Military spouses can face barriers in career selection and advancement, leading them down non-traditional paths to find fulfillment and growth while supporting their families and managing the day-to-day uncertainty of life. At the same time, the tech space is booming – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of software developers, testers, and quality assurance analysts is projected to grow by 22% by 2029 – at a much faster average rate than most other occupations.
To bring more opportunities in tech to underrepresented talent, Instant Teams and Catalyte joined forces to offer military spouses the opportunity to skill up — and find remote work success — through Catalyte’s software developer apprenticeship program.
What is Catalyte?
Founded in 2000, Catalyte has the process, people and infrastructure to discover, train and advance junior, entry-level software developers from diverse communities — and provide opportunities to those who didn’t plan for tech as a potential career trajectory.
In doing so, Catalyte helps create a more diverse technology workforce across all measures — gender, racial, geographic, socioeconomic and educational background.
About Catalyte’s software apprenticeship program
Catalyte’s intensive software developer training program — completed by 1,000+ people to date — is free and currently fully remote. Over the course of six months, students learn through a combination of live instructor-led sessions, group collaborations and a capstone project.
Catalyte has the ability to increase a person’s earnings by nearly four times in just five years, according to its materials. “By giving anyone with the aptitude for software development the opportunity to launch new careers in the technology industry, Catalyte transforms individuals, companies and communities.”
“What’s so unique about this experience is you get to not only be trained, but you also come out of it with two years of experience. You become more employable. It’s this perfect package deal. You get training and job experience, and you don’t have to pay anything.”
– Nicole, Program Participant
All graduates of the six-month training are guaranteed a job for a two-year software developer apprenticeship. At the end of the program, apprentices are the equivalent of a fully experienced, mid-level software developer. Catalyte hires and deploys its apprentices to other clients on a contract or contract-to-hire basis.
Last October, Instant Teams invited members of our talent community to complete Catalyte’s 90-minute program screening. According to Catalyte, anywhere from 7% to 15% of individuals who complete the screening possess the right constellation of skills and passion for success – and are likely to emerge as a successful software developer.
Three Instant Teams community members — Heidi, Nicole and Jen — had what it takes to pass the screening, and they’re nearing the finish line of their training program, preparing to enter the workforce as junior software developers. Instant Teams checked in with each of them to learn more about their experiences and plans — so let’s hear their stories!
A ‘Life-Changing’ Experience
Heidi is an Army National Guard spouse, a mom and a licensed professional counselor. Her background is not in tech, but in higher education, teaching psychology to community college students. Due to limited opportunities within her current location, she was ready for a career change.
What’s more, it’s important to Heidi to be able to pursue a career in tech as a woman.
“On a personal level, I have two young daughters,” Heidi said. “It’s always important to me to set an example that they can pursue some things that don’t always seem apparent to them. They, too, can find a place in tech if that’s where they want to go.”
While Heidi had no formal technology or coding experience, she had gained valuable front-end skills by teaching online courses. It was time to skill up with Catalyte’s training program.
“Our cohort honestly felt small enough to be like you were getting an individualized experience,” Heidi recalled. “Even though the training is self-paced, there are deadlines and accountability with office hours and daily meetings that hold you to a schedule. The trainers are so attuned to helping you get to the places you need to go.”
How have you found the motivation to succeed throughout the intensive program?
“Knowing that I took a big risk and leap, and so did Instant Teams and Catalyte on me and this group [cohort]. That’s been really motivating. I hope that we represent the training and opportunity received well.”
What’s been your favorite aspect about becoming a Catalyte software developer apprentice so far?
“I’ve definitely developed a preference for front-end development. With my background in psychology, I’ve found a really fascinating connection about that user experience and combining the psychology behind how people interact with websites. I’ve been really excited to learn about that. We just completed a group project to develop a mobile-responsive e-commerce site with a lot of style. That was an exciting challenge!”
You called Catalyte’s program life-changing — can you talk more about that?
It’s really exciting and rewarding, and allowed me to be creative in ways I haven’t been able to in other roles. It’s also connected me to people who will be lifelong friends, colleagues and mentors. The connections I’ve been able to make have been tremendous in growing that network.”
