Rome Platoon Final Projects

Romeo Platoon Final Projects

Graduates from our Immersive, Full-stack Software Engineering Bootcamp, Romeo Platoon, spent the last two weeks completing their final group projects. The Romeo graduates formed teams and harnessed their new software engineering skills to develop full-stack web applications. 

Here are their project demonstrations:

Our first group is Fishtories, an app for anglers. Users can log info about their game fish catches and view each others’ catches on an interactive geo-map featuring images, catching methods, and records from the International Game Fish Association.

Check out Fishtories by Daniel Reither, Robert Puentes, Jacob Hill, Nathan Leathers, and Michael Lambert. They are Active Duty Marine Corps, a military spouse, a Marine Corps Veteran, and two Navy Veterans.

 

The next project is Zesty Tamales, a web app designed to reach an online audience of Latin street food vendors. Those looking to get food from a street food vendor can order through the app and process their payments online through Stripe.

The team behind Zesty Tamales is Chris Volar, an Air Force Reservist; Kevin Bui, an Air Force Veteran and Evan Garcia, an Air Force Veteran.

 

Gamer’s Haven is the third project in this showcase. Gamer’s Haven offers gaming and anime content for users to explore, discuss with each other via interactive forums, create and respond to polls, and create and join local or online events.

Kaleb Varnes, Dalton Eggleston, Terrance Carter, and Angel Felix–Active Duty Navy and Air Force Servicemembers, a Navy Veteran, and a Marine Corps Veteran, respectively–created Gamer’s Haven.

Jobify is the next project by Romeo graduates. Jobify is a one-stop shop where users can navigate the application and interviewing processes of getting a new job. Users can search for jobs, add them to a personal progress board, and prepare for interviews via open-source forums and other users’ shared interview experiences.

A team of two Marine Corps Veterans, a Coast Guard Veteran, and two Air Force Veterans–Dennis Corral, Facisco Avila, Miah Clay, Luis Manzo, and Rexford Wiafe –developed Jobify.

The fifth project is GAMENIGHT. GAMENIGHT helps users plan public or private game night events and search for public game nights in their area. Users can create private groups, invite friends, or create general game nights that are searchable by location.

Check out the GAMENIGHT demonstration by Michael Heinzinger, an Active Duty Air Force Servicemember; Alisha Burgfeld, an Army Veteran; Megann Herdegen, an Active Duty Navy Servicemember; Kaylee Burch, a Navy Veteran; Daniel Pizarro, an Army spouse; and Craig Bucher, an Air Force Veteran.

Romeo’s Adventure is next up in the showcase. Romeo’s Adventure is an online fantasy role-playing game based very loosely on the team’s experiences in Code Platoon. The game includes an interactive map and story, turn-based dueling with animations, and puzzles about coding to solve.

The team behind this project is Justin Peterson, Meredith Hall, Skyler Scott, Garrett Adams, and Zack Fair. They are two Active Duty Navy Servicemembers, an Army Veteran, an Active Duty Marine Corps Servicemember, and an Active Duty Air Force Servicemember, respectively.

 

The final project is Paw Platoon. Paw Platoon connects Servicemembers with base access to provide needed pet care during travel and deployments. Paw Platoon also tracks pet sitters’ walk times and locations.

Check out the Paw Platoon presentation by Hunter McReynolds, an Air Force Veteran; John O’Keefe, an Army Veteran and Nathan Marquis, a Marine Corps Veteran.

Congratulations, Romeo Platoon graduates! We’re proud of the accomplishments showcased during this cohort’s final project demonstrations.

The entire graduation and project showcase is available to watch on YouTube.

Best Paying and Most In Demand

The Best Paying and Most In-demand Programming Languages in 2022

At Code Platoon, we track national demand for programming languages so that our Veteran, Servicemember, and military spouse students get the best training for their new software engineering or DevOps engineering careers. 

This article highlights the programming languages with the highest salaries and most frequently targeted job postings for 2022. We’ve also published our findings for 2021, 2020, and 2019

Our 2022 findings show that Python and Javascript developers continue to be paid well, ranking #3 and #4 in salary. C++ holds #1 in compensation but there are relatively few job postings. Java, Javascript, and Python lead in jobs posted.

How we identified the top programming languages for 2022

To measure compensation, we examined the 15 most popular coding languages according to Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey. We mapped the average salary for those languages’ job listings on Indeed.com, one of the largest job listing sites. We tracked the total number of job postings targeting those 15 most popular languages to measure demand.

