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November 2, 2023 · 28 min read

Season 4, Ep. 31 – Founder to Founder: with Jerome Hardaway, Executive Director & Founder, Vets Who Code

When Jerome Hardaway was hired at the Department of Defense, it wasn’t because of the skills he learned in the military; it was the ones he taught himself after leaving the Air Force. This week on Founder to Founder, he talks with Teja about the life-changing world of software, working to help Vets channel their military skills into successful tech careers, and a sprinkling of martial arts and anime.


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Teja (00:05):

What’s up, y’all? Today we got Jerome Hardaway, software engineer at Microsoft and also founder of Veterans or Vets Who Code. Yeah, it was a pleasure speaking to Jerome, and we talk about martial arts, we talk about anime. That may have been in the recorded segment; I think it was. You guys’ll love this one. (THE FRONTIER THEME ENDS)

Teja (00:40):

Okay. I think a cool place to get started is like, your background, sort of, you know, what you did before founding your organization, Vets Who Code, and particularly like, how you got interested in like, programming and computer science. I think that would be, that’d be super fun to hear.

Jerome (00:59):

Cool. So I was security forces in the United States Air Force. That was my first big boy job. (Teja: <Laugh>.) Yeah. So I went, I was in the Air Force and Security Force, went to a couple places, like, a couple countries, some good, some not so good, and I ended up leaving the military at the height of the great recession. So I was coming out thinking I was gonna get the opportunity to get these type of roles that, you know, kind of coincided with my skillset, you know, air marshal, secret service, this type of stuff. And what happened was there were no jobs around, and the only things I was gonna get was like, either like a security guard at Home Depot or go back overseas in private military. And I was like, I don’t want to become a private military contractor, ’cause that sounds horrible and, you know, makes me like, a crappy person by default, and I don’t want to get paid $10 an hour.

Jerome (01:57):

So what do I do? I was trying to figure out what my next move was, and like, I just saw this commercial about coding at some like, for-profit college that is now defunct, but these people were talking about stuff and I was like, “What are they talking about?” And one thing they brought up was like, SQL, S-Q-L, SQL, whichever way you say it, I don’t want to get beat up. You know, whatever version of that that you identify with, that’s the version that I said. I went to Barnes and Nobles, picked up a book about it, started playing around with it on my computer. About a year later, funny story, a year later, Department of Homeland Security picked me up as a data analyst, and prior to that, a year before, I had applied at the Department of Homeland Security, and they said, “Thank you for your service, but you have no skills here.”

Jerome (02:50):

I mean, “We don’t have any use for your skills.” So it’s kind of crazy for me to like, to have these skills, and, you know, the same place that didn’t hire me for the skills I got in the military, hired me for the skills I acquired after the military. And, you know, the military was a plus, at the minimum, of sorts to it. So, you know, a couple years working here and there doing tech jobs. I’ve done coding with additional marketing, coding for Homeland Security. I was just thinking, you know, thanks to like, a situation where I had to help a family that needed like, some real support back home, and I used my skills to raise $10,000 in 27 hours for them. 

Jerome (03:41):

It’s like, well, coding kind of changed and saved my life, so I should probably, you know, see if it could help change other people’s lives. Like, that’s how I look at it. I look at it like, you know, programming, you know, changed the entire landscape for me. It gave me, you know, it’s my Captain America shield. It, you know, saved, like, it gave me rocket boosters of sorts, right? So, you know, that’s when the idea of, you know, Vets Who Code came about, right? So I was like, “How do I…what’s the biggest problem that I’m trying to solve?” And as a veteran, veterans usually go between 50 miles from their hometown, or they don’t move more than 50 miles from their last duty station. Usually both are in crappy areas. They’re not in the San Franciscos, the New Yorks, the Atlantas, the San Diegos, the Redmonds, the Austins of the world, and those tech ecosystems are usually three to five years behind, especially during this timeframe, right, in 2014.

Jerome (04:52):

So my goal was to go to the coast, learn from the best talent that’s there, and then remotely be able to transfer that to other veterans. So my veterans would have the leaps and bounds, you know, better than their local talent, ’cause they were getting that really hard work, but I was also like, “Okay, what is the thing that bootcamps are missing that I don’t want to have a part of?” It’s like, oh, bootcamps spend a lot of energy and frankly, a lot of your money making you feel like a programmer. Well, me, I don’t care about you feeling like a programmer. I care about you becoming a programmer, and my three rules of a programmer is, first you have to learn how to code, then you have to learn how to code professionally, then you had to learn how to code collaboratively, (Teja: Right.) and that’s what makes a programmer, right?

