A Marine Vet’s Path into Coding Brings Him Back Home
Updated: Apr 8, 2018
Three years ago Victor was starting over. That’s when he called his eldest brother David Molina, Operation Code founder, for advice.
“[David] told me about the organization and about coding and asked me if I had ever heard of it.” He hadn’t. Victor admitted, “I had zero knowledge. I literally did not know what [coding] was.”
Besides his first combat engagement abroad in 2003, no other year has been as critical for Victor as was 2014. That year was neither triumphant nor devastating — yet, it really was a make or break year. He had been living in debt in Las Vegas, Nevada and contemplating starting over from scratch. But where? And doing what? he asked himself.
By then it had been eight years since Victor had left the Marine Corps. He enlisted in 2002, in the wake of the September 11 attacks just days after his 20th birthday. After boot camp at Camp Pendleton, and a stop in Fort Lewis, he was sent to Iraq. He was there before the initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom to all the way through the fall of Saddam Hussein, the deposed leader of the war-torn country.
Victor was ranked as a Private First Class and was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal where he was in charge of a team of four 50-caliber machine gunners. However, the success on the battlefield didn’t translate into what he’d hoped once he was back home. Post-military service, he admitted he ran with the wrong crowd and had repeated run-ins with law enforcement.
Looking to get a fresh start and move closer to childhood friends and family, Victor packed his bags and moved back to Washington State. Victor had discovered the where to his question. Now he needed to get the ‘what’ in his sights.
He thought about the conventional higher education route: community college, an associate degree, then maybe a bachelors a few years down the line. But now in his thirties, he wasn’t inclined to waste time or, worse yet, regret his course of study. Victor had serious reservations about the conventional path but didn’t know what else was out there.
Operation Code’s founder encourages Victor to enter the tech field
That’s when he called his eldest brother, David. The senior Molina brother and former U.S. Army Captain, had enlisted a few years before Victor. In 2014 David founded an organization advocating for veterans entering the tech industry with the goal of expanding the new GI Bill to cover code schools’ tuition for veterans.
Victor still recalls the first time he heard of Operation Code during the phone conversation. “[David] told me about the organization and about coding and asked me if I had ever heard of it.” He hadn’t. Victor admitted, “I had zero knowledge. I literally did not know what [coding] was.”
Code School in Seattle
That didn’t stop Victor. Despite not having his own computer or knowing how to use a keyboard, he persisted with his brother’s help. He recalled, “David let me borrow his laptop. I took some typing tutorials, learned how to type, and I got pretty good. I jumped into the coding boot camp right after that.”
Seattle was the place he first grasped what coding was about. Victor credits the self-determination he learned in the military, along with the mental toughness Marines possessed. ‘Stay alert, stay alive’ was his motto — which served him well in the coding classroom. He would repeatedly study and practice well into the night and early dawn.
A Worthwhile Effort
Today, Victor is a full-time code developer. In addition, he has launched his own business specializing in website creation and virtual tour design. Thanks to his earnings, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loan program, he was able to close on the purchase of his first home in August of this year.
Victor credits his brother David for the advice and insight he shared with him — not just during the make-it or break-it period but throughout his entire life. Being two years younger, Victor had always counted on his elder brother’s support since his elementary school days.
He even followed him lockstep into the Armed Forces: “[David] went into the Army, I joined the Marines,” and then again post military: “[David] went into coding, I went into coding. My brother is definitely a person I’ve always admired,” he shares.
Just three years removed from his fresh start, he is now stable, gainfully employed, and able to enjoy the fruits of success without fear of his past. And Victor states, “It’s all because of coding.”
By: Edward Gutierrez