Code Platoon Week Two – Teamwork and test driven development

As Code Platoon students continue to develop fluency in both Javascript and Python, we’ll introduce an approach to testing that catches bugs before they make their way into production code. We’ll also explore a critical success factor in the journey of any software developer which is the ability to collaborate. Students learn how to access free-to-use, or ‘open source’ libraries of code written by other developers before diving into the first of several group projects.

Proactive versus reactive code testing

An often overlooked, but extremely valuable skill when writing code is testing that code. The larger and more complex a developer’s codebase, the more likely it is that things will go wrong or break down. To ensure a small bug doesn’t have a ripple effect that takes down a whole system, good software developers learn to test their code early and often.

Writing effective tests is a skill in its own right. At Code Platoon we teach students to practice Test Driven Development (TDD). TDD is a methodology that anticipates and reduces the likelihood of bugs by proactively coding tests around a desired function before designing and implementing that function.

The tests tell the software developer what the function should not do so that their initial attempt at writing the code which supports that function is clean and less prone to rework. It is a common practice throughout the tech world, but it cannot be taken for granted!

Seeing code through the eyes of others

Developers write lots of code, for sure, but they also spend an enormous amount of time working with code written by someone else.

Before diving into a new codebase from another coder, a developer must first understand how its components interact to achieve the desired result. The ability to do so requires a level of patience, knowledge of predefined constructs, and pattern recognition that does not factor into autonomous code writing.

Getting comfortable using third party libraries enables developers to build really cool stuff at a much faster pace! At Code Platoon, students learn how to search for, install, and use these libraries in both Javascript and Python. We spend time digging through documentation, and discuss the best practices for troubleshooting code that isn’t your own.

Previous Week

 

The Best Paying and Most In Demand Programming Languages in 2018

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

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

How we identified the current top programming languages

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

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

Ranking programming languages by pay and number of openings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What will be the most popular programming language in 2019?

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

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

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

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!

Code Platoon Week One – Getting the right tools and building a foundation

At Code Platoon, students do more than just learn about coding; we set them up from the very first week with practical steps for real workplace success. Sometimes this means going through real-life processes like tool preparation or developing work ethic and teamwork.

Preparing to start coding

Like a chef getting their first set of knives or a carpenter gathering their tools, web developers need to set up their machines to aid them in creating software. Code Platoon students start off by learning how to turn their computers into fully functioning development machines. We work on getting comfortable navigating through the computer’s file structure in the command line and setting up an IDE (interactive development environment) where we’ll write and test our code.

Students also learn how to control the versioning of their software with Git and Github and we really hammer in the fundamentals of programming and ensure that students have fluency with multiple languages.

Problem solving and multiple languages

We stress the importance of developing strong problem solving skills early on. Our first week is dedicated to algorithmic thinking. Students practice using their new tools while they work to solve 6-10 algorithms a day. These algorithms are small problems that push students into the mindset of an engineer pretty quickly. Students will learn how to bring a solution from concept to implementation, practicing professional workflow and sharpening their bug fixing skills along the way.

Because successful developers are polyglots, meaning that they know many languages, Code Platoon teaches Python and Javascript simultaneously from day one. Learning the differences and similarities between these two popular languages also helps solidify common programming concepts, which make learning a third or fourth language that much easier.

Teamwork is key to coding

Learning to program is challenging. Students can expect a lot of long nights and not a lot of sleep, but they can also expect to develop a deep camaraderie with their fellow veterans and military spouses.

Learning to work on a team is essential to success in the technology industry. That’s why Code Platoon students practice pair programming. Two students work together on a problem at a single workstation. This forces students to communicate their solutions to problems clearly and allows them to accelerate their learning by exposing them to ideas and ways of approaching challenges they may not have thought of on their own.

By the end of the first week our students are more confident working with their computers and have a deeper understanding of the basic programming building blocks they’ll need to craft high quality, fully functioning applications in the coming weeks.

Follow our journey to Week Two, when students learn about the importance of code reuse, collaboration, and proactive testing.

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 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 14 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

Deja Baker’s Coding Journey Leads the Way for Women and Veterans Alike

Despite the fact that the tech community is growing faster than ever, there are still two demographics that are often overlooked – women and veterans. However, the dearth of representation from both communities is quickly changing, especially when you have individuals like Deja Baker spearheading the effort. Baker, who enlisted in the Navy as an Analyst, eventually pursued her interest in technology as a Computer Science major at the Naval Academy.

