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2014—La’Vanda H., cloud engineer at Accenture

How this former military intelligence officer ignited an expansive career in telecommunications and AI.

MSSA’s welcoming learning environment and focus on professional development skills  gave this Army intelligence officer the confidence to kick off her career in cloud engineering and cybersecurity.

Catch us up on your career moves since you completed MSSA. What has your career looked like?  

After leaving active duty, I’ve had successful careers in both the Army Reserves and at Accenture. I served in the Army Reserves for six years and  earned the rank of Major.

During my time at Accenture, I was promoted to lead project management roles with increasing responsibility. My first position was as a change management analyst, writing communications for a leading insurance provider during a major organizational transformation.  My work impacted 70,000 employees.

In my last role with Accenture (commercial), I was the lead project manager for a major telecommunications company. I oversaw a multi-million-dollar program and managing seven product teams tasked with transforming our customer service with AI. Currently, I’m an AWS Cloud Engineer at Accenture Federal Services, and I’m also working toward a Master’s in Cybersecurity at Georgetown University.

Describe the impact you have on customers, the organization, or the tech industry.

The most impactful project I’ve worked on was a new system that affected 70,000 employees. My team came in to help the company create a time reporting tool as they transitioned to new absence policies. It took about two years to roll out the new policy and test the actual platform. Not only did I get to see the technology and the testing of it, but I also participated in creating the website for it. My work impacted everybody who was on the corporate site across the country. It was an empowering experience to be part of the entire process, end-to-end.

Brag on your IT career for a moment. What’s the coolest part of your job?

The coolest thing I’ve done so far is designing a website for a large beverage company looking to roll out a direct-to-consumer ordering system in the United States. They were successful in other countries, and  I was part of a team tasked to develop a protype look and function for the U.S. system. I had  about six weeks to get it done – so it was a lot of late nights. What made it so satisfying was finally seeing it deploy directly to the public.

What are you inspired to do next?

I still have passion for national security, so my next move will be into cybersecurity governance, risk and compliance in the cloud.  I hope to make the internet safer and help organizations understand and enforce security standards.

How did MSSA get your boot in the door for these opportunities?

MSSA gave me the chance to get the tools I needed to pursue a career in tech  during my last few months of active-duty. Microsoft is a major player in tech, so recruiters and hiring managers paid attention when they saw I had completed  a Microsoft-sponsored technical training program.

The professional development and job search part of the program included multiple rounds of interviews. Since my entire career before MSSA was military service, this was a new experience. MSSA’s instructors were all subject matter experts from Microsoft or professors from Saint Martin’s University. The combination of industry and academia was stellar preparation to start a new career path.

Do you have advice or key learnings to share with transitioning service members?

You may not land where you planned—and that’s okay. Be open-minded. Once you find a technology or service you enjoy, get laser-focused and become a subject matter expert.