Code Platoon Wins $50K in NBC

Code Platoon Wins $50K in NBC’ s Project Innovation Grant Challenge

Code Platoon is proud to be one of five Chicago-area non-profits recognized in the first annual Project Innovation grant challenge, sponsored by NBC 5, Telemundo Chicago, and the NBC Universal Foundation. Code Platoon will receive a $50,000 grant as part of the win after going up against more than 100 organizations in a rigorous process led by a select group of judges.

Code Platoon was selected by NBC 5 due to its focus on helping veterans and military spouses get technology training and jobs via its 14-week coding boot camp.

“We’re proud to help five deserving organizations continue their benevolent work in the community by awarding much-needed grant assistance to their individual missions,” said David Doebler, president and general manager of NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago.

The $50,000 grant award will go directly towards Code Platoon’s outreach and marketing efforts to veterans, military spouses, and instructional staff.

“This grant award represents an important new funding partnership for Code Platoon. We are grateful to the NBCUniversal Foundation, along with our local NBC 5 station and Telemundo, for helping us grow our program, which will allow more veterans in Chicago to become software developers,” said Rodrigo Levy, executive director of Code Platoon.

Here’s a link to the program, as well as a look at the presentation of the grant, which aired on NBC 5 Chicago:

Illinois' Vets Cash program

Code Platoon receives $25,000 grant from Illinois’ Vets Cash program

Code Platoon is proud to announce a $25,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs Vets Cash program. Vets Cash, launched in 2006, was the first lottery game in the United States to designate 100 percent of its net proceeds to veterans. To date, Vets Cash has awarded more than $13.3 million in grants statewide to veterans’ organizations that provide vital services, including job training, housing assistance, and post-traumatic stress treatment.

Code Platoon will use this generous grant to provide daily instruction to our students during our three cohorts in 2018.

“Grants play a critical role in helping our program serve more veterans,” said Alicia Boddy, director of development for Code Platoon. “A funding partnership with The Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs is a meaningful investment in our students and will allow us to continue to grow.”

Vets Cash lottery tickets are available every year in November anywhere lottery tickets are sold. Illinois residents can contribute to the Vets Cash grant fund year round by donating here. To donate directly to Code Platoon, you can visit our website at codeplatoon.org/donate.

Code Platoon experience gives Computer Science grad more confidence in tech skills

Student Story: Code Platoon experience gives Computer Science grad more confidence in tech skills

The following is from Leanne Keene, a student in the Echo cohort

When I finished grad school last year, I still felt like I was missing some critical piece of knowledge. I knew I would be qualified for jobs in the software industry because of my computer science degree, and maybe I would even squeak through the interview process, but what would happen when I showed up for my first day at work and didn’t know how to do anything? Sure, I understood software engineering conceptually, but I had no confidence and none of the practical knowledge needed.

Code Platoon was the perfect solution. It was affordable, taught the hands-on skills I was lacking, and was specifically designed for veterans. As I browsed the website, I saw that Code Platoon graduates had the same military background as I did, down to the same specific job! I knew then that I didn’t have to be intimidated because my fellow classmates would not be people who have been coding for years, but veterans like me who are trying to find their footing in the civilian job market.

I made some sacrifices to attend, both financial and social, and I would do it all over again. The dedication required to complete this intensive program is absolutely worth it. I learned so much over the course of the program. The experience and confidence that comes from coding and building software every day is empowering. Seeing your progress with the very tangible example of daily exercises affirms that tackling new languages and frameworks is a skill that you will be able to carry with you into the workforce. While interviews may always be intimidating, knowing that Code Platoon has prepared you for the challenges in the interview and beyond is a great feeling.

The greatest benefit I gained from my time at Code Platoon, even more than the knowledge, is the supportive network of which I have become apart. I know I can reach out to anyone in the organization, as well as the growing number of alumni, for help or advice and they are all there to support me. I’m excited to join this strong group of veterans as I start my first job. Maybe I’ll volunteer to be a mentor or a tutor for the program. Either way, future Code Platoon cohorts, I’m rooting for you.

Keene accepted a job as a software engineer at Novetta, an advanced-analytics firm, shortly before finishing Code Platoon.