Seeking to further her education in the coding industry, Baker applied for and received Code Platoon’s Women In Technology Scholarship, which fully covers her tuition, and is scheduled to attend the all-veteran coding bootcamp this fall. While there were a number of other bootcamps to choose from, Code Platoon was always the first choice for Baker.

“One reason why I chose to apply for Code Platoon is because its exclusively for veterans,” Baker said. “I feel that being around people from a similar background, who are working towards the same goals, will prove more beneficial to the process.”

In addition to providing a sense of community, Baker believes that an all-veteran bootcamp will likely be composed of the most highly motivated and disciplined students in the coding industry.

“Veterans have worked in a variety of different roles all over the world, and because of that, veterans have a wide array of experiences that allow them to adapt quickly when engaging in new projects,” Baker said. “I feel that a lot of veterans have the drive and the aptitude to work towards a role in tech.”

Although many of today’s veterans often have skillsets that translate well to coding and programming few choose to pursue a career path in the tech industry. Baker says that veterans who have given thought to a career in coding should, at the very least, give it a try.

“I know a lot of people that are interested in coding who are too worried to see what it’s all about, but there are abundant resources online to just dabble in it and see if coding is for you.”

It’s a sentiment that’s shared by leading tech giants such as Google, IBM, and Intel, all of whom have taken measures to help veterans gain a footing in the tech sector. And because there are plenty of opportunities waiting for veterans with strong programming skills, Baker says she’s eager to begin her first day at Code Platoon.

“I’m excited to have this opportunity to study and work towards becoming a developer; I’m looking forward to working in teams in a highly collaborative environment and to be challenged while solving difficult problems.”

3 Tracks for Veterans and Military Spouses Interested in Becoming Software Developers

For people interested in becoming software developers, it may seem as if there are infinite ways to embark on that path. Which is great, because having so many options means anyone can learn to code, but this is also bad, because you can get seriously bogged down trying to figure out how to get there.

To simplify the choices, let’s take a look at the three major forks you can take, and how to navigate them. They vary in investment (think time AND money), expediency and outcome. (The goal here is to narrow your focus, not provide an overwhelming list of possibilities, so this is hardly an exhaustive list of options.)

Path #1: Traditional: Get a degree in Computer Science

This is the most traditional way to enter the world of software development, but it is also expensive and takes the most time. Bachelor’s degrees take four years, a master’s degree typically takes two. Fortunately, many veterans and military spouses have GI Bill funds that they can use at universities. If you go this route you may as well use the top ten programs as a starting point. This is most tried-and-true way to enter software development, and no hiring manager will thumb his or her nose at your background (although there is by no means a guarantee of a job). Moreover, if you do attend a prestigious program, you will also enjoy the benefits of having access to the alumni network, not to mention a thorough knowledge of, well, computer science that can take you in a lot of directions.

Despite its advantages, a CS degree can be a daunting and expensive undertaking. For people who are changing careers or with families to support, being out of the workforce for several years might not be practical. And these days companies often fault CS graduates for not having much practical experience.

Bonus tip — possibly the best deal on a CS degree is offered online by Georgia Tech, which happens to be a Top10 program, for $7,000.


Path #2: Nontraditional: Coding Bootcamp

The premise of ‘coding bootcamps’ is to take a deeply interested beginner and, in a matter of months, teach all of the practical skills to qualify as a junior software developer.  These schools are named bootcamps, because many follow an ‘immersive’ philosophy, which requires students to work 60- to 100-hour weeks. The cost, too, is usually under $20,000, and pales in comparison to the cost of traditional higher education, The bootcamp model is reasonably new, but has exploded in popularity as a way for career changers to learn the skills to fill the growing need for software developers. Today dozens (hundreds?) of coding bootcamps, in all shapes and sizes, dot the country, with some of the schools offered wholly online.

Some factors to consider while comparing these schools: technology stack, location, length, cost,  reported outcomes and curriculum. Course Report is a good starting point for this research. One simple guidepost: Look for coding boot camps that offer at least 1,000 hours of instruction/coding/project time.

