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Passion for technology lands former staff sergeant at Microsoft

When he joined the Army in 2006, Jonathan Tracey had a plan: Stay in the service 20 years, then work at a tech company. The former staff sergeant served two tours of duty in Iraq as an M1A1 tank gunner before becoming a network engineer for the Army. But when an injury cut short his time in uniform, he needed a backup plan, and fast.

“I didn’t know what to do; I was honestly at a complete loss,” Tracey says. With a wife and three kids at home, the thought of losing his paycheck made things “a little complicated.”

What seems like misfortune actually helped Tracey achieve the civilian tech career he’d dreamed of — much sooner than he expected.

Reassigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, he learned about Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), which was created to give service members a leg up to find post-military career in the tech industry. MSSA provides 18 weeks of intensive tech training, teaching valuable skills needed for today’s job marketplace. It provides career counseling to help service members hone their interviewing and resume writing skills, as well as an opportunity to interview for a position with Microsoft or one of its hiring partners.

“I wanted to go back to school for computer science and networking, and try to get a job related to what I was already doing in the Army,” Tracey says. “I was looking at different options and was really worrying about where I could go. MSSA gave me a great answer to that.”

He jumped at the chance to join the new program’s second cohort. At first he worried he could not keep up with the demands of software coding and advanced math. Instead, he thrived. He and his fellow attendees “consumed all that they could give us. We ate it up,” including learning C#, Python, JavaScript and HTML5.

Tracey says he was pleasantly surprised when he joined MSSA to find a group of people “who had as much passion for technology and learning as I did. It was an environment where everybody was so driven to improve themselves and go after this goal of trying to get a shot at Microsoft. ”

When he completed the course in 2014, Tracey earned his pick of five positions at Microsoft. He notes that his success securing a career after MSSA is not unique. “Everyone from my cohort has a job. There’s not one of us that didn’t go on and do bigger and better things. Programs like MSSA are amazing.”