8 Years of Transforming Veterans into Software Engineers

On February 1, 2024, Code Platoon celebrated its eighth anniversary, marking a milestone in its journey of empowering Veterans, military spouses, and active duty Servicemembers with the skills for successful careers in technology. The organization has made remarkable strides, graduating over 600 individuals who have seamlessly transitioned into roles such as software and DevOps engineering across more than 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Founded by Rod Levy, Code Platoon was established to address the tech industry’s acute need for skilled developers and facilitate Veterans’ entry into this dynamic field. The organization’s unique approach goes beyond imparting technical knowledge; it focuses on holistic development, ensuring that graduates are not just proficient in coding but are also equipped with the soft skills and professional acumen needed to thrive in the tech ecosystem.

Code Platoon’s curriculum is meticulously designed to cover both technical skills and professional development. This comprehensive approach ensures that graduates are not only tech-savvy but also possess the networking and professional skills necessary to navigate the tech industry successfully. As part of the eighth anniversary, Code Platoon announced the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into its curriculum to complement the foundational software engineering skills taught.

The impact of Code Platoon extends far beyond individual success stories. By equipping Veterans and military spouses with the tools for tech careers, the organization is not only filling the skills gap in the industry but also fostering a more diverse and inclusive workforce. This diversity enriches the tech landscape with a variety of perspectives and innovative solutions, making Code Platoon’s mission critical not just for its direct beneficiaries but for the industry at large.

As Code Platoon celebrates eight years of work, the organization’s mission is more relevant than ever. In a world where tech drives progress, Code Platoon ensures that those who’ve served their country have a stake in shaping its future. The continued success of its graduates is not just a testament to the program’s effectiveness but also a call to action for the tech industry to invest in the untapped potential of Veterans and military spouses.

Helping Veterans Transition to New Careers

In the vast expanse of the civilian tech workforce, Veterans stand at a unique crossroads. Each year, around 250,000 Servicemembers hang up their uniforms, stepping into a world vastly different from the one they’ve known. These individuals aren’t just looking for jobs; they’re taking the first step into new careers and trying to define the value their military service brings to their new employers.

The transition from military to civilian workplace is more than just a career change. It’s a shift, a rebranding, and a challenge of translation. Veterans, equipped with world-class training and a team-oriented mindset, face the challenge of making their skills intelligible and relevant in the private sector. This translation of military skills to civilian terms is a nuanced art. The language of the military, rich with acronyms and specific jargon, doesn’t always find an easy counterpart in corporate speak.

Rich Luby and Katherine Byrnes of Code Platoon understand this challenge all too well. They’ve seen how Veterans, despite their extensive capabilities, sometimes struggle to articulate their experiences in a way that resonates with civilian employers. “Our students initially tend to underplay their transferable skills,” Rich shares. “This underestimation is not just a hurdle in communication but in recognizing their value in a new career.”

Code Platoon’s approach to this challenge is both meticulous and empathetic. Rich and Katherine guide Veterans through rewriting their military roles into civilian-friendly narratives. They encourage Veterans to break down their experiences into fundamental elements, almost as if explaining them to a child, and then reconstructing them using the XYZ format – a method where X stands for the achievement, Y quantifies it, and Z explains the outcome.

But it’s not just about translating experiences onto paper. The cultural shift from a highly structured military environment to a more fluid civilian workplace is profound. Veterans are used to a world where hierarchy and order are paramount, and stepping into a less regimented space can be disorienting. This is where Code Platoon’s personalized mentorship becomes invaluable, helping Veterans understand and adapt to these new cultural norms.

Moreover, Rich and Katherine emphasize the importance of networking in the civilian job search. They encourage Veterans to leverage their shared military background to forge connections in the civilian world, particularly in the tech industry, where Code Platoon focuses its efforts. This networking extends beyond traditional methods; it’s about building a community that understands and appreciates the depth of military experience.

The duo also addresses the unique challenges faced by military spouses, whose career paths often bear the brunt of frequent relocations and varied job histories. Code Platoon tailors its services to highlight the adaptability and resilience of these spouses, transforming perceived gaps into strengths.

What truly sets Code Platoon apart is that the staff understands the challenges Veterans and military spouses face because the entire program is created exclusively for them. The military instills a culture of continuous learning and adaptability—invaluable traits in the ever-evolving tech industry. Rich and Katherine work to align Veterans with career paths that not only utilize their existing skills but also offer opportunities for growth and learning.

In engaging with employers, Code Platoon advocates for a deeper understanding and appreciation of military experience. They connect with companies and organizations that recognize Veterans’ unique strengths: discipline, leadership, and a robust work ethic. This advocacy is crucial in overcoming misconceptions and fostering environments where Veterans and military spouses can thrive.

As Code Platoon graduates navigate their journey into tech careers, the Career Services team is by their side, guiding them through uncharted waters. It’s a journey of transformation, where skills are reimagined, experiences reshaped, and the software engineering skills they built during their time at Code Platoon are retold in a new language. In this endeavor, Rich Luby and Katherine Byrnes aren’t just career coaches; they’re translators, mentors, and navigators, helping our graduates chart a course to a fulfilling civilian life.

