Code Platoon has been featured in Shots & Bytes.
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Code Platoon has been featured in Shots & Bytes.
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Code Platoon has been featured in Voyage Chicago.
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Code Platoon has been featured in Fast Company.
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Code Platoon has been featured in Fast Company.
Check out the full article here:
Chicago, Illinois – August 31, 2018 – Code Platoon, a nonprofit working to transform Chicagoland veterans and military spouses into professional software developers through an immersive, educational bootcamp, and mentorship program today announced it has received a grant for $25,000 USD from Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions, Inc.
Through the grant, Code Platoon will use these mission critical funds to support tuition scholarships for veterans and military spouses who demonstrate financial need. Motorola Solutions Foundation awards grants each year to organizations, such as Code Platoon, which support and advance public safety programs and technology and engineering education initiatives.
“Veterans and military spouses step forward to serve our country and they deserve our help.The impact of this generous grant from Motorola Solutions Foundation will help us create more opportunities for our students to learn and grow as software developers.” said Rodrigo Levy, founder and executive director of Code Platoon.
This year, Motorola Solutions Foundation grants will support programs that help more than 3 million students, teachers, first responders and community members around the globe. There is a specific focus on providing grants to programs that impact underrepresented populations, including females, minorities, people with disabilities, veterans and others.
“The Motorola Solutions Foundation is honored to and privileged to support the work of Code Platoon,” said Matt Blakely, executive director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation. “We believe in organizations that are fostering innovation, building partnerships and driving change, and we’re proud to be part of the positive impact they’re making in communities.”
About the Motorola Solutions Foundation
The Motorola Solutions Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola Solutions. With employees located around the globe, Motorola Solutions seeks to benefit the communities where it operates. The foundation achieves this by making strategic grants, forging strong community partnerships and fostering innovation. Motorola Solutions Foundation focuses its funding on public safety, disaster relief, employee programs and education, especially in science, technology, engineering and math. For more information on Motorola Solutions Corporate and Foundation giving, visit our website: www.motorolasolutions.com/foundation
About Code Platoon
Based in Chicago, Illinois, Code Platoon provides software coding training to help local veterans and military spouses find meaningful careers as professional software developers. While some veterans and military spouses do have four year degrees, the only requirements of enrollment are a deep desire to become a professional software developer, a positive work ethic, and a tremendous amount of tenacity. Each student is eligible to receive a scholarship that covers about 80% of their tuition making this career path affordable and attainable. Code Platoon also offers extra scholarships to women veterans who join the bootcamp as they are historically underrepresented in technology based careers. Students can also use their GI Bill® benefits to complete our program. The program consists of 8-12 students per class who spend 60-80 hours a week together for 14 weeks. Students are taught the Python and Ruby on Rails technology stacks, which are increasingly popular in the software development field. Instruction is a carefully curated mix of lectures, advanced coding training, and team projects, frequently culminating in a local paid internship.
Since it launched in 2016, Code Platoon has completed six 14-week sessions with its students. Our mission has been to prepare veterans and, starting in July 2018, military spouses to become professional software developers.
A key word for us is ‘professional’, which to us sets the bar of not only teaching students how to develop software but also preparing them for a new career in software development. We train our students on much more than basic programming skills, and emphasize the soft career skills and networking that is needed to get into the right jobs. Here are our results so far:
32 veterans graduated in our first 5 cohorts (the 6th one, Foxtrot Platoon, just graduated). Of those 32 students, 23 (72%) found jobs in software development within 6 months, median salary of $65,000. Of the remaining 9 graduates, 3 went to work outside of software development, 3 looked for work but did not find it within 6 months, and 3 graduated but did not actively look for full-time work.
Of the 8 graduates that completed Code Platoon two years ago, 5 responded to our survey, and their median salary (as software developers) is $100,000. Clearly, our graduates are more than simply employed; they have demonstrated great earning potential as well.
We attribute the excellent success rates of our graduates to several factors. First of all, our students come hungry to learn and dedicated to working long hours every day. Second of all, we have some great tech community partners who help our students with job placement. And, of course, there is the program itself…
We recognize that technical skills are fundamental to getting a good job, but they are insufficient on their own. These days, you need to know industry best practices, like debugging, pair-programming, and test-driven development. We teach that too.
We also prepare our students to find jobs and succeed in their interviews. We help write resumes, and prepare LinkedIn profiles. We teach our students interview skills, and practice technical and behavioral interviews.
Because we work with the veteran community, we are able to tailor our interview prep to help our students tell their stories to civilian interviewers. We even try to prepare our students for the complexities of post-military life. We have seminars on personal finance, workplace sensitivity and inclusion, and growth mindset.
Getting your first job in a new field like programming and development is hard. To bridge the gap from training to getting a job, paid internships are available at the end of the In-Person program.
