. Please visit our donations page to donate today! 

We are humbled by the generosity of our supporters and excited for our 2020 classes!

DRW Video Transcript

Hank Moon:                  My name is Hank Moon and I graduated from India Platoon.

Holly Burd:                   I’m Holly Burd and I was in India Platoon.

Seth Thompson:            My name is Seth Thompson. I’m the CIO at DRW. I was one of the early adopters of code platoons program. The whole cause jelled well with our firm and what we believe in and with what I believe in around educating the underserved, and we continued to try interns and work with the program and mentor. And I’ve hired at least five of six of the interns so far. It’s just been a blessing all the way around.

Holly Burd:                   Now that I’m an alumni of Code Platoon, I am working at DRW. I also get to work with a handful of other Code Platoon graduates. It’s great because knowing where they come from and where they are now, seeing that roadmap is something I could kind of emulate and look forward to myself.

Hank Moon:                  I am currently a software engineer intern at DRW. It’s still very surreal to me that I get to work at such amazing company. When I left the military I was currently working with a very tight knit team, we were almost like family, and I get that sense of family at DRW

Seth Thompson:            For DRW we’re very strong believers in supporting the armed forces and in supporting our veterans. It’s just great. I mean, we’re putting people to work in an underserved community. In a job market that needs more candidates.

Seth Thompson:            One of the reasons why hiring out a Code Platoon makes a lot of sense, is you’re finding mature engineers who are junior, who are wanting to grow in many different directions, and you can then help steer them in those directions, and have them grow inside your firm. You’re going to get people with loyalty, with discipline, and with the ability to learn.

Code Platoon Alumni 2019 Video Transcript

Anthony E.:                   I was a cryptologic linguist in the Army. I was an Arabic linguist.

Christian Baker:            I was in the Navy as a nuclear reactor operator.

Hank Moon:                  In the Air Force I was doing inflight refueling.

Katherine R.:                 Started exploring the military option, and the one that I stumbled upon that I felt most comfortable with was a linguist job. So cryptologic linguist.

Holly Burd:                   So I joined the Marine Corps when I was 19 I became an Arabic linguist and deployed to Iraq. Then when I came back, I learned Pashto. And I went and translated in Afghanistan as well.

Anthony E.:                   So Code Platoon, I was actually in the first cohort that accepted the GI Bill. So the timing was just like, if it were any earlier, it wouldn’t have worked. If it were later, it wouldn’t have worked. It just, it was pretty much perfect.

Hank Moon:                  I became frustrated going through the normal path and not studying constantly what I wanted to do. I felt like I was wasting my time at that point. When I came to Code Platoon, I was right in it. I was doing what I loved every single day for three months. And it was fantastic.

Christian Baker:            I was very sure that I wanted to go to a coding boot camp. I didn’t know about Code Platoon at the time. But then on Course Report I found Code Platoon. I started reading reviews and they were all very positive. And what I liked is that not only did everyone enjoy the program itself, but they had really good results with placement. That was kind of the end goal, is to to learn as much as you could in three months but also get a job. There’s no better place to do that than Code Platoon.

Anthony E.:                   One of the things that I liked the most about Code Platoon was being in a classroom full of veterans. There were so many like long days where I was just coding from like sunup to sundown. And I just don’t know how sustainable that is if you’re doing it in a vacuum. But having colleagues, who became friends, in that same environment, embracing the suck together, that really makes it not just bearable but fun. And I think that I really appreciated that.

Katherine R.:                 I don’t think I would’ve gotten through a program like this without going through it with veterans. We didn’t leave anybody behind. That we all had strengths in certain categories, and people stepped up to the plate, when they excelled in something, to help pull the other members of their cohort along.

Hank Moon:                  As much as I love coding, my favorite part of Code Platoon was the Beyond Tech talks that we would do with John. He was really able to shed light on the process of landing a job, negotiating once you have an offer. It was just really important that we got that information. And I didn’t realize how important that was going into Code Platoon.

