Affirm and CP

Affirm Hires Code Platoon Graduates

Affirm, the payment network that empowers consumers and helps merchants drive growth, and Code Platoon have created a new hiring partnership, connecting Affirm’s “Upward Program” with Code Platoon graduates. The Upward Program is a six-month apprenticeship program for software engineers with non-traditional coding backgrounds like Code Platoon graduates.

Two recent graduates–Tanya Dlabaj and Zachary Blackburn, a military spouse and a Marine Corps Veteran, respectively–are the first Code Platoon participants in the Upward Program. 

“I had never written a line of code before Code Platoon,” Zachary said.  “Now I have an apprenticeship writing code in JavaScript through React and Python.”

Zachary and Tanya learned of the apprenticeship opportunity at Affirm after the company hosted a presentation for their cohort members.

“The Code Platoon career services helped me through the application process (for the Affirm apprenticeship). They helped submit my resume and Rich Luby (Head of Career Services at Code Platoon) gave me interview advice and provided plenty of interview practice before I met with Affirm.”

“Most importantly, he kept me motivated throughout the process,” Zachary said.

“I was looking for a company with a positive work environment, who puts their employees first,” Tanya said. “Affirm checked all the boxes.”

“Code Platoon was essential to starting my career in software engineering. During my cohort, I was exposed to the entire full-stack development process. The support that I received from the instructors and the TAs was amazing. I felt confident interviewing because I had already done the work.”

After completing the 15-week Code Platoon Full-stack Software Engineering program, students interview for apprenticeship opportunities with Code Platoon’s partners like Affirm. Tanya’s selection into the Upward Program is the next step in her journey into tech.

“I’m excited to continue my software engineering journey with Affirm, and I’m grateful to Code Platoon and the career services team who made this a reality,” she said.

“Thanks to Affirm’s open communication line and collaborative partnership approach, we’ve successfully placed candidates who use skills developed at Code Platoon to excel in the interview process,” Rich Luby, Head of Career Services at Code Platoon, said. 

“We are proud of our first placements at Affirm and are confident in our program’s ability to deliver entry-level talent, like Zachary and Tanya, who exceed entry-level needs. I look forward to working with Affirm on their future hiring rounds.”

Affirm is a financial technology company with over two thousand employees and a remote-first workplace. Affirm was featured in LinkedIn’s Top Startups list in 2017, 2018, and 2019 and was named one of Built In’s 100 Best Remote-First Companies to Work for in 2021 and 2022. 

Affirm’s Upward Program apprentices solve problems, develop projects, and receive mentorship from Affirm’s full-time software engineers. The company’s goal is to convert its high-performing apprentices into full-time hires after the six-month program.

The Preferred Hiring Partnership is only one of the ways companies can partner with Code Platoon and access our Veteran, transitioning Servicemember, and military spouse graduates. If you’re a corporation interested in partnering with Code Platoon, visit our corporate partnerships page or contact us at corporatepartners@codeplatoon.org.

If you’re a Veteran, Active Duty Servicemember, or military spouse interested in starting your coding journey, apply to Code Platoon today

Tish Johnson is the Enrollment and Career Services Coordinator at Code Platoon. In this role, she harnesses her college administration experience to manage the enrollment process for admitted students, including processing VA educational benefits. Tish also lends her career coaching and personal branding workshop facilitator talents toward assisting students with their individual career readiness goals. Tish holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Indiana University of PA, and an M.Ed. from Strayer University.

Quebec Platoon Final Projects Blog

Quebec Platoon Final Projects

Before students graduate from our Immersive Full-stack Software Engineering Bootcamp, they have two weeks to form teams and harness their software engineering, project management, and teamwork skills to develop their own web applications. 

Recently Graduating Quebec Platoon students got the chance to present their group capstone projects. Here are their demonstrations:

Our first group is Code Platoon Central, an online portal for software engineering bootcamp students and instructors. Bootcamp students can access their assignments, view lecture materials, ask questions, and search for classmates in this app. Their instructors can make questionnaires, take attendance, and schedule guest presentations.

Check out Code Platoon Central by Aidan Matchette, John Winko, Megan Genauldi, and Markos Sankey, a Marine Corps Veteran and three Navy Veterans, respectively.

