Since 1996, the month of November has been commemorated by presidential proclamation as National Veterans and Military Families Month in the United States with the observance of Veterans Day on the 11th as a central moment of celebration and appreciation. Throughout the month, you can expect to see American flags, camouflage and other patriotic or military decorations everywhere you look as communities celebrate one of our greatest national treasures: Our military veterans and those who make their service possible.
As a leader at Microsoft with deep personal appreciation for the military community that goes beyond my role as executive sponsor of the Military at Microsoft Employee Resource Group, I am grateful that this month is dedicated to honoring those who have answered the call to serve. The month provides an intentional reminder to step back and think about our veterans and all they contribute to our community and to our business. At Microsoft, we recognize the intrinsic value that veterans bring every day. The entrepreneurial mindset, team spirit and creativity that are cultivated out of necessity in ambiguous and often-challenging military operational environments are the same fundamental characteristics required to drive rapid innovation in technology. Across career stages and disciplines, the contributions and capabilities of our military veterans are clear.
While we are celebrating living veterans in the United States, other nations mark Nov. 11 as a moment for remembrance of those lost in war. That date in 1918 marked the end of hostilities and an initial step toward ending the First World War. In the years following the war, Armistice Day served as a moment for nations and people around the world to remember the sacrifice of their fallen service members and the heavy price that each nation paid with the hope of establishing an enduring peace. Great Britain, the Commonwealth and many countries across Europe continue to observe Nov. 11 as Remembrance Day or Poppy Day, a day dedicated to honoring fallen service members.
Honoring service past and present
At Microsoft, the week leading up to Veterans Day is filled with events focused on honoring, celebrating and expressing gratitude for veterans and military communities around the world both inside and outside of Microsoft. Along with these celebrations, I believe one of the best ways Microsoft continues to honor the service and sacrifice our veterans and their families willingly make on our behalf is to do its part — to provide the support they need to thrive while still in uniform and after they have hung up the uniform for the final time.
Meet a few of our remarkable veterans who continue to make a difference and embody Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
Shannon Llenza, Assistant General Counsel
Shannon joined the United States Navy in March 2000 while she was in law school. Upon graduation in May 2001, she began active-duty service as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer.
After completing nearly five years of active-duty service, Shannon transitioned into the Navy Reserves in 2006 – where she continues to serve as a commander. She plans to retire in February 2024, after completing 20 years of service.
During her time in service, Shannon deployed to Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, Africa — the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa which supports a variety of missions and operations in the region.
She served as the legal advisor to the commanding officer of the base, providing legal counsel on a wide range of issues.
She shared that one highlight of the deployment was the opportunity to participate in the Grand Bara, which is a run across the Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti, with about 200 other service members.
Shannon was a full-time employee at Microsoft during her deployment to Africa. She shared that “Microsoft has a good program set up for service members who deploy and for reservists who must fulfill their commitment of drilling two weeks a year with their unit. Microsoft supports and values the contributions of its military employees, which allows them to fulfill their service without having to think about their employment while they are away.”
She has also been involved in the Corporate, External, and Legal Affairs (CELA) Military Employee Network since she started at Microsoft.
She said, “it has been a great way to meet people in the community and the network has been instrumental in providing resources and education on all things Microsoft for its members.”
For Shannon, her experience in the military has shaped how she approaches issues in her civilian career. “The military teaches you how to get things done, how to work in ambiguous environments, and how to step out of your comfort zone.”
Chas Jeffries, Principal Product Manager
Chas joined the U.S. Air Force in 1991, retiring on Oct. 29, 2023 after 30 years of service and achieving the rank of major general.
Entering service in the computer/communications officer career field, he served for six years on active duty in the Air Force before joining Microsoft and transitioning to the Air National Guard.
Chas said, “the experience I gained in the Air Force gave me a foundation in software engineering that enabled me to transition to civilian employment at a company like Microsoft.”
Joining Microsoft as a full-time employee in July 2000, Chas began serving in the Washington Air National Guard’s Information Warfare Team and continued to serve in the Air National Guard while working at Microsoft for 23 years.
Over the years, Chas experienced an incredible synergy between his roles at Microsoft and in the military. In both staff roles and in command, Chas has taken his knowledge of high-performing teams in the military and applied it to his civilian role.
Chas was part of the “start-up” team that would eventually form the foundation for Cyberspace Ops Squadrons and a Cyberspace Ops Group in the Washington Air National Guard. While serving in these units, Chas gained training and experience in information dominance and cybersecurity operations which he was able to directly apply to his work helping Microsoft build and launch sovereign clouds.
In addition to the experiences that he gained through leadership roles and operational roles, Chas said, “I’ve also benefited from a wealth of executive leadership training afforded to me. I’ve had the opportunity to attend Department of Defense-sponsored executive leadership courses at Harvard and MIT on topics including national cybersecurity policy and AI.”
Chas was deployed with the Air National Guard to Afghanistan in 2008 and with U.S. Forces Korea for multiple 30-day deployments between 2014 and 2017. When asked about the ways Microsoft has supported him as he continued to serve while working as a fulltime employee, Chas said that “Microsoft is an industry leader in its support of military members who chose to continue to serve.”
For Chas, the robust Military at Microsoft Employee Resource Group community has provided him with tremendous support.
He also recognizes the incredible impact of Microsoft’s Military Affairs organization which provides an invaluable resource to military veterans and current service members. Like many teams at Microsoft, Chas has benefited directly by hiring amazing veterans from the hiring and skilling programs the company supports.
Supporting the military community at Microsoft and beyond
As a company, we endeavor to honor the commitment to service that Shannon, Chas and others like them demonstrate through our commitment to train, hire and support our veterans and their families. In addition to supporting employees who continue to serve in reserve components, Microsoft also dedicates resources to help service members transition into careers in tech through mentorship, skilling programs and fellowships.
This year, the Military Affairs team at Microsoft is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) by featuring 10 tech professionals who got their start with MSSA and continue to make an incredible impact in the industry today. MSSA is a 17-week training program for veterans and transitioning service members for high-demand careers in cloud development or cloud administration. Program participants have an opportunity to engage directly with Microsoft recruiters, connect with alumni and receive resources and education on Microsoft roles, how to apply and the overall hiring process. Historically, this program made a tremendous impact with over 3,600 graduates and 98% of those graduates are employed or pursuing continuing education. The Military Affairs team continues to look for ways to best serve the community and recently announced new benefits for alumni and a resource center for MSSA alumni as part of their 10th anniversary celebration. I look forward to seeing how MSSA and other programs Microsoft offers for the military community will grow and continue making an impact for service members and their families.
As an executive sponsor of the Military at Microsoft Employee Resource Group, I have the distinct honor of serving our incredible global military community within Microsoft. In this capacity as well as in my business leadership role, I am fortunate to work alongside members of the military community and bear witness to their incredible ongoing impact within our organizations. The unique qualities and values that compel individuals like Shannon and Chas to serve their country are the same that make them invaluable members of the Microsoft team. Selfless service is one of the most noticeable traits of the ethos that follows veterans wherever they go, and you can see it in their dedication to team and mission above self.
To our veterans: Today, and every day, thank you.
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Source: The Official Microsoft Blog