Sales Job Watch Nov 11 2010

Microsoft Drafts Military Talent to Serve in Sales

By shareen pathak

Microsoft executives and recruiters said that the tech giant is actively hiring military talent across the company, most notably in its services and sales departments, at an event in New York yesterday to launch an initiative to assist veteran-assistance groups nationwide.

The event for the Elevate America Veterans Initiative, which awards cash and software assistance to organizations that help veterans reintegrate into the workforce, had many veterans and Microsoft recruiters in attendance.

MS recruiters said that many veterans currently work at the company across all roles, and recruiters are always on the lookout for more.

Through a company-wide program called "Military 2 Microsoft," the software giant actively recruits military talent to work in many of its divisions. According to Mark Dowd, a recruiter and practice manager at Microsoft and a Navy vet himself, there are many jobs officers perform in the military that can easily translate into jobs in the civilian world.

To demonstrate, Dowd opens up the Microsoft Military Job Decoder tool, which shows available job opportunities based on military branch of service, and military job classification code. When he clicks on a job code that he said belongs to "intelligence" personnel, a bevy of marketing and sales jobs show up.

Though some veterans, especially those who have worked with hardware and software, can get jobs on the technical software development side of things, most find themselves more suited in sales and service functions, especially in departments that primarily sell to the government and the public sector, said Dowd. Dowd's department's customers include the Department of Defense. "I can talk to them, because I know what they want and I know the vernacular," he said.

Dowd said that the natural discipline of military professionals is what makes them such prized candidates. "Especially at Microsoft, where you don't have someone constantly peering over your shoulder," he said. It just takes a little bit of a push to equip vets with all the skills they need to be a successful employee.

That push comes from Microsoft's certification programs for veterans. For example, there are digital literacy certificates and business worker certificates, which teach the basics of budgeting, productivity programs and computer security.

There are also a number of veterans in Microsoft senior management. Dowd named three: Mike McDuffie, vice president of the public sector services for the U.S., Chris Cortez, a managing director in Microsoft's public sector team, and Brian Geehan, a general manager in the Department of Defense services.

And then there's Curt Kolcun, a former serviceman in the Air Force who is now vice president of the company's public sector programs. He works with sales and marketing for the U.S. government, education and healthcare markets.

Kolcun, speaking at the event yesterday, noted that the unemployment rate for veterans has been 16% higher than the national rate. "Many times when people are transitioning, they don't know how your skills will translate into the workforce," he said. "But they do, into opportunities within Microsoft."

For Dowd, who served in the military for over 20 years, including in the reserves, hiring vets just is "good business sense."

Dowd, who suffered a head injury during his last tour in Baghdad in 2007, also points out that veterans have a much lower turnover rate than non-vets at Microsoft. "They just don't want to leave."

Write to Shareen Pathak



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