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“Don’t underestimate the value of your military experience”

For any professional, January is the perfect time to consider career development and new opportunities. But for military service members, preparing for a transition to the civilian job sector presents a unique set of challenges.

“Separating from the military is a very stressful process,” says Joshua Gray, who after almost a decade in the military joined Microsoft January 20 as a Service Operations Engineer with Global Foundation Services. “It isn’t like a normal job where you can apply, obtain the new job, and then put in a two-week notice at your current job. The window to look for jobs is slim because if you apply too far out, a lot of businesses are looking to fill positions sooner than your separation date.  However, if you apply too late, there is no guarantee you will hear from the business by the time you separate.”

A pilot program called Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) aims to bridge the transition for service members who are preparing to separate from military life. In a 16-week program sponsored by Microsoft and other partners, service members who are still on active duty undergo 16 weeks of rigorous training, at the end of which they can earn a certification and are guaranteed interviews with Microsoft for entry-level technical positions.

MSSA launched at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, but will expand this year to Texas and California. The program currently focuses on the roles of Software Development Engineer in Test and IT Operations but will expand to other computer science-oriented roles. In Washington, 22 service members completed the initial session of the program, of which Microsoft offered 11 full-time positions.

“The MSSA program gave me an opportunity to learn the skills to be confident that I will be successful in my new career,” says Tara Overfield, who joined Microsoft this month on a team for .NET Fundamentals Framework. “Our instructors were industry professionals who could share their experiences to help us develop our skills as software engineers.”

The program itself was challenging, but it was also a great opportunity to learn a new skill that was relevant to the workplace outside of the military,” Josh says.  “The program was a huge advantage for me while I tried to figure out the ‘what next?’ part of my pending separation from military service.”

We asked Tara and Josh a few questions about their experiences:

Why did you pick Microsoft?

Josh: “One of the reasons I joined the military was that it has a reputation for demanding excellence and it has a global impact.  I picked Microsoft because of its similar reputation, and the opportunity to continue to do things that have the possibility of changing the world.”

Tara: “I picked Microsoft because it is a company that is known worldwide and it is also a responsible, philanthropic company that I respect.  I wanted to be part of a company that has the values that Microsoft embodies.”

What advice might you give to other service members?

Tara: “I would encourage other service members to take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the MSSA program.  You can transfer the qualities you learn in the service to be successful in this program and transition into a great career.”

Josh: “Don’t underestimate the value of the experiences and knowledge that come with military service.  Without this program I would have never applied to an organization like Microsoft because I didn’t think I would be good enough to get in.  The military has taught you skills and given you habits that will make you an invaluable member of any team in any organization.  Don’t be afraid to apply.”


Read about the MSSA program in The Seattle Times.

Meet three veterans who found opportunities for a new life at Microsoft.

Learn more about the program and Microsoft’s military community at We Still Serve. Watch a video on How We Serve.

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