The VA is serious about helping veterans get jobs in the tech industry

As a non-profit serving veterans through software coding training, we love keeping up with current trends for veteran interests and the technology sector. Let’s look at what’s new for the week of March 25, 2019.

Tech jobs are still a good choice for veterans

According to USA Today’s list of the Top 25 Jobs for 2019, software developers are still in high demand with an unemployment rate under two percent and a median salary in the six figure range, showing that tech jobs are still on top. In fact, out of all possible jobs in the article, software developer is #1.

So how do veterans get the hard skills to get into one of these coveted, high end tech jobs?

The VET TEC program incentivizes veterans to get coding jobs

Most veterans already know they can use their benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill® to attend a conventional college or coding boot camp to learn to code. But now the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is offering another wonderful opportunity to get into technical programs with their newly created Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) program.

Starting in April, 2019 the Department of Veterans Affairs will use VET TEC to get motivated, hard working veterans into tech jobs. VET TEC has been designed to give veterans another opportunity to use nontraditional training like coding boot camps to access jobs in information technology, computer software, information science, media application, data processing and computer programing fields.

As long as the vet has even a single day of GI Bill benefits available to use, VET TEC is free to the veteran but doesn’t use up their GI Bill benefits up.

The VA’s goal is to focus more on the job outcome than the education, and they’re willing to incentivize veterans to follow along. The veteran, of course, still ends up with debt free tuition as long as they work towards a job in a technical industry, and can still fall back on other GI Bill forms if they change their mind.

Vet Tec makes sure that the student does not pay anything for tuition. However, the program has delayed payment to the education institution to incentivize them to facilitate measurable results for graduates. Upon the veteran’s acceptance into the program, the VA will pay the training provider 25 percent of tuition and then another 25 percent once the veteran graduates. Finally, when the veteran gets a job in their area of study, the VA will pay the last 50 percent of tuition.

Why is the VA pushing for coding boot camps?

Coding boot camps, which are condensed, job-focused software development courses, are growing in popularity.

According to Inside Higher Ed, many coding boot camps cater to people with a bachelor’s degree who cannot afford another certificate or degree program. For these students, this short range, intense training program is an add-on to their traditional education that will not be a replacement, but an enhancement to their technical skills and resume.

However, coding boot camps are still ideal for absolute beginners because they have a compressed curricula and focus highly on job placement in high demand, relevant career fields. Because of the success of this type of learning, many universities are changing the focus of their traditional programs to include a version of a condensed coding boot camp program.

Evidence suggests that many higher education programs are starting to shift from strictly four year degrees and incorporating a boot camp style course to help fill gaps in employability after graduation.

In other words, the coding boot camp is proving to be the more vital program, as boot camp graduates are having better outcomes in many cases than their undergraduate computer science counterparts.

The Apprenti program proves the VA is serious about veteran jobs in technology

As previously stated, employers want a slew of skills and experience when looking at a potential hire. Apprenti is taking a huge leap forward for veteran technology jobs by removing the burden of experience and education. Once a veteran passes a few basic tests and qualifies for the program, Apprenti places the veteran in a well-paying technology apprenticeship in a major company for at least a year. The intent is to bring the veteran as a full-time hire, and they’ll certainly benefit from the apprenticeship regardless.

The stress of finding experience and education is eliminated by this program by placing veterans into a technology apprenticeship. During this apprenticeship the veterans are taught the appropriate skills needed to maintain a job in their chosen technological career fields. According to Apprenti’s statistics, almost 50 percent of students start the program without a prior degree and approximately 85 percent of participants are retained by the company with which they have done their apprenticeship!

Apprenticeships like those offered by Apprenti give one more avenue to get that desired tech job. Currently, there are almost 2 million vacancies in the industry, and only 65,000 students will be graduating with the requisite computer science degree. This leave a lot of gaps that need to be filled and a lot of opportunity for veterans to get their foot in the door.

What can veterans do next for a tech job?

Not all military jobs line up perfectly with jobs in the civilian world, and that means more training upon transition from your respective branch of service.

Through the ages, attending college with the Montgomery GI Bill and Post 9/11 GI Bill has always been tried and true options for veterans entering the workforce after service. However, with veterans urgently needing post-service careers, and the college education pipeline failing to supply coders to meet the total job openings in tech fields, veterans have some other options.

Programs like Apprenti and Vet Tec bring a fresh new look to the education field with cutting edge opportunities that not only give veterans the skills needed to fill in of those job vacancies, but it gets right to the paycheck as well.

