Microsoft LEAP: Q&A

Yes, I am hype.

 

Still can not believe I finally got into this program. I’ve applied at least 5x since 2018. Anyhoo, I asked you all to send me some questions via Instagram about my first 3 weeks (the classroom portion) at Microsoft. You all came through so there’s lots to discuss. In fact, one of my followers is literally in the cohort before me. She messaged me after I posted about the Q&A. Insane.

Unfortunately, I only got to spend 3 days on campus before quarantine, so I’ve been working from home for the past month now using Microsoft Teams.

*Disclaimer- Don’t take everything I say at face value because I may be misinformed. I’m stating information from my recollection. My experience does not represent everyone else’s experience. This post is to help you get more information about LEAP. Enjoy.

 

Microsoft LEAP is a 16 week apprenticeship program in Washington State at Microsoft HQ. It was designed for people from non-traditional career backgrounds. About 70% of Leapers come from different industries.

 

What is the Interview Process?

Step 1: You apply on their website which will bring you to a written application. If you want to catch the opening of the application period follow them on LinkedIn and Facebook as their application normally stays open about a week or two. So it is a written application. You fill in the form and write about two paragraphs in regard to your story. Then they make you create a GitHub Gist with your resume. Make sure you complete all steps. I think about 20% of their applications didn’t even qualify because people left it unfinished.

Step 2: You wait. I believe it took them about 2 months to get back to me since I submitted my application. I think some batches are a month before hearing back. When you do hear back with a yes to interview, you should have about a week to prepare. They will do two rounds of interviews on one day. If you live in Washington state you can go to the headquarters. A guy in my batch, Nic, flew into Washington state from NY just to interview. Keep in mind it’s at your own cost. I did remote. You need to grind LeetCode algorithms. In fact, grind before you even apply. If you’re lucky, you’ll get asked to tell if a string is a palindrome or reverse a string. If not, you can get anything. My first time, I was asked to reverse a Linked List (which I passed), but my second question was to find whether a point was in a triangle. Yes, that was not an algorithm but pure math. It’s suitable for the math section of Cracking the Code. Other batchlings got these: Implement binary search, sort two linked lists into one,  Design a clock, implement a Stack/Queue, etc. 

*You need two “yes’s” from your interviewers to be let in to LEAP. I know some people who were confident they failed only to be accepted. So if you are worried that you bombed your interview, don’t despair.

Step 3: You will hear back in one to two weeks. If you get accepted, you have 3 weeks to prepare. Once I got in, I flew to Mexico City for a week and then Antigua, Guatemala for a quick solo backpacking trip. They’ll give you pre-work. We had to learn C# before starting and we had an orientation conference with Aerotek (the contracting company). There will be a lot of paperwork. Also, most of us use Airbnb if we are from out of state. I know someone who used apodments.

*Also, you can’t choose the team you are placed on. The only reason you got in was because a team already selected you.

 

What is the program structure?

 

3 Weeks of Classroom time. We are split into groups depending on personal strengths. My group had 5 people. Everyone was given a C# project and we had a week-2 weeks to complete it. The point of the classroom is to get us acquainted with working on teams and working with Microsoft software. We focused on Object Oriented Programming, Sprint Planning using Azure Devops, Soft Skills, Algorithms and lots of general informational meetings. It’s all about us learning and not about competition. This is what our instructors emphasized. My team never moved onto another subject until everyone understood the material completely. 

Then 13 weeks on an actual Microsoft team.

 

Where is Microsoft Leap located?

 

Redmond, Washington is where most of their batches occur and also their larges sizes. They also have Sunnyvale, California, Vancouver, Canada (1x), Nigeria and are launching in Kenya.

 

How big are the batches?

Most batches are 30-40 people. Other’s can be as small as 5, like the WNBA test batch. Their Sunnyvale office batches are smaller, maybe 10-15 because that Microsoft campus location is smaller. 

How much do we get paid?

As the site says, 40 dollars an hour, 40 hours a week. Take home pay may vary based on your taxes. Your check will be anywhere from $1,050-1,250 a week. We also get paid weekly by the contracting company, Aerotek. There is also about $1,800 in relocation assistance.

My last tech apprenticeship paid $17.50 an hour, so clearly I’m stoked.

Do we get hired after?