Ranking programming languages by pay and number of job openings

Python: Python is an interpreted, multi-purpose programming language. It holds the #3 position in the Average Salary and Job Postings categories. Python continues to grow in use for data science, machine learning, cybersecurity, and DevOps engineering. 

Javascript: Javascript took #2 in Job Postings and #4 in Average Salary. Javascript is an indispensable language for programming web applications and remains popular with employers.

Java: Integral to large-scale, legacy business applications and gaining new relevance from its Google adoption for Android, Java climbs to #1 in Job Postings and #2 in Average Salary

C++: C++ is used primarily in gaming and high-performance applications. It stands at #1 in Average Salary and #5 in Job Postings. C++ is fast and stable, but it’s also among the most difficult programming languages to learn. 

C#: C# maintains a user base through its continued use for the Unity gaming engine. It stands at #4 in Job Postings and #6 in Average Salary

PHP: PHP is a general-purpose scripting language that powers WordPress. It’s ranked #7 in Job Postings and #8 in Average Salary.

C: C is an older–but still widely used–programming language. It holds #5 in Average Salary and #6 in Job Postings. Concepts that are hidden to users in scripting languages like Python and Java are exposed in C, offering more flexibility. However, its complexity makes it challenging to learn.

SQL: SQL (or Structured Query Language) is the standard language for relational database management systems. It’s a query language that allows users to draw information from databases. SQL ranks #7 in Average Salary and #8 in Job Postings

What will be the most popular programming language in 2023?

Speculating how these programming languages will fare in the future is difficult because the supply of qualified applicants affects the number of open positions. However, Python will likely continue growing as companies increasingly adopt data analytics tools, infrastructure software development, and AI tools (all areas where Python shines). Javascript will also continue to be the “language of the web.”

If you’re looking for more information on the various programming languages and their relative popularity in the workforce, the TIOBE Index and Stack Overflow provide authoritative reports. They consider industry demand and incorporate different approaches to determining the best programming languages.

Are you a Veteran, Servicemember, or military spouse interested in learning to code? If you’re a military community member looking to transition to a tech career, you can apply to one of our programs to get started. 

Rod Levy is the Founder and Executive Director of Code Platoon. Rod spent 20+ years in finance and entrepreneurship. He was a Partner at G-Bar Limited Partners, where he co-founded and managed their volatility-arbitrage trading desk (BBR Trading). He was one of the founders of Cerrio, an internal software start-up. He holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in engineering from Cornell University and an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he graduated with honors. Rod has also completed Dev Bootcamp’s web developer program.

Intro to Agile

Sketching, Scope, and Stories: An Intro to Agile Development

Agile software development methodologies have become the norm in large tech companies. Self-managing Agile teams develop software incrementally to align with consumer needs. Agile is primarily a mindset and can be difficult to learn. 

That’s why product strategist Judith Sol Dyess introduces Code Platoon students to Agile development principles and practical starting advice. Judith structures her one-day workshop around four key steps: the elevator pitch, sketching product ideas, scope prioritization, and writing practical user stories. 

If you’ve wanted to learn how software engineering teams develop products quickly, you can follow Judith’s suggestions to hone your skills.

Elevator Pitch

Elevator Pitches share concise ideas. Starting with this pitch helps you develop the essential project framework: who should use it? What will it solve?

Answer these questions and follow Judith’s template from The Agile Samurai to draft your elevator pitch:

For [users] who [users’ problems], [product name] is a [product category] that [main benefit]. Unlike [competitive alternative] our product [most differentiating benefit].

Let’s see an elevator pitch in action. Students from Code Platoon’s Papa Platoon created The Daily Planter using Judith’s techniques. Here is their elevator pitch:

“For gardeners and farmers who need crop management for their area, The Daily Planter is a gardening app that helps users grow crops. Unlike Garden Manager our product scales to a range of plot sizes and manages soil data.”

Fit your product details into this template, and you too have an elevator pitch. 

Sketching

With the elevator pitch in hand, now it is time to visualize your ideas. Judith teaches a process called Ide8ts–inspired by Crazy Eights from Google Ventures–to sketch rough outlines for each screen a software product will have. 

First, fold an empty piece of paper three times to create 8 rectangles. Then, use a marker to sketch one screen per box. Your results may look something like this example from The Daily Planter team:

sketch

This exercise typically generates a lot of different ideas. In Judith’s workshop this is the primary conversation starter for the features the teams are going to build. It’s not intended to be a consensus on the finished product; it’s about ways to solve the problem at hand. 