The next project is Strongest Link, a web app to make going to the gym more social. Strongest Link fosters connections among gym-goers, displays exercises for specific muscle groups, and hosts a leaderboard where friends can share their personal bests.

The team behind Strongest Link is Kat Wegrzynowicz, Timothy Longmore, Jin Chung, Ivan Trejo, Andrew Simpson, and Shun Ganas. They are a military spouse, two Army Veterans, and Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force Veterans.

Roam is the third project in this showcase. Roam uses geolocation technology to connect campsite owners with travelers looking for budget-friendly places to camp. 

Courtney Smith, Suruchi Khand, Lyman Perrine, Marcin Swaltek, and Phillip Hall, two military spouses, two Marine Corps Veterans, and an Army Veteran, created Roam.

Trippi is another travel app by Quebec students. Trippi users can curate travel resources to plan their next adventure and document past trips for others to follow in their footsteps.

A team of two Air Force Veterans and three Army Veterans, Edgar Zatarain, Justice Caban, Roque Mesa, Brandon Dykun, and Andrew Tran, developed Trippi.

The final project is Doggy Pile. Doggy Pile is a social media website for dog owners to connect with each other and socialize their pets. Doggy Pile also helps users find lost dogs, veterinarians, and dog-friendly businesses in their area.

Check out Doggy Pile’s presentation by Jennilee Toctocan, Adam Cox, John Price, Jesse Dalewalker, and Jennifer Isobe: two Army Veterans and Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy Veterans.

We’re proud of the creativity, innovation, and skills demonstrated during this cohort’s graduation. Congratulations, Quebec Platoon!

Mental Health Blog

Supporting Veteran Mental Health Care

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, between 11% and 20% of Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have post traumatic stress disorder, including combat PTSD and military sexual trauma. When Veterans have a traumatic experience, like combat or sexual assault, they can be left feeling powerless. That’s when PTSD can take hold.

“When I was in the Marine Corps, there was nothing I wouldn’t do for my squad,” Chris Miller, a combat Veteran and Community Outreach Coordinator at The Road Home Program, said. “But you don’t leave the military with your team, so others have to pick up the slack. It’s important as a military community to come together and help each other.”

Chris has worked at The Road Home Program since 2013. In his current role, he connects Veterans suffering from PTSD with the program’s free, evidence-based outpatient mental health services. 

Chris can personally attest that recognizing Veteran PTSD can be complex.

“When I left the military in 2003, I didn’t have flashbacks, so the VA practitioners didn’t recognize my PTSD symptoms. When I moved back to my hometown, my family saw something was wrong and helped me get help.”

The Road Home Program has a list of military trauma response symptoms, including isolation, anxiety, substance abuse, disturbed sleep, and more that can indicate undiagnosed PTSD in Veterans. But these symptoms can be hard to spot, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When dealing with PTSD, two of the more identifiable symptoms are isolation and avoidance,” Chris said. “So when everyone’s quarantining, it’s harder for me to find those who need help.”

“As such, one of the most important things to do if you think a Veteran is struggling is to connect with the family members. They’ve known the Veteran for a long time and know their baseline behavior. They notice something is off first.”

If you know a Veteran experiencing PTSD symptoms, what can you do to help? According to Chris, you have to ask a bit more than “Are you doing alright?”

“You have to have tough conversations and probe deeper,” Chris said. “If someone you know has symptoms that impede their daily functioning, you should encourage them to seek professional help. No matter how hopeless it can seem, PTSD is treatable.”

“Physical healthcare is normalized, and it should be the same for mental healthcare. Some parts of the military still have a stigma around Veteran mental health, but the situation is improving. The VA now collaborates with private sector groups, like The Road Home Project, to provide more Veterans with mental health services.”

The Road Home Program emphasizes military culture in their three programs: weekly outpatient care, weekly virtual outpatient care, and an intensive 3-week outpatient program in Chicago called “PTSD bootcamp.” Their programs are free for all Veterans, regardless of discharge status.

To learn more about the services available, visit The Road Home Program website

If you or a Veteran you know is in crisis, contact the Veterans Crisis Line for 24/7 confidential crisis intervention and support. Call 1-800-273-8255, text 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat

Kayla Elkin is the Marketing Content Specialist at Code Platoon. In this role, she uses 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.