This depends on if your team wants you or they can afford to take you on. From my understanding, for our batch all  the teams who sponsored had an intent to fill in a space on their team. Our job is to sell ourselves and our talents. The conversion rate is about 60-68% for LEAPers. My batch ends at the fiscal year, so depending on the team budget some people may or may not get full time offers. Sometimes teams extend contracts until they have the funds to hire. Some apprentices have gotten offers after their first month, most before the end of their final month. A job at Microsoft is not guaranteed, but 95% of LEAPers end up working in tech afterwards either through our 18 month contract with Aerotek, or other companies applied to. Aerotek is the largest Tech staffing agency so you can contract through them after Microsoft at your original location.

Also, if your team decides to hire you, you still have to go through the Microsoft interview process as that is the rule. LEAP also encourages you to network with people all over the company during our apprenticeship, just in case your team does not have the intention converting to full-time or cannot afford to. This can happen a bit. From my understanding it is very easy to network and interview with other teams when they see that you already work at Microsoft. They do press that the team that sponsors you needs to get first dibs as you are their investment, but if they choose not to bring you on full-time leverage your network with other teams at Microsoft.

 

Qualifications

It is competitive, but most people get in on their 1st, 2nd or 3rd try. One guy on my team got in on his 7th. Myself, my 5th or 6th. LEAP’s target is career changers. Experience levels vary within each batch. As you can see on their site, they state that Bootcamp graduates, Computer Science graduates and Self-taught programmers can apply, barring that they have at least 6+ months worth of Software Development experience. This can be somewhat true for what I have seen so far in my batch.  However, take this with a grain of salt. Some people I met are fresh out of bootcamps, some have over 3 years of development experience, some were QA testers, one, a meditation teacher. I had 6 months from my last apprenticeship. My team of 5 specifically has at least 6+ months of software development experience, minus one person. People I have met so far include a woman that was a Technical Product Manager at Amazon for 2 years prior to LEAP, another was a C#/.NET developer for 3 years, another was a network engineer for 5 months, some others did bootcamps and got in several months later. It all varies.

Diversity

*Don’t be offended

What do you mean by diversity exactly? Everyone’s transition into tech is definitely diverse from what I have witnessed. When LEAP states “non-traditional backgrounds”, I believe they mostly mean career changers.

Genderwise, the batches are predominantly female. My batch is at least 70% women. I’d say it is pretty diverse, but I am the only black girl in my cohort and there are like 3 other black guys out of 36-39 people. I’d say compared to other “diversity” spaces I’ve been in, LEAP is better (especially from the pictures of other batches I’ve seen). I am particularly glad they have at least 8-10 Latinos. Tech diversity seems to focus on women only, which in my experience (5 years going to tech meetups), has been mostly Caucasian and Asian. That is not bad, what I am saying is that the focus should not only be on “Women in Tech” but Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders/Alaskans. All together, we literally make up 5% of Silicon Valley. For black women in particular, there are less of us now in tech than 13 years ago. Black and Latino numbers have been consistently decreasing for years, even with all of this “Diversify Tech” talk. Our attrition rates from studying CS in college to working in the industry is about 20%. Yes, only 20% of us who study CS make it into Tech. When people say “we” are “getting jobs handed” to us, I literally fume. This is 100% FALSE. The numbers need improvement. There is space in tech for all of us that are interested. 

Anyhoo, so yes, there is no racial qualification as every race is represented at decent numbers, but everyone’s career backgrounds are definitely unique. And yes, there are white men in LEAP, so please everyone apply.

 

Other stuff to note:

We are given laptops to use during our cohort. My team also gave me another, more powerful one. So I actually have two.

Orca Cards: We get unlimited bus rides all over Washington. 

We have badges that enter most buildings on campus (it’s a pretty big campus)

Lunch isn’t free, but it is well priced and the food is LIT

Overall, I feel so blessed. We have sooo much support from staff, Microsoft teams is amazing and easy to use. Yolanda, William, Jonathan, Sirena and Mary are all freaking amazing people. I absolutely love my product team I can’t believe I ended up so lucky. Also, Aerotek is pretty responsive. I’m so happy I finally got in. Definitely apply. LEAP is fighting for you to have the best experience and get converted to full-time.

I’m definitely doing I follow up post. I literally LOVE my team, the product, everything. I’m so gassed. Definitely lucked out on this one 🙂 Stay tuned.

 

Other apprenticeships:

LinkedIn Reach (this is the best opportunity), Sparkbox (greatest company ever, they treated me amazing. I love them), Amazon (great for veterans and their spouses), 8th Light (pretty big), and Apprenti. I’ve also heard about Ada Academy in Washington state. Try to get in. It’s about 6 months training (free) and then an internship with legit tech companies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s