Creating with language

Language, Programming, and Creation

We usually think of poets and engineers as mutually exclusive types casting suspicious glances at one another across the academic canyon that separates the Humanities and Sciences.  There are some excellent reasons for that. Lewis Carroll can write:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

      And the mome raths outgrabe.

And we get it, even though we don’t get it. Carroll has created an image of some vague things moving around in an environment.  He has created something with words; but if it were a bridge, you wouldn’t walk across it without a life-vest.  In the same way, you might not invite the kid who was taking apart the toaster at five years old to write a poem for your wedding.

But this dichotomy between the freewheeling poet and the disciplined engineer is mainly illusory.  We all get to be good at language for free, at least one language anyway.  We know the rules so well, and so implicitly that we can play around in what feels like complete freedom.  But if you’ve ever had the experience of learning another language as an adult, you know that languages are chock-full of rules, restrictions, and we-just-don’t-say-it-like-that’s.

If you’ve taken the time to learn another language’s funny shapes and pesky rules, you have already extended your hand over that tremendous intellectual divide. And, believe it or not, there are a few “sciency” types out there on the other side reaching out towards you too.

Michelangelo painting

At the beginning of their book Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, the authors, who were all undoubtedly taking apart toasters in kindergarten, describe programing as sorcery:

“The programs we use to conjure processes are like a sorcerer’s spells. They are carefully composed from symbolic expressions in arcane and esoteric programming languages that prescribe the tasks we want our processes to perform.”

To put it another way, programming allows you to create things with words, even silly and pointless things. 

To oversimplify a bit, these “spells” are composed of two essential elements: nouns and verbs.  I’m sorry, I meant to say: data and procedures. Let’s flesh that out.

In the beginning (or a few days later), there was Man. The first instance of the kind “Man,” or Mankind for short, was Adam. If that part of Genesis were written in Python instead of Hebrew, it might look like this:

class Man:

def __init__(self, name):

    self.name = name

    self.hasEatenTheApple = False

adam = Man(“Adam”)

Don’t worry about the syntax right now. New languages often look and sound very strange at first. The important point is that our “adam” is now the first of his kind, but he’s just a lump of clay with a couple of attributes (name and hasEatenTheApple–mercifully false at the moment).  As you might have heard, Adam did more than just sit there; he also ate an apple. Let’s go ahead and add a verb to our little conjuration:

class Man:

 def __init__(self, name):

  self.name = name

   self.hasEatenTheApple = False

def eatsTheApple(self):

   self.hasEatenTheApple = True

adam = Man(“Adam”)

Now our “adam” has a verb (eatsTheApple). Or maybe it’s better to say that he has the potential to perform the action eatsTheApple. Let’s not get into free will.  

As is often the case with natural languages, verbs act on other nouns, which then become “objects.” In this case, our verb (eatsTheApple), when performed, acts on the noun hasEatenTheApple and changes it–for the worse.

We can then freely render this sentence.

English:  Adam eats the apple.

Pythonish: adam.eatsTheApple()

And it’s all downhill from there.

Of course, knowing what a noun is doesn’t make you an expert in Chinese any more than knowing what a piece of data is makes you a Pythonista. But knowing what nouns and verbs are, and being able to adapt to a strange system of signs and rules will give you a leg up as you climb the walls of Doune Castle (that’s a Monty Python reference–you’ll get tired of those).

But don’t go getting a big head about it just yet; even with previous experience learning another language, there is still much work to be done. You can’t just stick your hand out; you have to get your ass over the wall too.

Chad Mowbray is an instructor for Code Platoon’s Evening and Weekend Program. He was a paratrooper and Arabic translator in the 82nd Airborne Division. He eventually found his way into a Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago studying classical Arabic poetry. But after starting a family, Chad inexplicably developed an appreciation for suburbs and retirement accounts. After graduating from Code Platoon, he worked as a DevOps engineer at Motorola Solutions and is currently a data analyst and digital pedagogy fellow with Academic Technology Solutions at the University of Chicago.

Navigating VA Benefits

Navigating VA Educational Benefits

Navigating your VA educational benefits can be an overwhelming task. Keeping track of your remaining eligibility, benefit level, and which educational option is best for you can be overwhelming. Code Platoon assists many students in making their VA educational benefits work for them, allowing them to attend Code Platoon and providing a clear path to a software development career. 

