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.


Code Platoon Wins $50K in NBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois' Vets Cash program

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

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

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

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

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

Code Platoon Approved for the GI Bill!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Code Platoon Web Development Bootcamp Approved for GI Bill Eligibility

Code Platoon Web Development Bootcamp Approved for GI Bill® Eligibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Code Camp: Make Tech Your Next Step

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hands-on portion of the event will also position participants to apply for the upcoming cohort at Code Platoon, a nonprofit programming “bootcamp” that helps veterans and military spouses transition into the civilian workforce via 15 weeks of technical training followed by career placement. Significant tuition assistance is available, and veterans or military spouses who successfully complete the program are eligible for internship with sponsor companies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Industries That Love to Hire Veterans

3 Industries That Love to Hire Veterans

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

Law Enforcement:

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


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.

Code Platoon’s Partnership with

Code Platoon’s Partnership with

Since 2016, Code Platoon has trained four cohorts of career-changing veterans and military spouses to enter the technology sector. More than 80% of our students have found employment as full-time junior developers with an average starting salary of $65,000. As we planned for 2018, we asked ourselves, “How do we scale our product to reach and train as many veterans and military spouses as possible?” While our in-person immersive bootcamp in Chicago was a success, the need for veterans or military spouses to relocate to Chicago was a limiting growth factor. After mulling over potential solutions, we decided to create a remote program that would run alongside our in-person program.

The feedback was incredible – applications were flying in. In our current cohort, Echo Platoon, 50% of our students are remote, calling in from Ohio to Italy! While we were thrilled to get this influx of students, a new challenge arose: grading. Instructors were completely overwhelmed with the sheer volume of pull requests from students and spent more time grading than with students.

It was at that time that we discovered classroom. classroom gives our instructors the ability to create digital classrooms of students, assign classwork/homework, automatically grade that work through unit tests, and keep track of outstanding assignments. In addition, since is an entirely browser-based IDE, it is OS agnostic, allowing students with Macs or PCs to write code with minimal setup. The ability to save and send code between students and instructors is also invaluable.

We’re proud to call a sponsor of Code Platoon. Through their platform, we will be able to quickly and effectively scale our program to reach veterans and military spouses around the globe!