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These veterans share how their experience in the military prepared them for a career as a software engineer

11.11.22

Since 2016, DRW has been a trusted partner of Code Platoon, a non-profit organization that helps veterans and military spouses transition into the workforce by providing technical training and career placement. Hear from two veterans about how this program and the military shaped them for a career as a software engineer.

Megan, Software Engineer, served for six years in the Navy as an Electronics Technician. She was responsible for troubleshooting any issues and making necessary repairs to circuit card assemblies and various types of other equipment.

Michael, Software Engineer, served in the Army Reserves and trained initially as a Combat Medic, then went straight to the enlisted Licensed Practical Nursing school.

What was your path to DRW?

Megan: As I was navigating my transition from active duty to civilian life, I joined the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). During that process, I learned about Code Platoon. After doing more research, my family and I decided it would be the best next steps for my career so we moved to Chicago so I could attend in person. Once I joined the program, I was given a mentor who happened to be a DRW employee. He was vital in helping me get acclimated and to this day he continues to be an amazing resource. After the completion of Code Platoon, I went through the interview process with a few sponsor companies and ended up getting brought on as an intern with the tech team at DRW.

Michael: I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and started working for United Airlines as a project manager. Due to the immediate and devastating impact that COVID had on the airlines, I was laid off only 8 months after starting. I saw that as an opportunity to pivot my career field to something more resilient. I happened to come across Code Platoon because a friend of mine was a TA for a short time and said I should look in to it. The thing that stuck out the most about Code Platoon was the partnerships with different companies and the possibility of moving straight from the bootcamp to an internship, and hopefully a full-time role. While I was going through the bootcamp, they announced that one spot had opened up with DRW in their Technical Software Services team. This was immediately my top choice for available internships. Luckily, I did a decent job getting through the program, and got the position following the interview. It felt a little too good to be true at the time, still does to be honest.

Can you give us insight into your military background?

Megan: I served for six years in the Navy as an Electronics Technician. In this role, I was responsible for troubleshooting any issues and making necessary repairs to circuit card assemblies and various types of other equipment, like radars.

Michael: I enlisted in the Army Reserves in 2012 and had a dual MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) where I trained initially as a Combat Medic, then went straight to the enlisted Licensed Practical Nursing school. In total I did about a year and a half of didactic and clinical training, then came back home and joined my reserve unit which was based out of Fort Sheridan, just north of Chicago. Although I was never deployed, I used the training and certifications that I received in the military to sustain a career in nursing as I put myself through college.

What is your current role? (and/or) Could you describe a current project you’re working on?

Megan: I started at DRW as an intern and my first project was Traffic Control, an app that tracks the status of shipments. Now, as a full-time software engineer, it is a project that I still work on and really enjoy. I have learned so much working on it and it is a lot of fun to design and make all the different elements work together.

Michael: My current role is a Software Engineer on Technical Software Services. Most of the projects I work on are kind of fun because we are a newer team and many of the applications that we build and maintain are things that we started from scratch! Because of this, I have been able to learn about many different aspects of the development process. Without getting too much in to the weeds, I had a hand in developing several new, cutting-edge applications that vary in size and scope. I also help modernize our deployment process.

What valuable skills did the military provide that have helped you build a career in tech?

Megan: The most valuable skills I’ve brought with me from the military would be time management and problem-solving skills. The military presented a wide variety of problems and challenges and I developed the skillset to manage them simultaneously.

Michael: Honestly, before the military I was kind of rudderless. I didn’t have much guidance and never had someone to push me to accomplish much of anything. I had this idea that things would sort of just happen for me at some point. I joined the military in my early twenties, I think partially because of a break up and also because I had trouble waking up and getting to work on time. I also needed to pay for college somehow. Once I enlisted and went off to training, I realized there was no way out and I didn’t have the option of quitting. To my surprise, I finished training near the top of my class. The entire process taught me how difficult it was to achieve anything, and in reality, nothing really just happens for most people. I used that mentality to get myself through college and ultimately, doing what it took to get a job at DRW.

What advice would you give others looking to transition from military to tech?

Megan: My number one piece of advice to any military member is to start building your network sooner rather than later (LinkedIn, veteran Facebook groups) and talk to people about the different benefits and programs that are available to you. There are so many that it’s impossible to learn about all of them all during the TAP classes. The only reason I heard about Code Platoon, and how I ultimately ended up working full-time at DRW, was because I heard people talking about it the hallway when I was on break from the TAP class I was attending that day. Also, to those who are currently active duty and know they will be separating in the future, look into the SkillBridge program.

Michael:

1. Do it, you won’t regret it.

2. If you can get in to Code Platoon, do it, you won’t regret that either.

3. You won’t know much when you start out. Then when you start to learn a little, you’ll feel like you know even less. Rather than letting that stress you out, get comfortable with that feeling and be confident in your ability to figure things out.

4. This is more of a side note, but when you start interviewing for positions try to remember that most people interviewing you actually want you to succeed. It’s natural to go in to an interview scared that they will want to bury you in the technical portion and make a fool out of you, but that’s usually not the case. I feel like that always helps relax some of my anxiety.

Learn more about Code Platoon.