While VET TEC may seem like the most obvious way to attend Code Platoon and utilize your VA educational benefits, VET TEC is currently constrained by its limited budget. As of November 3, 2020, VET TEC has exhausted its funding for the 2021 fiscal year. Additional funding for the program is not currently expected to be replenished until October 1, 2021. Any Veteran currently holding a CoE indicating approval from VET TEC will not be able to start a VET TEC approved program until October 1, 2021. This can be frustrating to Veterans interested in pursuing a software development career as a VET TEC student, as many coding bootcamps are only approved to accept VET TEC, and not GI Bill or Voc Rehab approved. 

Code Platoon has a deeply established relationship with the VA and is approved for funding options beyond VET TEC. Code Platoon is approved to accept Post 9/11 (Chapter 33) GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation (now called Veteran Readiness and Employment Services), and Chapter 35, in addition to VET TEC. The Code Platoon team works tirelessly with incoming students to understand what benefits they have available and which option is the best fit for them. For those students who may not have VA educational benefits available to them, Code Platoon offers generous scholarships. Full and partial scholarships are available to Veterans, military spouses, including affinity scholarships for Black, Hispanic, women, and transgender students. The mission of Code Platoon has always been to make a career in software development attainable and achievable for all Veterans and spouses. 

Do you have questions about your VA educational benefits and how you can use them with Code Platoon? Can we help you compare your available VA educational benefits and our available scholarships? Email Greg Drobny, Student, and Community Outreach Coordinator, at greg@codeplatoon.org

Alicia Boddy is Code Platoon’s Chief Operations and Development Officer. Alicia oversees Code Platoon’s day-to-day activities, including fundraising, grant writing, board development, and strategic planning. Alicia also serves as our VA certifying official, helping students navigate their benefits with the Department of Veteran Affairs. Alicia loves living in Chicago with her husband, Jeff, and three kids. You can often find them exploring the city, eating Lou Malnati’s pizza, and cheering on the Cubs, Blackhawks, and Buckeyes!

Linguists

Linguists Make Great Programmers

When most people think of a linguist, a few careers may pop up. Translators are an obvious connection, and being an educator in a foreign country may also be a viable option, but what about programming? When it comes to Code Platoon’s alumni, some of the most successful Coding Bootcamp graduates served as linguists within the military.

From the outside, it might not seem like the social science major would fit into a software engineering career, but in many ways, linguists can adapt their skills into the field of computer science. One of the best examples of this may be the American linguist Noam Chomsky. Primarily known to the masses for his political activism and work in the field of language interpretation, Chomsky also left a significant impression upon the field of programming with his contribution of the hierarchy of grammars (also known as the Chomsky hierarchy) which gave something short of a mathematical blueprint for grammar, a useful model for programming languages. Linguists may speak multiple languages but one of the critical areas of study for these wordsmiths is understanding languages’ structure

Marcos Castillio“Programming languages are just that – languages. You are learning syntax, you are learning the vocabulary so you can give the computer program instructions,” says Marcos Castillio, a Code Platoon graduate from Julia Platoon. “However, programming isn’t just learning the language, programming is problem-solving, and I think that’s where the similarity between language learning programming starts to branch off.”

Before participating in the Code Platoon, Marcos served with the U.S. Army as an Indonesian linguist. He also taught himself Japanese.  Following his separation from service, he became an English Teacher in Japan. After teaching for four years, Marcos knew he wanted a change in both scenery and career. A conversation with a software engineering friend made programming sound like a potential outlet. Marcos researched how to break into the field and found a few Coding Bootcamps that fit what he was looking for, but only a few programs would accept VET TEC as a financial option.  

I used the GI Bill to go to the University of Texas and get a degree in economics. I still had some time leftover (on his GI Bill), and with VET TEC, if you have one day of GI Bill leftover, at least you are eligible for it,” says Marcos. In January of 2019 Marcos applied for Code Platoon’s program and eight months later he was in the classroom beginning his next career. But what is it about Code Platoon, or Coding Bootcamps in general, that works so well with our Linguist Veterans?

“I think one of the biggest things for someone who has successfully gone through a DLI program is that they already understand the extended Bootcamp learning environment,” says Marcos, recalling the intense schedule at the Defense Language Institute. The days start early, and each hour spent in the classroom is vital, where most can’t afford to miss a single day of training. “I feel like going through Code Platoon was less intensive actually. I think anybody who thought about coding, a potential advantage for someone who has successfully gone through DLI would have is that you have already experienced the classroom in terms of style, and you’ve done it for longer.”

