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From ADF veteran to data security: Samuel Lloyd’s journey to Microsoft

After a lot of soul searching, a pandemic and unemployment, an ex-naval officer was thrown a life raft

Sam Lloyd has come a long way. Starting out as a local pizza delivery boy earning $9 an hour, he now holds a position as a Data Security Operations Manager at Microsoft ANZ.

But his journey has not been straightforward.

A self-described ‘defence brat’, some of Lloyd’s first memories were hearing about his father’s adventures with the Australian Navy. So, when he finished high school, it seemed a natural place to turn.

Adult male in navy officer uniform
The MSSA program is helping to provide veterans, like ex-Navy officer Sam Loyd (pictured), with skills to work in tech sector.

“I had no idea what else to do. During those key years at school, years 11 and 12, I didn’t have a class I particularly liked that could lead me towards a specific career.”

Life at sea

The Navy gave Lloyd direction – the chance to manage a team and learn navigation, as well as to hone his communication skills. It also took him as far afield as the Middle East.

During his time in the service, Lloyd made new mates and saw parts of the world that few Australians visit. But being a naval officer also had its drawbacks.

Life at sea was exciting, but Lloyd increasingly found himself missing out on special occasions back home with family and friends.

“One of the greatest challenges about being in the military is that you can’t plan your life. You have to be constantly adaptable. Things change in the world and suddenly you’re going to sea and don’t know when you’ll be back,” he says.

It was fun for a time, but as he got older Lloyd’s priorities began to shift. After a full decade with the Navy, Lloyd made the difficult decision to transition to civilian life.

“It was scary as hell,” he says.

A case of bad timing

Once back on dry land, Lloyd threw himself into studying audio engineering. But COVID-19 hit just as he was graduating. Sound studios shut down and jobs in the audio industry became scarcer than ever. It was a confronting time and Lloyd spent the next 18 months unemployed.

“It really sucked,” he says bluntly.

After having held positions that require a lot of responsibility in the military, then studying so hard to do something new, I was constantly being rejected.

It was not through want of trying. Lloyd put himself forward for everything – from bar work to corporate roles. Over an 18-month period, he estimates he was rejected for around 300 jobs.

“I kept asking myself, ‘What am I doing with my life? Maybe I shouldn’t have left the military?” It’s really hard when you’re unemployed to not let mental demons get the better of you,” he says. “I felt like everything was collapsing around me.”

Finding the way forward

Lloyd reached out to friends and family. With money tight, he moved in with his sister. And then his brother-in-law, an air force veteran, offered him a lifeline, pointing him in the direction of the Soldier On website.

Suddenly, a whole new community opened up for Lloyd. Solider On provides help and advice for ex-military personnel transitioning to civilian life. It also notifies members about training and job opportunities.

One of these opportunities was the chance to apply for a program called the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA).

Created exclusively for veterans, the MSSA is a 17-week training course in cloud computing. Along with the opportunity to learn technical skills, it includes guidance on resume building and ways to approach interviews. Vitally, it also gives graduates the opportunity to apply for roles at Microsoft ANZ upon graduation. Lloyd was thrilled to be accepted into the first pilot MSSA program to be held in Australia. After an intense 17 weeks, he graduated alongside the rest of his cohort.

Microsoft ANZ were advertising a Data Security Operations Manager role when Lloyd graduated. The role required a candidate with project management and communication skills, both of which Lloyd developed in the Navy. He also had experience in security from his time as a Maritime War Officer.

The opportunity of a lifetime

In May 2022, Lloyd was offered the full-time role he had spent so long searching for.

As Data Security Operations Manager for the Canberra region, he oversees the physical security of Microsoft ANZ data centres in the national capital. He is also the communication point between private sector customers, government clients and the Microsoft ANZ team.

I’m so excited by this role. I meet so many interesting people. They are powerhouses of knowledge, and I feel I’ve found something that combines my strengths.

Lloyd hopes that others can learn from his experiences. To other military personnel who are contemplating transitioning to civilian life, or anyone suffering through long periods of unemployment, Sam wants to share a simple piece of advice.

“It can help to reach out to people and share stories. Sometimes it helps to hear how others went wrong! I’m happy if others can learn from my experiences. Everyone goes through rough patches. It’s a reminder that we are all human.”