For veterans and military spouses, there are a few additional points to consider. Some coding bootcamps are eligible to accept the GI Bill. Operation Code, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help the military community learn software development and break into the tech industry, keeps a list of these coding bootcamps. Code Platoon (disclaimer, I’m the executive director), is a Chicago-based non-profit coding bootcamp exclusively for veterans and military spouses that offers its students $10,500 scholarships.

Other reasons to go to a coding bootcamp instead of college? The slide in this article says it all. Much less time spent out of the workforce, and, for the better bootcamps, pretty good employment outcomes. You’ll see a greater emphasis on building products, rather than theory (not unlike learning to be a carpenter versus studying to be an architect). The fast pace can’t accommodate the rigorous study of algorithms and problem solving that a CS program can, of course, and some employers are still skeptical about hiring bootcamp grads.  

Bonus tip — probably the best deal in coding bootcamps is online Free Code Camp. It’s rigorous. It’s long. It’s well designed. It’s FREE! Get through that and perhaps supplement with this algorithms class.

Path #3: Self-paced online learning

If you want to explore your options, to try as many different things as possible, and have the time, you can try to learn on your own. There are many, many ways to do this.

If you want to pursue this path, please:

  • Don’t stress about which language/framework is hot. Start with JavaScript (widely used), although Ruby on Rails (which we teach) and Python are great too. Nothing wrong with picking other big ones like C# or Java — they just have a longer learning curve.
  • Get on an online guide. Bento.io and The Odin Project are two examples of free sites that will guide you, step by curated step, down the road to learning web development. They gather lots of different resources to help you learn and remove the guesswork as to what you should learn, in what order, and from where.

Of course, to just get a feel for the business or explore its many facets, you’ll find a boggling array of resources.  Codewars.com, Hacker Rank and Codingbat have lots of free programming challenges, as well as some guidance on how to go through them. Alternatively, you could pick a project that you are interested in, either something you want to build (a website, app, etc.) or that someone else has suggested. And then go build it!

Additional resources

  • Operation Code — for all kinds of feedback for a veteran who wants to enter software development — join the Slack channel
  • Not necessarily free, but good resources include: TeamTreehouse, Codeschool, Udemy, Upcase, Flatiron, Thinkful, Coderbyte, Learn Code the Hard Way, https://automatetheboringstuff.com/

 

Code Platoon Graduate Javier Revuelta:How a challenging experience became rewarding, and led to a dream job

Javier Revuelta: How a challenging experience became rewarding, and led to a dream job

Javier joined our very first cohort back in January 2016 and graduated in May 2016! We asked him to share a few answers with us over email about his experience with Code Platoon.

Javier Revuelta

Former title: Korean Cryptologic Linguist, United States Air Force
Current title: Ruby Developer Intern at PowerReviews

How did it feel when you transitioned out of the military? What would you say to others who are going through/will go through the same transition?

Transitioning out of the military was an interesting experience, because despite my eagerness to start a new phase, there was a long period of adjustment back to life beyond the uniform.  I went straight back to school to finish a Bachelor’s degree and, while certainly useful, at the end of the process I felt like I had just gone through the motions, somewhat.  Get out, go to school, get a degree, go find a job—that sort of thing.  Code platoon was frankly the turning point that made me feel like I was on a real career path, rather than simply having a decent job.

To anyone who is transitioning out of the military, I would simply suggest giving yourself the time to really consider where you want to be in a few years.  Ultimately, we are all looking to be happy and fulfilled in our lives, but that can take many forms and half the battle is being honest with yourself about what that means to YOU.  Whether your choice places you near or far from the skillset you developed in the military isn’t all that important.  Don’t be afraid of going way out of your element.  

What do you do on a typical day now in your civilian career? Is it different from your time in the military?

I am currently a software engineering intern at PowerReviews.  I support two Rails applications, and have had the opportunity to collaborate developing new features and seeing the entire process of bringing a new application to life.

A typical day starts around 8:00 or 9:00 am with arriving to work and checking for pull requests that have been submitted by the team.  I familiarize myself with the work that went on the previous day and ask any questions that might come up while I do code review before we merge the newest batch of changes.  I will then take a few minutes to prioritize the day in terms of outstanding tickets I might have, and will try to do some coding before our standup meeting at 10:30.

Once standup time arrives, the team gathers and explains the work each person has done since the previous day.  We are encouraged to bring up anything that could be blocking our progress so we can address that quickly.  I will generally give some idea of where I am with projected completion times for outstanding tickets, and mention whether any of my work is relevant or could impact any of the work that the others are doing.  Standup meetings tend to be fairly short, so I am usually back at my desk within 15 minutes.