One of the big misconceptions of becoming a programmer is that you have to be an expert in math and science, and while having a background in those fields may be helpful, it isn’t completely necessary. 

“I was that person for the longest time. I’m not a math person,” Marcos says, hoping to dissuade potential applicants from walking away from their next possible career because of any doubt. “It is a different way of thinking that can be trained and something that you would have to get used to. But just because you haven’t done it before doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.”

If you are considering making a career change but have some doubts, we encourage you to prove yourself wrong. Check out what Code Platoon has to offer and apply today

Amanda Michelle Gordon is one of Code Platoon’s summer interns, serving in the Content and Marketing department. She is a U.S. Air Force Veteran and a student of SUNY New Paltz for Journalism and Sociology. In her free time, Amanda enjoys reading, the outdoors, and turning coffee into copy. You can find Amanda on LinkedIn and Twitter

Hacktober Recap

Hacktober 2020 Recap

The programs are down, and the party is over, but the work that the hackathon participants put in has only just begun. Code Platoon hosted its first-ever hackathon on the weekend of Oct. 16-18, six dedicated teams of programmers came together to compete for and help our friends at Illinois Joining Forces (IJF). This nonprofit organization helps Veterans and their families navigate the over 5000 military-specific nonprofits within the state of Illinois. 

The six teams that took part in the competition were all driven by one mission prompted by IJF. To create a more efficient way to gather resource provider data and distribute that information to Illinois state Veterans through an app that is accurate, timely, and efficient in referrals to the appropriate resource provider. The team projects were judged by a panel of industry experts including Guy Turner, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Venture Partners, Chris Sienkiewicz, Director UX, Creative & FED at Grainger, Caitlin Gardner who is the Vice President of JP Morgan Chase’s Intellectual Property of Global Technology Strategy, Innovation & Partnerships, Rene Duquesnoy of DRW who has over 20 years of programming experience, Fred Lee, CTO of Cars.com, Mike Ferrari of Motorola Solutions who is a cybersecurity specialist and Jim Dugan, CEO and Managing Partner at OCA Ventures.

Equipped with a wishlist from IJF and less than three days to design a solution to assist IJF’s efforts, the teams diligently brainstormed how to solve the problem that IJF recognized and started coding their creative solutions. At the end of each day, the teams would meet with Hacktober hosts, Michael Dorsey, President of the Code Platoon alumni association, and  Brenna Koss, Code Platoon’s Development and Operations Coordinator. In these meetings, the teams would show what they had accomplished up to that point and discuss any barriers they were facing.

The six teams that took on IJF’s challenge consisted of programmers of all walks of life. From graduates of Code Platoon’s most recent class, Lima Platoon, to individuals who have years of experience with coding. Team Sharp consisted of undergraduate and graduate students in the field of computer science, team 10K IQ was made up of undergrads in the Chicago area, team Lima Fox was made up mostly of Code Platoon’s Lima cohort. Team Tenacious Trio was made up of two graduates of Code Platoon and a supporter of the nonprofit Coding Bootcamp, Bit Lords was a team made up of enthusiastic coders who were happy to help IJF’s cause, and last but not least was team Squad-of-Squids who was made up of three Veterans and one college senior.

During non-pandemic times, this hackathon would probably have taken place in-person to allow the best conducive work environment possible. Still, even with the constraints of social distancing on top of a tight deadline, the teams were able to build some impressive applications.

On the final day of the virtual event, the participants presented their final products. While all of the teams put forth their best effort and came up with ingenious concepts to help connect Veterans in Illinois to the services they needed, only one group would be crowned as champions of the hackathon. The judging panel chose team Bit Lords, victorious for Code Platoon’s first hackathon. 

“We want to show our appreciation for not only the time and talent and effort you put into it but for allowing us to let you know a little more about IJF’s mission,” said  Senior Director of Development for IJF, Jim Dolan, after Demo Day. “I certainly understand more about the work that you guys do behind the scenes and have a great appreciation for that.”

Congratulations to team Bit Lord and members Saskia Arunabh, Saikia Ankur, Varun Shanbhg, Naunidh Singh, and Tushar Nitave for taking home first place. Kudos goes to everyone who participated in the competition as well. 

