MSSA graduate Joe Scanlan
(From left) MSSA graduate and Embry-Riddle Worldwide student Joseph Scanlan assists Mike Foldes, an IT support specialist with Navy Personnel Command in Memphis, Tenn., in troubleshooting a simultaneous application deployment across their IT environment during a recent site visit.

Veterans Gain Unique IT Advantage Through Microsoft Program

Joseph Scanlan loved computers growing up. He built a few of his own, spent time in dedicated IT courses while in high school and even had plans to study computer science at the University of Minnesota.

Instead, Scanlan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After five years of service, he’s rediscovered his love of computers thanks to the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA).

The Microsoft-Embry-Riddle partnership teaches IT systems and software concepts and technology skills to transitioning U.S. military service members at seven locations across the country. To date, 190 students have completed the program through Embry-Riddle Worldwide and over 600 students have graduated since the program’s launch in 2013.

“The MSSA popped up at the right place at the right time,” said the 23-year-old from Minnesota.

Scanlan had started the qualification process for the U.S. Marine Corps Force Special Operations Command when his staff sergeant mentioned an IT hiring fair. It was at that fair that he learned about MSSA and came to realize that he had accomplished what he set out to do in the military. 

“I wanted to move on to the next part of my life,” he said.

During his studies in the program, Scanlan passed three Microsoft Certified Professional exams and earned the industry-recognized Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate certification. He also earned 15 undergraduate credit hours from Embry-Riddle Worldwide, which he has since applied toward a bachelor’s degree in technical management.

But MSSA is more than a rigorous software and systems learning experience. The program goes on to prepare veterans for the civilian workforce through mentoring and job preparation. Veterans working at Microsoft serve as mentors and assist students with anything from interviewing skills to workplace culture.

“Veterans always take care of each other,” Scanlan said.

Toward the end of Scanlan’s program, a Microsoft hiring manager traveled to Camp Pendleton to conduct preliminary interviews. Scanlan was part of a select group that was flown to Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash., for more formal interviewing.

He was hired as a Microsoft Premier Field Engineer based in Boulder, Colo., and now provides on-site support to customers throughout the country. Scanlan spends about three weeks a month traveling to military bases to advise customers on how to manage their systems. 

“It’s a lot of shoulder surfing and advising and knowledge transfer,” he said.

For Scanlan, the transition from the military hasn’t been too difficult. He’s discovered that his work as a consultant is much like his Marine Corps assignment as a public affairs specialist.

As a military media liaison and reporter, Scanlan worked with both high-ranking officials and civilians. His assignments continuously put in him different working environments – ranging from San Francisco Fleet Week to skydiving reconnaissance maneuvers in Montana and combat operations in Afghanistan.

To be successful, he had to develop solid interpersonal skills that have also come into play in his work at Microsoft. 

“I’m going to a new place every week with new customers,” he said. “… I love my job. I love what I am doing.”

Embry-Riddle Worldwide has additional MSSA locations scheduled to open in 2017. For more information, visit

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 80 baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through the Worldwide Campus with more than 125 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and through online programs. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and, and find expert videos at