Code Platoon, our non-profit coding boot camp for veterans and military spouses, accepts the GI Bill and offers scholarships for many students who do not have GI Bill benefits. We also place most of our graduates in paying apprenticeships that lead to careers with their host company.

If you’re a veteran or spouse interested in our training, please click here to apply to our program.


SkillBridge and Code Platoon

Sailors and soldiers on active duty who are transitioning out of active military service may be eligible for the DoD SkillBridge program. In the Army, this program is also called Career Skills.

At Code Platoon, our mission is to help veterans and military spouses get into valuable new careers, and the SkillBridge program aligns with that objective. If the SkillBridge program interests you, here are some frequently asked questions and answers that may help you.

How does SkillBridge help DoD service members transition into new careers?

SkillBridge is designed to give active duty service members an opportunity to develop in-demand job skills while still serving. Specifically, service members who participate in SkillBridge can use their last 6 months of active duty to participate in a training program like Code Platoon.

How would an active duty member apply to Code Platoon with SkillBridge?

Interested candidates will simply apply using the normal application link. During the application process, list yourself as active duty and select that you are interested in the SkillBridge scholarship. Immediately after, email and let us know if you need any help or additional information.

How does Code Platoon help with the command approval process for SkillBridge?

Your unit commander needs to approve your participation in SkillBridge at Code Platoon, and we have some information that may help you with that process.

Below is a downloadable information packet for your commander. We’re also happy to have conversations with you about your steps taken outside Code Platoon that are required for you to succeed.

PDF download for your commander: Introductory Letter from Code Platoon

Which Code Platoon programs can I attend with SkillBridge?

You can attend our remote live program with SkillBridge. This means you’ll be able to take the program from wherever you live now. You’ll be on track with our classroom schedule, and have access to our instructors via computer.

If you’re in the rare instance of transitioning out through Naval Station Great Lakes, then you may be able to attend our in-person program as well.

What Code Platoon scholarships am I eligible for with SkillBridge?

We are providing a special 100% full scholarship for the remote program for students who attend through SkillBridge.

Can I use the GI Bill® with SkillBridge and Code Platoon

You cannot use the GI Bill® with SkillBridge and Code Platoon unless you transition out through Naval Station Great Lakes.

What do I do next?

Click here to apply for the Code Platoon program.

If you know someone else who may be interested, share the link to this page and this flyer.

Skillbridge Flyer

What to look for in coding bootcamps: Code Platoon vs. Northwestern Coding Bootcamp

When someone wants to become a professional software developer, coding bootcamps can offer a fast, complete, and affordable way to reach that career goal.

However, not all coding bootcamps are created equal. We’ve established some benchmarks that represent the accessibility of various programs and the quality of their graduate outcomes. Whether you share some or all of these values, we encourage prospective coding bootcamp applicants to consider at least some of these features when making a decision on where to learn.

And rather than work strictly in hypotheticals, we’ve used actual data from two coding bootcamps: Code Platoon, our own non-profit coding bootcamp exclusively available to military veterans and their spouses; and Northwestern Coding Bootcamp, another coding boot camp also located in the greater Chicago area, run by Trilogy Education Services Inc.

Each section of the analysis is broken up according to the question we’re addressing about the coding bootcamp.

Do graduates from the coding bootcamp get coding jobs?

Most folks are going to a coding bootcamp because they want to become professional software developers. Coding bootcamps are challenging and job-like in their schedule, so hobbyists usually lack the needed motivation to drive through to completion. Of course, if you want to dabble in coding, there are plenty of other free, online resources and local classes!

But for those out to get the coding jobs, there are more factors in whether your coding boot camp will lead to a career than just the technical coding skills alone. What are the other keys to getting a job after a coding bootcamp, aside from the tech stuff?

Apprenticeships / Internships

The first job after a coding bootcamp is by far the hardest to get. Code Platoon has a corporate sponsor model whereby companies commit to host the majority of our graduates for paid internships. Most of those internships turn into full-time offers within the same companies.


Do certifications help coders get jobs in the tech industry? Some do. A certification is not a guarantee for success, but certifications like those granted by Amazon Web Services (which Code Platoon offers) and Oracle for Java do matter to companies that use those particular tools.

Publish outcomes

All coding bootcamps should publish their job placement outcomes. This can help set realistic expectations for applicants and students, and even increase confidence (and as a side effect, performance) for graduates who may doubt their value before they land the job. Besides, with the data being readily available from alumni, why wouldn’t a coding bootcamp publish its outcomes? Code Platoon’s outcomes are available here.