If you were unable to tune into the Demo Day presentations, the event’s recordings could be found on the Code Platoon Youtube channel. 

Amanda Michelle Gordon is one of Code Platoon’s summer interns, serving in the Content and Marketing department. She is a U.S. Air Force Veteran and a student of SUNY New Paltz for Journalism and Sociology. In her free time, Amanda enjoys reading, the outdoors, and turning coffee into copy. You can find Amanda on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Covid Elections and Coding

COVID, Presidential Elections, and Coding: an Overview of a Dynamic Time

Based on that title, you may get the impression that I’m going to put forth some excellent argument for or against a specific candidate in this election and then somehow tie in the wild world of tech and COVID to that. 

I’m definitely not going to advocate for anyone, but it may actually get crazier than that, so hold onto your seats. 

The average voter most likely does not see an immediate connection between the world of tech and that of election campaigns, but it is there, and it is much more important than most realize. For non-partisanship, I’ll use everyone’s favorite drinks in place of people to explain this process, which is probably way more fun anyway.

Many people believe that politics is about convincing people who think differently than you do to change their minds. Let me disabuse you of this notion right now with a quick analogy: Coca-Cola is not trying to convince Pepsi drinkers to drink Coke any more than Pepsi is trying to persuade Coke drinkers to drink Pepsi. That’s not where their marketing dollars are best spent, and in fact, it would be a waste of money. 

People are stubbornly set in their ways, most of the time, because that’s how humans function.

Instead, a much more worthy expenditure in a campaign is for Coca-Cola to convince Coke drinkers to buy and drink more Coke. A lot more. And often. 

Their marketing money is best spent on convincing people who already believe in their product to act on that belief. But to do that, they need to look at numerous factors.

How would a campaign or marketing team know these factors? One answer: data. 

In the world of marketing, of which political campaigns form a distinct sub-group, data is king. How does Coca-Cola know who drinks their drinks? Obviously, by tracking data, but that’s not deep enough.

What if Coca-Cola knew that certain demographics of people were more likely to drink Coke? What if, say, they knew that football fans were more likely to drink Coke over Pepsi? What if they could narrow it down further and understand that football fans who eat McDonald’s and drive Toyotas were more likely to drink Coke than people who watched basketball, ate Burger King, and drove Hondas?

If they can tell that, they can target their marketing campaigns to that demographic, which means their dollars are more effectively going exactly where they want it to go, as the people being targeted are much more likely to act on those prompts. The more specific you can narrow a group down, the more you can tailor a message that resonates with them (a commercial of a famous football player driving a Toyota through a McDonald’s drive-through while drinking a Coke, for example).

But the only way to know these things is through the acquisition and manipulation of data. And I can tell you, having worked in the political arena, lists of people are like money in the bank to interest groups and politicians. Just like with Coca-Cola, the more a political group knows about people, the more they can tailor their message, but the only way they can understand about people is through owning or renting massive lists that catalog people and their interests through robust data analytics programs that would make your head spin.

There are groups out there that have unique name lists that number in the tens of millions. Do you want to target Coke drinkers who like football and McDonald’s, drive Toyotas, and live in Chicago? There’s a list out there that can be made for you. Want it to be narrowed down by age group — say people between the ages of 20 and 30? What about further specifications regarding other interests? 

All of that can be done, but of course, it requires competent data analysts and those who understand coding structures to write programs to organize this information in usable formats. Without underlying code to make sense of this data, it becomes too cumbersome to use. 

This is all well and good, you say — understanding how political marketing works is excellent, but how does this relate to COVID? 

Glad you asked (or I asked, but I know you were thinking it). 

Because quarantine actions have been taken and because COVID has fundamentally changed how we live, this is essential data to understand for a political campaign. Any time there are societal shifts in priorities, the ones who are slowest to realize what those shifts usually end up the losers in a popularity contest — and that goes for business as well as politics.

Are people driving and traveling less? Eating out less? Spending more time on the internet? All of these factors (and many more) are of enormous importance to a political data analyst. How do these answers correlate to voting behaviors? And how can that be tracked in a meaningful, useful way? 

To put it another, non-political way: does less driving, traveling, eating out, and more time on the internet result in Coke drinkers drinking more Coke or less? Are Pepsi drinkers spending more time on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video? 

To put a finer point on it: are quarantined people more or less concerned with specific issues than they were four years ago? 

Again, data is king. The more you know about your target audience, the better you can message them. But the best way to handle that data is with competent analysts who can handle the coding work necessary to transform data into something useful. 

Technological advancements are reshaping the way we do everything. The better you understand that the better position you and your family will be in, move into the modern and rapidly changing landscape of the post-COVID, crazy-politics world we live in. 

Be one of those who understand that and don’t get left behind

Greg Drobny is a former Airborne Infantryman, PSYOP Team Chief, political consultant, professional mil blogger, and is Code Platoon’s Student Outreach Coordinator. He holds a BA in history, a Masters of Science in organizational psychology, and is currently pursuing an MA in history. 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.

Celebrate CP

Celebrate Code Platoon With Us During Our Third Annual Fundraising Event!

While we will miss seeing all our friends and supporters face-to-face, Code Platoon will be hosting the 3rd Annual Celebrate Code Platoon fundraising event online. On Oct. 28, we look forward to sharing all of the amazing stories and accomplishments from 2020! With the help of our friends and supporters, Code Platoon has trained more Veterans and military spouses to become software developers in 2020 than ever before. We are grateful for our community’s steadfast support, which has made our previous two fundraising events a success, and we hope to continue that support through this challenging pandemic!  

This year, we have set a goal to raise $80,000 to support our program to help Veterans and military spouses become software development professionals. Our Celebrate Code Platoon partners play a crucial role in helping us grow, enhance, and deliver our program to more students. 

The streaming celebration will be 30 minutes of pre-recorded videos from our staff and alumni, as well as two very distinguished guests! Both of our Illinois senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, will be joining us for this event.  Watch a trailer for the event here.

After graduating from law school, Durbin started a law practice and was legal counsel to the Lt. Governor of Illinois and then to the Illinois State Senate Judiciary Committee. Following his work as a Southern Illinois University School of Medicine professor for five years while maintaining his law practice, Durbin was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1982. In 1996 Durbin was elected to the US Senate, where he has served ever since, alternating as majority or minority whip since 2005.

A combat Veteran of the Iraq War, Sen. Duckworth served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot. While serving in 2004, her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents. She is the first female double amputee from the war. Her grievous injuries did not stop her from serving her country as she sought and obtained a medical waiver that allowed her to continue serving in the Illinois Army National Guard until she retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2014. Duckworth also served as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and as Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2012, Duckworth was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where she served two terms and in 2016 Duckworth was elected to the U.S. Senate.

In addition to hearing from the senators, Code Platoon’s Executive Director, Rod Levy, will also be providing the latest news about the programs and we will award our Supporter of the Year. Be on the lookout for a cameo from a surprise guest! Most importantly, our alumni will share how Code Platoon and supporters have helped make an impact on their lives. 

Together, we can continue to serve those who have served us. 

Please join us online on Oct. 28, at 12 pm noon Central Time on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube. Register for this FREE event here.  

Please share this post with your friends that support Veterans and military spouses! 

Lang Waters is a grant writer working in the Development department.  Lang comes from a military family and is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego.  He lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California where he can be found hiking, making music with friends, or enjoying the company of his family and spastic golden retriever.

Veterans Education Blog

What Veterans Should Know About Education

What does “education” look like in a real sense for Veterans? From my perspective, this is often either assumed or glossed over in a way that doesn’t get down to some of the nitty-gritty issues Veterans face, so my goal here is to tackle this topic from precisely that angle.

Having been through a lot of this myself—and watched many others do the same—I hope to offer the following as a simple and easy-to-follow guide for transitioning Veterans. 

In other words, I’m going to be blunt, but I also intend to be helpful.

Officer or Enlisted

This is a more important distinction than most realize, and it plays a significant role within the Veteran community that some fail to recognize. Come to grips with the fact that the transitional progression is different for these two groups. Do not try to hide from this reality or act like it is unfair—it is what it is, so accept that and move forward with it.

Those who do not believe there is a significant difference, consider that many officers are actively recruited out of the military into civilian jobs. I have yet to meet an enlisted person who had this happen.

While I am sure there are exceptions, the vast majority of the time, this is the case. Why does this matter?

The point here is for both groups to appreciate where the other is and what they can and cannot do. Former officers will try to offer former enlisted advice on how to get jobs without recognizing that the process is very different, and former enlisted may become angry about the process, which doesn’t help anyone.

