After working for more than 10 years, Melissa decided it was time to go back to school and become the first in her family to earn a college degree. Now, Melissa works in the technology industry and gives back to the community. Continue reading to hear her story.

“My earliest and most prominent childhood memories are of hardship and obstacles. Although difficult, they shaped and prepared me for the most rewarding obstacle to come…which was going back to school in my 30s to become the first college graduate in my family. By the time I was 16 I was living on my own, working full-time, and going to school. Soon after graduation I had my son and became a single mother and decided school would have to wait a bit. I became a casino dealer and before I knew it 10 years had flown by and in 2012 I lost my job. I was approved for unemployment and CAT (Commissioners Approved Training), so I decided this was THE opportunity to go back to school and set the example for him before it was too late. I enrolled at Green River College because it was familiar, affordable, and it was close to my son’s school. While pursing my AAS in IT Networking, Green River converted to a 4-year college and I learned of the new Bachelor of Applied Science in Software Development program being developed so jumped at the opportunity to be in the first cohort.

photo of alum MelissaThe program was challenging and it was often difficult for me to keep up, but it was also very rewarding. University programs require courses heavy in theory and math, but this program’s application based so coding and working with real clients start day one. What I loved most about the applied baccalaureate program was the range of skills we learned. We didn’t just learn to code…we learned every stage of the software development life cycle, got our Scrum Master certification (at no additional cost), and learned to manage the projects. For many of us, we also had a fundamental understanding of Networking and Cyber Security concepts from our AAS program. Our instructors and program managers always went above and beyond to work with us and provide support wherever it was needed. They also provided several opportunities to improve our public speaking and interview skills.

Following graduation, I was invited to teach as an Adjunct IT Instructor and did so for two quarters before being accepted into Microsoft’s LEAP program. LEAP is an engineering apprenticeship program designed to increase diversity. After my four months as an apprentice software engineer I was hired on contract to help manage the LEAP program and Apprenti (a new apprenticeship program). This experience provided me with the opportunity to advocate for applied baccalaureate programs from within. Everything leadership and engineering teams were saying they wanted in an entry level software engineers was everything we were taught in our program. I talked so much about it that I’ve heard others start repeating the pitch about our local BAS programs and how we need to build a talent pipeline to tap into as our traditional recruiting methods don’t. Five months ago I accepted a full time offer and I now work in the Commerce + Ecosystems group as a Business Program Manager supporting several engineering teams. I continue to volunteer for the LEAP program as often as I can by interviewing or reviewing applications. In my two years at Microsoft I have held three very different roles and each of them I was able to do because of what I learned in our program.”

If you’re interested in launching a new career like Melissa, visit the ‘Students’ section of our website.