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Air Force engineer finds his new mission in the cloud

Chad Hasbrook loved his military career as a senior airman in the Security Forces, the Air Force’s law enforcement arm. Safeguarding missile launch sites was an important duty with big responsibilities. He took pride wearing his badge and uniform, whether at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California or in Kyrgyzstan for Operation Enduring Freedom.

“I had always wanted to serve my country, and I didn’t want to get to a point where I reflect back on this time and have any regrets,” says Hasbrook, explaining why he joined the Air Force at age 26, just one year before the cutoff age. “I just started taking more chances because life’s too short to have regrets.”

He knew he wanted a career he could pursue with equal passion when it came time to return to civilian life. But he was less sure how he could translate his experience into terms a civilian employer would value.

Hasbrook was taking online IT courses and researching transition options when he found out about Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA). MSSA is an intensive 18-week course offered at multiple bases across the country, designed to provide active duty U.S. service members with the career skills necessary to meet the IT industry’s high demand for talent.

“I really enjoyed programming, and when I stumbled upon the MSSA program it sounded like such a great fit,” he says. “So I did more research and contacted the folks in charge, all while I was in Kyrgyzstan. I actually applied for the program while I was still there.”

By the time he was accepted into MSSA, Hasbrook was stationed in California. But to attend the program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), he would have to take four months of leave and request a temporary duty station transfer to the Pacific Northwest. Fortunately, his commander approved. Being away from his everyday life and staying in the JBLM barracks, he says, allowed him to focus full-time on MSSA and make the most of the experience.

“Among the most valuable parts of MSSA for me was the hands-on experience with the professionals in the work field,” Hasbrook says. “I was able to publish my own Microsoft Windows app, which was super rewarding. The other standout for me was the way the program helped everyone in my cohort highlight our value in a way civilians could understand. That was so helpful when I began interviewing for jobs.”

Hasbrook’s ability to position his worth for a civilian job market paid off when he landed a position as a program manager for Microsoft Azure Active Directory. He now shares an office with fellow MSSA grad Ryen Macababbad, also a program manager.

Even working next to a colleague with a similar background and training doesn’t make career change easy. To Hasbrook, leaving military life meant giving up more than just a job. The military, he says, is “like a family. It’s a very small, tightknit community. You have the unity of one mission. So to leave that was probably the most difficult thing, not just for job security, but leaving that environment where I felt safe.”

He and his wife now live in Washington with their “fur babies,” a German shepherd and an Australian shepherd. They enjoy hiking, camping and touring the wine country of Walla Walla. Not that his personal passions are exclusive to the outdoors: “I’m a geek, so I love my board games, my video games, my Xbox One.”

As he thrives in civilian life, Hasbrook recalls with pride his military service and what he gained there. “On day one in the military, they shave your head; they put you all in the same uniform, they put you in these really harsh environments, and they yell a lot. You no longer look at what people look like, what they sound like. You become like one individual, which creates an amazing sense of camaraderie and teamwork.

“In Microsoft it’s the same — though no one’s here shaving our heads or yelling at us,” he hastens to add. “But, as in my military role, I love what I do. I believe in what I’m doing. I have an awesome team that I work on, I love the mission that we have — to drive new cloud solutions — and we are all working together toward the same goal.”

For one who wanted to take chances and have no regrets — in the military or his new career — Hasbrook can now say, “Both of those things paid off.”