The important takeaways here are, 1) for officers to understand how much different the transition process is for former enlisted, and 2) for enlisted not to be bitter about this, but rather to utilize this knowledge for maximal benefit them in their pursuit. In other words, network like hell with any officer you know or knew because there is a strong chance they are going to end up in a much better job than you are. 

Do not look at that fact as unfair—just look at it as being what is.

All Veterans Are Not Created Equal

While the distinction between officers and enlisted in their job hunting should be understood, that is just the iceberg’s tip. Underneath that, several levels of inequality must be appreciated in the transition process. 

For example, let’s look at two military jobs in the same field: Special Operations Medic and Nurse. While the former may have a ton of really high-speed training that is the envy of many of us who know what they went through, who do you think will have an easier time finding work in the civilian world?

Whether this is “fair” or not is irrelevant—the SOF medic simply does not have the civilian qualifications that a nurse does, and as a result, will be looking at lower-paying jobs. What matters here is not the legitimacy of this reality, but rather its acceptance for what it is. Unfortunately, this is the case with many occupational specialties within the military. 

I was an Airborne Infantryman and a PSYOP Team Chief. Guess what? No one cares about that as much as they do about the soldier who was a cybersecurity expert.

I do not state this as a complaint—I am grateful for my experience—but as a fact of the current job market. Tech skills are in far greater demand than my particular background. Understanding this is important to your transitionary process. 

Do you have an employable MOS in the civilian sector? If so, how do you maximize it? If not, what do you need to do to make yourself more attractive to potential employers?

“I’m a Veteran” should never be a bullet point on a resume. Employers want to know what you can offer them, and military service, while admirable to some (more on this in a minute), is not in and of itself always valuable in the profits-and-losses model of running a business.

Military Service is Not the End-All, Be-All

We live in strange times, and one of the most significant reflections of our society’s oddities is the Veteran job-seeker. “Support the troops” stickers are everywhere; yellow ribbons regularly sit on the backs of cars; people are (generally) outraged by any offenses toward the Veteran community, etc. Yet despite all of this, most employers do not look at military experience as something that sets a candidate above others.

Anecdotes from hiring professionals reflect my own experience—that unless you are interested in a government job (or something directly tied to the defense industry), military service is not something that makes a hiring manager jump out of their desk and shout, “yes! This is what we need!”

As the distinction between officers and enlisted, the point here is not to quibble about whether this is fair; that can be left for another time. The goal here is to make you, the transitioning Veteran, aware of it and understand how to turn that into an advantage. 

Does your resume scream “COMBAT VET!” all over it? Is there a way you can minimize the military (specifically combat-related experience) aspect of your resume to reflect more of a benefit to the marketplace and make you appear less like a stone-cold killer? Many people who get out before retirement are proud of their service, as well they should be. But having a curriculum vitae that reads like a Marine Corps recruiting poster can do more harm than good.

Do what you can to ensure that your resume and overall persona points toward what you can offer the employer rather than your perceived value in an empirical sense.

Knowing is More Than Half the Battle

So if we know that officers and enlisted are looked at differently, that different MOS’s are not viewed the same, and that just being a Veteran is not enough, how does that help us, and what else do we need to know?

First, your network is everything. Start thinking in those terms, and it will help you immensely. An employer who does not know you from Adam will not care at all about how much weight you carried through the Korengal Valley, but guess what? Someone who knows you, personally, might. Extend yourself into more diverse networks of people to make that possible.

Second, know what type of education will help you and which type will not. You’ve got the GI Bill, so use it—but remember, just like MOS’s, all degrees are not equal. Research higher education (to include things like trade schools) that ties into both what you did in the military and what you want to do for a living.

Third, know your resources. Yes, you have the GI Bill, but what else? Are you tied in with any Veteran groups that help specifically with this purpose? Are you aware that there are recruiters out there who work towards getting people hired into specific industries? Seek these groups and people out and do what it takes to gain from their knowledge and expertise.

Fourth, and finally—this is probably the toughest one—there is nothing wrong with being confident about your ability. But be humble. The world does not owe you anything because you served. You do not deserve to finish as a squad leader and walk directly into a six-figure income at a Fortune 500 company.

Could it happen? Sure, but do not expect it and do not get pissed when you, more likely than not, have to start over at organization and prove yourself. This may be a tough pill to swallow; doing so will put you considerably further ahead in the long run.

