From Military Bootcamp to Coding Bootcamp: Two Veterans Share Their Journey To Code Fellows

By: The SwitchUp Team
Last Updated: June 28, 2017

Thomas Martinez and Remil Marzan are military veterans who both graduated from Code Fellows in Seattle. When considering a coding education, they both were looking for a school that accepts the G.I. Bill, was well-reviewed, and had an excellent reputation in the tech industry. With this criteria in mind, Code Fellows emerged as the perfect choice.

We sat down with Thomas and Remil to learn more about why they chose to pursue a career in coding, their experience, and how their military training prepared them for life in a coding bootcamp.

Thomas and Remil

Tell us about your background. What was your professional experience before joining Code Fellows?

Thomas: My background is 4 years active duty under Air Force Special Operations as an aerospace propulsion technician, and 4 years in the reserves as an aerospace transportation professional. I simultaneously attending Arizona State University where I earned my bachelors in criminal justice. Shortly after that, I became an account manager at McLaneCo. Although I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with clients doing B2B sales, I wanted a different challenge.

Remil: I am a Air Force veteran. While in the Air Force, I served as an engineer supporting the space and launch programs. Prior to Code Fellows, I was working for myself as a daytrader.

What made you interested in learning to code?

Thomas: While in college I had planned on attending Law School to study Intellectual Property. I thought this would be a good way to work in tech without being directly involved. I have always loved technology and building things so when my friends who are Software Development Engineers told me to try out coding, I started teaching myself Python. I wasn't learning fast enough and quite frankly needed the class environment to get better at the skills I desired. I found out Code Fellows had a night course , which I joined. I tried to make the best of working and learning but felt I wasn't learning fast enough. I then decided to join the full-time program and have loved it ever since.

Remil: I have always enjoyed solving problems, especially those technical in nature. I also love tech. After working as a trader for myself, I wanted to take a break from the stresses of my job. I found an opportunity to use my GI Bill while learning something that would merge technical problem solving and tech - like coding!

Coding bootcamps are know to be rigorous. How did your previous experiences help you succeed at a bootcamp?

Thomas: My previous experiences in the military and professional realm helped out in that I was able to focus for extended periods of time. In the military, sometimes I would experience anywhere from 12-14 hour days for months at a time. As a propulsion technician you're building jet engines and the last thing you want is a mistake that could not only affect the plane's ability to fly but also the lives of others.

Remil: After military "bootcamps" (rigorous training), I knew that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Also, I knew that I did not have to do it alone and that I could lean on the support of my classmates. I had the expectations that the program was going to be difficult and knew that there would be long days. I focused on my goal and knew that stress was a part of the process.

What challenges did you overcome to get where you are?

Thomas: Coding doesn't necessarily come naturally to me. So the main challenge I faced was sticking to it when I felt that it may be a little too hard. The instructors here are very welcoming and help students understand those mental barriers. They do their best to teach students how to manage those experiences and that, when it comes to the software development field, learning is lifelong.

Remil: Committing to the BIG change. I moved from LA the day before my first day at Code Fellows. I was not exactly sure of my plan, but I was open to moving to a new place and learning something completely new. Luckily, the Code Fellows program is awesome and I met a lot of awesome people through it as well.

Tell us about your career now. What are your plans for the next few years?

Thomas: Right now I am a teacher's assistant and in the interviewing process with a few companies. I want to spend a few years working on enterprise code and a couple years with a client-facing consulting agency. I am getting way more interviews than after receiving my undergrad, which is comforting.

Remil: I am currently working as a Software Engineer at a consulting/product company. I absolutely love the work and can see myself doing this for a while. I am also looking to use the skills I have learned to build apps that could maybe turn into companies in the future.

What advice do you have for students who are learning to code?

Thomas: Put as much time and effort into it as possible: the results are based on time spent. It's more about effort than talent - but that might just apply to everything!

Remil: Even though the curriculum can take most of your time on many days, spend some time to go above and beyond to get a deeper knowledge of whatever language you are learning. I picked up a lot of things by keeping up with the Javascript subreddit and following some of the more prominent Javascript figures on Twitter as they are always posting amazing material on the most up to date coding info. Also, be a part of the coding community. Get to know your classmates well, join meetups, attend events, and take every opportunity to express your passion for tech. This will help with networking and opportunities in the future.

Code Fellows proudly accepts the G.I. Bill. Learn more at

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