After six years in the army, last summer LaVanda Harrison began planning her next move. Harrison liked the idea of learning web development, being a captain doing military intelligence work, including a year in Afghanistan. She then spoke to advisors at the education centre at Fort Lewis, the base where she was stationed near Seattle. She was told about the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA), an intensive IT training program for soldiers leaving active duty.
She applied and graduated last December.
Harrison commented that the course provides you with solid grounding in tech skills such as database management, writing code and web development. Apart from that, Microsoft gives you a mentor who assists in getting you ready for civilian job interviews, which gives you the confidence you need to go after a career in IT.
She is currently a project manager at Accenture in Atlanta.
Since Microsoft founded MSSA two years ago, approximately 300 people from the four branches of the military have graduated and continued to IT careers at Apple, Dell, Amazon, Accenture and 76 other companies. Microsoft employs about a quarter of MSSA graduates, and keeps a search firm to assist the rest in getting jobs. According to Microsoft, more than 80% of the graduates get hired. At more than $70,000, their average salary frequently doubles or triples their military pay.
As Sean Kelley (director of Military Affairs at Microsoft) sees it, training veterans for careers in tech is a way to solve many different problems. Kelly, an Annapolis grad, was a submarine officer for six years. He states that as head of cloud recruiting at Microsoft a few years ago, he could not find enough people who had the skills they required.
Simultaneously, those coming out of the military battled a tough transition to the civilian job market, as well as higher-than-average unemployment.
Kelly says that they decided to solve the two problems together and create their own talent pool.
During the next 12 months, the pool will get much bigger. Microsoft recently announced plans to expand MSSA to nine locations from its current three. Those leaving the military who wish to apply can visit the MSSA website to learn how.