Career preparation

Quality of career prep varies between programs, but this is an essential component of any successful coding bootcamp. We spend many hours, over the course of many weeks, doing resume and LinkedIn preparation, behavioral and technical interview prep, mock interviews, and more. Both Code Platoon and Northwestern include this in their curriculum.

Extensive networking opportunities

Many estimates suggest that 70% to 85% of all job opportunities are found through networking opportunities. Most coding bootcamps are aware of this, and say that they will introduce their students to the tech community.

Be careful with what they mean. Will the programs take you to meetups? You can do that by yourself. Will they introduce you to a mentor who is an employee of the bootcamp, or who only meets you three times during the entire course? Not much of a networking opportunity.

We bring the network to our students. Every night, two professional software developers volunteer to spend two hours working with our students on their homework. That means our students get to interact with 10 professional developers every day of every week for two whole hours in addition to their class time with our instructors.

Is the training program affordable?

The price tag on a program may not take into account various ways to offset the cost of that program, such as scholarships. It’s a great idea to compare similar coding bootcamp options along the lines of cost for the value, but remember to consider the final out-of-pocket expense rather than the initial price tag.


Many programs offer scholarships to make their programs more affordable. Our median scholarship for the In-Person Program is $10,000. Our Women in Tech and Remote scholarships completely cover the cost of tuition ($13,000). Here is a great list of coding bootcamp scholarships for many different schools.

GI Bill®

This option is specific to veterans (and sometimes their families). Code Platoon is GI Bill approved, meaning that the GI Bill can potentially cover the cost of tuition along with initiating any other GI Bill benefits the student may be eligible for, such as a housing allowance.

Student loans

Still can’t afford tuition after scholarships? Many programs work with third party lenders for student loans. Making a decision to take a loan depends mostly on your credit history and your confidence in gaining employment after graduation (which may depend on the school’s outcomes, mentioned above.)

How hard is it to get into the coding bootcamp?

Coding bootcamps have a choice:

  • Let anyone in (immediate profit, long-term reputation damage)
  • Let only experienced coders in (decent outcomes, possible student burnout)
  • Let people in based more on non-coding attributes (prioritize personality over skill)

Ask yourself: Does the program want students who are eager to learn? Or does the program admit anybody who can write a check?

We focus on selecting the most motivated students, which leads to a student body that encourages and drives one another. Spirits are high, bonds are strong, and results are better because our students are linked together by a common thread of dedication.

Getting into a new profession is hard, and as a student you need to come committed to putting in the time and effort to get there. To offset the motivation requirements, we use fairly modest coding challenges to determine who is ready to attack our rigorous program. It’s more important to show us what you can do during the prerequisites and the course than how much you knew prior to applying!

How can I judge the program’s quality?

Instructed Hours

Want an easy way to evaluate how much material you are going to learn, and how deeply you will learn it? Take a look at how many ‘supervised hours’ (instruction time / guided workshops / project work with instructors available to assist) versus their ‘unsupervised hours’ (solo homework time).

Of course, pure hours is an insufficient indicator of quality. But it is definitely an indicator. By the time students finish our program, they will have had over 700 instruction/supervised hours; at Northwestern Coding bootcamp, that number is 300.


Student feedback, testimonials, and review score averages are the ultimate validation of a program’s quality. Course Report and are two industry review sites for coding bootcamps.

What type of coding bootcamp is it?

  • In Person: most learners prefer an in-person delivery, if logistically possible, since you can easily communicate with your instructors and fellow students, and more readily form bonds with your classmates.
    • Full time / Immersive: the original bootcamp model. Go hard for a short period of time (9 to 20 weeks typically) and you are done.
    • Part time : need to work or have other daytime responsibilities? Some programs offer the same or similar curriculum to full-time programs, only presented in nights and weekends.
      • Again, look for more ‘supervised hours’
  • Live Remote: same as the In Person programs, only you attend live classes and workshops from the comfort of your own (or someone else’s) home. A great option if travel or housing are issues.
  • Self-paced remote: need to work, support a family, or just can’t find time to immerse yourself in a bootcamp? Self-paced is a good option if you can only find a few hours here and there. It will take a lot longer, but if you have the tenacity, you can still succeed in this type of program. If you want a leg up on attending a live in-person or remote program later, a self-paced remote program is a good way to prepare yourself in advance.

