Often I am asked about my transition from active duty Air Force to front-end developer. Today I will tie this in with another question I am frequently asked as why do we need programming bootcamps since there is so much free and cheap educational content available today.
My journey started while being stationed in Germany. I started tinkering with some HTML and CSS files and quickly showed off my red box and blue circle I was able to display in the browser to my wife. She was really excited to say the least 😆.
With the complexity seen in modern web sites and web applications today I knew I needed to learn an actual programming language to add functionality to websites. So I ran a Google search thinking a clear answer would be right there at the top on the results… but no 🤷♂. Every developer, every person that knew what code is seemed to have a very strong opinion how to get started. Python sounded good to me and within a few weeks I had worked my way through Learn Python the Hard Way and felt pretty good about where my skills were going. After I was done I knew some basics and made some cool games but still had questions like …
"How do I take this language and tie it into a website?".
Having some cool skills but the inability to tie them together to actually create anything I took a break until I moved back to the States about 6 months later. Being a fan of podcasts I stumbled onto one about programming and learned about this bootcamp for vets, VetsWhoCode, that sounded promising.
This is where my real development journey began. VetsWhoCode gave me a roadmap to transition into my new career. They didn't only provide the quality instruction and direct me to the resources that the top performers in our profession are utilizing, but they also bring you into an ecosystem of real working developers who make sure they communicate the tools and skills needed to break into the development world with more then just knowing the basic coding skills.
So by now you may be thinking it must be nice to have the time to do this and learn a valuable skill without life getting in the way right? Even though I transitioned out my wife is still active duty which means me, as the spouse, is expected to pick up pretty much everything family related if and when my wife has training, deploys or whatever the military can throw our way. Add to that an amazing 4 year old son who, as normal boy, gets into trouble every 5 minutes.
We end up getting our base of choice in Virginia and get excited to purchase our first home. We drive up to VA and find a home and return to Florida excited with all cylinders firing and life is great when… we find out my wife has cancer. To say this stopped us in our tracks and caught us off guard is an understatement.
Still moving to VA? No one knows.
Have support for medical appointments etc? Closest family is 1500 miles away.
But the military can show it's true colors and shine when adversity hits home and we had officers from various branches communicating and making sure my wife was getting the best medical care while still making sure our base of choice was secured for our future.
Prioritizing being a caregiver, making sure to transfer my son into a new school while at the same networking to find my first development job proved to be a full-time job. Having an amazing wife who made sure I would not back away from this because of this challenge proves that having a support system in place and not having an option to give up is for sure the secret sauce for anything in life.
As a fresh VetsWhoCode grad I proved myself to be able to tutor other bootcamp students at other bootcamps and honed my instructional skills with over 500 hours.
Wanting a job that I could help build user facing products I went to a company that builds software utilized by multi-national companies.
It was an easy answer when I was given the opportunity to give back and devote personal time instructing students with VetsWhoCode. After all sharing quality information and growing each others skills is the best way to stay ahead in the technology and make companies that change the world 🌎.
- Brad Hankee