State of Operation Code — 2016

Thank you for your support

On behalf of all of us at Operation Code, we want to thank you for your support and helping build our community. All of us working behind the scenes are constantly moving — and constantly shipping — to ensure that we’re not leaving behind a single veteran in our mission.

Two-years after launching Operation Code, a simple website built with Ruby on Rails (and a LaunchRock to collect data), we’ve grown from 0 members to a global community comprised of active duty military, guard & reserve troops, veterans and military spouses all on a mission to learn to code and build software to change the world.

Full history at: https://operationcode.org/history
Full history at: https://operationcode.org/history

Membership

Today, our Slack community numbers 642 members of which 52 are mentors, 29 support operations, and since early 2015 have leveraged the real-time communication platform to communicate 73,700 messages.

Our youngest member is a recent 18 year old Air Force enlistee with the majority in our community Continental United States (CONUS), with 1/4 located Overseas Continental United States (OCONUS) throughout the Middle East.

Recently, we had our first veteran join from Canada, JP Phaneuf, who is actively learning to code using the popular open source exercise platform, Exercism, in our very own internal study group led by our Scholarship Chair, Nell Shamrell-Harrington.

Shipping

At Operation Code, we’re always shipping. It’s why we exist — to inspire that great joy amongst military veterans in building web apps and shipping something onto the web. Our core and contributing team maintain 23 repositories in GitHub with Exercism, Operation Code, and Eloquent JavaScript leading the pack. Beyond that, we maintain several private repositories for Deploy web dev clients.

Since August 17, 2014, we’ve continually shipped changes to operationcode.org with Rick Rein, Nell Shamrell-Harrington, Alex Kaufman, Fernando Paredes and Conrad Hollomon making the most contributions.

Recently, Jeremy Hall came onboard as our newest Technical Product Manager to overhaul the UI/UX of our flagship site and expedite onboarding of new veterans interested in learning to code.

Major contributions take place Sunday evening, in the early morning or late evening’s during the week, and Saturday leading from the front.

Finances

As with any startup, we continue to operate with limited funds —leveraging open source software and the smarts of our core team to engineer new solutions that cut our burn rate.

The majority of our staff are all-volunteer, including myself as Executive Director, volunteering on this mission since day 1.

While we accept online donations with Square and Stripe, we don’t seem to attract significant donations on an ongoing basis to grow our programs & services.

Donations & Grants

A little more than $1,700 have come in through online donations — our major donor thus far has been the board secretary/treasurer and Marine veteran, Pete Runyon who paid $850 for our IRS filing earlier this year. Our in-kind donors have ranged from Slack to Google, and from HackHands to Stickermule.

The last two years the Heroku monthly bill has grown due to usage. To cut our burn rate, we’re in the process of migrating over to Digital Ocean — thanks in large part to their in-kind support of $1,000 that should give us a few years of runway.

This change will cut our major monthly burn rate to zero with the exception of staffing levels.

On the grants front, we have submitted grants and/or Letters of Inquiry to Salesforce, Techstars Foundation, The Collins Foundation, 1 Million Cups — all pending responses — and, we expect a positive reponse by years-end.

Staffing

On August 1st, after months of searching high and low, the team added its first paid staffer, a Director of Development to lead grant writing and fund development efforts — someone dedicated to fund development and ensure our proposals are complaint with funder requests. Everyone else is a volunteer. Speaking of all-volunteer, we’re all remote — our Chief of Staff, Conrad Hollomon, is in Boston and our Director of Development, Farrah Morrisey, is in San Diego.

This summer we contracted a local Portland-based bookkeeper, Ms. Cherokee Laws, on a recommendation from our bank, Beneficial State Bank, to run weekly payroll and provide P&L and Balance Sheets, per funder requests.

During this growth period, the founding board of directors will be recruiting new board members while continuing to invest in long-term capacity-building and deploying resources to the front-lines to ensure we fulfill on our mission.

Operations

To coordinate, integrate and synchronize efforts we leverage Slack, maintain both public and private channels to build and develop community.

Earlier this year, our Chief of Staff implemented weekly standups every Thursday to have the all-volunteer staff report in. We began using Google Hangouts, and when that became unwieldy due to different time zones we turned to Slack — and, now weekly we Slack in.

Prior to our tax-exemption we were limited to 10,000 Slack messages. This is no longer a problem which has led to unbelievable growth internally, more mentorship channels, and better coordination.

Partnerships

We’re joining forces with American Corporate Partners (ACP) and Patriot Boot Camp (PBC), two of our nation’s finest veteran service organizations with a parallel mission.

ACP helps veterans achieve career goals through a free national mentorship program with a corporate professional in a career field of the veterans interest. ACP Mentors come from one of 60+ companies like 21st Century Fox, Deloitte, GE, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, and USAA. As new veterans join ACP and interested in technology, they’ll be introduced to Operation Code and our Software Mentor Protégé Program.
PBC’s mission is to equip veterans and spouses to build technology companies of impact and scale, by building competency through education, community integration, mentorship and resources. In a symbiotic and complementary way, Operation Code serves the very same population by enabling veterans to learn to code, and empowering them to build software to change the world. Currently, veterans who are interested in attending the next PBC cohort can join the #patriotbootcamp channel in our Slack and ask questions from alumni, prepare to attend, and introduce their projects.

Programs & Services

Software Mentor Protégé Program

What began as a 1-on-1 software mentorship program of mentors and veterans being paired online quickly morphed onto Slack in a peer-to-peer environment in early 2015. Founding board member, Fernando Paredes, connected operationcode.org and Slack making signing up for veterans wishing to join our community painless.

