Last year, we launched the Treehouse Scholarship program for like-minded, nonprofit organizations who provide support for those with disabilities, economic hardships, underrepresented populations and veterans. As it’s the 4th of July this week, we wanted to tell the story of one of our scholarship recipient organizations, Operation Code, which helps military veterans and their families launch careers in software development.
Operation Code started when its founder, ex-Army Captain David Molina, realized he couldn’t apply his New GI Bill to go to a code school. Though military veterans can use their GI bills for college and vocational schools, it’s very difficult to apply this funding to code schools. Molina was troubled to find that technical education was so difficult for veterans to access, and that they weren’t pursuing technical skills due to a combination of limited exposure, lack of funds, and misconceptions about what credentials are needed. So he started working on a way to change that.
Molina says that “the number one misconception is that you need a computer science or college degree for a job at a tech company. You need to be part of the tech community, because the sooner you join, the faster you overcome and correct misconceptions about what it takes to transition into tech. ”
Operation Code supports veterans who want to transition by connecting beginners with mentors and industry professionals, and by providing a space for their community to thrive – hosting meetups, Slack channels and other events to promote communication. Ideally, they want people currently serving in the military to begin building skills and engaging with resources and the community 12 months before exiting into civilian life, but Operation Code has members who are still in the military, and those that have been out for many years.
At Treehouse, we know that learning technical development skills is a similar process to learning other trades. It requires training and hands-on education, mentorship, and apprenticeship that helps learners build the skills and experience to land a job as part of a development team. To help learners navigate their education, Operation Code organizes lists of Veterans Affairs approved code schools, partners and flexible learning resources, including Treehouse.
There are now six code schools that accept the GI bill, but change can’t happen fast enough. Molina and his primarily volunteer team’s main goal is to create and pass legislation that supports veteran funding for coding schools with a bill called the VET-TEC Act. If passed, the bill would supply “an annual $15m for five year, aimed at getting veterans into non-traditional education programs like code schools.” They’ve partnered with other groups in the tech industry to raise awareness and support of the bill, which was introduced to Congress in April 2017.
Molina is passionate about the mission of Operation Code, not just for the benefits it provides to its members, but the overall positive impact that getting more veterans into technical jobs can have on local communities, businesses, and the industry overall.
For those considering hiring or working with veterans turned programmers, Molina says there are three main advantages:
“Why do veterans make great developers? First, Leadership. In software development it’s about being part of a team. You have to know how to lead meetings and how to lead people. As a veteran, you know when to be a submit, but you know when to lead. Veterans are used to getting things done.
Second, we pick up new skills quickly. You have to be able to pick up new skills in the military, partly because it’s always either ahead of the curve or picking up new technologies and tools from the private sector.
Third, veterans are experienced team members. They just get it. It’s about ‘we’ not ‘me’. All of the work we do in the military is about working in teams, and you have to be able to work with others, trust each other and follow through.”
Operation Code is now officially two years old, has a large community with over 2300 active users in their Slack rooms and have connected many veterans and family members with programming education and resources. Learn more about what they’ve accomplished so far in their State of Operation Code.
We believe in the work that Operation Code is doing, and are excited to see more of their progress. This week, look for stories from members of the Operation Code community who’ve used Treehouse for part of their education, as we celebrate veterans and Independence day!
How to get involved with Operation Code
Attend or sponsor the Operation Code Gala in Portland, OR later this year