The Army hosted a recognition ceremony on Friday to acknowledge the achievements of its first Army Software Factory cohort members, who recently transitioned from the classroom instruction stage of the program to a hands-on tech learning phase.
The Army partnered with Austin Community College to envision the Software Factory, a unique and immersive software development center that is teaching Soldiers and Army civilians how to develop, design and manage modern software technologies.
Housed on the college’s Rio Grande campus, the Army Software Factory launched its first three-year program in January, welcoming 25 soldiers from around the country to serve as the inaugural cohort. A second cohort of 25 Soldiers and five Army civilians arrived in July.
Students in the program work side-by-side with private-sector technology experts, learning the skills of the trade through applied exercises and real-life projects. The program currently offers learning tracks in the fields of product management, user design, application engineering and platform engineering.
Soldiers participating in the program have found it to be both rigorous and rewarding, and they look forward to continuing to broaden their skillsets in the months to come.
“I’m so excited to be here,” said 1st Lt. Rachelle David of Queens, N.Y., who has been working on an innovative software product for the Army National Guard. “It’s still kind of surreal that I can be in the Army and still be here working on these kinds of projects, projects that impact the whole Army.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian Russell, who hails from Texas originally, commented on the excellence of the program and the impressive scope of work its students are undertaking: “I love that we are pushing the envelope on cloud computing. We are doing successfully what most civilian organizations are trying to do.”
The atmosphere at the Software Factory, which champions a “rank-agnostic” working style, is also very conducive to collaborative learning and robust information exchange. “We’re a balanced team and look to make sure everyone is empowered,” explained Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Bedoya, who joined the program with 16 years of military experience and a bachelor’s degree in Cybersecurity.
Motivations for joining the Army Software Factory illustrate the commitment students have to contributing to its success and the overall strength of the Army.
“I wanted to join the Software Factory because I’ve done a lot of small things for the Army, but not one big thing,” said Staff Sgt. Ronnie Nelson, who has served in the Army for 17 years, in locations from Alaska to Afghanistan. “Here, we’re building something not just for the Army, but for the Soldier.”
Spc. Majid Lowe, who joined the Army as an infantryman, feels similarly honored to be participating in the work of the Software Factory, particularly at such an early stage in its development. “Being part of the first cohort, I have direct influence on what the Army Software Factory could be 20 years from now, and that is a very cool thing.”