Jerome (05:42):

You know, not just, you know, being able to do some variables and stuff, being able to, you know, write functional, reliable, maintainable, readable code in a manner that won’t make someone punch you in the face on Friday, while also being able to not run over and like, accidentally delete prod when you’re, you know, at like, you know, merging stuff, thinking of merging stuff, right? So that’s what I like, do  <inaudible> code. I try to make it as lean as possible, as grown up as possible, when it comes to learning how to write code, you know, we have the curriculum, and we started off with doing like, cohorts, but now it’s a rolling application process. Our curriculum is literally, we look and start from the outside and go in, where we look at what the market is telling us, and then we build in relation to that.

Jerome (06:38):

And from going there, we start, you know, making them learn how to code with our stack. So when I say that, it’s like, all right, look at the market. First, we build a thing that is in relation to what the market is doing. So like, for instance, it comes to JavaScript. It’s actually like, you know, a front end framework and typescript, right? So we use Next.js, APIs, typescript, and GitHub Actions for DevOps stuff, and, you know, a lot of other tooling for them. So that way, they can learn that and be able to build on our website, ’cause they can build on our web app. We can, you know, that’s like, our stamp of approval. Like, yeah, you know, I trust this person, ’cause you know, I trust them with my own code, like, you know, with my programming. So like, that’s been our practice.

Jerome (07:28):

That’s how, and you know, it’s worked. We’ve done 300 veterans, military spouses since 2014 and, you know, zero cost to the veteran. We don’t ask for like, GI Bill, or the VET TEC, and none of that stuff. We just sit here, and we focus on our process, especially now, where we are doing a lot of one-on-one and mentorship with them as they go through our curriculum, and we have these project boards, these templates that once they put on their GitHub repos, they can move through in a combine format and solve those problems. And, you know, just like, we do peer reviews and stuff that they have to be signed off by their mentor. So it’s pretty cool, because they’re learning how to move, work, and communicate like a programmer immediately, and that’s something that comes from our military is to train how you fight.

Jerome (08:20):

So essentially, train how you work, train how you gotta work, right? So we use Combine, we use GitHub. They’re making branches off their primary branches. They’re emerging things. They’re getting reviews, they’re getting things kicked back. Like, that is the point, right, and that’s how I definitely want them to like, keep moving because, you know, the more they do that, the better they’re gonna be, and we treat, like I say, I tell them that the best suit code is essentially the boxing gym. Like, you’re supposed to mess up here, you’re supposed to get knocked out here, so you don’t go on an interview and get knocked out there. Like, ask questions, don’t be afraid to look stupid, ’cause this is the one place you’re allowed to look stupid when it comes to this. I’d rather you look stupid in here then, you know, you look dumb out there.

Jerome (09:15):

It’s just like how like, I don’t know if your mom ever said this. My mom said, “I’d rather mess up at home than mess up outside,” because it’s a reflection of them if I mess up, do something dumb outside. (Teja: Right.) So they’d rather me do it at home. So it’s like, okay, that makes zero sense, ’cause you know, I’m get in trouble either way, but I guess (Teja: <Laugh>.) <laugh> I’d get more in trouble than I’d get at home. But yeah, like, that’s how I like, that’s how we do things, and we’ve had some pretty cool awards. [We’ve] been highlighted in WIRED, we’ve been in Business Insider, we’ve been in Verge. We ended up meeting Barack Obama when he was in office. That was cool. I’ve been keynoting OSCON, been on a show that won an Emmy, done a bunch, like you said, these past almost 10 years have been crazy. Yeah, you know, I still, you know, come to work and try to do my best. I actually, yesterday, from the course I did, I believe on front end masters, I had a person from Pakistan hit me up, and they wanted to meet with me, and they were just like, gushing that I was even responding to a message. I was like, “Yeah, I’m just a guy. It’s cool,” <laugh>. (Teja: <Laugh>.) Like, it’s just LinkedIn messages. Like, dude, you know, it’s cool. It’s not a big deal. (Teja: Wow.)

Jerome (10:34):

But, you know, that’s why I try to be the, you know, try to be the type of programmer I wish was around when I was coming up. Like, that’s been my sole focus and mission. I wanna be, you know, being a hero is essentially being what you needed like, when you were like, going through it, right? So that’s what I gotta be.

