#71: Jon Deng – U.S. Army Captain who Became a Software Engineer at Snapchat

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Jon Deng is a mentor who has helped several people break into tech. He is widely known as a software engineer at Snap Inc. Prior to tech, he was actually a platoon leader in the U.S. Army with 40 men reporting to him. He was a captain and a field artillery officer.

In this episode, Jon walks us through his transition from the military into tech, his thought process, and how he essentially prepared himself for the coding bootcamp at Hack Reactor. He also talks about how he got through his job search as a veteran with zero work experience in coding as well as some resources available out there for veterans who might be interested in jumping into the tech.


Years in Tech 1
Lives In: Los Angeles, CA
Current Job Software Engineer
Date Recorded 8/12/2017

Show Notes:

[Intro] As mentioned in the intro, if you want to become a software engineer, you can learn more about Hack Reactor’s Structured Study Program here. It’s 5-week instructor-led course that you can take remotely. By the end of it, you’ll know Javascript and be prepared to take HR’s admissions assessment.

[02:55] Jon describes what a field artillery unit does, shooting targets they don’t see, calculating missile trajectory, and dealing with things they can’t control.

[05:12] The impetus behind joining the tech industry and the moment he realized tech was a viable option for him. Find out why he chose the bootcamp route over a university.

[09:16] Jon differentiates technical versus tactical leadership in the military. Coming out of the military, he just wanted to do things himself versus managing other people.

[11:20] Jon began learning how to code in the military. He also cites a couple of resources provided to those about to finish their service in the next six months to a year (ex. DoD SkillBridge, a fellowship opportunity at a tech company)

[14:35] Knowing that Hack Reactor isn’t covered by GI Bill, discover why Jon decided to attend the bootcamp anyway. (Here’s a list of bootcamps that currently accept the GI Bill.)

[15:50] Jon talks about Operation Code, a program for military veterans, active duty, and families they get involved with, that helps them transition into careers in tech.

[16:55] Preparing for Hack Reactor, Jon stresses the importance of having a study partner. Hack Reactor has a prep program called SSP, designed to help aspiring applicants.

[19:00] With Artur going to Hack Reactor and Timur applying to App Academy, Timur talks about the importance of having an accountability partner even though they were practicing different languages.

[20:56] Being a remote alumni, Jon explains how it’s similar to and different from the onsite experience. He also explains the pair programming and support aspects of it.

[24:55] Jon illustrates his typical day at Hack Reactor, cost and deferment program, and his job search, deciding to move to LA to meet people in person.

[27:44] Having no technical experience, Jon explains how he crafted his story to interviewers. He also dishes out this numbers (applications vs.offers) and his qualifications for choosing companies to apply to.

[36:06] Dealing with impostor’s syndrome and analysis paralysis; why Jon chose LA over SF; and why he pivoted from law school to the army

[43:50] Jon summarizes his military experience into this one greatest lesson he learned. He also describes his current role at Snap (geofilters) and his next plans and life goals.

Contact Info:

Jon Deng

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dengjonathan/

Medium: @JonDeng

Articles & Mentioned Resources:

Learning Resources

Hack Reactor

A list of bootcamps that now accept the GI Bill:

Hack Reactor’s prep program SSP

App Academy


DoD SkillBridge

Operation Code




Check Jon Deng’s blog posts on Medium

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