Scope Prioritization

Next comes prioritizing all your ideas. In Agile development, the project’s scope is managed in terms of its goals, features, and user stories

 Typically product owners create the goals for a development project. They often start with user research to determine the essential features. The project team will then break up these features into smaller, actionable items detailing the deliverables.

User research usually yields more features than a team can include in the product’s first version. So, to prioritize the project’s scope, Judith recommends creating a MoSCoW method board detailing the “Must,” “Should,” “Could,” and “Won’t” haves.

“Must haves” are the deliverables essential for a product launch. “Should haves” are important but can be “fast followers” to launch. “Could haves” could be helpful, but it’s worth waiting on user feedback after launch, and “Won’t haves’’ won’t be done at all as part of this project.

Here’s an example of a completed MoSCoW method board for The Daily Planter:

moscow

Once you’ve pitched your stories and organized them according to the MoSCoW board, you can focus on developing the “Must haves” into more detailed user stories.

User Stories

User stories are a critical tool to help you plan how you’ll deliver your features, how you’ll code them, and how you’ll test them from the user’s perspective. 

Judith recommends following this story template:

As a [type of user], I can [perform this action] so that I can [gain this value from it]

Here’s one of The Daily Planter’s user stories:

As a user, I can input the location and amount of each crop so that I can receive reminders to fertilize, water, and harvest my crops.

Each feature on the MosCoW board will necessitate several new user stories, each detailed enough to be clearly understood, actionable, and testable. 

When you’re done, you’ll have most of the information you need to code your tech projects organized enough to get right to work.

To see more of our graduates’ final projects developed from Judith’s workshops, check out our Quebec Platoon final projects.

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.


Charlie E&W Platoon Final Projects

Charlie Evening and Weekend Platoon Final Projects

On Saturday, July 16, twenty students graduated from Code Platoon’s Full-stack Software Engineering Bootcamp: Evening and Weekend program. As part of the ceremony, the new graduates showcased the web applications they developed with the skills they learned during the 28-week program. 

Here are their tech demonstrations:

Our first group is TR-APP Job Tracking App. TR-APP is a web application for job seekers that organizes job posts, documents, and application reminders in one location. Users can search for and save job postings to their dashboard, set reminders for specific applications, and plan their commute to interviews with a Google maps integration and local weather data.

Check out TR-APP developed by Everett Yeckley, David Tetreau, Jorge Prias, Felipe Lopez, and Will Compton: two Army Veterans, an Air Force Veteran, a Marine Corps Veteran, and an Active Duty Servicemember in the Navy, respectively.

The next project is Through the Lifting Glass, a weightlifting team management app. Through the Lifting Glass lets coaches track their team rosters and lifting progress, schedule practices and lifting events on the calendar, post workouts and photos, and send messages to the team. Athletes can track their progress, view their teammates’ records, schedule team bonding events, and communicate with their teammates.

The team behind Through the Lifting Glass is Stephanie Lentell, Kevin Belk, Juan Laporte, Devin Glauner, and Melissa White: two Air Force Veterans, a Marine Corps Veteran, an Army Veteran, and an Army spouse.

Ahead of the Game is the third project in this showcase. Ahead of the Game users can find the game locations of their favorite baseball, hockey, and football teams. Users can schedule text notifications for each saved game, sync games to their Google Calendar, and join chats with other users planning to attend games.

Chris Hicks, Scott Rametta, Latasha Wise, Stephen Howard, and Dan Miller–an Active Duty Air Force Member, Navy Veteran, Army Veteran, Air Force Veteran, and Marine Corps Veteran– created Ahead of the Game.

The final project developed by Charlie E&W Platoon graduates is Parents-n-Parks. Parents-n-Parks connects local parents and families with similar interests. The App uses a Google Maps integration to find local events, family-friendly locations, and ratings while planning events. It allows users to send friend requests and invite each other to meetups.

Check out the Parents-n-Parks presentation by Tressa Sharma, Anthony Lemke, Josh Richardson, Ka Leung, and William Keirn, one Army and four Marine Corps Veterans, respectively.

Congratulations to the Charlie Evening and Weekend Platoon graduates! We’re proud of the creativity and skills demonstrated during this cohort’s final presentations.

Software Engineering or DevOps Engineering

As you may know, Code Platoon recently launched its DevOps Engineering program,  the first new program since we began with our Full-stack Software Engineering Bootcamp.

