Microsoft Leap: The Application
March 15, 2019
Time to read: 5 min
Competition to get into LEAP is fierce. For my cohort over 800 applied, around 100 interviewed and about 35 of us made it in. As more people find out about LEAP, it will not get any easier, so it's worth it to take this step seriously.
What is Microsoft LEAP?
Microsoft LEAP is an apprenticeship for those coming in to the tech industry from non-traditional backgrounds. Usually, those landing a job in tech are coming in as a college hire after completing internships, or industry hire with several years of experience. This leaves a really huge gap for those who are self taught and/or have attended a bootcamp to fall through.
This isn't for someone with the mindset of "Whats the minimum I need to do to get a job?" Its for the person who is focused, determined and passionate about making this career choice a reality. You have to be willing to put in the effort and challenge yourself to do what it takes to make it happen.
This is an opportunity to work at Microsoft with the possibiliy of a full time job there once the apprenticeship is over. That is a huge deal, and believe me, there is nothing easy about it.
Basic requirements are being self-taught, completed bootcamp or have a CS degree. That basically means, it doesnt matter how you learned, just that you have.
The one that worried me was "bachelors degree or greater preferred." While the majority LEAP apprentices have a degree of some sort (ranging from CS to business to music degrees.) I have no degree and am happy to report that will not affect your chances.
I see many people glaze over the 6+ months of experience. You are not going to go from zero to bootcamp then apply and get into LEAP. On that note, don't feel like you have to already have a tech job either. Freelancing, major contributors to open source projects, teaching and other stuff like that is good too.
Pick your path
There are three tracks for you to choose from: Software Engineer, Technical Program Manager and Support Engineer. I chose Software Engineer, so keep in mind I'm sharing my experience from that perspective.
I've seen people apply for the Program Manager track because they feel are not strong enough coders and believe their odds will be better. Bad idea. For one, there are about 4 PMs in a cohort of 35. The PM track is not easier by a long shot. If thats not where your skills and interests are, it will actually be much harder on you. Btw, Techincal PM's must know how to code, so theres that.
The Support Engineer track opened up after my time in LEAP, so I cant' say much about it, but understand its similiar to the Software Engineer track.
The application itself is deceivingly simple. It consists of basic info, a resume and two essay questions. This means you really need to put in the effort to stand out from everyone else who is applying.
Prepare Your Resume
You will need to submit your resume in markdown on gist. I suggest not using html since there is no way to make sure it displays correctly on any screen size. Markdown is super flexible to create a nice layout and the Markdown Cheatsheet is a great resource.
It's tempting to try and make yourself appear as impressive as possible, but don't put anything in there that you are not confident in. You don't just want to make it to the interview stage based on what you think they want, you want to make it all the way based on what you have to offer. I'll go into more detail in my post about the interview, but for now, just keep in mind that anything you put in your resume is fair game.
Write Your Essays
There's a limit of around 1500 characters (including spaces) per essay. This is your chance to show your personality and what you're like to work with, so definitely use all the space you are allowed. Write your essay in a document then paste it over or you'll risk losing it all.
The prompt for the first essay is along the lines of "Why are you interested in programming?" Don't just say you like figuring things out and writing code, explain why. If a friend asked you why you want to become a developer, what would you say to express your interest and excitement? Write that down! I shared a personal story and described the how different aspects of programming appeal to my interests and personality.
The second prompt was something like "What have you done to expose yourself to programming?" This is not a cover letter so don't just repeat everything they can read in your resume. Make it personal and describe your journey. Here, I wrote about my path from self taught through bootcamp, my time teaching and helping others, the stuff I learned about myself along the way and described projects I was really proud of.
Beyond The Application
The LEAP team will do due diligence and check you out beyond your application. Make sure your LinkedIn, Twitter, website and anything else you have online is on point.
Clean up your github! Now that we can have private repos (yay!) hide stuff like lessons you did in bootcamp, test repos, how to use git repos...yannow, just clean up the clutter. Don't feel like everything has to be perfect though...keep your older projects and maybe even coding challenges that you've done. Those show how you've progressed and advanced.
Feature the projects you are proud of, make sure you fill out the README for them and have a live demo because no one is ever going to clone and run your project to view it. To deploy your projects, there are a few great free options. Surge.sh is great for static sites, and Heroku works well for backend applications.
The application window is generally open for about a month. Once it closes, it takes about 2 weeks for LEAP to review them all and decide who moves on to the interview stage. Keep your eye on the LEAP LinkedIn page for updates. No matter what happens, you will get a reply with your status, so no worries about being left hanging and wondering.
If you are not selected for an interview, don't take it personally. Just take some time to review your essays, keep learning and working on your projects to add to your experience, and apply again. There's no cooling off period so go for it!
If you are selected, congratulations! Onwards to the interview!
Featured image by Alex from Pexels