Does the coding bootcamp focus on a specific population and work to accommodate that group?

Most programs are for-profit, and serve everyone who can pay and pass the application process. Some programs are mission-driven nonprofits seeking to serve just a single population, like Code Platoon does for veterans and military spouses, and Ada Developers Academy does for women.

There are various advantages to attending a mission-driven nonprofit. First, since they don’t have shareholders, every dollar they take in goes back into improving the program. They are also able to serve the student population’s specific needs; whether it’s partnering with other veteran-serving nonprofits, like the The Road Home for mental wellness, or providing accommodations for Guard or Reservists who need to take time off to drill, or providing full refunds to our students if they get called up to serve, we understand our population and how we can best help them.

Conclusion on comparing coding bootcamps

Simply put: Do your research and decide what is most important to you. It often helps to write your objectives, priorities, and available coding bootcamp options down side by side.

Best Paying and Most In Demand Programming Languages

The Best Paying and Most In Demand Programming Languages in 2018

At Code Platoon, we track national demand for programming languages so that our veterans and military spouses are trained with the best tools for a career in software development. When you’re deciding which programming language to learn, the following demand-based insights complement a much broader strategy.

This article attempts to answer which programming languages command the highest salaries and are most frequently targeted in job postings.

How we identified the current top programming languages

To answer our questions, we conducted simple searches on, one of the largest job listing sites.

For the question of compensation, we started by searching for the top 15 most popular languages in a recent Stack Overflow survey and mapped the average salary for job listings with those languages. For demand, we tracked the number of total job postings targeting those same languages.

Ranking programming languages by pay and number of openings

The Best Paying and Most In Demand Programming Languages in 2018

Python: This coding language holds the #2 position in both surveys. Python is an interpreted, multi-purpose programming language. It is often used to build web applications, and seeing exploding growth due its use in data science, machine learning, cybersecurity, and dev ops.

Javascript: Often called ‘the language of the web,’ Javascript took #3 in Job Postings and #4 in Average Salary. Javascript is an indispensible language to know for writing web applications, as it works in the browser and on the server side.

Ruby: Highly-valued, Ruby holds #1 for Average Salary and #6 for Job Postings. Like Python, Ruby is an interpreted, multi-purpose language that is relatively easy to learn. Its popularity stems largely from its web development framework, Ruby on Rails, which is very powerful, widely used, and relatively easy to get up and running.

C++: Once a premier top-level programming language and now used primarily in gaming and high-performance applications, C++ stands at #3 in Average Salary and #4 in Job Postings.  The common and useful language C++ was designed for application and systems programming. Since its creation, it’s often been used for office applications, games, and advanced graphics. C++ is very fast and stable, but difficult to learn relative to the other languages in this list (except possibly C).

Java: Integral to large-scale legacy business applications and gaining new relevance through its adoption by Google for Android, Java maintains #1 in Job Postings and #6 in Average Salary. Java’s rankings were an exact flip of Ruby’s in each category. Originally developed by Oracle, Java is extremely popular because it can be used for mobile, web, and desktop app development, and more. Reasonably stable and fast, it is very popular at the enterprise level.

C#:  Similar to Java with Android, C# maintains a solid user base through its adoption in the Unity gaming engine, standing at #5 in Job Postings, and #8 in Average Salary. C# was specifically designed by Microsoft as a competitor to Java. Often used to build desktop apps and video games, as well as web apps, C# remains very popular in the enterprise. It runs on Microsoft’s .NET platform.

Swift/iOS: Swifts owes its rankings of #5 in Average Salary, and #7 in Job Postings to its dominance in the mobile market. Created by Apple, Swift is now often the default language for writing iOS apps (Objective C preceded it). If you want to write apps for the iPhone, look no further.

PHP: The language that powers WordPress, PHP is #8 in Job Postings, and #9 in Average Salary. PHP is a general-purpose scripting language used for the development of web applications. One of the earliest languages for web development (released in 1995), it remains widely popular today.

C: C is one of the oldest and most widely used programming languages in the world, and holds #7 in Average Salary, and #9 in Job Postings. It is used to program everything from operating systems to hardware. What makes this language so difficult to learn is in part why it is so powerful: a lot of concepts that are hidden to users in scripting languages like Python, Ruby and even Java are exposed in C, so that the programmer has more flexibility and complexity available.

What will be the most popular programming language in 2019?

