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In their own voice: Making a difference

Jose Cruz
Current Title: Network Engineer, Microsoft
Former Title: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps

My name is Jose Cruz. I’m a network engineer with Skype for Business.

Before coming to Microsoft, I was a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. I worked as a data network specialist in an artillery unit, helping to direct and coordinate fire.

In the military an average day was about 14-plus hours — wake up at 0500, do PT for two hours, change over and then go to the shop. Transitioning from that life mentally took me a while. I kept saying my name was “Sgt. Cruz.” On my first day at Microsoft, I showed up in slacks and a tie, while everybody else was in shorts and running gear. Compared to the Marine Corps, I guess you can say life at a software company is a little more relaxed.

Transitioning out of the service, I knew I wanted to stay in IT. So when I learned about Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), it felt like an opportunity was landing gracefully in my lap. I definitely wanted to take advantage of it. Trouble was, to take the course I needed to be away from my unit for 16 weeks. That seemed impossible because at the time I was platoon sergeant and there were a lot of people depending on me. Luckily, I had a great chain of command that wanted me to succeed and they let me go.

What I love about Microsoft is that they’re willing to step out of the box to try to get people with potential. They push the boundaries to find candidates that can bring something else to the table. That, to me, is what they’re doing with MSSA. Through this program, they’re giving veterans a chance to combine new skills with that inherent drive that veterans have to get the mission accomplished.

When a company hires a Marine, they know they’re going to get determination and ambition. I work with a lot of veterans, and we all have that drive in us to finish the mission no matter how long it takes. It’s something the military instills in you.

Going through MSSA, we were all still in the service, but there were no ranks. The people I met there were all from different walks of military careers. There were wingers and there were grunts, and we were all working as a team to complete projects, to understand software, and to come up here with the hopes and aspirations of being hired by this great company.

The pride I have today is not only that I’m a Marine, but I work for Microsoft. It’s almost the same standard as far as recognizing a company that’s willing to give you a shot. Once you actually earn the eagle, globe and anchor it’s never taken away from you, and there’s just a sense of pride in that. It’s something not everybody can do. The Marine Corps was the hardest branch that I ever got into and Microsoft was definitely one of the hardest interviews I ever went through. So I wear it with the same pride.

What do I want out of my career today? I want to make a difference. I want to be the guy who came in from the military, maybe not a college graduate, but definitely a guy with a lot of heart, ambition and drive, who created a new way of approaching a problem and changed the game.