Teja (10:56):

That’s awesome. So the curriculum, I think, starts with like, command line basics and then gets to JavaScript, right, and then eventually they can actually contribute to the website, which is built…okay, that’s cool. So it’s almost like verifying them through a contribution to the product. (Jerome: Yes.) It’s like an open source product and then…(Jerome: Yeah.) that’s really neat. And then you know for sure, you can actually review the code. Like, okay, I get the basics.

Jerome (11:24):

Yeah. Even on their personal projects, the whole point is to have them be able to move like programmers, to think like programmers, to actually go through those processes, right? (Teja: Yeah.) And even from, you know, the very beginning, on having to write, I had to explain something today. I’m making you write blogs, because programming, working as a dev is writing intensive. I think they think that all they’re gonna do is write code. Like, no, you’re gonna do design docs, you’re gonna do all types of things before you even write code. Like, there’s gonna be a lot of like, you know, conversations. [It’s] not just gonna be, you know, boop, boop, boop <laugh>. (Teja: <Laugh>.) You’re gonna have to write something. If you’re gonna do some programming, you’re gonna do some writing, and even when they do it, they get the peer review. 

Jerome (12:11):

We ask some questions based upon it, and it’s been a great opportunity, ’cause even with AI coming out, we’ve been able to ask more questions. Like, just go deeper and learn. Like, which is for me, I don’t have a problem using AI. I have a problem with them like, using AI and not knowing what that means, (Teja: Yeah, yeah.) right? You know, because it doesn’t make any sense for me to say, “Hey, you can’t use a tool you’re gonna use at work anyway,” right? (Teja: Yeah.) Like, I’m at Microsoft, and I am, you know, writing code, and I have the entire co-pilot suite. So it is what it, like, yeah. You’re gonna be using it in real life, so it’s cool.

Teja (12:50):

That’s cool. (Jerome: <Laugh>.) Yeah, that’s cool. Yeah, no, you can like, I mean, code interpreter even can do a lot for you, you know? (Jerome: Yeah.) You have to look at it and like, make sure that it’s like, actually doing what you want, because sometimes it doesn’t. You’re like, why did you like, you know, you can make it actually make an application, and it’s missing some key logic, and you’re like, “How did this go through?”

Jerome (13:11):

That’s what we’ve been working on, and I like say, for me, it’s fun, ’cause it’s like, putting my dent in the universe and making things better, because I’m being who I wish was out when I was in 2010, coming out, 2010, 2011, helping me around. So that’s my goal.

Teja (13:30):

Were you like, nerdy? Like, how did you get, like, how did you get into computer science? Like…(Jerome: <Laugh>.) you know what I mean? Because it’s like…

Jerome (13:39):

Yeah, it’s weird, right? I get it. Like…

Teja (13:41):

Gunning, training, you know what I mean? Like, that’s one personality type. And then like, now…

Jerome (13:47):

Well, it’s not. Like, it’s all science. I think people don’t really think about it. Like, combat is like…true combat is science, right? It’s not like, I’ve been in boxing, I’ve been in muay thai, I’ve been in jiu jitsu, (Teja: Okay.) like, military, like, it’s all science. It’s just science applied in different ways. Like, I wanted to be a scientist when I was a kid. Parents put me in boxing instead of putting me in a like, science class, but I still studied science, because that’s what, you know, really, you know, attracted me. But, you know, it’s all science. There’s a knowledge transfer on every level. It’s all, in the end, you’re breaking down something into a smaller part until you get to something digestible, and then you’re working your way back to something that’s more complex, right? (Teja: Yeah.)

Jerome (14:36):

So that’s really how it is, and when I think of coding, particularly when I made the decision to use JavaScript instead of like, Ruby or Python, it was like, okay. I need them to do something that’s readily accessible but is incredibly hard, like boxing. Like, people just see people using two hands. Like, you have to solve so many problems with just punches, and footwork, and head movement, and trying to be defensive. What happens if you have a taller fighter? You have a shorter fighter? What happens if you have a puncher boxer? What happens if you have a brawler? What happens if you have a person that focuses on a Philly Shell? There’s so many questions that come up with that. I’m like, that’s what I need: a language that does that. That’s why I chose JavaScript, because JavaScript is essentially like boxing when it comes to programming. It’s looks simple. It’s really attachable to the web, right? Like, you can get in the, like, in the browser, but it’s a nightmare to learn, right? It’s not like, it’s not friendly like Ruby. It doesn’t love you. Like, it is like a feral cat that you’re trying to make your friend, right? So that is what made me like, make that decision, is that’s what I was looking for.