A Veteran’s Journey to Leading Tech Teams

Transitioning from a 14-year career in finance to leading software engineering teams is a significant leap. Charles Kubiak, a Marine Corps Veteran and graduate of Code Platoon’s Full-stack Software Engineering program, undertook this remarkable career shift with determination. His journey to tech leadership is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of Veterans in the tech industry.

“When I decided to switch my career from finance to technology, I was ready for the professional change,” Charles says. “It had been several years since I’d felt any job satisfaction. I dreaded going to work every day.”

Charles’ military background was pivotal in shaping his approach to software engineering. Serving as a light armored vehicle commander for four years in the Marine Corps, he developed the perseverance, leadership, and communication skills critical to his software engineering career.

“The resilience developed in the military aids software development immensely,” Charles explains. “Learning to code is emotionally and mentally taxing. When I finish debugging my code and move to the next step, more often than not, it’s identifying a new set of errors to fix.”

“My keys to success have been a willingness to learn and commit to the challenges of software engineering. Understanding that it’s a lifelong learning journey is essential. Code Platoon was only the beginning.”

After graduating from Code Platoon’s Full-stack Software Engineering program, Charles became an Apprentice Software Crafter at 8th Light. Within five years, he has advanced to the position of Software Delivery Lead. In this role, he continues to leverage his unique perspective and military background to drive innovation at 8th Light.

“Innovation isn’t inventing a colossal paradigm shift in an instant; it’s making incremental changes in day-to-day work,” Charles explains. “I’ve spent the last four years replacing a 25-year-old piece of software that required physical servers in 65 locations. Since the project started, my team has retired the software and migrated it to a modern web application development stack hosted on the cloud.”

Reflecting on his growth as a tech professional over the last five years, Charles emphasizes the collaborative nature of modern software development. “Some stereotypes persist about writing code, like the ‘hacker man’ memes, but my typical day isn’t sitting in the dark coding alone. It involves status meetings, planning sessions, and pairing sessions where we work on code together.”

“As a result, communication has been an essential tool from my military toolbelt,” Charles adds. “It’s crucial for software developers to communicate effectively, especially in remote or distributed teams.”

Staying updated with developments in the tech industry is also a priority for Charles. Committed to continuous learning and professional development, he engages in initiatives to expand his knowledge and skills.

One of the ways he contributes to his professional development is by mentoring and instructing at Code Platoon.

“I couldn’t have imagined my transition to tech without Code Platoon,” he says. “Once I graduated, I felt it was vital to stay involved with the organization and help other Veterans going through the military-to-tech transition.”

“​​My work with Code Platoon has honed my professional skills. Learning something and then teaching it has been a great skill to develop for managing and leading a team.”

As he continues to innovate, mentor, and lead, Charles embodies the ethos from his Veteran background. He continues to make a lasting impact at 8th Light and Code Platoon, inspiring fellow Veterans and leaving an indelible mark on his company’s tech team.

Driving Innovation in DevOps Engineering Education

Building on the success of its flagship software engineering program, Code Platoon pioneered a new avenue for Veterans, Servicemembers, and spouses to build careers in tech. The organization’s DevOps and Cloud Engineering program signifies a strategic expansion, addressing the growing demand for professionals with cutting-edge DevOps experience by empowering military community members to become leaders in the tech industry. 

“One of the core principles of our DevOps and Cloud Engineering program is adaptability and flexibility. The military experience of our students also hones these qualities,” says Chandra Arya, Code Platoon’s Lead DevOps Instructor. Chandra also played a major role in developing the DevOps curriculum. 

Recognizing that the tech industry is constantly evolving, Code Platoon has an agile approach to its DevOps curriculum. The program is designed to be dynamic, with the flexibility to integrate new tools, methodologies, and best practices as they emerge.

“We constantly interact with industry leaders to maintain the program’s alignment with the latest trends. The experts on the curriculum design team include several Veterans who transitioned to DevOps careers themselves,” Chandra says. “Feedback loops after each cohort and alumni involvement in the instructional team are key strategies to identify ongoing areas for refinement.”

Complementing the teaching of technical tools is the incorporation of problem-solving skills and hands-on assignments. From simulated development environments in the cloud to hands-on assignments, the most important learning objective is empowering students to think through challenges and design their own solutions.

A new facet of the curriculum is the integration of topics in Artificial Intelligence. With AI becoming pivotal in tech, Code Platoon incorporates responsible AI training into the DevOps curriculum. 

“Students are first taught to solve software problems manually. Once they understand the fundamentals, they are trained to leverage AI for repetitive tasks,” Chandra says. “We developed open-ended assignments to foster the exploration of AI solutions. Our focus is on responsible usage and citation of AI contributions.”

The DevOps and Cloud Engineering program at Code Platoon has demonstrated tangible success, with graduates already making strides in the tech workforce. 

“Graduates of the program have unique advantages in the job market, thanks to the program’s comprehensive curriculum and practical focus,” Chandra says. “We provide the tools that, combined with the grit and adaptive thinking skills our graduates developed in the military, ensure they’re well-prepared for DevOps roles.”

Looking to the future, the program’s graduates will evolve with technological advancements. The curriculum will adapt alongside the industry, equipping students with automation, machine learning, and cybersecurity skills.

“The program is poised to shape Veterans entering the tech industry into not just successful DevOps professionals but leaders and innovators in the dynamic tech environments of the future.”