Chris Miller

Sharing a Road to Veteran Mental Health

Over the course of his career, Chris Miller has held positions including Marine Corps Towgunner, sushi chef, mental health worker, full-stack developer, and community outreach coordinator. Chris shares his journey from overcoming untreated PTSD after Service to helping Veterans and their families get mental health treatment at The Road Home Program at Rush University. 

“I’ve seen what happens when military mental health is neglected, and I’ve personally suffered those consequences,” Chris said. “I have also seen what recovery looks like and what it takes to start that journey.”

Chris’s journey to providing mental health services started after facing untreated PTSD symptoms himself.

“After I got out of the military, I didn’t have flashbacks, so I didn’t recognize my PTSD symptoms,” Chris said. “I moved back to my hometown to figure out my next career move, and my family saw something was wrong. Salute, Inc. also helped me out, and I knew I wanted to give back someday.”

At home, Chris started working in inpatient mental health care at a children’s psychiatric hospital and went to culinary school as well. When he and his family moved a few years ago, he was looking to get out of the culinary world. So, he started working for The Road Home Program in 2013.

In his community outreach coordinator position, Chris connected Veterans suffering from PTSD to The Road Home program and visited Veterans’ organizations–including Code Platoon–to raise awareness. 

Chris gave a brief about The Road Home Program to our students and sat in on the class. From this experience, he found coding interesting and saw the possibilities to help Veterans with technology. He decided to leave The Road Home in pursuit of this vision.

“First, I worked with some Veterans I knew on a tech startup company,” Chris said. “We created a mobile app that connected Chicago-area Veterans with hiring companies, support groups, and mental health services. Even though that venture fizzled out, I wanted to learn more coding, so I applied to Code Platoon.”

At Code Platoon, Chris attended the 14-week (now 15-week) Immersive Full-stack Software Engineering Bootcamp, Hotel Platoon. After graduating from Code Platoon and completing a six-month full-stack development internship, Chris applied for an IT position at Rush University. He connected with his former boss and learned his old position at The Road Home Program had reopened. 

Chris decided to take his new tech skills from Code Platoon back to the program:

“Learning full-stack web development at Code Platoon definitely helped improve my position at The Road Home Program,“ Chris said. “The psychiatry departments are not very tech savvy. Since the Covid-19 pandemic had started, we had to learn how to leverage technology to continue providing services during lockdown.”

“I keep up our website, maintain virtual systems for tracking research participant data, and help create a database for outbound referrals. I like putting these small systems together.”

When asked about future goals, Chris replied:

“I’m enjoying my work at The Road Home Program. It’s great to be growing a clinic, and I want to continue to be a part of it. If I can use my experiences to help lead other Veterans down the road to recovery, I will accomplish my mission.”

If you want to help support the The Road Home Program or learn more about their available services, visit The Road Home Program website

Kayla Elkin is the Marketing Content Specialist at Code Platoon. In this role, she uses 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.

Teamwork in Tech

Adapting Military Team Building Skills to the Tech World

Imagine a small town. Every day, the townsfolk gather in the same field to let their cows graze. While popular research suggested that the cows would overgraze the pasture, research by (Nobel Prize winner) Elinor Ostrum shows that these communities ably manage their own resources.

People often do their best work in small, communal teams. But as time passes, teams have gotten larger and messier. The tech industry recognizes this, and it is pivoting to Agile teams and a focus on workplace culture. This transition is marked by trust that technology companies place in their employees to manage themselves.

Tech Teams Work Differently than Military Teams

Tech team structures can confuse the outsider. Luckily, Kelly Cronin, a lead ThoughtWorks consultant and Code Platoon Beyond Tech workshop leader, is here to help our students understand how tech teams form and empower them to build better teams. 

“Code Platoon students have such a breadth of teamwork experience already,” Kelly said. “That’s why I focus on what their future tech teams look like and the psychology behind them.”

Many of the military teams that Code Platoon students have been part of are what Kelly calls “Command and Control” models. Military teams are traditionally formed around a rigid hierarchy: the top makes the decisions and information flows down from the leaders like a waterfall.

While some tech companies use such rigid models, many workplaces have focused instead on Agile structures. Agile teams are built around motivation, community, and trust instead of structure and control. Agile team members are still given goals and problems to solve, but they are encouraged to develop their solutions and control their projects from end-to-end.

