Photo by Lee Campbell on Unsplash

By Allison Matyus

Code Platoon is bringing a different kind of boot camp to veterans in the form of a coding. Open strictly to veterans, this Chicago tech nonprofit is helping veterans get tech jobs in their life after service.

Executive Director of Code Platoon, Rodrigo Levy, said the catalyst to use the coding boot camp model to help benefit veterans was actually a video game.

“I was on the Call of Duty Foundation website because my son wanted to buy the video game so he sent me these links, but what I found is that they are doing really great things in helping to support veterans,” he said.

He said the foundation supports veteran unemployment causes. Oftentimes, it can be difficult for veterans to get back into the civilian work life after serving, but Levy knew he wanted to do something about it.

“In terms of training veterans for a career that would be here today, tomorrow, and in 10 years, there are few that can compare to software development,” Levy said.

Enter Code Platoon: a 14 week program that teaches veterans practical skills using immersive, hands-on training in order to become web developers. Specifically, veterans learn the basics of Ruby, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, and version control.

“Veterans are particularly well-suited to go into the profession [of web developing] because characteristics you are looking for in a software developer are ones you already see in veterans, such as tenacity, grit, problem solving, etc. ,” Levy said.

Moreover, Levy said veterans software developers typically work in teams and understand how leadership works, which are more characteristics frequently found in those who have served in the armed forces.

So far over 20 veterans have participated in this program, and Levy said 80 percent of them are working full time as software developers or interning as developers with a median salary of $65,000.

Matthew Swan was in Code Platoon’s first cohort, and is now currently a software engineer at a Chicago company.

After Swan separated from the Air Force in 2013, he already had a Bachelor’s Degree in finance, but he decided to go back to school to get a Master’s Degree in computer science. He heard about Code Platoon and wanted a more hands-on learning experience that he said was lacking in his regular college courses.

“I’ve been on the university side and I’ve been through the boot camp side, and you write more codes and get more experience with what you’re actually going to do in the workforce through a boot camp,” Swan said.

Swan said the great thing about the tech industry—especially for veterans like himself—is that there is always an entry point.

“One thing I would like to get out there to veterans is that you can come out of service knowing only what you did there, but that there’s still this entry point to tech because you can start from nothing and work your way up as quickly as you want,” he said.

Code Platoon is hoping to reach even more veterans through their recent launch of a remote program of their coding boot camp. Levy said a big initiative for 2018 will be the remote program and granting two veterans two full scholarships for it.

He also said they are looking to partner with more of Chicago’s tech community and expand partnerships with larger organizations.

“We like to have companies know that when you’re hiring a veteran, you get these terrific qualities already in your employee,” Levy said. “For any Chicago tech enabled company that wants to find a way to support veterans, we are a very natural ally for them and provide a great pipeline to this talent.”