One step ahead: National guardsman now protects customers


It’s a wish expressed by many over the ages: If only I knew then what I know now.

Except in Troy Davis’ case, he actually did.

Just after his 17th birthday, Davis made an enlightened choice for someone in the middle of his junior year of high school: Seeking to jump-start his future career and his finances, he joined the National Guard.

Davis began his military career early — he was still a junior in high school when he enlisted in the National Guard.


“I knew I had to pay for college, so I thought the National Guard was the best way to go,” he says. “Also, looking at my future, if I wanted a VA home loan, I had to sign up for six years, so that took me through college and a little after college.”

Davis went to boot camp the summer between his junior and senior years and then came back and finished high school a half-year early. From there, he went right into another five months of training in Georgia to learn how to repair the military’s vast array of electronic devices.

“For the most part I worked on night vision goggles, night vision scopes and other small electronics,” he says. “But also Humvees, trucks and tanks — pretty much anything that has a circuit board.”

After his training he moved straight to college at Purdue University, doing his National Guard duty one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer, and helping out during emergencies.

Davis says the skills former service members learn in the military translate well into careers in the tech industry.


Already a sergeant, Davis was shouldering a lot of responsibility for a young man — and making a lot of sacrifices. He missed a high school trip to Australia during boot camp, and there always seemed to be a home football game during his duty weekend.

At the same time, Davis was enjoying his service and becoming mature beyond his years. “I became an independent person and learned how to solve problems on my own,” he says. “In college I felt like I was a little more mature, where I could plan things out more precisely and take care of myself better.”

He also had an income, while working part time, gaining the kind of fiscal responsibility that has allowed him to cut his student loans by $40,000 in just two years.

Today he works at Microsoft in a division called Safety Platform in the Windows Devices Group, working on alerts that tip users to suspect or downright unsavory websites. “We prevent users from either going to bad websites or running bad applications that could slow down their computer,” he says.

About half of his team is former military, which is something he was looking for and the reason he applied to several military-affiliated government and public sector positions, at organizations such as the NSA and USAA, before landing at Microsoft.

After six years in the National Guard — and earning a degree from Purdue University at the same time — Davis works with several former service members at Microsoft and participates in Microsoft Military Affairs recruitment events.


“One of our top military veterans is a retired major general. There’s just a passion behind it. There are vets on the military recruiting team who, if they can’t find a good applicant a job at Microsoft, they’ll try to place them at another company,” he says. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world, but Microsoft makes it more about the people we’re trying to hire.”

The company’s focus on hiring veterans makes sense he says, because the skills people gain through the service — thinking on their feet, learning quickly and working effectively in a team — all translate well to the private sector and the tech industry in particular.

“The IT industry requires a lot of on-the-job learning, which is what the military is about,” he says. “When I’m doing interviews, I look for someone who’s easy to talk to and has shown they’re capable of learning new technologies quickly. In the military, if you don’t learn quickly, you’re going to be doing a lot of yard work.”

Besides his job, Davis is active in Microsoft’s military community and has volunteered to represent the company at recruiting events, visiting recruiting fairs and colleges and talking to students who are in the same spot he once was in.

And though he’s not currently serving in the National Guard, he says he’s still young, and he still has the itch. “I decided not to re-enlist when I moved to Washington state, but that was a tough decision,” he says. “I still kind of want to re-enlist, but I also wanted to take a year or two and see what it was like to not get a haircut every other week.”