If you want to get serious about gaining in-demand skills, it’s time to talk to us here at Code Platoon, and we can tell you all about that

Greg Drobny is a former Airborne Infantryman, PSYOP Team Chief, political consultant, professional mil blogger, and is Code Platoon’s Student Outreach Coordinator. He holds a BA in history, a Masters of Science in organizational psychology, and is currently pursuing an MA in history. 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.

Coding Workshops

Hacktober 2020 Coding Workshops

As a part of our virtual hackathon: Hacktober 2020:Tech Helping Vets, Code Platoon is offering coding workshops. These workshops, taught by tech experts, provide a glimpse into the Code Platoon classroom as we incorporate this form of interactive instruction into each cohort. Workshops are available for all experience levels. Whether you have never written a single line of code before or are a well-seasoned programmer, we have an option for you! These workshops will take place during the weekend of October 16-18. Hacktober 2020:Tech Helping Vets will be an exciting weekend filled with teams of programmers building a technical solution for a fellow Veteran serving organization, Illinois Joining Forces

Beginners will enjoy the Intro to Coding workshop taught by our very own Code Platoon instructor Noa Heinrich. It will focus on the most fundamental computer programming concepts while simultaneously giving you a taste of the Code Platoon curriculum. The session is geared towards prospective students but can be taken up by anyone with an itch to start coding! 

Want to take your beginner skills to the next level? Look no further than Quinn Stephen’s Intro to React workshop. Quinn is a software developer for TableXI and has helped lead workshops for past cohorts. This workshop is an excellent option for those with a few notches of coding under their belt. Intro to React will consist of getting hands-on experience with React, showing why it has become so popular, and covering what problems it solves for developers. 

Those interested in taking on the mind of a defense hacker can sign up for the Web Security workshop. Ronnie Flathers, Principal Engineer for Marqeta will cover high-level web security concepts. This workshop includes understanding why specific web attacks work and different web vulnerabilities. You will also learn how you can defend against potential hackers and experience a hands-on lab in which you’ll use web security tools, such as BurpSuite, to hack into an application.  

If you are ready to impress your next potential employer, try the Tech Interview Prep workshop. Sophie Buell from Apple will be covering essential concepts to be familiar with before interviewing. You will learn some fundamental algorithms, such as sorting algorithms and dynamic programming. Sophie will address what interviewers are looking for in an interview and go through some practice exercises that best display a well-thought-out solution. You will even get the chance to go over sample interview problems that incorporate these concepts, learn how to approach them, and communicate your answers. 

Workshops are a fun interactive way to gain more in-depth insight into the expansive coding world and open up opportunities to grow your tech network and develop your reservoir of coding skills. Register today as spots are filling up fast! You can sign up for workshops here

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.

Challenge Coins

Inside Code Platoon – Challenge Coins

At Code Platoon, we think of our students as a team. To signify their membership, each graduate receives a challenge coin.  A challenge coin is a small coin or medallion, bearing an organization’s emblem and carried by its members. Traditionally, they might be used to prove membership or to boost morale. The coins have become an important symbol of recognition in our U.S. military and us at Code Platoon.

Challenge Coin Front

Code Platoon awards each graduate a commemorative challenge coin to signify the completion of their class. While these are a small token of their membership to Code Platoon, challenge coins have an important legacy that we are proud to continue.

While some people say that challenge coins date back to the Roman Empire, they have especially played a prominent part in U.S. military service recognition since the Vietnam War. Rumor has it that Army’s 10th infantry created the first coins from this era, but no one knows for sure. Those first coins were little more than common currency with the unit’s insignia stamped on one side. But the men in those units carried them with pride.

The use of challenge coins in the military served a greater purpose than mere recognition. The coins were a lot safer than the previous alternative—bullet clubs, whose members carried a single unused bullet at all times. These bullets were given as a reward for surviving a mission. Of course, having a bullet was little more than a show of masculinity, so what started as a handgun or M16 rounds soon escalated to .50 caliber bullets, anti-aircraft rounds, and even artillery shells to one-up each other.

Coin Backside

Unfortunately, when these bullet club members presented “The Challenge” to each other in bars, it meant they were slamming live ammunition down on their tables. Worried that a deadly accident might occur, commanders banned the artillery and replaced it with limited edition Special Forces coins instead. Soon enough, nearly every unit had its own coin, with some even minting commemorative versions for incredibly hard-fought battles. Only those who lived to tell the tale received these unique coins.