“You will likely end up in a hybrid between silos and Agile teams,” Kelly said. “You will need to push for clarity, define your teams’ roles, and try to be as cross-functional as possible.” 

Soft Skills Build Strong Teams

During one workshop, Kelly asked students what qualities they appreciated the most during their military service. Some students defaulted to skill-based qualifications, but many others pointed to soft skills like “listening” or “having each other’s backs.”

The tech workforce also prefers these qualities. According to a 3-year multimillion-dollar Google study, the highest-performing teams were the ones most committed to psychological safety and equal air time, not the ones with the strongest skills. 

“The best team members feel safe to ask questions, make mistakes, and be vulnerable with each other,” Kelly explains. “Every team member has the same amount of time to voice their opinion. When team members disagree, they engage in constructive conflicts, and everyone votes together on how to proceed.

“You don’t have to be friends or even like each other very much to make this work. You just have to have established norms, mutual goals, and an understanding that you are there to fail or succeed together.”

Learn More Beyond Tech Transitioning Skills 

Kelly’s teamwork workshop is just one of eight topics covered in Code Platoon’s Beyond Tech curriculum. Beyond Tech teaches our Veteran, active duty Servicemember, and military spouse students the norms and conventions of the civilian technology workforce. Other interpersonal Beyond Tech topics include overcoming imposter syndrome, diversity and inclusion, and interview prep. Learn more about our Beyond Tech curriculum.

Kayla Elkin is the Marketing Content Specialist at Code Platoon. In this role, she utilizes her marketing, writing, and editing skills developed by 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.

Teaching to Tech

From Teaching to Technology

Teachers have many skills that make them excellent candidates for the tech workplace. Decision-making, adaptability, management, and problem-solving are skills that good teachers and programmers have in abundance. 

Like many educators during the Covid-19 pandemic, Kat Wegrzynowicz, a military spouse and former special education instructor, left teaching. She decided to pursue a new opportunity in a tech career and started Code Platoon’s Immersive Full-stack Software Engineering Bootcamp three years after her husband, Greg Wegrzynowicz, graduated from the same program.

Kat was a special education teacher and case manager for eight years. In 2014, she met Greg, three years after he retired from the Marine Corps. They got married in 2019, the same year he graduated from Code Platoon.

Then, the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

“My teaching career felt out of control due to Covid,” Kat said. “So I left teaching full-time and worked that school year remotely as a contractor.”

With more free time on her hands, Kat explored her interest in coding. She taught herself JavaScript fundamentals and did some peer programming on Zoom with a friend of her husband. 

“I had some great experiences but needed to strengthen my knowledge to be more competitive on the job market,” Kat said. “Once I got to that point where I needed structure, I thought of Code Platoon. I knew they had a great program based on Greg’s experience.”

As a military spouse, Kat’s benefits options were limited. Military spouses don’t qualify for VA benefits like VET TEC, and Kat’s husband already used his GI Bill. But, when Kat was accepted, she qualified for one of Code Platoon’s military spouse-eligible scholarships. She received the full-tuition Women in Technology scholarship.

“I was nervous at first to pursue software engineering and attend Code Platoon,” Kat said. “Being in education, I was used to working with mostly women. I’d also heard that other bootcamps are very competitive, with students that feel threatened by each other’s success. But at Code Platoon, the staff, instructors, and students have all been supportive and inclusive.

“Emma (the Diversity and Inclusion workshop leader) showed my class some challenges women in technology face. She gave the women students the idea to be more mindful about connecting with other women in coding. We started a Slack group to network and help each other out.”

After graduating in May, Kat will seek positions at inclusive companies that offer learning opportunities for her first tech job. She has no preference for remote or in-person work if the company has a good workplace culture and a supportive environment for junior developers.

“I encourage anyone interested in coding to consider Code Platoon. Their program offers a lot of advantages. 

“When I left teaching, I didn’t think there was a place for me in technology. But Code Platoon showed me that tech has a place for anyone who can dedicate themselves to it.”

Are you a military spouse interested in attending Code Platoon? View our scholarship options for military spouses and apply to Code Platoon today.

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.

Military MOS

What Was Your MOS?

Most of us who served in the military have been in a place where we ask ourselves, “what kind of civilian job does my military experience translate into?”

For some, transferring military experience is more straightforward than for others. If you were a nurse or a motor pool mechanic and want to remain in those fields, the experience transfer is obvious. Internal medicine and combustion engines don’t magically change outside of DoD purview.

But for many Servicemembers, this is no easy thing. I was an Airborne Infantryman who became a PSYOP Team Chief, which is pretty limited outside of military life (except for being a mercenary and a politician, but I digress). Those in a similar position have to think a bit more, and that can often seem daunting, given what little messaging is out there on this subject. 

Transferring your military experience is more simple than many people make it, and here’s why. Consider the world of software development. This seems like a stretch for some Servicemembers, as there aren’t a lot of military specialties that directly correlate to programming, but that’s thinking about it the wrong way.

Here is the better way of looking at it: your military service sets you up for success in numerous ways. Chief among them are the educational opportunities available to you. Servicemembers now have more options than ever for learning a new skill, and they already have a foundation for doing that quite well.

When you went through Basic Training (or boot camp, or equivalent), you entered a world you had never been a part of before. It was entirely new, and you were suddenly immersed in an all-day, every-day newness – a flood of novel information streaming at you in a way you had never experienced. 

And yet, you succeeded. Despite the overwhelming nature of your situation, you adapted and adjusted to your new normal. 

More than anything else, this background is what can prepare you to learn new skills and transition into a new career. It doesn’t matter that your military specialty doesn’t transfer directly to another job – what matters is that you have a foundation upon which to build.

Most students who attend Code Platoon haven’t been software developers before or even written that much code. 

Our students come out of everything from the Infantry to the motor pool, from the medical field to linguistic analysis and military intelligence. They succeed because they know how to adapt to a fire hose of new knowledge hitting them in the face. They’ve done it before, and so have you.

Don’t let your military specialty define the rest of your life. You can choose to move beyond that, and Code Platoon is a place of like-minded people who can help you enable that transition. 

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.

E&W Profile

Evening & Weekend Profile – Balancing Life and Learning

Stephanie Lentell starts her day at 5 a.m. An Air Force Veteran, military spouse, and mom to four children, Stephanie wants to pivot from a teaching career to the technology sector. But because of her family responsibilities, she was unsure if she could make time for or afford a career change. 

“I ruled out a full-time program because I have four kids between six and fourteen years old, and my husband is in his own full-time program,” Stephanie said. “One of my kids is medically complex. When the nurse calls, I need to go. I need the flexibility to be present for my family while doing something for myself.”

Stephanie helps her children get ready and drops them off at school. She then tackles the housework. Her husband, a recently retired Navy Senior Chief, is also home undergoing a career change. 

“When my husband retired from the Navy, I was going to work,” Stephanie said. “But the Covid-19 pandemic obliterated my teaching prospects. Schools were locked down, my kids needed to stay home, and education became an unpredictable and increasingly stressful career path. I had to figure out what to do.”

Stephanie always enjoyed technology. So she decided to pursue a new career in tech. After trying some workshops, she discovered the coding world to be challenging and exhilarating. She taught herself the fundamentals of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Then she decided to join a remote coding Bootcamp.

“I decided to apply for the Code Platoon Evening and Weekend Program, but I missed the deadline for Bravo Platoon,” Stephanie said. “I emailed (Greg Drobny, Code Platoon’s Student Outreach Manager) and asked what I could do. He sent me Intro to Coding and offered to help me find another option. We never spoke, but I could sense Greg’s passion for helping Veterans like me.”

When Charlie Evening & Weekend Platoon was announced, Stephanie applied and was accepted. 

Still, Stephanie worried about how she would pay for the Code Platoon program. She already used her GI Bill benefits on degrees in education, and military spouse benefits were not an option. But Stephanie learned that she qualified for the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP), which pays for Veterans unemployed by Covid-19 to receive retraining for in-demand careers. 

After finishing her household responsibilities each day, Stephanie now works on her Code Platoon projects. When her kids come home from school, Stephanie helps them with their homework, takes her son to therapy sessions, and makes dinner. 

“If I’m in a waiting room, I usually have my laptop with me. That’s definitely part of the balancing act,” Stephanie said.

Three nights per week, Stephanie attends live remote classes until 10:30 p.m. She also has class on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. While she’s in class, her husband watches the kids.

