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2017—David P., senior director at Microsoft

How this Army Ranger solves real-world issues that help save lives around the globe using tech

Dave P. looks to his own experiences as a former Army Ranger when developing technologies for DoD customers. Here’s how he’s serving his mission and saving lives with cutting-edge technology.

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

I came to MSSA 6.5 years ago from the 75th Ranger Regiment where I worked in Army joint space, covering all of special operations. From MSSA I was hired into an account executive role, covering sales for the Army, where I worked for 2.5 years before becoming an account executive covering all of our special operations portfolio. That’s where I grew up in uniform, so I knew a lot of the people and really enjoyed working there for a few more years.

Earlier this year I moved into the senior director role over Air Force and Space Force. I run a large team with more than 15 direct reports, handling a not quite billion-dollar business. I feel really lucky.

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

Honestly—helping. It’s why I love working in the DoD space for Microsoft—I’m giving back to the mission. Very differently than when I was in uniform, where I’d serve by jumping out of airplanes, now I help solve real-world issues that help save lives around the globe, using our tech to facilitate.

Even when the technology is simple, like an automation process, I remember using a pencil and clipboard to do those same tedious checks. Knowing how much time it saves people in uniform where I used to be is really great.

On the other end of the scale, coming up with technical solutions for issues that U.S. Forces are having, and even some of our partners too—like helping Ukrainians protect themselves from cyber attacks, or going to Afghanistan three times to help some of the teams, like the Afghan Nathan Afghan National Army, save lives at checkpoints through the use of tech. That’s what inspires me most in my position—I’m still in the fight, just a different kind of way.

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

I landed a really big deal—I think one of the largest deals in Microsoft Direct. It was a $650 million deal that ended up going to a $10 billion production contract to revamp the Army’s night vision and thermal using our HoloLens technology.

I got to work with them then hand it off to the engineering group. It was really cool to be part of something that started from nothing, and see it become a massive program that’s discussed on the news and funded by Congress.

I used to have to wear them, so handing the plan off to really smart people in Microsoft—and then winning that contract to modernize the US military—gives me a great sense of pride.

That’s the value that I get from my job. I get to help bring the military into the 21st century. It helps the company, it helps the DoD—I’m a taxpayer too, so if the if the military can modernize and save more money and save more lives with better tech, it’s a win, win, win for me.

How did MSSA help you transition to a new career?

I went into the military with a degree in economics and an MBA, so I had some business background but none in tech. MSSA gave me a chance to start understanding how code works and get into the weeds. I did MSSA’s Cloud Application Development learning path so I learned to code AC, Java, JSON and some other things.

It opened up this world to me of how are people using this technology, really? How are companies using it? How’s the DoD using it? I hyper-focused for my time in MSSA, delving not only into the curriculum but into related topics. Because I was on leave, I had space to go deep into the curriculum and other topics to explore my interests.

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

You don’t come out at MSSA with a 400-level understanding of tech, but you will understand how it’s built. You understand enough to be dangerous.

When I came out of the program I knew I didn’t want to be an engineer. My approach was that understanding what I don’t want to do in tech is almost as important as knowing what I do want to do, so I wanted to learn as much as possible and then move forward with the insights.

MSSA helped me understand the world of tech and apply what I did in uniform, and figure out that I wanted to connect people in the DoD with technology. MSSA helped me to bring that into focus, and then have a pathway to get in front of teams like Microsoft to be able to ultimately land here.

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

Surround yourself with a good team and find them as fast as you can. It’s how I was successful in the military, it’s how I was successful at Microsoft, and it’s how it’s how you become successful in life altogether. No matter what you do, you’re going to go further than you would on your own. This was my experience in Ranger school, and it’s why I don’t take a lot of credit for some of the awards and accolades that I’ve gotten at Microsoft, even in the military—because you can’t do these things on your own. So go find the best people.