But along with a new program and curriculum comes new questions about which one of these to choose if you want to get started in the tech world. What skills are important for each?? How are the disciplines different? And what the heck is DevOps, anyway??

Both a DevOps developer and a Full-Stack developer are highly sophisticated experts who work towards the same goal – delivering software applications on time with zero bugs. The philosophies and methods that they choose to achieve the goal are what set them apart from each other

With that, an analogy is helpful. Imagine the world of military tech procurement.

Let’s say you want to develop a new tank (because tanks are pretty cool, right?). There are several levels at which this process begins.

First, individuals propose a need for a new tank and why that is the case. The old tank is too slow, not well-armed enough, not reliable enough, etc. So, a new model is proposed to address these shortcomings. 

At the initial levels, engineers are needed to understand material construction and recognize how to be creative. Where can more rockets fit?

This is where engineering and artistry come together. It is not creating something entirely new necessarily, but rather using existing concepts in a new, functionally-superior way. 

sdcBut if you want this project to be done both well and efficiently, then you need what is called a feedback loop. It will not work to have a project initiator say, “I want this thing to do X” and then have engineers design it perfectly on the first try. You need the initial plan, feedback from engineers to inform that plan, response from the planner, and constant tweaks in that manner that form the cycle of feedback, planning, and implementation. 

Think of this as where both software engineers and DevOps specialists come in. The software engineer has to understand the needs of the owner and make sure the tank functions operationally. A DevOps engineer has to then ensure that it’s actually running and continues running in its environment. 

A DevOps engineer would work with tank crews in a more developed stage of the process to ensure that the tank is running at an optimal level for the end-user. This is not to say that a software engineer would not have input at this level – they certainly would, as development and maintenance are continual. 

In the software world, that feedback loop is never closed. As one knowledgeable person put it, “if the app [or website] is worth its salt, it will be continually changed over time.”

Software engineers are specialists in both the front-end and back-end. They are proficient in both back-end and front-end languages and have detailed knowledge of frameworks, server, and network and hosting environments too.

DevOps engineers are basically IT professionals with expertise in coding, scripting, and managing the overall operation of product development and deployment. These engineers transform the traditional ways of software development, operations teams, and testing into a holistic environment for superior quality product development.

DevOps engineers combine their hands-on experience and in-depth knowledge in software development with core business analytics expertise to offer innovative business solutions.

All of this leads to a more fundamental question from the perspective of someone coming to Code Platoon: which one is right for you? 

This depends on some factors that can only be answered by the individual and are by no means consistent across-the-board. We have all seen examples of people who, at first glance, are very similar, but when we dig a little deeper, we recognize some fundamental differences that were not immediately apparent.

Are you a more creative, philosophical individual who gravitates towards the unique application of language and its nuances? Or are you a more structured type who enjoys the processes of keeping a developed project running at an optimal level?

Again, these are broad strokes from a 30,000-foot view, so take all of this into account, but don’t insist on any of it being hard-and-fast rules. The overlap is enough that an understanding of each area will be of great help to either path, and learning one may ultimately lead you to another.

But understanding yourself is a key element in any journey, especially when it comes to big choices about which path to choose. That is exactly why I am here at Code Platoon, so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions about exactly this. I am happy to help.

Welcome Veterans

How to Welcome Veterans to Your Tech Team

If your organization is looking for employees that are trained leaders, quick thinkers, and detailed problem-solvers, then Veterans would make a great addition to your tech teams. 

But hiring and retaining Veterans isn’t as simple as deciding to do so. You may need to adapt everything from your hiring process to onboarding and promotion pathways to become a Veteran-friendly organization. Here are seven key steps used by our corporate partners to get started.

1. Understand military skills

Some Veterans’ positions in the military match well with civilian positions. Others’ may seem unqualified, at least until you know how to translate their skills. If your organization struggles to get Veterans into interviews, your first action should be to improve your hiring team’s knowledge of military skills. You can also create resources for Veteran candidates that explain the hiring process and professional expectations, as our partner Grainger does.

2. Behavioral interviewing

Veterans generally perform best and are most comfortable with behavioral-based and situational interviews. For example, asking candidates with military backgrounds to talk about a time they solved a problem, quickly learned something new, or led a team will likely result in a more reviewable answer than a closed-ended question or question focused on an industry-specific skill.