And we know that nothing helps in getting a job like knowing people in the business. Our students are matched with industry mentors and professional software developers who volunteer as teaching assistants. By the end of our program, each of our students should have met at least 10 professional software developers.
None of these factors is the single determinant in the success of our students after graduation. Together, each part of our program and culture adds to the success that starts with the attitude and aptitude of the veterans who come to Code Platoon!
At Code Platoon, our goal is to serve veterans and military spouses by helping them prepare for a high-demand, achievable career in a short amount of time. In the modern job marketplace, software coding is that high-demand position, and the coding boot camp format is the achievable, thorough, and fast way to teach it.
In 2019, we’re expanding that mission through our curriculum by teaching Python, a coding language that will meet our current goals and improve the benefits that our veterans and military spouses will gain from the training. (We talk about why we chose to teach two languages instead of just one here.)
The main reason we added Python to our curriculum: Jobs.
Python is exploding in popularity, with the number of jobs available and the pay for those jobs among the highest of all programming languages.
We currently teach Ruby on Rails as our back-end language in 2018, which is an excellent program for web development. We chose to move to Python because, in addition to being a good tool for web development, it can also be used for artificial intelligence, data science, machine learning, scripting, automation, and cybersecurity.
This wider variety of applications gives our graduates the ability to find the type of coding job that best fits them. It also increases the likelihood that all of our graduates will find a satisfying and gainful job in the field, as it’s important to both the employer and the employee that there is a solid match in specialization for both talent and enjoyment, not just in general skill.
Secondly, having a large number of available positions in companies and locations across the country asking for skills in Python means that graduates will have a higher chance of employment, more flexibility with locations, pay, and benefits, and improved opportunity for finding a perfect culture fit with employers.
On Indeed.com, as of July 2018, Python is the second most in-demand coding language for new positions, and this number has been consistently high and growing. And in contrast to Java, the most in-demand language, Python is exponentially easier to learn.
Fortunately, Python was created in such a way that it is both versatile and understandable. Since we welcome veterans and military spouses of all skill levels to participate in our coding boot camps, and no prior coding experience is required, Python is the best way to continue meeting the needs of all our students.
Being able to learn Python easily not only decreases the learning curve to become an effective coder, but it also increases confidence and competence at an early level to keep motivation and satisfaction high. That psychological component of mastering a skill in your chosen career plays a huge part in how well you do, whether you choose to stick with it, and your quality of life in the job!
While Python will definitely help you land a coding career today, we also want to think ahead to which languages will still be valuable and in demand in the future. After all, setting up our veterans and military spouses for short-term success is a priority, but we won’t pass up the chance to go beyond that scope and look ahead for their interests.
With fields like AI, cybersecurity, and data science expanding rapidly, the demand for Python will only grow. With our program adapting on the cutting edge alongside the industry, our graduates will have a leg up on the direction of coding jobs and potentially find better long-term job security.
And regardless of whether Python remains the industry standard for so many types of coding jobs, it is the perfect foundation for a lifetime of of software development. Python is being widely adopted as the introductory language for computer science programs, so you can continue to build your skills and take on new coding languages in the professional or educational environment after graduating from Code Platoon. Learning Python doesn’t corner coders; it gives them room to grow and adapt.
We at Code Platoon remain committed to being groundbreaking and forward thinking, and our students will always be armed with the latest and greatest technology skills. If you’d like to join one of our cohorts to learn Python, apply now!
The Code Platoon mission is to support US military veterans and service members, and this includes building up and supporting military families as well.
In keeping with that mission, Code Platoon is proud to announce that we are accepting applications from military spouses for our coding boot camps, effective immediately.
Software development is an excellent career for military spouses because its high demand and remote work options are compatible with the frequent relocations that come with a spouse’s military career. The flexibility and financial benefit can also ease veteran family transitions out of the military after a service member’s commitment has ended.
Because the program is only 14 weeks long, the Code Platoon coding boot camp can potentially fit well into a military spouse’s challenging schedule. Whether the service member in the family is in a long-term training cycle or on deployment, a spouse’s education can be completed in a timely fashion, which may be a better fit than managing a student calendar over the course of many years during a traditional education.
Military spouses in the Code Platoon training program will receive the same exact training as our veterans in the same classrooms with the same level of commitment from our faculty and staff! Spouses who apply are also still eligible for the same Code Platoon scholarships and internship programs as our veteran students, with the exception of the Women in Technology scholarship, which is exclusively for veterans.
Essentially, military spouses will be students in exactly the same way as anyone else at Code Platoon, with no distinguishable difference; mentorships, résumé assistance, and other features of the program are all included. And just like all of our prior cohorts, the shared experience of life in the military will continue to bring our students together for a tight-knit community.
We are excited to offer this new option and grow the impact of our mission. If you or someone you know would like to apply for Code Platoon’s next cohort, please continue to our application!
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.
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, codeplatoon.org. But if there’s anything that they would like to know I can always be reached at email@example.com.
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.