It’s difficult to speculate how these programming languages will fare in the future because the supply of qualified applicants affects the number of open positions. However, as an article from The Economist recently noted, Python now has the largest Google search traffic of any programming language, recently passing Java. Java and Javascript come next.

If you’re also looking for more information on the usefulness of various programming languages, the TIOBE Index and Stack Overflow provide two of the most authoritative reports. Both reports consider industry demand as well as additional perspectives, and incorporate different approaches in determining the usefulness of programming languages.

If you’re a military veteran or military spouse interested in learning to code, you can apply for one of our cohorts now.

AMVETS Radio Interview with Rod Levy

AMVETS Radio Interview with Rod Levy

Rod Levy is the Founder and CEO of Code Platoon. The following podcast features a segment he completed with host American Veteran Podcast, and is posted here:

Rod’s segment runs from runs from 13:15 to 27:30.

how coding bootcamps can launch Veterans’ second careers

Code Platoon Founder shares how coding bootcamps can launch Veterans’ second careers

Rod Levy is the Founder and CEO of Code Platoon. The following is a reproduction of a podcast he completed with host EdTech Times, which is posted here:

Over the past decade or so, coding bootcamps have risen in popularity, seen as the ideal route to gain new skills for an in-demand career.

Rod Levy founded Code Platoon to bring those skills to one group in particular: Veterans and military spouses. According to Rod, it felt right to create a skill-building technology bootcamp for people who have already been through literal bootcamps.

“We asked them to work 12-hour days, six days a week, sometimes more. And we’ve had terrific success,” Levy says. “They thrive in this environment. When you think about the characteristics that the veterans brings to the table, you think about teamwork, you think about grit, you think about determination. And that’s exactly what we screen for.”

While a formal education can pave the path to a good career, sometimes higher ed focuses more on theory than practice. After graduation, students might still have to learn skills on the job. Rod says Code Platoon focuses on career services, to help place veterans and military spouses in the workforce with skills they can use right away.

“We spend a fair amount of time talking about how you prepare your LinkedIn profile, how do you prepare your resume preparation, Levy says. “We do technical interviewing, we do non-technical interviewing, and we do personality interviewing. So, we have a full career preparation component as our curriculum.”

Listen in to our full interview with Rod Levy to learn more about coding bootcamps and how they can provide resources for veterans or military spouses and others looking to change their career paths.

Hester Tinti-Kane: This is Hester Tinti-Kane with EdTech Times. Today we’re speaking with Rod Levy, founder and executive director of Code Platoon. Rod, can you start by introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about Code Platoon?

Rod Levy: I am an industry career changer. I was in finance for about 20 years and I went through what was then one of the very first coding bootcamps. And I decided that it was a wonderful, transformative event for me and something that I wanted to bring to a population that I cared about, which was veterans. So, I formed Code Platoon a couple years ago to bring this type of education and job training to people that have served our country.

Hester Tinti-Kane: So, tell us a little bit more about that inspiration for starting Code Platoon?

Rod Levy: I had been in finance for a long time, and I was done with that part of my life for a while for a variety of reasons. I wanted to be able to build things and I decided that if I was going to build things and build companies, I needed to know how to build software. And I spent a long time trying to figure out how to become a software developer. And ultimately I came across a coding bootcamp, Dev Bootcamp was what it was called, it was the very first kind of bootcamp out there. Their premise was, “If you come to our program, if you are admitted and you go through our nine week training program, it’s very immersive, you’ll be working—doing nothing but working on this for nine weeks, figure 12 hours a day, six days a week. But when you’re done you’ll be ready to be a junior developer, you’ll be ready to write code, and ready to work on a software team as a junior software developer.” And so that was an opportunity for me to make a complete pivot, and I was just amazed by the opportunities afforded to me and to my fellow students when I was done.

Rod Levy:  The only problem with that bootcamp, well not really a problem, it’s the reality, that it is a for-profit institution. And I’m all for for-profit institutions, but they charge the tuition of about 13 or 14 thousand dollars, which is still a really good deal for many, many people, because you got to change careers into a really energized, well-compensated career. But still out of reach for many people. So, I wanted to bring that type of education to a population that sometimes can’t afford it, many times, and make it affordable for them. So, I decided to start a coding bootcamp for veterans as a nonprofit to signal to them that we’re here to serve the veterans. And something that was affordable and tailored to their background and experiences.

Hester Tinti-Kane: It is really interesting, I think, what boot camps provide for people in such a short amount of time, usually reasonable tuition. But when you were thinking about a career shift away from finance did you consider getting an associate’s degree or going back for college, some sort of, you know, bachelor’s science, computer science? Did you consider that at all?