Code Platoon joins industry group geared at reporting honest student outcomes

Code Platoon joins industry group geared at reporting honest student outcomes

Code Platoon is committed to providing the highest quality education for veterans and military spouses in Illinois. We are proud of our program and alumni but needed a way to quantify and standardize our outcomes. The Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) provides us and many other coding schools an opportunity to record, report, and compare our data.

CIRR is a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide prospective coding school students an opportunity to know a school’s outcomes before deciding whether to enroll. The CIRR standards prevent deceptive graduation and job placement marketing practices and ensure a student can trust what a school advertises. The measurement standards are straightforward for schools to implement; and the reporting standards are both simple for students to understand and be counted in because they account for 100 percent of the enrolled student body.

In our latest report, Code Platoon reported a 91.7% on-time graduation rate. Within 180 days of graduating from Code Platoon, 81.8% of our students were employed full-time. You can read more about our outcomes on the CIRR website.

Code Platoon is among the first participating coding schools to report data to CIRR.

“We are positioned to not only lead the way in software development education for veterans, but also be instrumental in establishing coding schools as a viable educational opportunity for the future. We want our students, and anyone else interested in a career in coding, to have as much information as possible to make an informed decision,” says Code Platoon Executive Director Rodrigo Levy.

If you are a veteran or military spouse and interested in a career as a software developer, you can find more information on our website.

Code Platoon Approved for the GI Bill!

Now Hear This: Code Platoon Approved for the GI Bill!

If you’re a veteran or military spouse who has yet to use their benefits or if you’re transitioning out of the service, think about using your GI Bill to start your career in tech. We’ve heard time and again from startups, major corporations, and other employers in the tech industry; veterans make the best employees. That’s likely because there are just so many skills that transfer from the military to the coding community – skills like discipline, critical thinking, attention to detail, and teamwork – are all highly sought after by software companies across the nation. So, if you’re a veteran or military spouse looking for a great career, know that we have your six and that our coding program, designed specifically for the veteran community, will help you land a coveted position in the tech industry.

We’re proud to announce that Code Platoon has just been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs for GI Bill eligibility. That means that veterans, military spouses, and servicemembers can now use their GI Bill to cover the cost of Code Platoon’s 14-week web development program. The approval will see that veterans attending Code Platoon will have their tuition, housing, and other associated costs covered by the GI Bill – which mirrors the benefits of the celebrated Chapter 33 Post 9/11 GI Bill.

As the first coding bootcamp to receive GI Bill eligibility in Illinois, we’re excited to help even more veterans and military spouses enter the tech industry, especially since two-thirds of the highest-paying and fastest-growing jobs value computer science skills. What’s more, a recent study by CompTIA shows that the majority of current job postings specifically target software and web developers – which shouldn’t come as a surprise since a number of tech giants, including Amazon, Hewlett Packard, SpaceX, and Dell, have all pledged to actively seek and hire veterans

Ready to Charlie Mike on your career in tech? If so, head over to our application page

Can’t make it to our headquarters in Chicago? Not to worry — our Remote Attendance Program will come to you.

Code Platoon Web Development Bootcamp Approved for GI Bill Eligibility

Code Platoon Web Development Bootcamp Approved for GI Bill Eligibility

Chicago, IL, February 26, 2018 – Code Platoon, a Chicago-based web development bootcamp for U.S. veterans and military spouses, has been approved for GI Bill eligibility by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This means eligible veterans and military spouses enrolled in the immersive, 14-week program will be able to use GI Bill education benefits to fund their tuition, housing and other associated costs.

Code Platoon is the first of its kind to reach this milestone in the state of Illinois, according to the bootcamp’s Executive Director Rod Levy.

“We are extremely proud to be the first coding bootcamp to be GI Bill approved by the VA in Illinois, and the only one to focus exclusively on veterans,” said Levy. “Code Platoon has always focused on providing veterans a top tier educational experience at an affordable price. We hope that the GI Bill will allow even more veterans to access our training and internships.”

Since its inception in 2016, Code Platoon has offered student’s scholarships of up to $10,500. Students using the GI Bill may now be able to cover the full cost of tuition depending on their level of benefits.

