As one of the nation’s only computer coding schools certified to accept the GI Bill®, Skill Distillery works to launch veterans’ smooth transitions into meaningful careers and lives after military service. Therefore, it is with pride and enthusiasm that we share the story of one of our graduates – Jonathan Smith. Smith is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who, after attending the 19-week Java developer program, has been hired by a North Carolina-based technology firm as a junior Java developer. The pledge of coding schools like ours – to deliver programming instruction and an entrée into a relevant, 21st-century career – can seem too good to be true. But for Smith, this new opportunity means the promise of a new path. In the Marine Corps, he served as an artillery specialist, and after transition jumped from job to job while fighting for stability, failing to settle on a solid skill-set. “Transition was rough for me. I really didn’t know what I wanted, and I bounced around a lot of different jobs. I worked at Chili’s, drove a limo, operated heavy machinery. None of it was very fulfilling.”
After reaching the end of his patience working as a pest controller, he applied for jobs in other industries and found several doors shut in his face. “It felt like God was trying to offer me a lesson. I kept getting told I didn’t have enough of the right experience. It was time for a big change.”
Growing up, Smith tinkered with computers and had an understanding of basic programming. He looked at coding schools across the country, but found the cost of most to be prohibitive. When he found out that his GI Bill® benefits would pay for him to attend Skill Distillery, he knew that this was the opportunity to change his life.
At 39, Smith said that “manual labor is brutal on your body, and I was getting too old to keep doing it. Now that I have learned programming, I get to sit in front of a computer and create whatever my mind can imagine—it’s awesome!” He continued by sharing that this was the first time he felt that he was laying a solid foundation for his family and their future.
Smith is moving with his family to North Carolina to begin his new role in early May