Teja (15:48):

That’s cool.

Jerome (15:50):

So that’s how, you know, I’m always making decisions based upon, alright, first, training, first, trying to break down problems. Like, what are the problems we’re trying to solve? What are the problems I’m seeing in the community? What are problems I’m seeing in other coach coding programs? What are the weaknesses I’m seeing in our students? What are the weaknesses that I don’t want to see in my students? Like, I don’t want any troop of mine to not be familiar with command line. I also don’t, you know, for me, command line and Git, you have to know those two, ’cause those two are mandatory like, skills. Like, there’s nothing truly you can do as a professional programmer these days without understanding Git and command line like, you know, especially with the AWS. Like, you can do the GUI <pronounced phonetically>, but it’s gonna take you a lot longer time, (Teja: Yes.) and people are going to, you know, you are gonna get dinged in like, interviews and stuff for that. (Teja: Oh yeah.)

Jerome (16:40):

That’s how I’ve been trained. I always look at it like, all right, starting from a job, that job is complex, let’s break down what they need to the most basic thing, and let’s work back, right? So, you know, that’s just pretty much how I’ve been doing it, and it’s just, it helps, and it worked, right? So I’m very happy that it worked, or that it works. I’ve been doing it for 10 years. I’d figure it out eventually. That’s <laugh>…but yeah. I was a nerd, but like, yeah, I was a fight nerd, right? It still being a nerd, but like…

Teja (17:14):

Do you still train?

Jerome (17:16):

Yeah. I do still train. My wife, she thinks it’s stupid. Like, I’m almost 40, and I’m like, “You know what? I want to get like, “in shape” shape and go and, you know, do like, a boxing masters,” or something like that, ’cause [in] Atlanta, they do it every year, and she’s like, “You get paid to use your brain, and you want people to swing at the very thing that you use to make money already. That’s stupid. You’re always stupid. Get out my face.” (Teja: <Laugh>.) And so we have this conversation every year, and she shoots it down and makes me feel like, you know what, that’s the dumbest thing you could think <laugh> of. Every year.

Teja (17:56):

Well, I get it. I mean, I love martial arts. I grew up doing taekwondo, and I’ve been training in Brazilian jiu jitsu for like, eight years, and I’ve dabbled in like, muay thai and boxing, and I feel like, I actually, I like striking, but I mean, honestly, what I didn’t like about it, it’s like, when you’re sparring, you’re leaving the gym like, concussed potentially.

Jerome (18:18):

Yeah. So you have to go to safer gyms. Like, I don’t, like, you have to go to like, those Dutch muay thai gyms that don’t…you can’t spar like, past 50% and things like that. You have to have somebody that knows what they know.

Teja (18:32):

Yeah. It’s true, but it’s like, crazy. Like, it’s hard to figure out like, in a gym, at least it was for me, like, who’s just gonna like, if you touch somebody, and then they start swinging 80%, like, that first swing, you’re like, “Oh, hold on. Just like, slow down.” But some people are like, “Oh, okay, my bad. I didn’t know I was like, putting that much on it,” and they still…

Jerome (18:54):

Anybody that has a fight coming up, stay away from them. (Teja: <Laugh>.) Anybody that had a fight that they lost in the last six weeks, you stay away <laugh>. (Teja: <Laugh>. Yeah, totally.) That’s no game. Like, “Do you have a fight coming up? Did you have a fight just get over? Okay, so I’m not gonna fight you, and I’m not gonna fight you.” I’m going like, “Who here is just, who here is an accountant? It’s just your fun” (Teja: Yeah.) “exercise?”

Teja (19:18):

“Who’s got a normal day job and is not a professional athlete?” Yes, totally. Okay, so do you, like, this is, I mean, this is a different threat, but like, do you like grappling more or striking more?