Once standup is complete, I can get a good coding session in before lunch.  Work tends to have a wide range of flavors, but taking today as an example, I spent the morning writing some tests for Active Record models.  Lunch was going for a quick run to clear my mind, and then it was back to tackling a few bugs in the code for one of our apps, as well as re-visiting an API I had written to expand its features, since requirements for it had changed.

The work that I did in the military involved foreign languages, so there are certainly some parallels to be drawn.  The process of learning vocabulary and phrasing in Korean ties closely with working out the syntax of- and well as writing idiomatic Ruby, for example.    

Why did you join the military? What does the military instill in you?

I was unsure about what I wanted to do with my life, so I walked into a recruiter’s office almost as an afterthought.  As soon as I got the option to become a cryptologic linguist, I knew that I would be in for a very special experience and the rest was history.  The military will teach you many things, but the most important ones are leadership and teamwork, which go hand-in-hand.  Nobody is above the team, nobody is dead weight, and nobody gets left behind—lessons are taught quickly and effectively if you struggle with any of those concepts.  What comes from that is a strong sense of self and core values, along with a level of camaraderie with your peers that will, in all likelihood, never be matched in your civilian life.

Why did you decide to join Code Platoon?

Code Platoon opened a door that I had long ago considered to be closed.  Going back to the reasons I joined the military, one of the things that the recruiter asked me after I had completed all of my assessments was whether I had an interest in languages or programming.  Back then I said languages, but I spent the next ten years wondering what would have happened if I had answered differently.  Code Platoon gave me a chance to answer that question again and choose a new path.

One of the most important things that led to my decision to join Code Platoon was an early conversation I had with Rod while I was finishing up my application.  It was clear to me that the best intentions were in place with this program: non-profit, veteran focused, etc., but I knew that if the right person wasn’t at the helm this would be short-lived.  Rod instilled an immense amount of confidence in me, and his absolute frankness about the program, the challenges ahead, and his plans to really build something great made this an easy decision.

Take all of that and add a generous tuition-assistance program coupled with companies willing to grant internship slots to new graduates, and you have a package that is unmatched by any other boot camp.

What was your favorite and/or most memorable part of it?

I will always remember the camaraderie and dedication that everyone showed day in and day out.  Most of us have been out of the military for a while and were complete strangers when we first started the program, but I know that I have lifelong friendships here and that I could trust these guys with my life.

Memorable?  Many things stand out: hackathon night pairing with the guys at Enova, the surprise of getting our graduation coins after presenting our final projects, walks around the block to try to clear our minds and discuss a given project, or even the cheesy ‘Welcome Back’ CSS animations for the e-greeting card we built for Rod when he got back from a trip.  I’ll never forget having our instructor take on multiple accents/personas to play ‘client’ or ‘consultant extraordinaire’ when we were tackling our projects.  It’s the small things that made this whole experience amazing.  

How did you feel at the beginning of CP?

I was excited to take on this new challenge, proud of myself for making the leap of transitioning out of one career to pursue my real passion, and also slightly nervous about my ability to get through it all and succeed.  Would I be able to handle the curriculum? Could I really build a new career as a software developer?

I would eventually learn that the answer to both was a resounding yes, but those first days definitely put us all to the test.

What did you think of Code Platoon overall?

        Code platoon was an interesting experience; it was certainly rewarding but immensely challenging at the same time.  We were provided an incredibly capable instructor (rewarding!), but the teaching style – in having to compress so much information into such a small timeframe – was not for everyone (challenging!).  I don’t think I could have achieved what I did anywhere else, and in that I give full credit to Rod, Josh, and Brent for doing an outstanding job as we navigated this new process together.

        Ultimately, I think what brought Code Platoon to life was the camaraderie.  For all the happy years all of us have spent as civilians, there is something to be said for being in a group of people who have also served in the military.  There is no leaving anyone behind, or losing sight of the goal – and that is something that was proven time and time again as we struggled, came together, and overcame many of the challenges that we faced in those sixteen weeks.   

What advice would you give to people who want to get the most out of Code Platoon?

