It’s 7:30 a.m., and Kelvin Lau is making his daily commute on the bus into the Chicago Loop. It’s quite a different experience for the eight-year Air National Guardsman who left his home in California on a new mission: to attend Code Platoon’s Full-stack Software Engineering: Immersive program in-person.
“I was surrounded by programming my whole life,” Kelvin says. “I’ve always found software engineering enticing, but it didn’t pan out with my time in the military.”
Kelvin enters Code Platoon’s classroom at about 8 a.m. Sometimes, he arrives early to use the gym before class. Today, he grabs coffee with another student to discuss debugging their programs.
“I had some exposure to coding from my professional experience before Code Platoon. I use that experience to help my friends out. Walking through other peoples’ code helps me learn, too,” he says.
Class begins at 8:30 a.m. for all students, whether they are in-person like Kelvin or attending remotely from around the world. This morning, the students practice answering a behavioral interview question. Since many Code Platoon students are interviewing for the first time after Bootcamp, this practice is essential for entering the civilian tech industry.
“Learning to translate my military experience into something tech employers can understand and connect with has been eye-opening,” Kelvin says.
Next up, two Motorola Solutions security architects drop in to lead a web security guest workshop. The Code Platoon curriculum includes regular expert guest workshops, thanks to corporate partners like Motorola. Today, Kelvin learns how to use Burp Suite to analyze his program’s attack surface and pinpoint its security vulnerabilities. In the last few weeks, he’s also delved into workshops on relational databases, GitHub version control, and AWS deployment.
“I think Code Platoon’s curriculum goes deeper than other coding bootcamps,” Kelvin says. “Last week, we had a whole day on Agile project management. These workshops immerse us in how software engineers think and let us network with the industry pros leading them.”
It’s time for lunch, and Kelvin and his classmates grab some takeout and review their notes before an afternoon of working on their group projects, which they will present before graduating.
“Since everyone is here today, we’ll help each other on our projects. In my case, I have a knack for front-end development,” Kelvin says. “The remote students also work together in Zoom breakout rooms, but I prefer the in-person collaboration here.”
Kelvin had toyed with pursuing a computer science degree using his GI Bill®. He ultimately chose Code Platoon, where he could gain more quick, practical experience in technology and still have enough GI Bill left for college later.
“The other reason I chose Code Platoon was to be part of the exclusively military Coding Bootcamp community. The shared experience here is comforting,” Kelvin says. “Even most of the instructors are Veterans themselves.”
Living in Chicago has its perks beyond learning to code for Kelvin:
“I haven’t seen the winter yet, but I love the city so far,” he says. “The cost of living is much lower than the Bay Area, but there’s still plenty to do. It’s so much fun exploring the city with my new friends on the weekends. I want to stay here after I graduate.”
Kelvin’s future as part of Chicago’s tech community will have to wait a bit. He received orders to deploy the day after his Uniform Platoon graduates.
Despite this setback, he won’t give up on his new dream of entering Chicago’s tech sector:
“I’ll keep building projects and improving my software engineering portfolio during deployment. I’ll try to get in the door with some companies in Chicago while that’s happening,” he says.
“Oh, and I’ll need to buy my first winter coat before I come back.”
Kayla Elkin is the Marketing Content Specialist at Code Platoon. In this role, she uses her marketing, writing, and editing skills developed from previous higher education and educational technology positions. Kayla has degrees in English and Sociology from Clemson University and completed the Study in India Program (SIP) at the University of Hyderabad.