Jerome (19:30):

In my old age, I am starting to like grappling more, (Teja: Yeah.) but when I first started, I was more of a striker. Just with grappling, it’s a different type of cardio, different type of mindset, (Teja: Yep.) so it’s super, you know, it’s super cool and, you know, the breath controlling grappling is so different from striking. So it’s like, that’s, you know, <inaudible>. That’s how programming is, right? Like, you don’t even think about things like that as a normal person. Like, how you breathe as a normal person, versus how do you breathe when you’re boxing, versus how do you breathe when you’re grappling. Most of them makes no sense. Well, that’s the same when it comes to like, programming. Like, all right, do I use this pattern? Do I use this? Do I use like, maybe there’s an API somewhere that I can’t see where I can like, just use that in lieu of building my own thing. Maybe there’s a third party service I could just bring in, right? That’s what we do. (Teja: Yeah.) So like, that’s what I like to, you know, liken it to. Like, it’s just, you know, it’s all the same. (Teja: Yeah.) Once you find like, if you’re good at one thing, you can potentially be good at another thing, you just have to break it down.

Teja (20:38):

Yeah. That’s awesome. Yeah, one thing that I’ve started thinking about is like, nervous system activation like, at work and even in the gym, it’s like, I used to, you know, drink like, four coffees and like, be really activated, and then you’re like, your focus is like, so narrow, and you’re not able to think creatively or laterally. And now, like, even when training, it’s like, if my heart rate gets above a certain BPM, like, you can feel it. Or even at work, if you’re like, getting too like, even like, too heavy on like, a particular solution or a particular approach, it’s like, okay. Like, let’s pull back,

Jerome (21:18):

Got a bug you can’t fix, you have to stay calm.

Teja (21:22):

Yeah. Stay calm, put on some classical music, take a walk, come back. Like, just kind of detach a little bit, right? Yeah.

Jerome (21:29):

Yeah. Like, you know, I learned that in the gym, right? Like, you have to learn and you know…military. You have to learn that, you know, calming down is half the battle. Being able to think critically under pressure (Teja: Yes.) is a skill within itself, right? Like, you know, you have to learn, “Hey, don’t chicken wing your firearm.” “Hey, don’t run when you hear explosions.” “Hey, all right, this is how we’re going to enter a building, and we’re gonna secure it,” and “Yes, there might be bad people in here,” or “Yeah, there’s definitely bad people in here,” but you have to be able to still think critically in a situation, and most importantly, don’t accidentally shoot me. So (Teja: <Laugh>.) <laugh> like, that is what you’re thinking, that’s what you’re doing. Like, most of all, rule number one, don’t accidentally shoot me. Rule number two, stay calm <laugh>.

Jerome (22:18):

You know, that is the same process. Like, you have to, alright, there’s a bug that’s irritating you. The more irritated you get, the more you’re gonna get narrow, and the focus is the less creative you’re gonna be. You’re not going to see the forest for the trees, so you gotta step back, calm, like, readjust yourself and then like, dive back in with a different set of thinking, right? (Teja: Yep.) Same in a firefight, same with boxing, same with muay thai. Now even in jiu jitsu, you have to like, reset and then go for a different way, right? You know, if you got someone, one of those like, 10th planet, you know, leg lock rubber guard people, you have to think, okay, how do I stuff these attacks and like, keep him from like, grabbing my legs and stuff. (Teja: Oh yeah.) So like, you know, it’s all, you know, it’s all just, it’s all the same. Like, that’s how I do it. It’s all the same.

Teja (23:08):

Yeah. That’s, okay. This is kind of a leap, but what’s your favorite anime? I suspect…

Jerome (23:14):

My favorite anime right…you know what? Food Wars. Food Wars is my favorite anime of all time. (Teja: Okay.) Food Wars is like, I thought it was gonna be lame, but I watched like, two episodes of it, and my wife and I, we were just on the bed like, I was like, “I should start taking notes on this.” Like, “Yo, these people can cook.” Like, it’s wild. I also like, there’s one where there’s like a kid who’s training really hard to beat up his dad, and his dad’s like, in a prison for fun. (Teja: Baki.) Baki. I like Baki, (Teja: Yeah.) because like, it’s, you know, with the shadow sparring and the visualization and stuff, I’m like, “Oh, I like that.” Like, it’s kind of cool, but you know, it’s also very violent. Like, it’s one of those anime and I’m like, “I don’t know if my kid should watch this.” Like, “I’m gonna watch it, but you can’t watch this.” Like <laugh>, (Teja: Yeah.) and they’re like, “That’s trash, Dad,” and I’m like, (Teja: <Laugh>.) “You are correct. You’re right.” So <laugh>, I’m in a hundred percent agreement with that. Still…<laugh>.

