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John Cibula, Alumni of the Month, September 2019

John Cibula served in the Marine Corps for five years in an intelligence role and as a Recon Marine. It was a fun adventure and character building experience, but not a career, so in 2011, John left the service.

Since John’s mom was a cattle options broker and his dad was a trader, John tried his hand at trading. He joined the family business, but despite his best efforts, he wasn’t making any money.

Traditional education versus coding boot camps

Without a clear path forward, John went back to college.

He wanted to study entrepreneurship and economics, but he never made it out of the general education before feeling like the process was too slow and not useful for him. In fact, John eventually tried his hand at a traditional university setting multiple times as an adult, and the format wasn’t really a good fit. 

It wasn’t fun and the instruction wasn’t getting to the point of what he was there to learn. He had solid grades, and was paying for his education using the GI Bill®, but he knew he didn’t want to go through the motions when there might be something better out there.

In 2015, John was back working at a trading firm making minimum wage as an intern. His boss, who wanted to see John thrive, pointed out an article in the Chicago Tribune about Code Platoon. John researched the coding boot camp and followed through on an application. He was accepted, worked hard, graduated, and was placed in a paying apprenticeship.

“Code Platoon is challenging, but that was part of the fun,” says John. “I could see my progress every single day, and it was way more engaging than traditional education.”

In a twist of fate, John went on to work for a trading company, just not as a trader; this time he’s an Associate Software Engineer at the Chicago Trading Company. According to John, he finally makes the money he wants and likes his job at the same time.

“The company I interned with actually hired me and gave me a chance just because I worked with Code Platoon. Code Platoon changed my life.”

John recommends that vets who find themselves stuck with an education gap to their goals consider taking some risks. “Don’t be afraid to start over, don’t be afraid to try something new. Code Platoon is that kind of leap, and it’s a great opportunity that really just requires your commitment.”

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I’ve had the pleasure of teaching over a hundred veterans and military spouses over the years at Code Platoon and John Cibula from Bravo Platoon stands out. A gruff and straightforward recon Marine, it was apparent that he knew where he had come from and where he wanted to go with his career.

John worked tirelessly to master every concept, and when classroom instruction wasn’t enough, he sought out other resources to ensure his success. He was the first software engineering apprenticeship that Chicago Trading Company took on for a Code Platoon graduate, and through his trailblazing, we’ve sent over two additional veterans with two more joining them in December.

-Jonathan Young, Instructor

John Cibula in his own words

I went the route of Recon Marine, which is a specialized infantry unit, and then did two deployments in Djibouti and Afghanistan. When I got out of the Marine Corps, I kind of jumped around from job to job, tried to start a couple businesses. Those failed. So when I was an intern at some trading firm down in Chicago my boss knew I was going to end pretty soon. He threw me a… I think it was Chicago Tribune had an article about Code Platoon. So I read it. I figured I heard about these code boot camps before. I didn’t really have any prospects for a different job. I looked at the price. That’s kind of what got me there. It was awesome.

So then after I finished up my internship, I started after doing the 100 hours of pre work or whatever you had to do, I somehow got through that. And then the next month I started Code Platoon. First few weeks you do algorithms, so puzzles. That was actually my favorite part. It was pretty fun. You just got together, you did a lot of pair programming and you tried to solve a puzzle. Basically you beat your head against the wall and you didn’t think you’d ever get it. And then once you got it, you’d high five and go on to the next one.

I remember having huge headaches. It felt like I could feel my brain growing. It was kind of like the military again where you’re a whole group of people. We’re going through something hard together so you build that camaraderie. It was real fun. And so what I really learned and I like about Code Platoon is they know that you have to be able to adapt because especially software and the military, things are changing constantly and so if you don’t adapt you’re going to die. And they did that. It was great.

I hear now that they’re talking about they’re basically adapting to what the needs of the software community are and they’re not stuck in their old ways which I think is great. What I did learn from Code Platoon is basically you just learn how to learn. Once I learned kind of the base line, I wasn’t really afraid of learning a new language or learning a whole new field I guess basically.

I did participate in the intern program. I bagged a job at CTC. Woo. That’s the one I wanted to do. So now I’m a Java developer. I do front end development. I basically work on applications for our traders to look at price data and some other stuff and make decisions from that. It’s pretty great actually.

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