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HOH Connects Military Spouses with Meaningful STEM Careers

Despite the high demand for workers in STEM fields, many military spouses hesitate before pursuing their career dreams to work as computer programmers, software developers, or civil engineers. These women worry that their STEM careers won’t be compatible with remote military installations and frequent relocations.

But military spouses shouldn’t have these concerns about STEM careers. Many of our employment partners want to connect and hire military spouses to work in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs. Two of these partners are Microsoft and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Next month, 19 military spouses will graduate from Microsoft’s 22-week Military Spouse Technology Academy (MSTA) pilot program held near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. This academy is designed to teach military spouses the necessary skills for long-lasting and meaningful technology careers that are both high-paying and portable. The goal is to put MSTA graduates on the path to seek careers in Server and Cloud Administration.

“There are more than 500,000 job openings annually in tech and an ever-widening skills gap. It’s time that we connect military spouses with opportunities to pursue continuing education in this growing field,” said Elizabeth O’Brien, Senior Director of Military Spouse Programs at Hiring Our Heroes. “Hiring Our Heroes is excited to work alongside Microsoft to close the skills gap and create sustainable opportunities for meaningful careers.”

Microsoft officials are confident that MSTA will reflect the success of its Software & Systems Academy, launched in 2013.

“The success of Microsoft Software & Systems Academy is evidence that our programs for the military community work,” said Marine Corps Major General (Ret.) Chris Cortez, vice president of Microsoft Military Affairs at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the MSTA. “Now we’re eager to apply what we’ve learned to a new, groundbreaking program called Military Spouse Technology Academy. This pilot program is one of a kind and furthers our commitment to service members and their families.”

The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) provides veterans and transitioning service members with critical technology skills for the digital economy. Since its inception, Microsoft has seen a retention rate of over 90 percent of MSSA graduates after the second year and beyond — compared with most transitioning military members and veterans who stay in their first job less than two years. In 2018, Microsoft completed Phase One of its 2015 stated goal to open 14 MSSA locations coast-to-coast with the capacity to graduate 1,000 students yearly.

Hiring Our Heroes’ partner, Booz Allen Hamilton, is committed to increasing the number of women in STEM—through awareness, outreach, and advocacy. Booz Allen Hamilton is a technology consulting firm with a strong background in government contracting. Their clients include NASA and the Department of Defense.

In 2018, Booz Allen Hamilton signed the Hiring Our Heroes pledge to hire 100,000 military spouses by 2020. Here are three military spouses who have been recently hired to work in STEM fields.

Navy spouse Brigitte Heckathorn currently works as a cybersecurity information systems security officer at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River Webster Field Annex in St. Inigoes, Md. Her husband recently retired from the Navy after 22 years of service.

“I originally went to college to do something in the medical field, but within the last five years looked at what jobs were available and noticed a big need for cybersecurity professionals,” Brigitte said. “I went back to college after an 11-year break (to raise my kids and stay sane during multiple PCSes) and acquired my bachelor’s (degree) in Cybersecurity Management and Policy.”

As an information systems security officer, Heckathorn works to protects computer systems from viruses and hackers. She works hand in hand with information systems security engineers to make sure that all of their  Security Technical Implementation Guides and scans are up to date and that all the IT systems are patched and updated. She has worked as a cybersecurity information systems security officer since November 2018.

Brigitte interviewed with Booz Allen after attending a Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse hiring event.

“I had just graduated with my bachelor’s and acquired my Security+ certification and Booz Allen saw potential in me that I might not have had myself. Booz Allen gave me a chance to prove myself when other companies in the area told me to come back when I had more experience under my belt,” Brigitte said.

Alexandra Babka is a Navy spouse and she’s stationed with her spouse at NAS Patuxent River. Her father was a civil engineering professor and she has fond memories of hanging out in his concrete lab at California State University, Fresno.

“I was very fortunate to grow up around STEM. I know I’m in the minority, so being a woman in STEM means forging a path to make it more commonplace for women to be in these fields,” Alexandra said.

Today, Alexandra works as a project scheduler supporting a software development effort centered around improving naval aviation maintenance planning at the Booz Allen Hamilton office in Lexington Park, Md.

My favorite part of my job is solving problems and delivering solutions to the client,” Alexandra said.

Before starting this job three months ago, Alexandra was a HOH Corporate Fellow at Booz Allen for five weeks.

Booz Allen’s strong culture of supporting the military and military spouses really spoke to me. I engage with other military spouses firmwide through our Military Spouse Forum and individually with the other milspouse on my project team,” Alexandra said. “I’ve encouraged my milspouse friends to explore the opportunities at Booz Allen and have referred two of them to join the company.”

Booz Allen is partnering with Hiring Our Heroes for the USS Midway Career Summit in San Diego on February 21 and 22.  Human resources experts and hiring managers will be on hand to connect with military spouses interested in STEM jobs at their firm.

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A Program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation