Microsoft starts tech academy for military spouses, expands program for veterans

Microsoft leaders touted the success of its programs for military families at a special ceremony on Friday ahead of Veterans Day.

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Five years ago, Microsoft started the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy, or MSSA, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, to connect veterans to tech jobs. And just a few weeks ago, it launched a pilot program in Lakewood with the USO to target military spouses.

It’s called the Military Spouses Technology Academy and looks to build on the successes seen in the MSSA.

"I found out about this program directly after returning home from Afghanistan," MSSA graduate Ryen Macababbab said on Friday.

She grew up in Western Washington and was working in military intelligence at Joint Base Lewis-McChord five years ago, looking to transition to civilian life.

“Growing up in foster care, I remembered being homeless and that fear really was driving me to find the right path as I transitioned out of the military,” she said. “It can be a very scary thing.”

That's a big goal behind the 18-week program that started at the base. It connects some of the 200,000 people who leave the military every year to tech jobs.

Veterans take an online aptitude test to get into the program.. Many graduates end up at Microsoft, but more than 360 companies hired from the program with an average starting salary of $70,000 a year.

"It's taken us five years to reach the 1,100 mark, 1,100 graduates," Microsoft Vice President of Military Affairs Chris Cortez said. "But now we're going to graduate 1,000 every year."

There are now 14 locations for the program across the country.

Macababbab transitioned from military intelligence to cybersecurity at Microsoft. In her 4 1/2 years there she’s been promoted three times.

“It's not a unique story,” she said. “Our veterans have amazing skills and this amazing drive and that's what helps us to be successful.”

Cortez, who is a retired Major General in the Marine Corps, said the veterans thrive at Microsoft.

“The military veteran brings a lot of skills, a lot of experience. They work as a team,” he said.

“Teamwork is so important in industry.”

Click here for more information on the Military Spouse Technology Academy in Lakewood, Washington.

Click here for more information on the MSSA.

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