From Combat to Coding

By Bernard Bergan, Guest Contributor

Bernard Bergan

Bernard Bergan

Over the past five years, I have been serving all over the world for the United States Army as a communications sergeant in First Special Forces Group Airborne, 3rd Battalion. Serving in the Army has taught me the value of teamwork, selfless service and a commitment to excellence. It also has allowed me to see up close how technology connects us all. While in Afghanistan, I used Skype as my primary tool for keeping in contact with friends and family.

Now, I am in the processing of starting a new journey as I consider opportunities to work at Microsoft. I’m one of the first people to complete the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy – a training program provided by the company to help active duty service members transition out of the military into technology careers. This week, I officially completed the 16-week program where I obtained certification required to be a software tester, and was proud to stand next to 21 other service members as we were recognized in a special ceremony attended by Senator Patty Murray. Now, I have a path beyond my service to the military in yet another field I am passionate about. Transitioning to a job at Microsoft, the very company that made it possible for me to connect with my loved ones while in the military, is more than amazing; it is surreal.

My experience in the program has been very positive but it did not come without its challenges as I learned the new language of code. My introduction to C sharp, Visual Studios and the .Net framework was fast and furious. The support offered by Microsoft employees who came down to our classroom and provided training sessions via Skype was tremendous in helping us problem solve. It also reminded us that learning to understand software engineering is a simple process. Hearing from industry professionals helped ease my concerns and they also provided many more resources available through Microsoft.

Prior to Microsoft’s program, there were no seamless training programs available for soon-to-be veterans who wanted to work in tech. Any career transition is difficult but, for those of us in the military, there are unique challenges. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state assists with this process by providing training while being able to maintain my financial stability. The guarantee of a job placement within Microsoft or through one of its partners was an incredible opportunity with a major impact on my family.

The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy has been an extremely rewarding experience. Learning to code has been a challenging journey worth the effort. My experience in this program has reminded me that stepping out of one’s comfort zone and following a different path will always have its challenges. However, if you believe in what you’re doing, and you have a big enough answer to why you’re doing it, in the end it will all come together.