Eric zu Hone
In his role as senior program manager for Military Affairs, Eric zu Hone oversees Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) and ensures the programs delivers relevant and in-demand training for transitioning service members, veterans, and their spouses.
A veteran from a military family, Eric transitioned out of the U.S. Coast Guard after completing his first tour of duty, having sustained a disabling injury to his hand.
He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst during the dot-com era. Recognizing the opportunity of the tech boom, he then earned his associate degree in computer information systems and worked in system administration/architecture and IT leadership roles until joining Microsoft as an Azure Solution Specialist in 2018.
Eric’s experience transitioning out of the military instilled a lasting desire to support other service members. Earlier in his career he designed a program for his employer to help veterans transition to civilian careers. Once at Microsoft, he learned about the Military Affairs program and volunteered as an MSSA mentor, and has continued to dedicate himself to helping veterans and former service members build meaningful careers in technology.
Merrick Van Dongen
As Senior Program Manager, Education and Workforce Development for Military Affairs at Microsoft, Merrick Van Dongen leads a team focused on the structure and delivery of technical curriculum for the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) program, including partner and customer engagement for training and credentialing initiatives.
Merrick has worked in the education and training field for 30 years focusing on education program/product management as well as e-learning, instructor-led, and blended curriculum solutions. After serving as a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy, Merrick has held successive education management, sales, and business support positions in the U.S. Navy and at the University of Victoria, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and Skillsoft Corporation, before joining Microsoft. Merrick’s early career at Microsoft involved managing courseware product strategy to address academic and commercial audience needs through courseware publishing, learning content review programs, evaluation software delivery through publishers, and other learning products and services. Before joining Microsoft’s Military Affairs team, Merrick oversaw Microsoft Worldwide Learning’s courseware readiness efforts for Microsoft Learning Partners and Microsoft Certified Trainers using learning products that help students adopt, train on, and use Microsoft technologies worldwide.
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Universiteit Twente (Netherlands), Merrick holds a BSc degree in marine engineering and a MSc in education and training systems design.
As vice president of Military Affairs at Microsoft, Chris Cortez leads the company’s engagement with veterans and military families as part of its focus on inspiring and developing former service members for roles in the IT industry. Chris’ responsibilities touch STEM education, veteran community engagement, high-tech training and employment of veterans. His team’s mission is to lead and challenge the technology industry to fill the IT pipeline with former service members. Chris is an advocate for Microsoft employees who have served in the military and is executive sponsor of the Military Veterans at Microsoft Employee Resource Group. He has worked at Microsoft since 2006.
Chris served for more than 33 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. When he retired in 2004 as a major general, Chris had been leading the Marine Corps Recruiting Command in Quantico, Va., recruiting more than 75,000 men and women. Before that, he was director of operations for the U.S. Pacific Command — overseeing operations for 300,000 military personnel — and he previously commanded Marines at the platoon, company, battalion and regimental levels, including during Operation Desert Storm. Chris not only advocates for education, he also mentors others. It’s something he did in the Marine Corps and has continued to do at Microsoft.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Marietta College in Ohio and a master’s degree in business management from Azusa Pacific University.
Joe Wallis, senior military engagement manager for Military Affairs at Microsoft, manages Microsoft’s on-base military engagement for Microsoft Software and Systems Academy, as well as Microsoft’s other military programs. Joe has supported military recruiting and engagement at Microsoft for more than four years, and more than half of his nearly 20 years of recruiting experience have been focused on transitioning veterans.
A second-generation service member, Joe is a retired lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and has 28 years of combined active and reserve service. Upon commissioning as a second lieutenant, Joe spent more than five years on active duty as a communications officer and recruit training commander. He served on active duty for more than five years post-9/11, supporting the European Command, Southern Command and Headquarters Marine Corps.
Joe earned a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master of arts in international relations from the University of Miami. He has also studied at the Naval War College, the Joint Forces Staff College and the National Defense University.