Deploying New Careers Together With Code Platoon

Deploying New Careers Together With Code Platoon

Nicole Carpenter

March 21, 2023

As US military veterans rejoin the labor market, they bring a variety of skills that are well-suited for collaborating with diverse stakeholders, working as a team, and delivering an impactful product on a deadline.

Whether or not they’ve written software before, their first-hand experience collaborating in a stressful environment to achieve shared goals is directly applicable to the roles and responsibilities of a professional consultant. For those with a knack for numbers and logical thinking, learning to code can be the easy part.

Code Platoon is a coding school aimed at easing this transition for veterans and their spouses new to the software development industry. The 15-week course takes students from absolute beginner through to delivering multiple full-stack web applications. Students go from learning the basics of algorithms and databases, to object-oriented programming and frameworks. Then they combine all of those lessons together in a basic web app, once as a solo project and again as a group project, where they learn key collaboration and project delivery skills.

The model has been a huge success, with around 370 graduates spanning more than 20 cohorts. The organization boasted 168 graduates from six immersive cohorts over the last two years, with 75 percent of those finding software engineering jobs within six months.

Becoming a Pro Coder

After a 14 year career in finance, Charles Kubiak was feeling burnt out and ready for a career change. He taught himself enough JavaScript to make it through Code Platoon’s application process, and began a journey that would see him leading teams of software engineers in under three years.

Charles joined 8th Light along with Caroline Cessaro as the first apprentices hired through the formal partnership that began in 2019. The partnership includes an investment of money and time in preparing Code Platoon graduates for success and supporting them in their development, along with a guarantee of hiring one student.

An apprenticeship is a natural extension from a coding bootcamp, as Charles says he was already in a learning mindset. However, the learning curve was still steep. “One of the things I tell all the Code Platoon students is that, basically, you walk out of Code Platoon being useful, but you don’t know what you don’t know,” Charles explains.

Just a few years later, Charles is leading engineers and shipping code for a platform that’s removing redundancies and reducing clutter from administrative processes that are welcoming the next wave of military recruits. In his free time, he volunteers for Code Platoon.

Charles teaches a three-week Intro To Coding course that introduces the basics and provides enough exposure for students to know whether software is something they’d enjoy doing as a career. “It’s very rudimentary, covering the intro to JavaScript and functional programming,” Charles says. It’s also a launching pad for students with the knack for it. “It's rewarding to see people through the entire process of learning how to declare variables, apply for Code Platoon, complete the program, and land their first jobs as developers," notes Charles.

Code Platoon offers opportunities for military veterans and their spouses to kickstart careers in software development in a supportive environment, regardless of their relevant experience.

Iterating the Programming

8th Light entered a formal partnership with Code Platoon in 2019; but the partnership traces back much further, and the roots have grown much deeper.

One of Code Platoon’s first instructors was an 8th Light alum, and he invited our team to help mentor and tutor. Even though I graduated from a different code school, I’m a former US Marine and I jumped at the chance to mentor other veterans. My first apprentice, Scott Plunkett, ended up following me to 8th Light, and we’re both still active in speaking, tutoring, and providing opportunities for continued learning.

The cycle continues to this day, as Code Platoon graduates join 8th Light, and then help support their alma mater as time allows. Over the last few years, Seth Thomas, Serene Henery, Cristian Baeza, and Sean Furlong have all completed Code Platoon, joined 8th Light, and gone back to volunteer as mentors. “There is this feedback cycle that we’ve developed,” Charles says, describing how 8th Light’s team has been able to help Code Platoon’s programming evolve to be more involved, more advanced, and more helpful.

“Code Platoon is definitely harder now than when I went through it, as far as the concepts they cover,” Charles says. But this expanded curriculum — along with some additional resources, like his intro class — has also helped prepare graduates to be more effective in their careers no matter where they end up.

The curriculum also has evolved to provide a more impactful learning experience, and prepare students with more advanced technical skills that go beyond JavaScript, React, Python, and Django. Understanding the foundational concepts of object-oriented programming empowers students to transfer their skills to a new job even if those systems are written in all different languages.

In addition to the technical skills required to ship software, Code Platoon offers a more holistic education that helps them transition to the lifestyle that comes with their new job. This includes courses on personal finance; diversity, equity, and inclusion training; and support in learning how to talk about their military experience with colleagues.

Shaping Future Leaders

Code Platoon’s sustained growth — along with the success of their graduates — shows that this model of mutual investment and partnership can serve as a beacon for how businesses can integrate new team members into the workforce.

As Code Platoon matures as an organization, they have been able to grow their capabilities and provide more opportunities for learning. In addition to the three annual full-time cohorts, Code Platoon offers a 28 week evening and weekend program, and in 2023 they are kicking off their very first DevOps and Cloud Engineering cohort. Code Platoon is one of many organizations taking advantage of a US Department of Defense initiative, SkillBridge, which allows active duty military to take time off to pursue vocational training.

Code Platoon’s corporate partnerships are open to any businesses looking to make an investment in a new class of leaders. If your team simply needs to upskill, whether it’s on emerging tech or foundational principles, get in touch with our team.

Nicole Carpenter

Principal Crafter

Nicole Carpenter has only recently begun to realize the joy and anguish of living with a cat. Since joining 8th Light in early 2016, she has gained deep expertise in delivering software for the insurance industry. She is also the organizer of 8th Light University.