Cyber Talk Radio Microsoft Systems and Software Academy

Bret Piatt, CTR Host and Chris Cortez, vice president of military affairs at Microsoft - Week 89 of Cyber Talk Radio

Show Summary

This past Saturday June 9, episode 89 of Cyber Talk Radio hit the air on 1200 WOAI and iHeartRadio streaming. I was joined by Chris Cortez, vice president of military affairs at Microsoft, to discuss the Microsoft Systems and Software Academy, which transitions service members and veterans to the professional tech industry. .

We start off the segment discussing the function of the Microsoft Systems and Software Academy (MSSA) with Chris — who spent 33 years in the Marines, and has now been working for Microsoft for 12 years. The Microsoft Systems and Software Academy, a program that Chris oversees, was created due to the fact that around 200,000 people leave the military each year, and this 18 week program that offers 16 computer science credits is meant to educate them in tech in order to help them enter the existing tech-based job market. The problem that MSSA is trying to solve is that there’s a hard-to-navigate transition from military duty to civilian life, but the discipline, adaptability and sense of teamwork that service people bring is what the workforce, especially the tech industry — with its many unfilled entry-level positions — needs. With a 95 percent graduation rate and an average starting salary of $70,000, the course is available free to those in active duty or who have left active duty within six months, and those who have been inactive for longer than six months must pay to attend — but the GI Bill can be used. There are now more than 280 companies actively committed to hiring MSSA graduates, and Chris expects that number to rise to 500 by 2020. At the end of the program, graduates are guaranteed interviews with either Microsoft or one of the other hiring partners. Companies interested in hiring graduates should email [email protected]. Chris tells me that this is all about about diversity and inclusion of military folks within civilian life and the private sector.

In the second half of the show, we chat about the program details. What are the prerequisites for the program? Absolutely none — occupational specialties during active duty don’t matter. Rather, diversity of special knowledge in any industry is valuable and having a military background is really the most important aspect. But, there are some challenges involved in Chris’ task. He has to convince companies that they need these workers and also convince workers that they do have the ability to work in the tech industry. The classes are taught by the professors of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University located around 12 military bases, who teach tech curriculum and academics in the mornings, and then soft skills for resumes and interviews in the afternoons. San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston has recently graduated its first class, and both Dell and USAA have pledged to hire graduates in the city. In additions to MSSA, Microsoft has developed other programs such as YouthSpark and DigiGirlz to encourage young individuals to get interested in tech as the industry’s need for workers is growing. TechSpark is another program to incentivize economic growth in rural America. What’s important is exposing people to opportunities and let them know that they can fill empty positions, that they definitely have the ability to learn the skills to work with technology. How’d Chris get involved in this? He loves Microsoft’s mission of enabling all people to achieve more, and Chris is especially passionate about offering these opportunities to young service people to fulfill their potentials.

Listen to the episode replay to learn more about MSSA, go here or watch below.

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