Rod Levy: Absolutely.

Hester Tinti-Kane: That was early on right? For coding boot camps? And that was sort of—you were taking a risk there maybe.

Rod Levy: Yeah. I mean, I have an undergraduate degree in engineering and I have a couple master’s degrees in business and in engineering, so I’m very comfortable with the path that a formal education can lead you to. And I spent a decent amount of time trying to explore online options, massive online classes, different types of online programs that were free or paid. And I definitely considered going back to get a master’s degree in computer science. The two reasons that I decided not to go that path, one was that typically those tracks are two years, they can be as short as one. And typically they focus much more on theory rather than practice. I wanted to go out and build code. I didn’t want to come out and then have to still learn how to build code.

Rod Levy: Dev bootcamp promised to teach you the tools, like how to be– the analogy we use is, “You can choose to go learn how to be an architect or how to be a carpenter, they teach you how to be a carpenter, you can build stuff when you’re done.” And so that’s what motivated me to go through that Dev Bootcamp even though it certainly was a risk. But they were very thoughtful about the curriculum they put together and it certainly seemed like they had had some good success already even though it was very early.

Hester Tinti-Kane: Let’s talk a little bit about the audience for a Code Platoon, about veterans. Why do you think this type of a learning experience is good for that population, good for veterans?

Rod Levy: The term “coding bootcamp” originated before anyone thought about targeting veterans, so clearly there’s something about the naming that Dev Bootcamp and other coding bootcamps were trying to message, which is that to be successful through their program it was going to take a tremendous amount of work. It was going to be very rigorous. It seemed to me that if I was going to start a bootcamp, all things being equal, it would be easier if I just tried to target individuals that had already been through a real bootcamp. Our program is exceptionally rigorous. We asked them to work, again, 12 hour days, six days a week, sometimes more. And we’ve had terrific success. They thrive in this environment. You know that when you think about the characteristics that veterans brings to the table, you think about teamwork, you think about grit, you think about determination and that’s exactly what we screen for. And that’s exactly what we see in our classrooms. I think that certainly those characteristics you see in veterans much more readily than you would out of just a civilian in the general population.

Hester Tinti-Kane: Do you have maybe a specific story that you could tell about one of the students that came through your program? Sort of, what was their previous experience, what was their learning experience, and then how did they move on after that?

Rod Levy: First of all, we get all kinds of backgrounds, all kinds of ages, but most of our students reflect the military population as a whole, which means that about 80 or 90 percent of them were enlisted. They were not officers. And about 80 percent of those don’t necessarily have college degrees. Most of them have high school degrees. The gentleman that I like to think about in terms of someone who was the kind of individual we were targeting was somebody who three years ago was doing blue collar work. I think he was stacking boxes at UPS. And he applied to our program, he got in, didn’t even finish high school. And it was very clear from when you saw the way he wrote, the way he talked that, this is a very intelligent, articulate young man for whom life circumstances haven’t naturally played out as well as they did for others. And he went through our program. He just finished it successfully. He got an internship through one of our sponsor companies, and not just one of sponsor companies, but one of the companies that is truly one of the technology beacons in Chicago. This is a company that they hire and compete against Facebook and Google in terms of talent, in terms of what they pay. And so when he was placed in an internship there, it was clear that they wanted to support him, but they didn’t necessarily expect that he was going to be a long-term fit. And yet, here we are today, a little over a year later, and he is a full-time employee there doing extremely well and he has opportunities available to him now that he wouldn’t have had ever before.

Hester Tinti-Kane: That’s great. Tell us a little bit more about how you connect your students to jobs.

Rod Levy: We have multiple components to our curriculum that help prepare students for the next phase professionally. The most direct one is that we have sponsor companies who commit to provide internships for our students. We don’t have enough internships for all of our students, but for those that get placed at companies, once you make it into an internship, the likelihood that you end up working successfully in the field is very high. It’s usually that first year after coding bootcamp that is the biggest hurdle to long-term success. Companies are desperate to hire software engineers. But they’re also desperate to hire ones that can do the work reasonably early. And that isn’t usually the ones to come out after one year, or just after the coding bootcamp.

