Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Alexandria Lara was always a bright student. As valedictorian, her teachers and family members expected her to follow a traditional collegiate path. But deep down, she knew she wanted something different.

After studying mechanical engineering for two years, Alexandria decided to first earn her associate degree and work full time while she continued her studies. But when juggling work and school left her unsatisfied and unsure of what to do, her thoughts often returned to stories of her father’s and grandfather’s time in the military.

With the support of her family, she decided the time was right to join the Air Force. She packed up her life with her husband and relocated to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Despite plans to serve until retirement, an injury cut her time short.

When she learned of Microsoft Software & Systems Academy during a transition summit, it was the first time Alexandria considered pursuing a career in tech.

She’d always enjoyed using technology — she was an avid video gamer growing up — but only had rudimentary knowledge of the field.

Still, she was intrigued, and she enrolled in the cybersecurity cohort at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, and returned home to her close-knit family.

Today, she’s a cloud solution engineer at Microsoft, troubleshooting a variety of Azure products. She credits the company’s growth mindset with motivating her to continually search for new opportunities to develop into the person she wants to be — and applies her MSSA instruction toward achieving her goals.

“I didn’t have any sort of IT background — I came in very bare-bones to the program, and MSSA did a really good job of preparing me with the baseline of technology fundamentals,” she says. “I learn something new every day, I’m surrounded by extremely intelligent people and I couldn’t picture a better environment for me.”

Check out the stories from these MSSA graduates to learn more about the program and how it can set you up for the next rewarding phase of your life: