How Code Platoon is paving the way for more veterans in tech

September 23, 2015

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Tech culture has long been criticized for its exclusivity: For women, for people of color, for members of the LGBT community, tech’s so-called diversity problem often makes it harder for some identities to land jobs, found companies, secure funding, or have their contributions to innovation respected and heard.

One of the many responses to tech’s lack of diversity is a surge of identity-based coding bootcamps. These organizations superimpose the popular and intense bootcamp teaching model onto their own programs aimed at underrepresented members of the tech community.

There are coding bootcamps just for women, coding initiatives for urban, low-opportunity youth, and even bootcamps designed specifically for women of color — all of which work to even the playing field and arm workers with the skills they need to succeed in tech jobs.

And a new Chicago bootcamp is adding a program just for veterans to that list.

“The 20-29 age segment of veterans is disproportionately unemployed relative to their civilian peers,” said Rodrigo Levy, founder and executive director of Code Platoon, a new learn-to-code bootcamp and job training academy that wants to prepare veterans for careers in software development.

“Veterans often have a more difficult time entering the workforce, because it can be difficult for civilians to understand how the work they did while they served translates to skills they bring when they enter the workforce,” he said.

Code Platoon hopes to provide veterans with marketable skills they won’t need to translate. After 16 weeks of an immersive and in-person program, Levy said participants will learn a host of relevant development stacks (including Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, HTML, and CSS). In addition, students will learn development best practices and techniques that will prepare them to join a dev team as a junior developer.

Levy said that unlike other coding bootcamps, Code Platoon is a nonprofit that opens its doors only to veterans. Participants pay $1500 to participate in the program (a sum significantly cheaper than other for-profit options), with the rest of the funds coming from private fundraising or corporate sponsorships. Sponsors — like Chicago’s Reverb.com — will also act as mentors and provide a paid, three- to six-month internship for each graduate after completion of the program.

“We feel that the coding bootcamp model is a great way to transition into a really nice career, but an internship is a piece we feel will help vastly improve their chances of being successful in the field,” Levy said.

Levy, a graduate of Dev Bootcamp’s very first cohort in 2013, said the curriculum will be modeled after that program’s structure. The curriculum has yet to be finalized, in part because Code Platoon’s inaugural class isn’t scheduled to begin until January of 2016.

Code Platoon works out of Bunker Labs, an 1871-based non-profit incubator that helps develop and support veteran-run organizations.

Applications for the first cohort of Code Platoon are now open, with Levy adding that they hope to have a group size of 8 to 15.

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