How Microsoft is training veterans for careers in tech

Published Feb 11 2021 08:00 AM 4,799 Views

According to the US Government Accountability Office, about 200,000 members of the military transition to civilian life every year.1 The question is, how do we help them make the move to civilian employment and life, so they can enhance and leverage their skills for tomorrow’s competitive job market?  


Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) gives veterans a launch pad into the modern workforce that builds on their military skills, experience, and strengths – both soft and hard – with a wide variety of technical training and professional development. It’s a 17-week program that prepares veterans for high-demand careers in cloud development or cloud administration.


MSSA graduates get the opportunity to interview for a full-time job at Microsoft or one of our over 600 hiring partners, including some of the world’s most well-known and prestigious technology firms. The program provides a centralized training hub focused on preparing service members – often before their discharge – to transition seamlessly from the military to a solid career path.


New veterans might be surprised by how well their skills and experiences align with what most private sector employers are looking for, especially with technology. Veterans are uniquely qualified for some of the most in-demand and under-filled roles – and often already have the security clearances companies need. MSSA offers technical training, leveraging Microsoft instructor-led training courses and Microsoft Certification, to skill individuals with in-demand specialties such as cloud computing. It enables graduates to align their training with skills in demand, custom-fitting themselves to the roles they desire – either while still on active duty or after discharge. As a MSSA graduate and current Microsoft data center technician lead, Darren Braun explains, “I'm fortunate that the military has this MSSA program, because I was able to take time on my active-duty contract to do something about the next steps in my life.”




A faster track to a better career: Lauren’s story

Lauren Capers’ military skillset makes her an excellent candidate for a range of technology or engineering firms. Over six years in the U.S. Army, she trained and worked as a helicopter mechanic; then transferred to specialize in electronic warfare. She loved her time in the Army and felt she was leaving with great skills for a successful career. While going to college for computer science, Lauren found work as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service until her husband told her about MSSA. That’s when she made the decision to enroll. It was a choice that changed and accelerated her career trajectory.


Lauren had already been out of the service for two years when she tested and was accepted for MSSA. Once in the program, she became fascinated with Microsoft Azure and the vast possibilities of cloud computing. She focused on particular server and networking skills, taking the tests for such topics as Windows Server, storage, networking, and others. Through her studies and work she also earned a number of Microsoft Certifications including the Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals and the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate. These certifications enabled her to focus on building skills needed to be successful in a role and begin her career at Microsoft as an Azure Support Engineer.


Lauren soon learned that the initiative-taking, limit-pushing, and leadership she’d developed in the military was extremely useful at Microsoft. As she puts it, “MSSA gives you the tools and tells you what you need to do to succeed. Then it’s up to you to push your skills to the limit.” With that attitude and her MSSA training, she’s found a new level of freedom at Microsoft that was enhanced by both her time in service and her experience with MSSA.





Developing skills beyond technology: Darren’s story

Darren Braun, the Iowa-based data center tech lead received both technology training and soft skills from his MSSA experience. He discovered the program while still on active duty as a U.S. Marine, and enrolled before discharge to prepare for the transition.


Like Lauren, Darren came out of the military with years of leadership experience and training. As a satellite communications technician, he had worked on a number of systems – his career being defined by increasing responsibility and trust from his colleagues. While in the Marines, Darren had gained a confident engineer’s outlook that he could fill any role in the field. Now, as a former Marine in the world of private enterprise, he brings a valuable, fresh perspective to any team, making a direct impact on projects and culture.


Darren found himself drawn to cybersecurity as a specialty in MSSA, but with his background in communications, he also had strong technology knowledge and interest. As he says, “I was kind of in the middle.” He had IT experience, but it was more hardware-based than in networking. This broader field of knowledge and experience gave him a number of options for specialization, from which he chose the IT path that led him to his current position as data center lead tech.


Having made a choice he was excited about, Darren realized he had some work to do on his professional life skills. While on active duty, he wore his uniform and never had to think about what to wear in an office setting. He never had to worry about paying bills or how to write a compelling resume. Through MSSA, Darren developed these soft skills and learned how to market himself most effectively to companies that receive thousands of applications a day. Mentorship was key to helping Darren develop these kinds of life skills. These lessons have greatly contributed to his success.


“At the end of the day,” says Darren, “no one is going to care for you more than you care for yourself. And that was something that my mentors always drove on me.” In addition to expanding on his skillset through MSSA, he also learned to be strategic about how he expanded it; to be mindful about how he went about the learning, what steps he took, and how to ensure impact against his goals. For that, Microsoft Learn is an excellent resource throughout the learning journey.


It’s largely because of this holistic transition process with MSSA (and his considerable personal qualities) that Darren is, at 23 years old, one of the youngest data center leaders – not only in his region – but in the Americas region as well. He credits MSSA for this achievement, “I would 100% say that if I didn't join the MSSA, I would not be in the same position that I'm in now.”


Transforming skills for post-military success

Since its inception seven years ago, MSSA has been highly successful, with a 90% completion rate.2 Those graduates have gone on to successful careers as software engineers, sales support, and service engineers just to name the top three. Even as COVID-19 hit in 2020, the MSSA program has been able to find opportunities within the pandemic by making remote classes a more central part of the program – opening it up to participants from Seattle to Italy to Okinawa.


Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) is one of many ways Microsoft is helping a diverse population find more rewarding and successful careers. Explore our other tools, strategies, and resources for education and advancement at Microsoft Learn.


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Source: 1GAO, “Transitioning Servicemembers: Information on Military Employment Assistance Centers, June 2019

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