Teja (24:19):

That’s cool. Baki’s a good one. (Jerome: Yeah.) I haven’t seen it before. I’m gonna check that out this weekend. Yeah, Baki is like, classic shonen, and every time I watch it I get like, motivated to go train or like, (Jerome: Yeah.) at work, I’m like, “Okay, I’m zoned in now.” (Jerome: <Laugh>.) Yeah, that’s cool. My favorite right now is One Piece. I’ve been, it’s like, a super long one. It’s on Netflix.

Jerome (24:39):

I know we are having a full argument. Like, right now, me and my wife are in the middle of the like, “Should we start One Piece?” because she’s like, “I don’t have it in me to just do One Piece, ’cause [of] how long it is.” I’m like, “But if it’s that long, we know what we’re going to watch. We should like…I mean, we’ve watched Supernatural from beginning to end twice.” (Teja: <Laugh>.) “We can watch like, One Piece once. We can get through One Piece.” Like, Supernatural is long. It’s like, 16 seasons. So I’m like, “We’ve done 32 seasons of this, practically. Like, we could do One Piece. We can do it,” and she’s like, “No, I don’t think we can, I don’t have it in me.” <Laugh>.

Teja (25:18):

I have learned so many leadership lessons from One Piece.(Jerome: <Laugh>.) I say it’s so good. I mean, they’re like, pirates. They’re building like, an org. They’re sailing the seas. It’s fun, and it’s like, it’s kid friendly, ’cause there’s not, you know…

Jerome (25:34):

Violence and like, dude has rubber arms. Like, not bloodshed, but like, his arms stretch. So, (Teja: Yeah.) It’s goofy. It’s violence, but it’s goofy violence, it’s like…(Teja: Exactly.) Looney Tunes violence.

Teja (25:45):

It’s Looney Tunes violence. Totally. As the series progresses, like, things get a little bit more serious, but like, it’s still [a] very silly anime that’s like fun, but there’s like, some definitely like, you know like…I’m the type of person, I can watch like, Lord of the Rings and like, tear up. So like, there are some moving moments in One Piece that are like, oh, like, that’s moving. You know what I mean?

Jerome (26:11):

Oh, okay. I’ll see. Like, see that’s the thing I don’t like. I’m like, “You know what? I’m a gangster. I can’t be out here crying.” (Teja: <Laugh>.) Like, I was telling my wife and my kids like, I had never finished, like, I watched Up when it first came out, (Teja: That’s a hell of a <inaudible>.) the first like, 15 minutes, I was done. I had to walk out. I was like, “I’m not watching that.” Like, and I didn’t watch it until we had like, a one year old. I was like, “I’m not,” <laugh>. I was like, “I can’t finish it.”

Teja (26:46):

There’s some movies like that where I’ll just be like, tearing up, and I’m like, “Whoa, what’s wrong with me? I need to get like, my testosterone levels checked or something.”

Jerome (26:54):

More importantly, what’s wrong with Disney? Why do they keep killing loved ones in the first half hour <laugh>? (Teja: <laugh>.) You’re supposed to be kid shows, but they always murder someone in the first like, 40 minutes of the show. Like, Mufasa, dude’s wife. I’m like, come on, bro. Like, I don’t need to go through this.

Teja (27:14):

Yes. Lion King. What a like, tragic but inspiring story. Actually, I need to watch that again.

Jerome (27:22):

It was traumatizing when you’re a kid. Like, oh my goodness. The uncle just usurped and had the dad killed. Like, oh my, like what lessons are we teaching <laugh>? I don’t know what lessons they were trying to teach me in 1993, but it’s wild <laugh>.

Teja (27:39):

<Laugh>. Watch out for your uncle? Like, what is going on? 

Jerome (27:41):

<Laugh>. Yeah, don’t trust your uncle around your dad.

Teja (27:46):

<Laugh>. Okay. So vets. I feel like vets in general have a lot of leadership training, like, good stress-oriented resolve, like, good psychological discipline, and like, would make awesome business leaders and business owners. Have you thought about like, including as a part of your curriculum, like, other disciplines that maybe could move people into like, an entrepreneurship realm?

