Over the past five to ten years there has been a major push to promote career opportunities for veterans. But when David Molina left military service in 2013, he found one major road block – the difficulty in pursuing a non-college path to a coding career.
When Molina had reviewed all of the open source resources he could, he looked to attend a code school, an accelerated program that would help him learn coding online. Unfortunately, as recently as 2014 many code schools still didn’t accept the GI bill.
“Basically, he got out and he wanted to do a programming job, and he was overwhelmed with all of the choices – what language, front end, back end, code schools, was a code school worth it?” said Rick Rein, Chief Technology Officer for Operation Code, the non-profit Molina founded after discovering the gap for veterans looking to learn IT skills.
While there is huge demand for IT talent, there are limited resources to help veterans transition to a career in software development or programming using a more non-traditional option such as code school.
Operation Code: Coding the Future
To help veterans transition into coding careers, Operation Code offers a number of resources. The website lists a number more than 20 code schools that accept the GI bill.
“There was no list of code schools that took the GI bill, and that’s where that list started from,” said Rein. “We curate the list, so if a veteran goes to a code school on the site…and if we receive complaints we remove it from our site.”
The list is designed to be a veteran-friendly place to learn more about code schools. But beyond simply helping veterans choose a school, Operation Code has a robust mentorship program to help give veterans the experience and knowledge base they need to get into a code school.
“Our biggest thing is mentorship,” said Rein. “We have a group of veterans and non-veterans who are in the industry. Our mentors are there to help support our members and solve those questions.” For instance, if a veteran wants to build a mobile app or design a website, mentors are there to guide them on what the first steps should be. Mentors can also help veterans build the practical skills they need to land that first IT job, even if they don’t have a computer science degree.
“We also have a system in place where mentors provide resume reviews, mock interviews, and job search resources,” said Rein.
As Operation Code grows, they’re also working with employers to help veterans transition into the vast number of IT job openings.
Why Code Schools?
Over the past decade the military has increased its emphasis on certifications and credentialing as a great path to a lucrative post-military career. Both the Army and Navy have their own civilian credentialing programs designed to translate military training into civilian careers. But often IT wasn’t a part of that list.
A big reason for that is the relative newness of code schools. Many code schools started out as bootcamps and slowly emerged as more formal sources for hands-on IT training. And in many cases code schools simply weren’t aware of the requirements – or benefit – of becoming a GI bill accredited institution.
For veterans, the benefit of a code school is it allows a deep dive into the technology, the kinds of hands-on experience many veterans report preferring, and a significant salary bump. Code school grads report a salary increase of $26,000 upon graduation. This jump likely highlights the salary potential in jumping from a non-IT into an IT career.
How Can You Help?
If you’re a veteran looking to transition into an IT career, join Operation Code’s online community. You can get support and feedback on how to make the transition, where to go to school, and more. Operation Code is always looking for new partners and new opportunities to help veterans get IT skills, whether it’s scholarships for code schools, conference attendance, or resume advice.
If you’re an IT professional already at work in the industry, be a mentor.
“Anyone can be a mentor, and the mentors are there to help support our members and solve those questions,” said Rein. “The ideal qualities would be wanting to help somebody and being able to share your resources and experiences…and just showing up and being around for people.”