Challenge coin traditions have climbed to the highest ranks of the military. In 2011, Robert M. Gates, then the United States defense secretary, shook hands with United States troops in Afghanistan, passing a challenge coin to each of them as a token of gratitude.

While not all military coins are awarded with a handshake, it has become a strong tradition.

The Code Platoon challenge coin, pictured above, is presented with a handshake to each Bootcamp graduate, albeit a virtual handshake during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Code Platoon challenge coins have been awarded to each of our 12 platoons. 120  Veteran and military spouses proudly carry their challenge coins, a symbol of success in graduating from Code Platoon. Code Platoon has more coins to award to future graduates. Could you be one of them? Apply to Code Platoon today and start your programming career with the next available cohort.

Jim Hennessey is Code Platoon’s Director of Marketing. Jim brings a strong background in non-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.

Remote working

How to Learn in a Remote Environment

In the age of social distancing, remote learning and working may not be ideal for everyone. However, it is the current reality as many employers and schools are opting for prolonged periods of remote platforms. To gather best practices for working and learning remotely, we reached out to Code Platoon’s first Remote Coding Bootcamp graduate, Leanna Keene. An Air Force linguist Veteran, Leanna graduated with Echo Platoon in 2018 and has had experience working from a distance with her peers, military and civilian side. Here are five tips to thriving in remote working environments.

Communication is KeyFive Ways to Thrive Learning Remotely

“In the military, a lot of my co-workers were on the other side of the world,” says Leanna, “the only means of communication I had with them was via a chat tool.” She advises Code Platoon students to reach out to peers and instructors as much as possible. Through the video classrooms, chat features, and utilizing other resources such as screen sharing capabilities to more effectively demonstrate challenges or successes within the program. “You can still make those personal connections with your classmates, even from a distance, and I think that was important for me.”

Stay Engaged

“You just have to use your voice and still be engaged,” says Leanna, noting that while instruction through a video format feels akin watching a Youtube video, students should participate as though they were within an actual classroom. Ask questions, follow along when possible, or whatever regular habits that enforce focusing on the lesson on hand. “Do those little things so that you don’t disconnect. For example, note-taking was huge for me.”

Create a Workspace

Leanna recommends having an actual space dedicated to course work. Now this space will look different for each person depending on the living situation, but it is still possible to reserve a ‘work only’ spot. It could be an entire room, a desk, or even a specific corner of the dining room table. Whatever that space looks like, the only thing that should be occurring there is course work, and when the workday is over, or a break is needed, step away rather than decompressing in that assigned location. “You need to remove yourself from your workspace and go somewhere else,” says Leanna. “Because the second you start combining those two, you lose focus.”  Here are a few simple tips to follow with said space and two things to avoid.

Remove Distractions

Avoiding distractions is undoubtedly the hardest part of working from home, hence creating a designated work environment. Still, more dedication may be needed to ensure complete focus on the necessary tasks on hand. “Don’t have tabs open that aren’t Code Platoon related,” Leanna says for the computer or laptop, but it may be best to keep them out of sight when it comes to mobile devices or at least out of reach. “Even before all the craziness happened with COVID, I would catch myself all the time. If I don’t turn my phone on silent or don’t have it sitting farther than an arm’s reach all of a sudden, my hands aren’t on my keyboard anymore.” Smartphones and applications are designed to be addicting, so to save precious time, it may be best to keep your phone off or away while you are coding.

Maintain a Routine

“If you don’t carve out the time, it’s too easy to find other things to fill that time with,” says Leanna. Time is our most valuable and limited resource, so it is imperative to keep a regular schedule. Establishing a work schedule is a gateway to success, and a simple morning routine can help set the standard for a productive day. Code Platoon has a full plan built into the program, and it would be wise not to deviate from it. Our students can expect 10 to 14 hours of coding a day each week. The payoff is that after 14 weeks, Code Platoon graduates are well equipped to write code. With the workforce adapting to the changes brought on by the coronavirus, Code Platoon programmers can potentially work anywhere.

Amanda Michelle Gordon is one of Code Platoon’s summer interns, serving in the Content and Marketing department. She is a U.S. Air Force Veteran and a student of SUNY New Paltz for Journalism and Sociology. In her free time, Amanda enjoys reading, the outdoors, and turning coffee into copy. You can find Amanda on LinkedIn and Twitter.