Microsoft Leap Apprenticeship program (Part 1)
In this article I will introduce you to Microsoft Leap Apprenticeship program. I will share my experience of going through the application and interview process. I will also provide tips for future applicants. This article is divided in two due to its length. In part one, I will explain what Leap is about and discuss eligibility requirements. In part two, I will explain application, interview process, post-selection, and problems I faced. My tips and observations come in part two.
1. About Leap Program
3. Application process
4. Interview process
5. Results and post-selection
About the Leap Program
Microsoft Leap program is an apprenticeship program that gives a chance to participants to work with Microsoft teams on real projects for 16 weeks (four months). It is specifically designed for a group of people who traditionally do not have a direct access to Microsoft university recruiting and general recruiting. The program aims at adding talent with non-traditional background to primarily Microsoft and other big companies.
My observation is that the program combines “return to work” and “diversity inclusion” programs. “Return to work” programs are for women and other candidates who took some time off from their professional career to raise children, to take care of a family member/parent who was sick or needed care. Career gaps in the tech can be not forgiving, especially when the pace of technology is fast. “Return to work” programs help “returnees” to brush up technical skills and have a supportive access to job re-entry process with employers who would not look down upon their career gaps.
Diversity inclusion programs aim at recruiting candidates with non-traditional background, such as ethnicity, race, education, and life experiences. The Leap program recruits another half majority of candidates who are college/university graduates where Microsoft does not have university recruitment. Prestigious universities have on campus recruitment with Microsoft, for example, Stanford university or University of Washington. That means, during their college years, students at these universities can apply to internship and full-time positions at Microsoft and get interviewed on campus. The Leap program gives a chance to graduates of college/universities that are not on Microsoft’s recruitment list.
With recent increase on boot camp style education, there are many bright candidates who do not have a computer science degree. The Leap program is open to technical, such as software engineering, web development, project management and similar boot camp graduates. These candidates usually switch a career from another field and may have some exposure or experience or an expertise in other area, and therefore, are considered to have a non-traditional background.
The Leap program was established in in 2015. It initially started with three tracks: Software Engineering, Technical Program Management and Software Support Engineering (I am not sure about the naming of the last one. I think it used to be Software Testing like in Quality Assurance Engineering, but I might be wrong). Around 2019, they added three more pathways: User Experience Design, Business Program Management and Customer Service Engineering. An applicant can apply for one pathway. However, one can choose to apply to a different pathway in the later application cohort if s/he does not get accepted. As far as my understanding, having applied to a different pathway before does not affect one’s application prospect. I have met people who were not accepted for Software Engineering track. They were accepted later when they applied for Technical Program Management track.
The Leap program carries out in about four application cycles per year. There is no set schedule for each application cycle dates, so you should follow the Leap program page on LinkedIn or Facebook to get the latest updates.
The Leap program started off from Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington. In-person interview and entire apprenticeship was carried out in Redmond campus only. However, since about three years, the program branched off in Sunnyvale in California (apprenticeship was offered at LinkedIn which is owned by Microsoft) and in Nigeria. If you are willing to move, you can apply to any location (I am not sure about specifics of the Nigeria cohort, different rules may apply).
What is in it for me?
1. At the end of apprenticeship, the Microsoft team that you do your apprenticeship with may hire you for a full-time position. Not all apprentices are offered a position at Microsoft, though. It depends on combination factors, such as weather the team has an opening, weather there is an opening in other teams that fits your skills, weather your apprenticeship performance is well and weather you pass the standard Microsoft interview process after completing the apprenticeship. From my conversation with people who administer the program and alumni, with initial cohorts, some apprentices were not required to go through a standard Microsoft interview process. However, now it is a mandatory process even when your team desperately wants to hire you and you did well in overall apprenticeship process.
2. The program gives you direct access to work with and learn from Microsoft teams. The experience gives you an exposure to Microsoft culture, workflow, and environment. Usually, it takes from three to six months for one to get know a new environment in a new job. The apprenticeship drastically speeds up this process if you join the team or any other team in Microsoft.
3. Even if you are not offered a full-time job at Microsoft at the end of the program, it is 16 weeks of training on the job with industry leaders. I think skills you acquire; connections you make and experience you gather at the Leap program has great value. I think it would make it easier for other employers to choose your candidacy when you are already trained in such a prestigious program.
4. 16-week Leap program is paid program. The program compensates your time with them at $40 an hour rate on a contract basis (at least at the time when this article was written, July 2020). That means there is no benefits of a full-time position. But hey, they are willing to pay while you learn. Additionally, if you move from out of state, there will be one-time stipend to with relocation.
Eligibility requirements applicable for all pathway applicants:
· Must be currently authorized to work in the US. The program does not sponsor employment.
· Applicants cannot have been employed as a vendor or full-time employee for Microsoft Corporation within the past seven months. I will elaborate on this point later in this article.
· Must have completed/graduated six months prior to the application.
Now I will list eligibility requirements specific to software engineering track since this was the core of track of the program, and my experience is relevant to this pathway.
· Must have at least one of the below:
o At least have an Associate of Arts (AA) degree in computer science. This means no four-year baccalaureate degree is required. This is especially good for people who completed technical or community colleges.
o Completed or graduated from a coding boot camp. From my experience, there was no requirement submitting a certificate of completion from a boot camp. I had to just select my boot camp name from a list of boot camps.
o Completed or graduated from a coding academy. I am not sure what is the difference between a coding academy and a coding boot camp. My understanding was that there are some platforms that call themselves academies, such as Code Academy or Khan Academy, but I could be wrong. I think this requirement used to be to include if you were a self-taught programmer.
· Has professional experience. Experience in the technical field is not required. So, if you do not have experience in the technical field, that is fine. Make sure to show your experience in some other field.
· Effective communication and collaborative skills. What I understand from this requirement is that you must be able to handle professional communication in English. Collaborative skills and not listed here “Strong analytical and problem-solving skills” requirement can’t be tested until the interview.
Click here to read Part 2.