“My husband and I work together,” Stephanie said. “He has class during the day, and I have class at night. My instructors, Tom and Chad, are also so supportive. They help me balance class and my family.”

After graduation, Stephanie hopes to find a remote job to continue being present with her family. She is especially interested in virtual learning technology after seeing her kids’ pandemic home-schooling.

“Existing virtual learning platforms aren’t designed for the kids,” Stephanie said. “They are designed for the grown-ups teaching them. But I think we can make virtual learning better. That’s my favorite thing about technology–it’s constantly evolving.

“When I went to college, I learned to teach one subject, and that’s it. After Code Platoon, I can combine tech with anything. I’m working towards being a software engineer, but there are so many other directions I can explore. I’m so excited for the opportunities Code Platoon opens the door for.”

Kayla Elkin is the Marketing Content Specialist at Code Platoon. In this role, she utilizes her marketing, writing, and editing skills developed by 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.

Skillbridge Blog

Making the Jump into Tech via SkillBridge

Did you know Active Duty Servicemembers can start training for their civilian career prior to leaving the military? Michael Grandori and Seth Thomas attended Code Platoon and started paid tech positions before their military separation. How were they able to get a head start? They used the little-known Department of Defense SkillBridge program.

Headshot of Michael GrandoriMichael, a former Infantry Sergeant, joined Code Platoon in 2020. After graduation, he apprenticed with Motorola Solutions and accepted a full-time position six months later.

“I probably became a pariah in my unit because I pushed SkillBridge so much,” Michael said. “SkillBridge got me where I am today. I left the military, and a month later, I had a tech job. Without SkillBridge, I would probably still be struggling to get my foot in the door.”

Seth graduated from Papa Platoon in January 2022 and started an apprenticeship with 8th Light. He is an Active Duty Army Officer until April 2022.

“I owe everything to SkillBridge,” Seth said. “Leaving the safety net of the military was daunting. But with SkillBridge, I got the skills I needed when I needed them.”

SkillBridge helps transitioning Servicemembers get a head start on their post-military careers. Servicemembers, with command approval, can participate in SkillBridge during their last 180 days of active duty via a DoD-approved program like Code Platoon. 

Active Duty Servicemembers should plan ahead if they want to participate in a SkillBridge program, as timing is crucial.

“Because of Covid, I was stuck on a ship in the South China Sea,” Michael said. “Luckily, the stars aligned. I got the applications done in about two and a half months and returned to the United States before my program started.”

“I started looking for programs about a year and a half before my last day,” Seth said. “I also started Intro to Coding around the same time since Code Platoon requires some self-study to pass the application.”

After getting accepted to Code Platoon and SkillBridge, Michael and Seth went through Code Platoon’s Immersive Full-Stack Software Engineering Bootcamp. They both attended remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Code Platoon did a great job revamping their program to accommodate virtual students and create a sense of community,” Seth said. “The instructors stressed that you should rely on each other and your team for success. We all wanted to succeed together. I got the support network I had in the military, outside of the military. 

“Coding Bootcamps seem daunting at first, like facing a cliff. But once you start climbing, you realize you can do it.”

“Code Platoon is an exceptionally well-rounded program,” Michael said. “There are other bootcamps that teach the fundamentals, but Code Platoon has it all. You learn how to communicate with people, write applications, keep track of features, and then make the leap to your first job.”

Once Michael and Seth graduated from Code Platoon, they were matched with Chicago-based technology companies through our apprenticeship program

Headshot of Seth Thomas“Code Platoon’s focus on getting us a job at the end of the program is phenomenal,” Seth said. “You start with career prep, and by the end, you have the chance to interview with companies spanning the financial sector to consulting. Code Platoon chooses its partners carefully and sets students up for success.

“Right now, at 8th Light, I am going through a program to become a polyglot in technical languages. Code Platoon gave me the skills to feel comfortable learning new technologies quickly and effectively.”

Michael completed his Full-stack Developer Apprenticeship at Motorola Solutions and continued with the company until March 2022. He recently started a new Software Engineer position at F5.

“With Motorola, I worked on embedded systems that interact with the physical world. Now at F5, I work on a living, breathing project that lives on companies’ cloud infrastructures,” Michael said. “Getting to solve real-world problems every day is why I became a software engineer.”

When asked about goals for the future, Michael and Seth responded similarly.