Earlier this year, Rick Rein, a Marine veteran, Ruby/Rails/Elixir developer joined our team as our newest Director, Software Mentor Protégé Program — ensuring both continuity and mentorship growth. He immediately began taking on issues in GitHub. Rick also led the way by livecoding on Operation Code.

Code School Scholarships & Scholarship Committee

On the code school front, six code schools nationally offer full or partial scholarships to veterans to attend. The latest and NYC-based, Fullstack Academy is offering full and partial scholarships totaling $100,000 to the Fullstack Academy Remote Immersive Program to members of Operation Code.

Most recently, Texas-based, The Guild of Software Architects, a mobile app developer coding bootcamp came onboard to offer 50% off tuition ($3,000 scholarships) for veterans and their spouses for this 12 week immersive coding bootcamp.

Since mid-2015, Nell Shamrell, has led as Scholarship Chair helping usher new veterans to software conferences, Linux Academy and most recently she’s leading the effort to get more veterans coding using Exercism. This year we welcomed Doug Brown as Scholarship Outreach as well. We had our first online t-shirt sale where we raised $135 for the scholarship fund. We moved those funds to a Scholarship Account and issued Nell a debit card to expedite travel/lodging, conference registration to Operation Code members. We expect this number to rise in 2017.

Additionally, we enrolled in Benevity with a $7.5m goal, and are now on AmazonSmile (ongoing).

New GI Bill and Code Schools

When we launched Operation Code in summer 2014, no code school nationally accepted the New GI Bill to cover code school tuition, room and board. Today, several code schools nationally accept the New GI Bill, including one in California (Sabio), one in Washington State (Code Fellows), three in Colorado (Galvanize, RefactorU, and Skill Distillery), and we expect the number of code schools that accept the New GI Bill to double by end of 2017 providing veterans more access to technical training leveraging their hard earned education benefits to fill the nation’s technical talent shortage.

This fall we’re accelerating code school technical assistance by adding additional personnel to augment our current Code School Outreach Specialist-Western Region, George Everts, with a new Director, Code Schools, Ian Lenny, that will provide leadership and expand eastern region code school outreach as well.

Military Veterans Technical Talent Pipeline

We created the Military Veterans Technical Talent Pipeline (formerly Fellowship Program) for the express purpose of expediting the military veterans technical talent pipeline to American companies.

Our objective is to make hiring and onboarding military veteran software developers a simple, efficient, and painless process.

Deploy

In the fall of 2015 we tinkered around on a new experiment called, Deploy, a web apprenticeship program designed to cut the dreaded two-year junior developer time gap by working on real-world projects. Our first web apprentices, Krystyna Ewing, Ming Zhang, and John Hampton worked on a web application for a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant. The experiment pivoted towards a full service in the spring of 2016 and by summer had taken on its first real-world client, a local Portland-based small business selling homemade artisan soaps out of the trunk of her car. Through Deploy, Operation Code military veterans work on client work, get compensated and all while reinvesting profits back into the organization.

Growth

Operation Code isn’t getting smaller — we’re growing month-after-month. Since April 2015 when we got onto Slack to today, reading and writing activity, software mentorship and career mentorship continues to demonstrate the need for an organization like Operation Code.

We expect these numbers to continue to spike in the weeks and months ahead.

Voices From the Front Lines

It’s been refreshing to see that other veterans share the same path as me — transitioning from military service to professional software development. By taking part in Operation Code’s community, I’ve had the chance to pair-program with others, be introduced to new tech stacks that I was previously unfamiliar with, prepare for a software bootcamp, and find an internship through an opening posted in the #jobs channel. Operation Code fosters a community where members support each other, offer & accept advice, and serve as an ongoing reminder that we’re all still part of one team. — John Hampton, US Army veteran

Prior to Operation Code, I was working day-in and day-out pouring concrete and general heavy labor construction when I learned about Operation Code. Due to their mentorship I skipped on finishing community college, borrowed a MacBook Pro from Operation Code, attended a Seattle code school, doubled my income, and improved my standard of living. Thanks to Operation Code I’m doing what I love. — Victor Molina, US Marine Corps veteran

I enlisted in the Marine Corps Infantry to serve and win our country’s wars. After my service, I searched for a new career. I knew I wanted to be part of the tip of the spear in an industry and I realized the tech industry is leading from the front. I Googled around and found Operation Code, a non-profit which helps veterans like me break into the tech industry. A couple weeks later they found a way to get me into GitHub’s CodeConf LA. There, I found Sabio, a local code school which accepts the New GI Bill. Today, I am in the middle of a hackathon sponsored by Sabio in an effort to build a website to help folks in the military be successful by the time they get out. Operation Code not only paved a route for me, they also showed me what I can build with my imagination. Imagine what it can do for other veterans. — Jameel Matin, US Marine Corps veteran

In summary, the State of Operation Code is lean, adaptable and steady in supporting the needs of active duty military, guard & reserve troops, veterans and military spouses all on a mission to learn to code and build software to change the world.

We’ll continue to leverage open source software, in-kind donations, volunteers, and the goodwill of the press to continue to deploy our resources to our nation’s finest— because it’s our moral and imperative obligation to do so. We believe the current greatest generation, comprised of the most diverse fighting force in our country’s history, deserves a real shot at the American dream in the fastest-growing employment sector — that their sacrifice was of the highest order.

We encourage you to join our mission today to enable our team to keep firing on all cylinders — and, ensure our military veterans don’t get left behind in the 21st century new skills economy.

Together we are #operationcode.

David Molina is Founder and Executive Director at Operation Code, ex-Army Captain. He resides in Portland, Oregon.