golf platoon celebrates graduation

Golf Platoon celebrates graduation

Code Platoon is excited to congratulate the graduates of our seventh class of students, a group which we call Golf Platoon.

We held our graduation ceremony on December 7, 2018 at 2:30 PM CST at the Motorola Solutions office in Chicago, Illinois. Eight students graduated, six of whom received tuition scholarships in order to attend our program.

These graduates will continue in their journeys with software development internships exclusively offered for Code Platoon attendees to further their coding careers. The internships for this cycle are provided by Enova, Guaranteed Rate, CTC, Prota Ventures, DRW, and Novetta.

Golf Platoon celebrates graduation

Executive Director Rod Levy had this to say about the graduating class, with whom he worked directly throughout their training:  

“We are extremely proud of Golf Platoon, our seventh cohort. They worked extremely hard over the last fourteen weeks, really came together as a group, and have demonstrated impressive growth in a very short period of time. I’m sure they will be incredible contributors to the companies where they go work, and continue on to be leaders in the tech community in years to come”

Graduation Ceremony of Code Platoon Graduates

Code Platoon would also like to thank the sponsors who made this particular cohort possible, including Motorola Solutions and Boeing.

Sponsors and donors make Celebrate Code Platoon 2018 a success

Sponsors and donors make Celebrate Code Platoon 2018 a success

With over 150 friends of Code Platoon in attendance, we celebrated our first three years of serving veterans and helping them find careers as software development professionals.

We held Celebrate Code Platoon 2018 on November 16 from 5:30-8:00pm in Chicago. The Illinois Technology Association and Tech Nexus, graciously hosted everyone and provided a unique space for our inaugural fundraising event.

Our Executive Director, Rodrigo Levy, hosted the program portion of the evening, where he reminded our guests that the goal of Code Platoon, “is to serve those who have served our country.” Two of our alumni, Michael Dorsey and Scott Plunkett, recounted their stories of finding Code Platoon and how our program has changed their lives. Code Platoon Chairman of the Board, Edward Donovan, also spoke on the need for organizations like Code Platoon as veterans and military spouses find themselves looking for meaningful careers.

The highlight of the program was the premiere of our new video, featuring alumni sharing their stories.

Celebrate Code Platoon 2018 was a success, in large part, thanks to our event sponsors, including presenting sponsors DRW, CTC, and Capital One. These sponsors, along with our guests, helped to raise over $48,000 for our program! These contributions will be 100% invested into our program, helping more veterans and military spouses find our program and start a new career in software development.

While our event was a success on many levels, we still need your help to grow this program and reach more veterans and spouses! Donate now to Code Platoon by visiting our donations page or texting CP to 243725.

We are humbled by the generosity of our supporters and excited for our upcoming classes!

veteran coding boot camp website

Our experience launching a website as a non-profit

Code Platoon officially launched a new website in October of 2018. While the new website looked better, functioned more smoothly, and provided a higher-quality user experience for those outside our organization, what we most appreciated at Code Platoon was the straightforwardness of the development process, thanks to the contributions of many.

In the web development world, projects of this scale often take an enormous amount of time and don’t come out as planned, if they ever make it to deployment. Sometimes they’re outdated by the time they go live. They can be stressful, run way over budget, and functional changes can even end up having unintended, adverse consequences for the organization.

That was not our experience with the Code Platoon 2018 website launch. What was even more improbable was that we were able to circumnavigate those common pitfalls and launch the website of our dreams when we’re a non-profit company without the same resources as bigger businesses on the web.

We’d like to share what our website overhaul considerations and challenges were, how we overcame them, and how other organizations might do the same (especially other non-profits)!

Background

When Code Platoon first opened its doors, volunteer and staff availability was extremely limited.

Providing our veteran and military spouse students with a world-class training program and career transition experience was (and still is) top priority. A website could serve as beacon to educate those who might benefit from such an experience, but at the time, a perfect website was not mission-critical.

What does help, though, is that nonprofits can often receive discounts offered by web design studios, and we were fortunate to do so in establishing our initial website, which also included a hosting plan.

That version of the website, for a time, served its purpose. It displayed our mission, informed stakeholders of our value, and was a catalyst in expanding our program from one to three cohorts per year. It relied on the WordPress content management system, which was intuitive enough that non-technical team members could log in and make changes as needed. As our organization grew, the team added new features, such as a student application form and new visuals.

Without a dedicated web administrator to test changes and maintain quality, and with so much attention focused on the actual program, two things happened: Code Platoon became a force in the coding bootcamp scene, and its website fell behind in effectively communicating that message.

To make things even harder, the backend of the website became increasingly more cumbersome to manage. For example, when a talented volunteer designer created the amazing logo and theme colors we still proudly display, the team sought to globally apply the elements to the website, but the child theme of our hosting provider would no longer permit it. Another volunteer offered to help, and was able to manually code the changes. Cracking open the website template and discovering more issues, though, made it apparent that the first iteration of the website would not be able to scale with the growing organization much longer.

Key Considerations

We could have resolved those concerns on the old website with a bigger budget, but as a nonprofit startup, there wasn’t any extra financial padding built into our budget to cover luxuries such as customization costs from a web design studio or an in-house, full-time paid web development team like a major corporation might have.

And because we are a non-profit that relied on the generosity and participation of many stakeholders, we had lots of potential audiences for our website. Although we needed to reach prospective students, we were also aware that donors, grantors, sponsors, volunteers, staff, and third-party awards organizations would use the website as a focal point in their research. There was an enormous pull to please everyone at once, which made a website project both more complicated in planning and more enormous in scope.

