MSSA mentorship and training equip service members for move to civilian life

Feb 12, 2015   |   Microsoft News Center Staff

MSSA, military, education
Sgt. Cole McBride credits his wife as his biggest supporter as he readied himself and his family for his civilian transition. He is one of the new graduates of the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy at Fort Hood in Texas.

There were two things that U.S. Army Sgt. Jeremiah Pike couldn’t get out of his blood: IT and the military. The first time he enlisted, Pike served as a system administrator in the U.S. Air Force Network Security’s Boundary Detection Team. After returning to civilian life for a few years, he joined the U.S. Army as a medic. Still, he found that nothing compared to working in the land of network switches, servers and lines of code.

For Sgt. Cole McBride, it was the death of a close friend in the military that drew him to serve his country — a decision that he and his wife discussed at length. During his service, a deep interest in the field of computer science was sparked and that propelled him to seek options to pursue it further.

MSSA, military, education, computer science
After serving in the U.S. Air Force and Army, Sgt. Jeremiah Pike is returning to civilian life to pursue his other career ambition: working in IT.

Today, both men have come full circle as they graduate from the Fort Hood Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA), a 16-week course that prepares service members to transition to civilian life. Pike, McBride and 10 others make up the fourth cohort of Fort Hood MSSA graduates.

About three years into his second military stint, Pike finally realized that his first love was coding and working on firewalls. “I didn’t realize how much I love doing IT until I started doing another job,” he says.

His chances of being re-trained by the Army seemed like a long shot, so Pike enrolled in the MSSA, thinking it would be a “great jumpstart” to get back into the IT industry.

Pike soon realized that succeeding in the program would require a dedicated effort. “You can’t just wake up one night and know it,” says Pike. ”There are long hours required.”

Through MSSA, Pike has learned to code in HTML, Web Dev, C# and Visual Basic. Perhaps most important though, were the weekly mentoring sessions with Thomas Dawkins, a Microsoft senior business manager who helped cohort members improve how they presented themselves in a corporate interview setting.

MSSA, military, education, computer science
Following the death of a close friend, Sgt. Cole McBride put his degree on hold to join the Army.

Thursday’s ceremony brings to 133 the number of soldiers who have completed the MSSA programs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, Camp Pendleton in California and Fort Hood in Texas. And like every group of academy graduates before them, they will travel to Redmond for interviews with Microsoft.

Pike calls this a huge bonus. Despite the fact that they’ll be competing with each other for jobs, the soldiers all agreed from the start to function as a team.

Pike said he had “no problem” running things by his classmate, D.J., “who had more experience coding. … Our ranks were all left at the classroom door, and no one ever felt bothered if you came up and asked for help.”

McBride claims that he stood to gain the most from this arrangement.

Pursuing a computer science degree became real for McBride as he began to think about his transition, and learned about the program. He says that he had “no idea” what he was getting into, suggesting that of all the members of his cohort, he was one of those who knew the least.

Once the MSSA program started, though, he didn’t want it to end.

“Even completing one line of code gives me this incredible sense of accomplishment because I feel like I’m helping to move the world forward,” says McBride.

MSSA, military, education, computer science
Sgt. Jeremiah Pike attributes his ability to market himself outside of military service to his mentors, and he values the guidance he received from each one.

McBride is quick to reiterate his appreciation of Dawkins, Pike and others who he said were critical to his success in completing the program.

Working in the Army Human Resources office gave him the opportunity to work with a lot of service members who were transitioning out of the military. So McBride understood the importance of preparing for his own transition.

Now that he’s completed the MSSA program, McBride feels as if his level of preparation is on a “whole other level.”

Mark Hanson