Rod Levy: Now, the other components of our program involve a fairly rich career services curriculum. So we spend a fair amount of time talking about how you prepare your LinkedIn profile, how do you prepare your resume preparation. We do technical interviewing, we do non-technical interviewing, and we do personality interviewing. So we have a full career preparation component as our curriculum. And then we also have a soft skills component to our curriculum, which is not directly career services but it’s about, “how do you succeed in the workplace beyond the technical skills?” And then lastly, we also are working on having a career coach, technical recruiting component after you finish our program to help make sure that if you didn’t get an internship, now we have someone helping you through, put a plan together and execute so that you can find your job.

Hester Tinti-Kane: So tell us a little bit about your corporate sponsors and what’s in it for them?

Rod Levy: Most of these companies are Chicago-based, although we are definitely looking to partner with companies outside of Chicago as well. And the common characteristic is that they are tech-enabled, but not necessarily tech companies, but they have a tech team. They’ve identified the need to grow their talent internally and organically. And what’s in it for these companies? It really depends on the company. Some companies are mission driven. They want to support veterans and they see that our program is an opportunity to solve not just unemployment but underemployment. There’s a lot of programs trying to help veterans and many of them are absolutely wonderful. We try to take it one step higher because we’re training our veterans to become the real cream of the technology crop.

Rod Levy: But for these companies, the commitment they make financially and to hire an internship, at the end of the day, if they try to compare that relative to the recruiting budget, it comes out to be about the same from a cost perspective, only they get to support a nonprofit that is helping veterans. And they get to have a talent pipeline of well-trained junior software engineers who bring to the table the characteristics that they’re already screening for. Any CTO in Chicago’s going to tell you, “we’re looking for individuals that can work in a team. We’re looking for individuals that can step into a leadership role, that we’re looking for individuals that are cool under pressure.” Now, it’s hard to screen for those characteristics, but I can tell you most of our students go through and check every box because of their service. So, we’ve done a lot of hard work for the company. All they have to do is work with us and make sure that we’re all aligned in terms of how to get these men and women into their career.

Hester Tinti-Kane: So, tell us a little bit about the costs to the students, and how the costs are defrayed by some of the corporate sponsors we were just talking about.

Rod Levy:  Absolutely. So, our tuition is $13,000—very much in line, or a little bit less, than the best coding bootcamps that you’ll find. And we compare ourselves to the best. We offer the same type of instructions, same length of program, same immersion. Our curriculum, I think, is second to none. But all of our veterans coming in for 2017, and I think for much of 2018, are assured of ten thousand $500 scholarships. So, out of pocket to them: $2,500. We also have a Women in Technology Scholarship, which is a full ride for one woman in this class, and hopefully we’ll be able to repeat that. And we have other scholarships as well. We have a full-ride transgender scholarship. And this funding comes from a couple different sources, but the companies that support us make a financial contribution and that goes to our pool to defray our operating expenses, and which is why we’re able to offer these generous scholarships for our veterans.

Hester Tinti-Kane: That’s great. Do they use any level of financial aid, like do they tap into those funds as well?

Rod Levy: Yeah. So, right now the primary form of financial aid that a veteran might look for would be to access the G.I. Bill. And the G.I. Bill is a very generous program that covers educational costs and living and housing stipend as well. We will be eligible to apply in January to receive G.I. Bill funds. If we are approved, then that would open up the door for veterans to be able to use your G.I. Bill benefits with our program and give, you know, obviously give them even a greater form of financial assistance than what we can offer today.

Hester Tinti-Kane: Now I guess one final piece, as we’re talking about it, we mentioned Chicago a number of times but we haven’t talked too much about the location of where Code Platoon is and what sort of modalities of learning you’re using there. Is it face-to-face only? Is there something that’s partially online?

Rod Levy: Our program is designed to be an in-person program, and we feel that education is best delivered in-person. It’s hands-on learning, so we spent a couple hours a day doing a lecture style presentation, and the rest of the day is hands-on project learning. However, we recognize that there are veterans for whom traveling here is prohibitively difficult, whether because they can’t afford to travel or because they’re disabled. And so we’re trying to accommodate more of those veterans by offering a concurrent remote option where they attend the class remotely. They still participate in the program. They’re just not physically here. We also have entire first weeks of our curriculum available online. Anybody can access it. Anybody can go through it. And if you’re a veteran and you make it those first three weeks, and you want to see the next nine weeks we’ll make that available to you and it’s all for free. We really just want to expand this form of education.

Hester Tinti-Kane: Great. So, how many students have gone through the program so far?

Rod Levy: We graduated our first class last year. That was eight students. Earlier this year we graduated our second class. First class was Alpha Platoon. We graduated Bravo Platoon with 11 students, and we currently have Charlie Platoon with six. And we’re soon closing applications for Delta Platoon. That will be September through December cohort.

