Building the Code

January 3, 2018

 

How the Marines can prepare you for a career in coding.

 

While stationed in Okinawa, Japan in 2008, I wouldn’t have guessed that my time in the Marine Corps would have prepared me for a future in coding. At the time, the 30 Marines in my platoon had access to just one shared computer. It served only two functions: completing online training requirements, or looking up one’s online military record.

At the time, I never suspected that nine years later, I would be designing and building websites and applications in an intensive web development course, General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) program.

My path toward coding was a winding one. As a Marine on active duty, I was stationed in Japan, Kenya, Sudan, Italy and Pakistan. Later, after transferring to the reserve I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in international affairs from The George Washington University. While studying at GW, I worked at the nonprofit Veterans Campaign, where I was tasked with helping to rebrand the organization. Though I had little technical experience, I was trusted with creating an entirely new web presence for the organization and migrating its old content to the new website.

It was fairly basic stuff, drawing less on know-how and more on trial and error with Squarespace tools. But it was my first real experience with web development — and I was hooked. No matter how many all-nighters I pulled to get the site finished, I kept finding myself waking up eager to build the next round of changes.

Despite that experience, I didn’t think of myself as a coder or web developer. I was on the path to an international affairs degree and had a career plan in place. Web development was not a part of the picture. After graduating, I spent the next year and a half on active duty and in training, knocking out all the requirements to become a Marine Officer. In November 2016, I commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve, but I knew I still wasn’t doing the type of work that would take me back to those enjoyable days working at Veterans Campaign.

Years prior, a friend had mentioned making a complete career change by taking classes through General Assembly (GA). He had been a civil engineer with with no coding experience and after completing the first WDI course offered by General Assembly in Washington, D.C., he was able to land a job as a web developer, a position he still has and enjoys today. I, too, would have to make a drastic career change if I wanted to be a web developer and I decided it was time to take the plunge.

The full-time 12-week Web Development Immersive course wasn’t easy, and the lessons I learned were a far cry from the simple tasks I did on that old computer in Japan. But as each day passed, I realized just how well military training had prepared me for the sort of radical reskilling necessary for veterans to make the transition into the tech economy.

General Assembly’s program has a singular focus on equipping you with the skills required to land a tech job — and to adapt over time, as in-demand skills evolve. In many ways, it was similar to basic training. Like the military, success requires long hours and, at times, little sleep. It demands a focus on the mission at hand to minimize distractions. And so I spent three months consumed by web development.

Like the military, WDI was also team-oriented. We would often work on projects in teams or squads, working alongside students from different backgrounds, all focused on completing the same goal. I was pleasantly surprised with the diversity of my class. Though I was older than most in the program and was the only veteran — a fact I was used to from my time in college — my colleagues were an interesting group from all over the world. I coded alongside people from countries where I had once been stationed. As it turns out, “unit cohesion” matters in tech as much as the military. It’s about being able to work with our different personalities and skill sets to advance the mission.

In the months since completing the program I’ve had numerous technical recruiters reach out to me and several interviews for promising opportunities where I can put my coding expertise to good use. Thanks to my time in the military and the surprising way it prepared me for my time in General Assembly, I have the confidence and technical skills to enter into a career that I find just as rewarding as my time in the military.

 

About General Assembly

 

General Assembly offers programs in web development, data science and analysis, user experience design, digital marketing, product management, and more. Students can choose from a range of formats and modalities to help them best achieve their goals, including full-time, part-time, and short-form options — on campus, and online.

GA offers 20 campuses and more than 10,000 hiring partners. In addition to courses designed exclusively to meet employer needs, GA fosters a pipeline of industry professionals who serve as instructors, mentors, and coaches. This thriving professional network helps recent graduates find jobs and make connections.

 

Roughly half of GA’s part-time students are funded by employers who want their employees trained by GAexperts, and GA curricula are guided by industry needs. GA offers a 10 percent discount on its programs to veterans, and veterans are eligible to use their post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefit for immersive training programs in New York, with other locations soon to follow.

 

To learn more about General Assembly’s programs, check out https://generalassemb.ly

 

Contact gibill@generalassemb.ly to learn more.
 

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