Gimme 20! — And support service members transitioning to civilian life

Aug 18, 2015

By Chris Cortez, vice president, Microsoft Military Affairs

Those of us with military experience are no strangers to “giving 20” — or 50, or 100 — but it’s not often we can give 20 to support a great cause. When I heard about the #GiveThem20 challenge I asked some former military comrades and Microsoft employees to join me.

The #givethem20 challenge is an initiative of American Corporate Partners, a nonprofit organization focused on assisting returning service members in building their next careers. The challenge asks participants to dedicate 20 pushups (or other physical exercises) to veterans and share the video using the #givethem20 hashtag. Its goal is to bring awareness to the very real need for our transitioning servicemen and women to secure careers in the civilian sector, something we at Microsoft Military Affairs are dedicated to facilitating. Rain or shine, Microsoft came out to support our former service members. Take a look as Jose Cruz, Brent Huntington, Cindy Mar and several Microsoft employees join me in dusting off our pushup skills to #givethem20:

When I asked Jose, Brent and Cindy to take part in the challenge, they jumped at the chance. They understand, either from first-hand experience or from working with former service members, what it’s like to transition to the corporate world from the military — and how difficult it can be. Formerly a data network specialist in the United States Marine Corps, Jose attended Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) to learn the skills he uses as a network engineer in the Skype for Business division here at Microsoft. Brent, a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve and a project manager for Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure and Operations, appreciates our commitment to supporting former service members, including Marine reservists such as himself. And Cindy, a chief technology officer on our Worldwide Public Sector team, has worked with the Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies for more than 20 years.

Hundreds of thousands of service members are expected to transition from active duty over the next several years, and re-entering the civilian world and job sector is tough — learning both the job skills needed to secure a successful career in a growing industry and the interpersonal skills expected to navigate the corporate world. Former service members offer tremendous value to companies by bringing a unique and useful skill set — from best practices in problem solving to remaining calm in challenging situations.

Microsoft is committed to training and hiring veterans and helping them secure high-paying technology careers, and Microsoft is proud to employ many former servicemen and women from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and U.S. Coast Guard. According to government estimates, more than half of the jobs in the U.S. require technology skills; the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that number will reach 77 percent in the next decade. At the same time, the technology industry has thousands of unfilled seats that are costing potentially billions in lost opportunity and threatening future innovation — and that gap is still growing.

Five years ago, when we started exploring how Microsoft could better integrate transitioning former service members into the IT field, we were surprised to learn there were very few opportunities for them to acquire these in-demand IT skills. And there are even fewer ways to acquire these skills as part of the transition process. We developed MSSA to address this need for training.

I’m excited to see Microsoft participating in #GiveThem20 and helping spread the word about the need to provide our former servicemen and women with the skills necessary to acquire well-paying careers, not just jobs. Now, who will be the first to join us and #givethem20?