“I would classify this as life-changing in that it’s given me something that I will be able to do and pursue in a way that is healthy and contributes to my family”
-Heidi, Program Participant
Meet Nicole: ‘They Focus on Abilities Over Pedigree’
After graduating high school, Nicole went straight into the Army as an Intelligence Analyst. When she and her husband began growing their family, they decided it was best she got out so he could continue to serve while she held down the home front and, at the same time, pursued a degree in mathematics.
Despite a longtime interest in STEM, the frequent moves that come with military life (every one to two years in Nicole’s case) made it difficult to find and hold down a career. For that reason, she volunteered where and when she could while serving as a stay-at-home mom and military spouse, and at the same time, anticipating her family’s next orders.
Nicole had been following Instant Teams for a while and always wanted to apply for a remote opportunity due to the lack of job prospects in her current duty station location. But she felt unsure about where she’d best fit in with her background and skillset. So, when she came across the posting about Catalyte’s program, she loved the initial screening opportunity to help determine whether or not she’d be a good fit for the tech field.
Needless to say, she took the 90-minute screening and was prompted to move forward with a very casual interview to confirm her acceptance into the Catalyte training program.
What was the experience like going in? You mentioned you didn’t know much about software development.
“Right before I took the assessment [screening], I had to Google ‘What is a software engineer?’ It was VERY new to me. The good thing is, because everything was always so new, I got used to being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I had a growth mindset. They [Catalyte] teach you how to learn and how to learn fast. Learn how to learn, and you’ll be an excellent developer.”
Why is the diversity of the Catalyte program so important to you?
“The lack of diversity in the tech industry in general is concerning. Especially when tech plays such an important role in all of our lives, we need people to represent ALL people in this field. That’s what’s so great about Catalyte, is they focus on people’s abilities rather than pedigree. As long as you have the ability to learn, you can get into this program and be a good developer. It really levels the playing field, and you see a lot more diversity in Catalyte.”
What’s been your favorite thing about the apprenticeship?
“The entire program has brought different things that I’ve really liked! Overall, just the fact that I’ve had two military spouses going through this program with me has been a lifesaver. They’ve been my cheerleader when things go great and my support system when things get tough.”
What’s your favorite coding language?
“I think back-end comes a little easier to me. The database module was my favorite module! Like many other military spouses, I love organizing things. I loved organizing information in databases.”
Where do you see yourself taking your newfound skills?
“I would love to volunteer with young kids and teach them these skills that I’ve learned when I have the time after this program. I would love to help other spouses have the same opportunity as me and show them it’s possible! If the spouse is happy and feels fulfilled, the soldier will feel fulfilled and happy, and they’ll be better at their job. It all trickles down.”
Meet Jen: Practical Skills for that Final Jump
As a Veteran Navy spouse, Jen said, her “primary identity” for the past 20 years has been a military spouse and mom of four. With a degree in biology, the road to finding her niche hasn’t been easy. She often sought portable, fulfilling careers, dabbling in insurance, real estate and then nursing school, but her family was transferred in the middle of that journey.
It was at a 2017 Instant Teams Hackathon that Jen’s passion for tech began. In fact, she started pursuing a degree in software development by taking community college classes. For the past several years, she’s been involved with Milspouse Coders, where she currently serves on the board. But she felt like she still lacked the practical experience she craved — particularly in her college coursework.
Enter Catalyte. Jen was intrigued as soon as she saw Instant Teams’ post about the apprenticeship, which led her to the 90-minute screening and entrance to the program.
“It’s a wonderful, challenging program. A community where you’re not learning alone.”
“The Catalyte program has given me the practical skills I need to make that final jump into junior software developer. I feel really confident moving forward in my career.”
– Jen, program participant
What do you envision for your future job after you graduate from the apprenticeship program?
“Full stack development, both front end and back end. I could see myself doing just back-end development, as well.”
What’s your advice for military spouses who are looking to participate in Catalyte’s program?
“Take a few Codecademy courses to see if you even like this path! Once you know you do enjoy coding, I’d 100% recommend Catalyte. It was literally the missing piece in my career path.”
Here’s to leveling up your skills, so you can get to (remote) work!