“When I was in the military, I was a team leader, section leader, and squad leader at one point,” Michael said. “I would like to see myself in a leadership position again. I want to mentor junior developers because I remember what it was like starting out two years ago.”

“Everything I did in the Army was management and program-based,” Seth said. “I never thought those skills could transfer to a technical role. Thanks to the SkillBridge program and Code Platoon, I learn new things and advance myself in a collaborative environment. I wake up with a smile on my face every day.”

If you are interested in applying to Code Platoon with SkillBridge, apply to Code Platoon today. To help with the SkillBridge command approval process, we provide an introductory letter and command approval template.

If you have any questions about Code Platoon or SkillBridge, our recruitment team is here to help.

Kayla Elkin is the Marketing Content Specialist at Code Platoon. In this role, she utilizes her marketing, writing, and editing skills developed by 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.

Womens History Month

Women’s History Month: Gene Grabeel and the Venona Project

Sometimes multiple areas of interest collide into one topic, making my research easy and fun. Such is the case here with Gene Grabeel and Women’s History Month.

Given world events at this moment and the fact that a great deal of my education has to do with 20th Century European history, I’ve spent significant time revisiting Cold War developments. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that it’s Women’s History Month and that there is a connection between this month and the Cold War.

A little-discussed operation until recently, the Venona Project began before WWII’s end and picked up full-steam as the Iron Curtain descended across Europe. Many military leaders saw the writing on the wall, so to speak, regarding US-Soviet relations and began taking steps to address their distrust of Joseph Stalin with intel-gathering projects like Venona.

One of those leaders was Colonel Carter W. Clarke. Clarke ordered mathematician and cryptanalyst Gene Grabeel to create the Venona Project. This project was kept classified until 1995, after which time many secrets about the Soviet’s influence in the West came to light. Grabeel was a fundamental part of the Venona Projects and the information it discovered. 

Following college, Grabeel worked as a home economics teacher for teenage girls, which she found rather less than satisfying. In December of 1942, despite the incredibly vague job description, she took a job with the Signal Intelligence Service. Her initial duty was to decode Soviet ciphertext, and in less than two months, she founded the Venona Project under Colonel Clarke. 

This was the start of Grabeel’s 36-year career with the Signal Intelligence Service, and the incredible legacy she created. Grabeel and her cryptanalyst team deciphered codes that lead to the discovery of Soviet spies in the Manhattan Project, top government officials who were passing information, and great insight into the Soviet Union’s general intent and operations. 

Through a “brute force” approach using IBM punch card machines and good ol’ fashioned mathematical-influenced analysis, Grabeel and her colleagues made a significant discovery:

the former home ec teacher and her colleagues divined that Arlington Hall had messages passing along five different Soviet communications systems. One, the most voluminous, had to do with trade—often about materials being sent from the U.S. to Russia through the Lend-Lease program. Another carried regular diplomatic communications. In time, the code breakers discerned that the other three were spy systems: GRU, or military intelligence; naval intelligence; and the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB.

The real breakthrough came shortly after when Grabeel and others discovered that some Soviet spies involved in espionage operations had repeatedly used their encryption keys. While not quite equivalent to leaving your password to a secure facility up for a national television audience to see, it was a definite blunder in spycraft. It allowed the American intelligence analysts to make a significant crack in the code.

The importance of this discovery cannot be overstated. Had it been a one-time code-break that resulted in something like the Rosenbergs being caught, that would be significant in itself. 

The Venona Project continued on in almost complete secrecy for more than three decades and led to many leaps forward in understanding Soviet operations

Because of their work, we learned more about how the Soviets advanced their nuclear program. More than could have ever been learned via spying. The dedication of Grabeel and co-workers Angeline Nanni, Mary Jo Dunning, and others who worked on the project allowed for breakthroughs that have impacted everything from modern computers to ongoing geopolitical situations. 

In 1995, Grabeel was recognized by the CIA as an “American Hero.” After passing away in 2015, she was memorialized by a highway marker in Virginia. While that seems vastly inadequate recognition for her contributions to the world of computing and espionage, it’s in a way quite fitting for someone who was described as quiet and unassuming. 

So, this Women’s History Month, we pay homage to the hard work of Gene Grabeel and her associates. Their contributions to both the coding and international security worlds are worthy of high praise.