Jerome (28:12):

Of course. We’ve been thinking about that. We’ve been looking at product management, program management. We actually have a contracting like, channel. So we teach them how to do, like, how to do certain things, like how to do contracts, sometimes you gotta pay your taxes, right? Things like that, right? You know, oh, you gotta pay the government every quarter, or they’re coming for you. Like, you don’t want that <laugh>. So I think, you know, we’re always looking, especially right now, we’re trying to expand. Like, we used to be able to handle small numbers, but our goal is within, by 2027, to be able to support upwards of 2,500 like, veterans and military spouses a year, ’cause that’s like, 1 to 2% of people who exit the military. And especially right now, when more people are exiting than entering, we’re looking at, you know, these roles. Like, how do we support this community? How do we support this culture, right? And, you know, at times like this, like, when you’re more senior or also like, I view myself very lucky, ’cause I am not only more senior in my career, I’m pretty close to things that make revenue, like, you know, AI, DevOps, data engineering. Like, that’s what I do. So I understand that not everybody’s like that, and I’m trying to make sure, like, how do I make these people bulletproof when it comes to the job industry?

Jerome (29:35):

Like, from every level, I go from the like, what’s the most basic level? The resume. How do I ensure that everyone knows how to make a resume that will pass ATSs, right? How will I know, how’s it insured, like, how they use LinkedIn, and how they flesh out their LinkedIn profile, and how they can utilize the certifications from LinkedIn, learning to bump their LinkedIn profile up higher on people’s skills that are going for jobs. I’m like, all right, how do I teach ’em how to network? How do I teach ’em how to build relationships? How do I teach ’em how to turn a person you network from a person who you network with, to a mentor, to someone sponsoring you at jobs, like, and advocating for you? How do I teach that?

Jerome (30:21):

Right? Like, how do I teach you how to speak at an interview? How I teach you how to showcase how you think? How do I teach you how to make projects, or write things, or you know, build like, vlogs. Whatever is your passion to show that, you know, sells you for you, right? I have to help you make that self-marketing pipeline, ’cause a lot of people, they don’t even think about that. Like, you know what, you have to build things not just to showcase you can code, but can but convince people to take a look at you even when you’re not thinking about them or building with them, right? So it was a, you know, I’m always teaching that, and even with their portfolio, so I’m, you know, fussing at them. I’m like, “Hey, you don’t have a contact form. Like, why on earth do you not have a contact form?”

Jerome (31:04):

I’m like, “This is what’s going to happen. You have an email right here, and you’re gonna expect someone to copy your email, and their kid is gonna come in and start making a ruckus, their gonna see where their kid is, and come back the computer. They’re not gonna remember what they were thinking, and you just lost an interview opportunity. So that’s why you did a contact form and put it right there on your website, so that way, they can just enter it and move on with their day. Or you know, will they come and say, “Oh, I’ve done this, this, and a third.” I’m like, “Okay, how many people come to your website? How many times have you shared your website? You don’t know? Okay, so do you not have Google, you know, do you not have any tracking on your website? So you need to have, you know, the Google tracking on your website, because we don’t have any data to showcase where our problems are.”

Jerome (31:49):

“Why is this not hitting? Why are you not hitting your goal? We need that data before. Like, how many people are passing you up, right? How many people are, you know, what’s your bounce rate?” Things like that. Like, “Why is your bounce rate so high?” So, you know, these are the questions and things I’m always thinking of [for] my veterans, and like, you know, they don’t think about that type of stuff. Most of them don’t think about do they have Google tracking on their portfolio, or if my contact form is easy enough to find so someone can quickly get in contact with me, or how do I, you know, do the interview process and make sure I’m showcasing how I think through my problems as I’m solving problems. They don’t, you know, they don’t think about that. That’s my job to think about. So that’s, you know, that’s how I look at problems, then I try to solve ’em for them.

Teja (32:42):

That’s awesome. I mean, yeah, it’s incredible what your organization’s doing, and you know, I think people in the community (THE FRONTIER THEME FADES IN) will be super stoked to hear this. Yeah, where can people find you on the interwebs?

Jerome (32:59):

I’m mostly on LinkedIn these days. Jerome Hardaway. I’m also on Twitter, though. Jerome Hardaway. I’m Jerome Hardaway everywhere. Github, LinkedIn, Twitter. Those are the places I am at the most. So, but that’s where I am.

Teja (33:14):

Awesome. Well, thanks for your time, Jerome. Really appreciate you, man.

Jerome (33:18):

All right. Thank you.

Abbey (pre-recorded) (33:19):

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