3. Communicate onboarding expectations

For a recently transitioning Servicemember, your company may be the first civilian employer they’ve ever had. Veterans may need some help learning to navigate the civilian workforce. Some suggestions for onboarding Veteran employees include:

  • Clearly state expectations, like dress codes, for example, in the welcome letter.
  • Have a tangible onboarding plan with check-ins for feedback and goals for the first 90 days.
  • Help build a social network within the team. For example, plan a lunch or coffee break for everyone to get to know each other or have the team answer an ice-breaker question at the beginning of meetings.

4. Training and skills support

Like hiring any candidate, a former military member joining your team will likely have stronger and weaker areas related to the position. Your organization can develop training programs to help Veteran employees close knowledge gaps and gain confidence in their abilities. For example, our partner Underwriters Laboratories provides programs to help Veterans build their skills for future promotions and leadership opportunities.

5. Veteran resource groups and mentorship

Veteran-friendly companies often have Veteran resource groups or mentorship programs to help Veterans make connections and adapt to the civilian company culture. Our partners at Accenture, Motorola Solutions, and Echo, have such programs available. 

6. Clear career advancement pathways

While in the military, Servicemembers know where their orders will come from and what is required to rise in the ranks. After their Service, some Veterans find the civilian workforce culture confusing. Providing a clear, written-out pathway for promotions during onboarding and scheduling frequent career advancement check-ins could help assuage some of these transitional frustrations.

Our partner Sprout Social has taken this idea one step further by including a 1-year growth timeline on every job description.

7. Support non-profit Veterans’ organizations

One of the best ways to show Veterans that your organization supports them is to partner with non-profit Veteran organizations. Offer an employer match to donations for Veterans organizations, give your employees paid volunteering opportunities, or do both like our partners Enova, DRW, and Wayfair

A partnership can reaffirm your commitment to Veteran employees and also give your civilian employees more opportunities to interact with Veterans and build their awareness of Veterans’ issues.

If you’re interested in hiring Veterans for paid tech apprenticeships or full-time positions or offering a Veteran-focused volunteer opportunity for your employees, consider joining our corporate partners. Email corporatepartners@codeplatoon.org or visit our corporate partners page for more information.

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.

SoftSkills Blog

The 5 Most In-Demand Soft Skills Every Employer Wants a Tech Professional to Have

There’s a lot of opportunity in tech careers, but these can also be competitive positions. When preparing for your first interview for a tech position, you may be unsure what to discuss. How do you make yourself stand out? 

It turns out that tech employers look for soft skills as much as hard, technical skills during the interviewing process. If you don’t know where to begin, here are five in-demand soft skills that tech employers want to see in your next interview.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are essential for anyone to have. However, it’s particularly important for tech professionals. You’ll need to convert information and technical jargon into concise, understandable content for your company leaders to make high-level decisions without stumbling through complex charts, analyses, and other complicated data.

2. Teamwork

Communication isn’t just about talking to your boss. You’ll need to work as a team to get projects done. Many tech workforces use tenets of Agile team structures, so employers will want to see if you can manage projects collaboratively with your peers. 

Outside of technical projects, software engineers can help essentially every other area of a company. Sales and marketing especially benefit from their help with analyzing data and assessing digital possibilities.

3. Business Know-how

Tech workers process information every day about the company’s competition, sales, marketing trends, online capabilities, and other business-related topics. Going hand-in-hand with communication skills, understanding the business mindset will help you meet the company’s needs. Take the time to build up your business lingo, and you’ll find that understanding complex ideas from business leaders and other stakeholders will become easier than ever.

4. Product Knowledge

We often hear this term when talking about a salesforce. However, it’s also important for tech employees. Your software engineering work will be a product or service, so you’ll need to demonstrate a clear understanding of how it works, how it’s best used, and how the underlying company operates. If you go to an interview with the answers to these questions, your interviewer will appreciate your diligence.

5. Attention to Detail

A single line of bad code can render the entire project useless. An irrelevant piece of information can cause a business leader to make a catastrophic decision. Tech professionals need to be able to discern good information from bad, and pull only what’s necessary. You’ll need to show special attention to detail, especially during technical interviews, to prove that you have what it takes to work accurately and effectively.


We hope these five skills give you some insight into what your potential employer is looking for in a tech professional. Now you know what soft skills to work on for whichever tech career you may pursue.

Reese Jones is a freelance writer and blog contributor who covers topics in tech, business, finance, and general lifestyle. Following work in multiple tech startups, she is now pursuing a graduate degree in her hometown in the UK.

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.