Code Platoon’s program is strictly for the veteran community and focuses on providing a supportive learning environment, coupled with industry-supported internships, to maximize the likelihood of successfully transitioning to a new career as a software developer.

“GI Bill approval will help us grow our class sizes and allow more veterans to become software development professionals,” said Alicia Boddy, Code Platoon’s development director. “This seal of approval from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs will show our current funding partners that we are continuing to cement ourselves as the leader in software development education for veterans.”

The nonprofit has received generous financial support through grants and sponsorships from major corporations, including Amazon, Motorola and Boeing. GI Bill approval could help Code Platoon and its supporters further their quest to enhance the lives of U.S. veterans and military spouses.    

For our answers to frequently asked questions on the GI bill, click here.

Code Camp: Make Tech Your Next Step

Code Platoon & Deloitte Team Up to Present: “Code Camp: Make Tech Your Next Step”

If you are a veteran or military spouse who is interested in the exploding field of software development, Deloitte and Code Platoon have teamed up to offer a free, hands-on seminar designed just for you.

“Code Camp: Make Tech Your Next Step” features the team at Deloitte, a Top Four professional-services firm with more than 250,000 employees worldwide. Deloitte embraces a holistic approach when supporting veterans and military spouses, focusing on physical health and recovery, education, and employment.

No experience is required to attend the half-day event, which will begin at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 23, at Deloitte’s Chicago headquarters at 111 S. Wacker.

Jon Young, Code Platoon’s lead instructor, has put together an afternoon’s curriculum that will walk students through the fundamentals of coding as well as explore cutting-edge concepts such as cloud computing and the popular Ruby language.

The event also includes lunch, followed by ample time to ask questions of the panel members, who will share their experiences and offer advice on a successful career in technology.

The hands-on portion of the event will also position participants to apply for the upcoming cohort at Code Platoon, a nonprofit programming “bootcamp” that helps veterans and military spouses transition into the civilian workforce via 14 weeks of technical training followed by career placement. Significant tuition assistance is available, and veterans or military spouses who successfully complete the program are eligible for internship with sponsor companies.

“I decided to teach about AWS and Cloud9 because cloud computing is the direction that the industry is going toward,” Young said. “I chose Ruby because it’s an extremely high-level language that reads and writes a lot like regular English.”

Also on the agenda are tools that move developers from working on their own computer to collaborating on the Internet.

“I want to get them all set up on their coding skills, including Github and scripting basic algorithms that can get them past the initial phase of interviews,” Young said. “I’ll be teaching them an algorithm that 99 percent of developer candidates cannot solve, a fun problem called ‘fizzbuzz’ that can be tackled a number of ways.”

Rod Levy, Code Platoon’s founder, said he is eager to talk with participants about the bootcamp’s curriculum, success rates and unparalleled teacher-student ratio.

“We’re also pleased that the seminar’s participants will have access to experienced developers’ perspectives and Deloitte’s proven expertise in serving veterans and military spouses,” Levy said. “Their extensive hiring efforts produce great results, but they also are leading the way with the support they offer on the job.”

While the 5-hour event is free, only 20 seats are available. To sign up, visit this link, or call Rod Levy at 312-767-7673

3 Industries That Love to Hire Veterans

3 Industries That Love to Hire Veterans

For many veterans and military spouses, finding the right career path can be a tremendous struggle. While a growing number of industries are becoming more open to the idea of hiring veterans or military spouses, there are a few career fields that actively seek to hire vets and are also a great fit for any former servicemember. These career fields often require the same skill sets and capabilities that are taught in the military – such as teamwork, attention to detail, and discipline. If you’re a veteran or military spouse looking for your next career move, consider these three industries that love to hire veterans.

Law Enforcement:

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as many law enforcement positions offer an easy transfer for today’s veterans. Due the nature of police work and similar organizational structure, law enforcement will likely feel more familiar for servicemembers who have been deployed overseas. Additionally, law enforcement roles often mirror their military counterparts – from dog handlers to detectives, many veterans already have much of the specialized training necessary to work on a police force. What’s more, there are already many veterans in the law enforcement community so it’s hardly difficult to find individuals, or even entire groups of people, with shared experiences.

