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Former Marine builds high-tech career on his love of learning

When it comes to technology, Jorge Cubero has only one request: “If they have it, I want it.”

A passion for hands-on learning with the latest tech tools has led him to a career at Microsoft — a role he’d never imagined in his previous line of work as a Marine Corps sergeant.

Cubero entered the Marines in 2008, serving over eight years and two deployments. Having put aside an earlier idea that the Corps might lead to a CIA career, once he decided to leave the service he realized, “Holy cow, I have no plan! What do I do next?”

He started searching online for career options. A friend pointed him to Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA). What attracted Cubero to MSSA was the technology: “The things you can do with technology got me going. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to be somewhere I could find success.”

What he found was an intensive 18-week course, offered at multiple bases across the country, that provides active duty and former U.S. service members with the career skills needed to meet the IT industry’s high demand for talent. All graduates are guaranteed an interview with Microsoft or one of its hiring partners.

As a member of MSSA cohort 5 at Camp Pendleton, Cubero discovered he loved working on and developing software code. The interactive, hands-on sessions gave him freedom to tinker and experiment, guided by expert trainers. “I’m by no means a coder,” he says. “But I can read the code and tell you there might be a bug here, or this looks like it will work here. I learned there are a thousand ways to make code work.”

Along with tech training came civilian-world lessons in how to get hired. Cubero revised his resume countless times to tailor it for specific positions, guided at each step by his MSSA mentor, Microsoft project manager Brent Huntington (himself a Marine reservist). Cubero and Huntington also practiced for hiring interviews, which served Cubero well when he met with Microsoft hiring managers in Redmond. As an added bonus, he says, “Brent worked in the same building where the interviews took place. He could introduce me and vouch for me.”

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Serving in the Marine Corps became a stepping stone to a civilian career for Jorge Cubero.

A tricky aspect of his job search after years in uniform was what to wear to interviews. At first Cubero opted for slacks and a nice shirt, then upgraded to a suit to make a better impression. His preparation — and wardrobe — paid off: In June 2016 he joined the Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure team as a materials planning manager, where he sources all tools, materials and parts needed to build new servers. That means tracking the due dates for every phase of assembly. Planning is crucial: “I have to find out which parts have the longest lead time and see if I can mitigate those timelines so that when my boss drops an ‘I want this new server up and running,’ instead of needing 21 weeks, I can have it done in two.”

His first on-the-job accomplishment was taking software skills he’d learned in the Marines to build his team a SharePoint site for collaboration. He also introduced teammates to Power BI, which he uses to generate quick snapshots of work in progress and “show where the money is going.”

Cubero’s education remains in high gear. Following the example of MSSA, he’s sought out coaching to reach the next career level. Another mentorship was spurred one day when he told his boss, Brien Gray, “I don’t want to be in this position 20 years from now; I want to be in your seat. How do I do that?” Gray stepped up as his mentor.

Each week Cubero and Gray meet for an hour to review college textbooks. They go over management scenarios and bounce ideas off each other. As Cubero says, “The mentoring never stops.” Beyond that, he is also attending Bellevue College with his eyes on an MBA.

And, as if he wasn’t busy enough, Cubero and his wife welcomed their first child in October. His team threw them a baby shower at work and even his general manager stopped by — just one example of the team spirit he enjoys on the job.

“This job is a blessing,” he says. “I work for a learning organization with a growth mindset. My boss changed my life with one phone call when he hired me. I’m pretty proud of the changes I’ve made and I am helping my family live a good life.”