Cross-Country Coding Adventures: the Story of US Air Force Veteran Justin Honey

The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.
―Thomas A. Edison

Members of the armed services have several options for securing post-military employment, but they’re not always crystal clear. Returning veterans often contend with decisions about how to complete (and afford) vocational education.

Justin Honey served in the United States Air Force from 2008 to 2012. As he returned to civilian life, he looked for pathways to a career that would make the most of his hard work ethic and persistence. He worked as a Mental Health Technician for a year, then at an auto detailing shop for a few more where he pocketed $20 an hour for painting cars. 

Becoming a developer didn’t cross his mind until he heard stories of friends—and friends of friends—earning decent livings mere months after being introduced to web development. 

I had a friend who does programming in IIoT, he suggested that maybe I should look into that. My girlfriend knew a person who got a job from a bootcamp. So that was kind of a thing where I was “Oh, so this guy didn’t know anything a year ago and now he’s working as a software engineer.”

His plan was to move from Colorado to Albany, NY, so securing a skill set that was in high-demand was essential so he could pursue gainful employment. While he was still in Colorado Justin took a shot at online courses at Codecademy and instructional books with some success. But his full-time job made it difficult to allot the kind of time he needed to learn a completely new trade. 

Justin thought about how he could devote the proper amount of time to learning enough web development skills. He didn’t lack for bootcamp options, but he found that many focused on only one or two languages—and consumed a lot of time doing in the process.

After talking to my friend who does programming, he said that the hardest thing for him was that he’s only ever really used Java. So getting into that second framework, the second way of programming is difficult when you’re used to something. There’s a bunch of bootcamps out there that do six months of one thing. And that’s one thing I decided specifically I didn’t want to do: just be good at Ruby.

Justin came upon Coding Dojo and its unique, three-full-stack program while in Colorado and enrolled in the online course. However, he realized he would benefit more from attending the bootcamp in-person, so he then transferred his enrollment to the Tulsa bootcamp. Shortly after, he decided to switch to the Coding Dojo Bellevue bootcamp and take another cross-country trip to the West Coast after he discovered a significant advantage in doing so.

I enrolled in the Tulsa campus at first because I was along the way. But then I found out that the Bellevue campus actually took the GI Bill. So I was about to take out the loans and do all that stuff and then I found out I didn’t need to. I only had five months left so it was kind of…“sign me up.”

Having planned his coast-to-coast move in advance, Justin had extra time to go through Coding Dojo’s pre-course work, which proved to be a major help when he advanced to the algorithms of the Python stack. When the program started in earnest Justin grappled with the front-end design pillars of HTML and CSS. That’s when the bootcamp structure of Coding Dojo gave him the inspiration to keep going—his colleagues were just as eager to understand as he was, and the collaborative spirit kicked in.

You rely on each other a lot… I really enjoyed helping other people and I also really appreciate it when other people helped me. I think I have some friends that I’ll have probably the rest of my life from this as well.

Justin stormed through his Coding Dojo courses, putting in as much as 80 hours a week to absorb all the material. He took his final exam two weeks early, which allowed him time to strategize his post-graduation job search with staff from the Coding Dojo Career Services team, strengthening his resumé and applying for positions in the greater New York area.

With his employment tasks theoretically under control, Justin planned to spend his final week working on a final C++ project while applying for a few jobs each day. But a turn of good fortune complicated those plans.

My plan was to just apply to a few (jobs) every day and then work on my project. And then lo and behold, that whole week I spent just answering the phone, emails, and doing over the phone interviews. It was tough because I really wanted to get this project done. I was trying to do some stuff, with C++ because I saw there was a lot of C++ jobs in my area. I didn’t really get it super far because I got really sidetracked with the job search—which at the same time, that’s the whole point. Two weeks after graduation, I had a job.

Justin’s new job for Bestpass, a company that manages tolls for the trucking industry. He’s tasked with developing and updating their legacy software.

While Justin’s strong work ethic and comfort with risk gives him an upper hand in the professional world, he feels that Coding Dojo gave him the perfect platform to use his strengths to chart his future—and that those benefits are available to anyone willing to make an effort.

If you give it everything that you got then I don’t see you not succeeding. Your hard work is going to pay off. Just be ready and put in the time. As a military veteran, I’ve already done a bootcamp in my life. While it was difficult, it was only three months out of my life. I barely even really remember it in the grand scheme of things. So I just felt if I’m going to be here and if I’m going to do it, I might as well do my best. 

If you’re interested in learning how we can help you chart your future, or if you’re a veteran who is interested in utilizing your GI Bill benefits for coding bootcamp, get in touch with a Coding Dojo representative today! If you’d like to watch the full video interview with Justin, you can do so below:

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