Technology: 

Although many veterans and military spouses may not know it, they are the perfect fit for the nation’s fastest-growing industry – technology. With recent tech booms across all major cities, CEO’s from Silicon Valley to Austin are looking for the best employees to fill their ranks. And from what we’re hearing, it’s not about hiring the next JavaScript expert, it’s about hiring a team player who can show up on time and do the right thing even when no one is looking. Contrary to the myth, most tech companies aren’t very fond of the ‘rock stars,’ rather, they favor disciplined and calm individuals who can keep it together in times of stress. It’s no wonder then, that major tech companies like Amazon, Dell, Hewlett Packard, and SpaceX are actively seeking to hire thousands of veterans and military spouses. For today’s veterans, the tech industry offers an exciting career that requires a can-do and adaptable mindset – old hat for soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. And considering that most tech roles — whether you’re coming on the team as a day-one programmer or developer — offer salaries near or above six figures, the tech industry should definitely be on every veteran’s radar.

Government:

Government roles are a good fit for veterans as they essentially adhere to a similar organizational structure as the military. Additionally, government positions span many different agencies and departments – including civilian roles in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or the Coast Guard. In fact, the government also offers positions for those interested in the aforementioned industries of law enforcement and technology. Veterans will also find that their military experience can translate into promotional points for a particular career field and, perhaps best of all, veterans and military spouses receive preference for all government job openings. This offers a tremendous advantage, and incentive, for today’s veterans and military spouses to apply. If you’re interested in working for the government, head over to USAJobs to find your next career field.

While veterans are a great fit for many different industries, it’s clear that many can truly excel in law enforcement, tech, or working for the government. And since all these fields are actively recruiting veterans, it’s worth considering a career in any of these three professions.

5 Similarities between the Military and Startup Life

From Deployed to Deploying: 5 Similarities between the Military and Startup Life

Taking on a principal role for Purple Gator roughly four years ago was a leap of faith. Even though I loved the idea of our flagship product, a trivia platform that offers businesses a new way to engage customers, I was signing on with a brand-new company that could offer no guarantees. Fortunately, my six years as a maintenance analyst in the Air National Guard were perfect preparation for the highs, lows, hard work and just plain uncertainty that come with the startup terrain.

This is one of the reasons that I help mentor fellow veterans who are enrolled at Chicago’s Code Platoon, a nonprofit web-development school known informally as a “coding bootcamp.” That nomenclature is by no means an overstatement. This relatively new type of intense, immersive education plays to the strengths these men and women gained in the military. 

Here are the top reasons that a combination of military experience and a bootcamp education produces developers who are perfectly suited to join anyone’s startup.

1) We are comfortable wearing multiple hats. The boss: “You’re a software engineer? Don’t care, today you are a customer support representative! Tomorrow you will be on a sales call at 2 p.m. but definitely finish planning our customer-appreciation party by noon.” 

If you’ve been in the military, this is second nature: My old boss: “You’re a diesel engine mechanic? Don’t care, today you are the squad’s physical training leader!” Although my specialty was logging maintenance data, more important, I was an airman ready to serve wherever I was needed.

2) Long hours don’t faze us. While work-life balance is a reasonable long-term goal, that is not always a feasible reality in the early days of a company like Purple Gator. Any company might require a 12-hour day here and there. But at a startup you could work those hours for 20 days straight. And the average veteran reading this is probably thinking, “Yeah? Is that supposed to be abnormal? What about the other 10 days in the month?”

3) Teamwork is second nature. For better or for worse, sacrifice is required in both environments. At Purple Gator, we don’t face life-or-death situations, but people’s livelihoods and careers are at stake. In place of “battle buddies,” we might find support and camaraderie as part of a tech incubator on the 9th floor of the Merchandise Mart. And just like the days when I was deployed to Guam in support of the 509 Bomb Wing’s 52 Bomber Squadron, such shared experience forges bonds that transcend background, politics, what have you. I expect the relationships made in both places to last forever. I’ve already seen that happening at Code Platoon, where my first mentee, Javier Revuelta, was part of the inaugural cohort. He is now a software engineer at PowerReviews, but returns often to mentor the current cohort.