Another potential solution involved leveraging volunteers to develop, deploy and administer the new website. We considered this option for several months and designed prototypes with other themes. We even attempted reformulating the aging website structure and content in order to gain a sense of the scope and magnitude of such an undertaking. During this time we reflected on ways we might maximize our productivity and performance after rolling out a new website, and we created a standard operating procedure for managing future changes.

With more and more hours invested in the process, the unsustainability of fully relying on volunteers became more apparent and significant. Even while some dedicated hosting providers offered in-house customizations at reasonable rates, the possibility of hiring and training their team at a moment’s notice was far from ideal. Hammering out the details of a contract and allowing an established web design studio to build a site from scratch with tried and true tools and practices seemed like the best solution.

That left us with many questions for the potential new provider. If we encountered a problem, would we communicate by phone, chat or email, during what times and with how fast of a turnaround?

At what point would bandwidth and storage limits be enforced? After roll out, to what extent would we be able to customize the site, and would they collaborate with us in that process?

To what degree would they outsource services such as web hosting and WordPress management to third parties, what were their policies, and would we have the ability to interface directly with them as needed?

Were essential services offered, such as optimizations (compression, caching, redirects), continuity (website backups, server backup, and security), security (SSL, brute force protection, password policy, file change detection, spam filtering) and updates (CMS, plugins, staging area)? Were such services included in the contract or provided as add-on costs?

The Code Platoon Solution

After seriously considering and walking away from a few lower cost options, Code Platoon identified a development and hosting provider with an impeccable track record, a commitment to quality, and the flexibility to meet our unique demands. With cost a potential sticking point, they worked with us to structure a plan that we could justify to our stakeholders in the immense value we would attain in the short and long term.

Once the decision was made, our team fielded each team member’s valuable perspectives in order to refine the website mockup into the best it could possibly be: strategy, planning and execution, look and feel, technical requirements, SEO, and stakeholder outreach were all thoroughly deliberated and settled by consensus. When the time arrived for our design studio to lay the hammer to the chisel, progress was quick, and before long, the basic site structure was complete.

We could have at that point rushed the remaining work to publish the site in a much shorter time frame. Instead, we had each member comb the site with its array of new features to assess whether new opportunities existed for further improvement that we may not have considered at the outset of planning. Sure enough, we ended up with plenty of new requests that we didn’t imagine could all be accepted and implemented.

To our surprise, the design studio was fully on-board with the revised requirements and invested in making the site the best it could possibly be. To ease communication, a Code Platoon volunteer became the liaison between both teams and expedited the remaining changes. At a point where the site was publishable, our team applied another quality control comb through and arrived at a much smaller, easily implementable list of revised requests, and prioritized those that were necessary for launch versus those that could be implemented later.

Reflection

We got the website we wanted in a budget and timeline that we could handle and still have a happy, ongoing relationship with our web developer.

We were able to achieve these results by:

1. Focusing on our mission.

We decided early on that the website layout and messaging needed to focus primarily on our potential students. We had faith in our supporters to see the website as a portal for applicants above all. And not just in terms of where the most resources were committed, but also in removing distractions for students that might be appealing to other audiences.

2. Relying on dedicated people who understood the mission.

For us, this was our volunteer and staff team, our sponsors, grantors, and donors, and our world-class web design studio, Digital Ammo.

If you are an organization under similar circumstances, start with a simple goal. Collaborate with all of your stakeholders, and reflect on each soft decision to consider different perspectives before finalizing. Compromise, get consensus early in the project, and follow qualified expertise whenever you reach an impasse.

And most of all, never lose sight of the mission.

Code Platoon Receives Amica Companies Foundation Grant

Chicago, Illinois – October 26, 2018 – Code Platoon, a nonprofit working to transform Chicagoland veterans and military spouses into professional software developers through an immersive, educational boot camp and mentorship program, today announced it has received a grant for $20,000 USD from the Amica Companies Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Amica Insurance.

Through this grant, Code Platoon will use these mission critical funds to thoughtfully and meaningfully grow their program to include more students and more support services. The Amica Companies Foundation awards grants each year to organizations, such as Code Platoon, which support and advance individuals to become economically independent and strong.

“Veterans and military spouses step forward to serve our country, and they deserve our help. The impact of this generous grant from the Amica Companies 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.

“Amica recently hosted a business conference in Chicago, and it’s important for us to support the communities where we live and work,” said Meredith Gregory, charitable giving coordinator at Amica. “Amica is proud to support military programs, and Code Platoon’s mission strongly aligns with ours to help people become economically independent and strong.”

  • For additional information on Amica, please visit: Amica.com.
  • For more information on Code Platoon, please visit Codeplatoon.org.

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 boot camp 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.

About Amica Insurance

Amica Mutual Insurance Co., the nation’s oldest mutual insurer of automobiles, was founded in 1907. The company, based in Lincoln, Rhode Island, is a national writer of auto, home, marine and umbrella insurance. Life coverage is available through Amica Life Insurance Company, a wholly owned subsidiary. Amica employs more than 3,700 people in 44 offices across the country. For more information, visit Amica.com.

Code Platoon now training students in Python

At Code Platoon, our goal is to serve veterans and military spouses by helping them get 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.

 

Python gives veterans more options in coding jobs

The main reason to add 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.

While we at Code Platoon teach Ruby on Rails in 2018, which is excellent for web development, Python can be used for web development as well as artificial intelligence, data science, machine learning, scripting, automation, and cybersecurity.

This wider variety of applications allows our graduates to find the type of coding job that best fits them since there are more options with Python. 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 greater number of locations, companies, and available positions 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.

Python is easy 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. There’s a lot to be said for the value of Python for its earning potential and versatility, but it’s also helpful to remember that the psychological component of mastering a skill and choosing a 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!

Python is valuable to learn now and in the future

While Python will definitely help you land a coding career today, we 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 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 becoming 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!