        The most important piece to getting the most out of Code Platoon actually needs to occur before ever stepping into the classroom: gaining a full understanding of what programs like these demand of you and arriving at the right mindset.  I can’t say that any of us can fully appreciate that until we are in the middle of it, but reflecting on and accepting the demands and stresses that this would place on my life certainly helped me when the pressure was on and everyone was starting to crack a bit.  This will be difficult.  This will demand more of you than any academic endeavor you’ve engaged in previously, and it will beat you into the ground if you’re not in 100%.

How has joining Code Platoon affected your life?

        It changed my perspective on learning and completely redefined what I now consider difficult or challenging.  From a confidence standpoint, I am fairly certain that – given enough time – I could learn just about anything, programming-related or not.

        I am currently finishing the second month of a six-month internship, and that is thanks to Rod’s efforts to get enough sponsor companies lined up for us.  So far, the support here has been outstanding, and I find myself at a company where people really  seem to enjoy their work.  You wouldn’t believe what a difference that makes every morning when I walk in!  

What do you want out of your career today?

I want the fulfillment of knowing that I am tackling and solving difficult and very different problems while working with a great group of people.  I know that my happiness is tied intrinsically to satisfying a high level of intellectual curiosity—so far the work that I am doing has delivered in spades.  

Why veterans are great in tech

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The intersection between veterans and tech has been scrutinized in the past few years by important individuals like President Obama as well as important companies like Microsoft. Society is finally beginning to realize that veterans are ideal employees in the tech industry. Not only are veterans readily available, since they are a frequently untapped talent pool with a sadly high unemployment rate of 9.1% just late last year (20-35yr veterans, IVMF Sept. 2015), but also they possess the crucial skills that employers in tech want.

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Discipline

One of the best skills that the military develops in all of its soldiers is discipline. During their tough years in the military, soldiers are forced to live very regimented lives that follow strict rules at all times. As pop culture and reality shows us, these rules are not always easy to follow (cough: 5am wake up time). Orders must be followed at all times, respect maintained, MREs eaten, and all without complaint or hesitation. True military discipline is an asset to any employee, and especially one working in the tech industry, which is known for being highly dynamic and fast-paced. Discipline is what gets you to work on time, all the time. Discipline is what forces you to tackle everything on the to-do list, without slacking. Discipline is what veterans have, and what every tech company needs in its employees to be successful.

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Attention to Detail

Close attention to detail is another skill that is cultivated by military service. During deployments to dangerous countries where bombs and ambushes could be hidden at every turn, paying close attention to detail is key. As an air force engineer, any mistake you make could cause an aircraft to malfunction, so you always, always pay close attention to the details. Every veteran will be meticulous about their work thanks to the military, and that means they will only ever do and turn in top-notch work. Like this veteran-turned-iOS-developer states, “I learned quite a few things in the military that paid off in later years. The biggest was attention to detail. I worked in positions where a mistake could possibly cause an aircraft to go off course… So we checked and double-checked our work and then checked again, just for fun.” Meticulousness is required in technology, where even the smallest details can be paramount, so make sure your company has great employees who operate with military precision.

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Perseverance

Few people outside the military are exposed to as many pressures as soldiers are, and even fewer would persevere through the pressures to accomplish mission objectives like soldiers always do. Veterans are clearly masters of perseverance because the military has taught them to never give up, regardless of how dangerous or unpleasant circumstances are. Since the tech industry is relatively new, it is facing new problems and challenges every day that no one necessarily knows how to solve. This makes perseverance key in any tech employee since most problems will therefore be challenging and difficult and only the truly persevering will manage to overcome frustration and continue giving their all.

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Problem Solving

You can’t survive the military without becoming a problem solver. Throughout training, simulations, drills, and any kind of exercise, almost, the military challenges its recruits to be flexible and creative, and to solve problems in all kinds of situations. During deployments and time in hostile countries, soldiers similarly have to devise ways to make up for discrepancies between plan and reality so that the mission can still be fulfilled. If veterans have survived by solving problems and thinking creatively when bombs were raining down on them, they can probably solve most problems that face employees in the tech industry.

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About Code Platoon:

Code Platoon is an immersive, beginner-friendly coding boot camp located in the heart of Chicago. Code Platoon offers to cover 80% of tuition costs if you are a veteran or a military spouse, so the total out-of-pocket cost is $2,500. Code Platoon provides instant leads internships, interview preparation, job counseling, employer matching. Join us today by signing up at codeplatoon.org/apply.