4) Coping with stress is first nature. My stress level right now is very high. We have several big-name customers already for GStack, our trivia platform. But every sale counts so much at a startup, and losing out on one means three wasted weeks. You never know where that next paycheck is coming from. And I’m away from my family for days at a time. During a deployment, too, you must deal with not knowing the dangers behind the next hill while worrying about that family back home. For me, personally, while on active duty, I remember a particular time when a lot was riding on whether I could figure out why one of our planes was having mechanical issues. To be more specific, it kind of caught on fire, and combing through the data in order to ensure that this didn’t happen again was a long, arduous process. Because it was very important that the plane not catch on fire again!

5) Even the rewards are similar. When you establish a startup, you are filling a void with your idea, creating something that didn’t exist. So seeing our MVP in a customer’s hands that first time, watching them actually use our product to make money — and finding that their customers did indeed enjoy the trivia games — was an incredible moment. It reminded me of coming back, exhausted, from Operation Enduring Freedom, and the first time that a civilian looked me in the eyes and thanked me for my service. Both times, suddenly, my vision felt clear and crystallized.

By James Bell

Chief technology officer | Purple Gator

Before becoming immersed in the startup world, James was a successful options trader and electrical engineer. He has a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Illinois and studied electrical engineering at St. Louis’ Washington University, where he also played football. He served in the Air National Guard and was deployed to Asia during Operation Enduring Freedom.

U.S. Sen. Durbin Talks Tech Education and Jobs at Code Platoon

U.S. Sen. Durbin Talks Tech Education and Jobs at Code Platoon

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) visited Code Platoon’s headquarters on Friday to learn more about the coding bootcamp for veterans and military spouses.

Code Platoon’s students, who are a week away from graduation, presented Durbin with an iteration of their capstone project — a web app that allows users to submit and vote on pet submissions much like the NCAA March Madness brackets. The final project is a tangible product that students can use to market their newly-acquired skills to potential employers. The program connects students with local tech companies to help them network and aid them in their job search.

“One of the key tenets of our program is that we work by, with, and through the Chicago tech community to support ourselves,” said Rod Levy, Founder and Executive Director of Code Platoon. “They support us financially and they support us by providing internships for our students once they have completed the program.”

Code Platoon is a Chicago-based 501(c)3 non-profit that helps veterans and military spouses transition into the civilian workforce by providing technical training and career placement. For 14 weeks, students are immersed in a web development program, learning Ruby, Python, SQL and a number of other marketable coding languages. Upon completing the program veterans and military spouses will be eligible for internships at local tech companies, which could lead to a full-time job.

Durbin added that military veterans and active servicemembers often struggle in their pursuit of higher education, including in deciding on what institutions turn to for continuing education.

They don’t know where to go. They don’t know what to do and they tend to respond to the most advertising.  And they go to [places like] the American Military University. My nephew went to the American Military University and I said to him, ‘Mike, what are you doing? You live in Maryland. The University of Maryland offers courses, why don’t you take that and you can transfer the hours back. The American Military Academy – nobody will know what you’re talking about.’

So these for-profit schools are right in the middle of this and sucking out all of the G.I. benefits that you all worked to earn and they’re supposed to give you a chance in life.

The Federal Communications Commission was fresh off the vote to end net neutrality when Durbin visited the Code Platoon offices. During a Q&A with the students and Code Platoon staff, the lawmaker was asked about his take on the agency’s 3-2 vote to repeal two-year-old regulations aimed at ensuring equal internet access by outlawing fast lanes, throttling, and website and app blocking.

“This was a disastrous decision by the federal communications commission,” said Durbin. He followed his answer by explaining his perspective on the FCC’s monumental decision.

“Their elimination of net neutrality means customers and consumers all across America will start having to pay for things that are free today, and they’ll have to start bargaining with some provider who is going to say, ‘for a certain amount of money, you’ll get faster service. For a certain amount of money, you’ll have access to X-Y-Z.’  All of these things restrict our freedom and access to the internet. I think it was a terrible decision.”