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From Service to STEM – Why Veterans are Perfect for Today’s Tech Industry

Think about the first time you completed a training exercise with your unit — what did you experience? Most likely you had to work through a timed challenge or event; something difficult requiring teamwork, discipline, adaptability, and attention to detail. These are the key traits that define many veterans today and consequently, these are the same qualities shared by many professionals in the STEM field. In fact, much of the effort around the newly expanded GI Bill benefits focuses on incentivizing and encouraging veterans and military spouses to apply to STEM programs.

If you’re a recently separated veteran or a veteran looking to kickstart their education or a military spouse, here are some good reasons why you should think about using your G.I. Bill to get a head start in the STEM industry.

  • The Stunning Salary

As more and more industries rely on tech, many professionals in the STEM field are earning salaries that surpass those of their peers. In fact, from what we hear from our graduates — along with recent studies — the average software developer makes more than $100K annually. From coding bootcamps to specialized tech programs, veterans who are using their G.I. Bill to gain an education in the tech industry can expect to earn more than their counterparts.

  • Teamwork is Everything

If you’re a veteran, you likely miss working with your battle buddies to achieve difficult and complex objectives. Like ‘Hannibal’ Smith said in the A-Team, ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’ If you’re looking to replicate the satisfaction of achievement, particularly with a small but effective team, then you can’t go wrong with the STEM field. Many startups and even large organizations have embraced agile software development today — where teamwork and communication are key to success and if you’re a veteran, then you’re already ahead of the game here.

  • On Demand

There are many industries out there where there’s more talent than the opportunity; fortunately, STEM is not one of them. In fact, STEM careers are currently growing in demand. For qualified veterans and military spouses, there is a likelihood of being hired for a six-figure position after one or two career fairs. Employers in this space are always looking for good hires and, at the moment, there are plenty of opportunities to join this growing — and thriving — industry.

  • First Pick

Google, Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft — these are all major tech companies that already have veterans and military spouses initiatives in place. And that’s just to name a few; today, there are many organizations out there in the STEM industry that are looking to employ veterans or military spouses with a background in coding, science, math, or another tech-related background. It proves that the opportunities are nearly limitless for veterans and military spouses with tech skills and experience.

These are just a few reasons why the STEM industry is a great fit for veterans and military spouses and vice versa. If you’re a veteran or a military spouse who hasn’t decided on a career path or where to use their G.I. Bill benefits just yet, think about entering the STEM field. Whether you’re going to school for a degree in STEM or completing a STEM-related program, there’s plenty of advantages today to being a veteran who can navigate the tech space.

To learn more about how your G.I. Bill benefits can help you begin a career in coding, click here.

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.

Technology: 

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:

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.

We’re adding an assistant instructor courtesy of Motorola!

We’re proud to announce today that we’ve received a $10,000 USD grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola solutions, Inc. We’re using the grant to provide an assistant instructor for our Spring 2018 cohort. The assistant instructor will work directly with the lead instructor to help bring more personalized coding and programming opportunities for our students.

The Motorola Solutions Foundation awards grants each year to organizations that support and advance public safety programs and technology & engineering education initiatives. This year, programs that served underrepresented populations, including females, people with disabilities and veterans were prioritized. I can speak for Rod and the rest of us when I say that we’re absolutely honored to receive this grant, which will help us create more opportunities for our veteran students to learn and grow.

For more on the Motorola Solutions Foundation grants, click here.

To read our press release on the Motorola Solutions Foundation grant, click here.

Can’t make it to our office in Chicago? Don’t worry, we’ll come to you!

Here at Code Platoon, we see more and more veterans and military spouses transition into the world of coding and development every single day. However, we know that veterans or military spouses come from every corner of the nation – not just the Chicagoland area – and that’s why we’re excited to share that we’re expanding our offerings to include a new remote initiative!

We’ll be piloting this new program during our next cohort and we’re looking for two highly motivated veterans and military spouses to participate; if that sounds like you or someone you know, read our full brief below.

Our new Remote Attendance Program offers:

ABSOLUTE CONVENIENCE – Whether you’re traveling or you’re on the other end of the world, our Remote Attendance Program is all about providing our veterans and military spouses with a convenient path to access our tried and true curriculum. While we’d love to have you visit our AO, you no longer have to make the trip over here to learn everything you need to become a full-stack developer.

FREE ADMISSION FOR VETERANS AND MILITARY SPOUSES — Our regular program is a 14-week long, in-person coding program located in Chicago, Illinois. For in-person students, the cost is $13,000, but all admitted veterans or military spouses receive $10,500 in scholarships so they’re essentially paying $2,500 out of pocket. For our veteran or military spouses students who are going to be remote, we’re upping that scholarship to the full $13,000 so that they won’t have to pay a cent.

HIGH QUALITY INSTRUCTION — The Remote Attendance Program is very much the same program that our in-person students participate in. Remote students will have access to everything that in-person students have, and will be able to participate in live discussions, ask questions, and receive real-time answers. What’s more, our remote students will work on the same assignments and team projects as their in-person counterparts. The only thing that’s different for our Remote Attendance Students is that they won’t be eligible to participate in the internship program, or at least not with Chicago-based internships.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of our remote offering, make sure you apply now! There are fewer spots for our Remote Attendance Program and our admission standards for these spots will be more rigorous than our in-person program given that we can only take so many. Additionally, we will give preference to veterans with disabilities.

If you’d like to learn more about our remote offerings, you can head to our Remote Attendance Program page for more information or contact us at info@codeplatoon.org.

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.