Hester Tinti-Kane: So, in terms of your student population how many women are involved in Code Platoon?

Rod Levy: So, we have tried to engage women veterans into our program. I think we’re doing a good job relative to the tech industry, but not nearly as good a job as we want to. We’ve had one woman per cohort so far, that’s about 15 percent of our population has been women. We did launch this full Women in Technology Scholarship recently and we’re getting a very good response. So I’m optimistic that we will be able to increase those numbers going forward. We do have pretty good minority and underrepresented groups engagement into our program. And it’s something that we will continue to try to improve.

Hester Tinti-Kane: What are your plans for the future? What do you see happening next?

Rod Levy: I think that we will continue to slowly and thoughtfully increase the amount of veterans we serve in Chicago. Probably expand a little bit our remote options. And we’re looking obviously to flesh out parts of the program that we think need help, and we might even build an apprenticeship program sometime down the line. But our goal is to make sure that the few veterans that we do serve, we serve extremely well. And we make sure that they are launched into a career. And then we ask them to come back and help out our new veterans.

Hester Tinti-Kane: So, if people want to learn more about Code Platoon, where should they go?

Rod Levy: It’s all on the website, But if there’s anything that they would like to know I can always be reached at

Hester Tinti-Kane: Where can someone find Code Platoon in Chicago?

Rod Levy: So, if you want to come visit our offices, or grab a cup of coffee with me, we’re at 73 West Monroe right on the corner of Clark and Monroe. We’re there five days a week.

Hester Tinti-Kane: Well, thanks so much for spending time with us today. Good luck with your program.

Rod Levy: Thank you very much, I appreciate all of your questions.


From Service to STEM

From Service to STEM – Why Veterans are Perfect for Today’s Tech Industry

Think about the first time you completed a training exercise with your unit — what did you experience? Most likely you had to work through a timed challenge or event; something difficult requiring teamwork, discipline, adaptability, and attention to detail. These are the key traits that define many veterans today and consequently, these are the same qualities shared by many professionals in the STEM field. In fact, much of the effort around the newly expanded GI Bill® benefits focuses on incentivizing and encouraging veterans and military spouses to apply to STEM programs.

If you’re a recently separated veteran or a veteran looking to kickstart their education or a military spouse, here are some good reasons why you should think about using your G.I. Bill® to get a head start in the STEM industry.

  • The Stunning Salary

As more and more industries rely on tech, many professionals in the STEM field are earning salaries that surpass those of their peers. In fact, from what we hear from our graduates — along with recent studies — the average software developer makes more than $100K annually. From coding bootcamps to specialized tech programs, veterans who are using their G.I. Bill to gain an education in the tech industry can expect to earn more than their counterparts.

  • Teamwork is Everything

If you’re a veteran, you likely miss working with your battle buddies to achieve difficult and complex objectives. Like ‘Hannibal’ Smith said in the A-Team, ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’ If you’re looking to replicate the satisfaction of achievement, particularly with a small but effective team, then you can’t go wrong with the STEM field. Many startups and even large organizations have embraced agile software development today — where teamwork and communication are key to success and if you’re a veteran, then you’re already ahead of the game here.

  • On Demand

There are many industries out there where there’s more talent than the opportunity; fortunately, STEM is not one of them. In fact, STEM careers are currently growing in demand. For qualified veterans and military spouses, there is a likelihood of being hired for a six-figure position after one or two career fairs. Employers in this space are always looking for good hires and, at the moment, there are plenty of opportunities to join this growing — and thriving — industry.

  • First Pick

Google, Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft — these are all major tech companies that already have veterans and military spouses initiatives in place. And that’s just to name a few; today, there are many organizations out there in the STEM industry that are looking to employ veterans or military spouses with a background in coding, science, math, or another tech-related background. It proves that the opportunities are nearly limitless for veterans and military spouses with tech skills and experience.

These are just a few reasons why the STEM industry is a great fit for veterans and military spouses and vice versa. If you’re a veteran or a military spouse who hasn’t decided on a career path or where to use their G.I. Bill benefits just yet, think about entering the STEM field. Whether you’re going to school for a degree in STEM or completing a STEM-related program, there’s plenty of advantages today to being a veteran who can navigate the tech space.

To learn more about how your G.I. Bill benefits can help you begin a career in coding, click here.

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.

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.


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 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.