Paul Devlin’s Operation Level Up experience & new role at Booz Allen Hamilton

When the time came for Paul Devlin to transition away from his decorated military career and into a new field, he kept thinking back to a computer science class he’d taken years before. At the time, he’d enjoyed the math and critical thinking and he wanted to look into ways he could study the subject further. Eventually, he found out about our Operation Level Up Military Career Skills Program (MCSP), an 18-week software engineering program offered exclusively to active duty military from all branches – and he enrolled.

In the Q&A below, read about his experience leading up to, during, and after MCSP. And find out what he’s up to now as a Senior Consultant Software Engineer at Booz Allen Hamilton.

How did you find your way to software engineering?

I joined the Marine Corps in 2009 and got out in 2012. After that, I did a bunch of stuff, bounced around for a while, and ended up using my Military benefits to go to college. In college, I changed my major way too much, because I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do, which is a pretty common problem. I ended up landing on computer science during my last year there and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the classes and how much math and critical thinking there was.

So that being said, at the time I was discovering computer science, I ran through all my benefits, and I had to figure out something else to do. So I joined the Army and was there for five years. After that, I was looking for a program and was ready to get out of the Army and Military space.

That’s when I found Galvanize and the Level Up program, and I knew it was for me. It allowed me to continue where I left off years earlier, and hopefully, someday, I’ll go back and finish that CS degree, too.

How would you describe your time in Operation Level Up?

The program was pretty difficult, I’m not going to lie. It had been five years since I’d been in college, and the programing language that I was studying in college was C+ or something like that, so it was a lot different than JavaScript.

So this program felt like something completely new. I kind of understood HTML and CSS, but other than that, I was brand new. It was a huge challenge, but what I got out of it was being able to start at nothing and then come out with an understanding of what I’m talking about. That’s been huge for me.

I was a beginner and then came out of the program as a junior developer. And that’s the job I got. I’m a junior full-stack developer at Booz Allen now. So this program gave me the option to change my career and advance in something other than using my back and my knees.

What’s your new role like so far?

To start, I’m going through this big onboarding process for people who are new to tech. It’s a 30-45 day onboarding process where I go through a bunch of courses on JavaScript, Java, and things like that. They go over a lot of different stuff that they want us all to know as far as the company. And then we’ll be put onto various teams.

And apparently, you’re allowed to do that switch whenever you want. It’s a pretty big organization, so there are many different levels. On top of that, I’m working to qualify for a security plus certificate. I have to study and pass that test in order to move forward. So after I get through that, then I’ll be working on a team.

I’d love to hear a little bit about your job search process. How did it go for you after the program?

So the program ended in March of 2022, and I officially exited the Military two weeks later on April 8th. After that, I started looking for a job right away.

I planned it all out and gave myself a pretty good window of time so that I could do it in a relaxed way. I calculated everything that I was going to need expense-wise for about eight months. So when the job search came, I wasn’t in a super big hurry, which made me able to focus on what I needed to focus on.

But I had a lot of imposter syndrome and when applying, I kept feeling like I wasn’t good enough for the role. But I kept going, telling myself, you’re going to apply anyway.

Ultimately, I feel like the process went how I expected because I followed every piece of advice that my career advisor gave me, literally everything. She was amazing. She helped me out through every step of the process, including when I was like, oh man, I don’t know if I’m ever going to get a job, I’m freaking out. She’d be like, calm down. We’re going to do it.

It took me about 4 months to find my current job. I actually got three separate offers and I chose Booz Allen.

Are there elements of your former experience in the military that you feel you’re able to use in software engineering?

Oh, definitely. In the military, in civilian terms, I was a senior-level manager. There’s nothing that I can’t do as far as managing people and managing tasks. That’s what I excel at, and I think many of my counterparts who are or were in the service do, as well. As soon as you walk into the Military, even at a low level, you’re managing people right away. So you learn that skill set and you learn all the pitfalls of it and how to deal with difficult characters.

So as I move into more senior-level roles in software engineering where I’m managing people, I’m definitely going to be able to use all that management skills. And that’s the goal for me.

Is that what you’re looking to do in the future?

Yeah, I’m looking to work up to the management level for sure. I find management less stressful, maybe because I’ve done it a lot. I like motivating people. I think that’s where I fit most comfortably for my personality type and leadership style.

What would you say to someone who’s on the fence about joining this program?

I could talk for a long time about this. I would say that it’s just a jump. You just have to make the leap.

Of course, I was nervous about it and wondered if I could do it. I had those thoughts, too. No matter how much you Google it, you’re never going to understand the job or anything else about it until you start taking the program. So, I would say, just go for it.

No matter what, these are valuable skills to have, especially in today’s world. When you Google top-paying jobs in the world, every single one of them has to do with some sort of data science or software engineering or computer tech. So if you’re not going this route, but you have some interest in this, you should shift, is my opinion.

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Learn more about Operation Level Up, our Military Career Skills Program for transitioning service members.

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