Sonic boom: Navy pilot’s Microsoft marketing career takes off
Transitioning from the military can be challenging for anyone, but some people need to make a tighter turn than others — just ask Lt. Commander Kevin Tritch, a Navy F-18 pilot who went to the famous Top Gun school in Fallon, Nevada, and served four tours overseas.
Today Tritch is part of the Analytics & Insights Growth Hacking team within Microsoft Cloud + Enterprise (C+E), after receiving an MBA from Duke University, compliments of his GI bill.
How did he manage to make such a perfect landing?
Tritch initially went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh as a computer engineering major. His plan was to serve four years, get out, and find an engineering job.
“Being an F-18 pilot was not my planned career at all,” Tritch says. “But it was a pretty sweet gig.”
Selected for aviation through his ROTC program in college, Tritch attended the Navy flight school in Pensacola, Florida, getting his basic ground training and learning how to fly a propeller plane. At first, it wasn’t clear that he was cut out to be a pilot at all. “I had trouble landing the plane, which is an important part of it,” he says.
But he ended up doing rather well, and after basic flight training, he was selected for jet training, at the end of which he performed his first solo carrier landing.
He went on to a storied aviation career: attending Top Gun and completing four overseas deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Japan, ascending to the height of his craft. As a young, single guy, it’s the kind of life people dream of — Tritch was traveling the world, flying both on and off a carrier, enjoying a prestigious and exciting career.
As he got a little older, though, married with kids, it became more and more challenging to balance the desire to be at home against the near-constant deployments required of the Navy’s top-tier pilots.
“I kind of knew it was time to move on,” he says. “But it was difficult to give up that career.”
While many ex-military pilots find a soft landing working in the cockpit of commercial passenger jets or cargo planes, Tritch wanted to get back into the technology realm that had lured him in college. To make the transition easier, he decided to get an MBA, and was accepted to Duke.
“That was not the easiest thing, sending in applications from the ship in the Middle East and doing interviews over Skype,” he says. “But the GI bill paid for school, so that was a nice way to help me transition.”
Being enrolled in a prestigious MBA program, several companies were interested in talking to Tritch, and that’s where Microsoft began to stand out. Recruited for a marketing role at the company, Tritch was initially impressed by the engaging, passionate nature of the people he spoke to, but was still unsure about his lack of tech-industry savvy until he found out that the company was attracted to his military experience as well.
“A couple years into my military career and I was managing 40 to 50 people,” Tritch says. “It’s just that wealth of experience in high-pressure, high-stress situations that gives you a certain perspective. So Microsoft was saying, ‘We’ll teach you what you need to know about tech, because we value that dynamic leadership experience.’”
Today Tritch works in data analytics within Microsoft C+E. He recently completed a one-year rotation program called On Ramp within C+E Marketing, where he was exposed to three different four-month assignments across business lines and marketing functions.
“I thought this was such a wonderful opportunity, especially coming in from the military as someone who’s a little bit older,” Tritch says. “I basically get this compressed rotation and they allow us to really figure out what we’re passionate about in that first year. The C+E Marketing On Ramp program was one of the reasons I really wanted to come to Microsoft full time.”
As his career progresses, Tritch envisions a role where all his different experiences come together.
“I have a computer engineering background, so I should be able to handle the technical side,” he says. “I’ve got the leadership experience from the military, and I’ve learned the business knowledge from my MBA and marketing. So eventually I’d like to grow into a product management type role, where I can tie all that together and really bring value to Microsoft.”
Tritch knows how demanding a product management job at Microsoft can be, but for someone who can land an F-18 on a rolling aircraft carrier at night, the sky may just be limit.