Christian Baker:            My favorite part of Code Platoon was the individual and group projects. Because we finally were able to apply what we had been learning throughout the whole program to make some sort of product that we thought of. You really finally get to see the benefit of everything that you learned.

Holly Burd:                   Definitely my favorite part of the program is the instructors. The curriculum is designed to really push you and test you every day. So you never feel like you’re wasting a moment. You just keep learning and learning and learning. It’s super powerful.

Hank Moon:                  The curriculum for Code Platoon was structured in a way that transitioning into a job was very easy.

Anthony E.:                   The apprenticeship program, for sure, it was like the best value add that Code Platoon had. Where I just felt like so many of those barriers to entry were smoothed out by the apprenticeship program. And it’s been, I think that was a great experience and obviously it’s made a lot of really cool things possible for me now.

Christian Baker:            Everyone from our cohort has a job and is successful and it’s only been two months. There’s no other program out there that exists that is specifically aimed at helping veterans get into this industry.

Holly Burd:                   Now that I’m an alumni of Code Platoon, I am working at DRW. I also get to work with a handful of other Code Platoon graduates. It’s great because knowing where they come from and where they are now, seeing that roadmap is something I could kind of emulate and look forward to myself. I’m so grateful. Everything that Rod and John and you do, super life changing but you know that.

Gary Coffey and Karin Matsuyama, Alumni of the Month, October 2019

Gary Coffey was an incredibly hard working veteran who is also one of the most genuine and easygoing veterans we have had to walk through our doors. Karin was an extremely talented developer whose personal project was so impressive, we thought it was a 3 person group project.

– Rod Levy, Executive Director

 

From Mattress Firm to Finance Firm

In the Air Force, Gary Coffey did amazing things.  He was responsible for the technology that trained pilots. He downloaded and analyzed B2 bomber data. He debugged software programs.

But when his service was over and he came home, the best job he could get was selling mattresses. It was hardly the high-tech work he was accustomed to.

“Sales didn’t suit me,” said Coffey.

According to Coffey, he craved the challenge of solving complex problems but didn’t know how to translate his worldly military experience to the civilian world of work.

Gary is not alone. While veteran unemployment has improved, underemployment remains an issue. 30% of veterans are underemployed, a rate 15.6 higher than non-veterans, according to analysis conducted by Ziprecruiter in 2017.

Searching Google for IT training programs, Gary’s wife learned about Code Platoon, and he was interested because it was a coding academy specifically for veterans. Once he looked he deeper, he found that he could even use the G.I. Bill to pay for the training. After graduating the Code Platoon program and landing an internship with one of Code Platoon’s sponsoring companies, Gary boosted his salary by $25,000 a year.

“I’m inspired again,” said Coffey, who works as a software engineer for finance firm Enova.

Read more about Gary’s own thoughts on his journey into coding by clicking here.

Couples Who Code Together, Stay Together

Military spouse unemployment is considered a national security issue among military leadership. According to brand new data from the Department of Defense, military spouses are unemployed at 24%, which is six times greater than the national average. To combat military spouse unemployment, Code Platoon recently opened up the program to military spouses.

After first telling her husband about the program, Karin Matsuyama is now also going through it. Gary says that watching his wife learn to code gives him insight into how she goes about solving challenges. Coding is a new language they share, one that is rare. The experience is deepening their bond and securing their financial future.

While Karin can’t apply G.I. Bill® funds to the program like Gary did, she did qualify for Code Platoon’s Women in Technology scholarship worth $10,000.

“The GI Bill and the Women in Technology Scholarship put the program within reach,” said Gary.

The story of Gary and Karin’s journey was also featured on CBS News.

Karin brought strong technical skills to India cohort. Her thoughtful approach to problem solving was a positive influence on her fellow students and helped push the whole class forward week after week. We are grateful to have both Karin and her husband, Gary, as Code Platoon alumni working in the Chicago tech community.

– Jon Young, Director of Education

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, Code Platoon 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

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.