Making the Move: Massage Therapy, Military, and Microsoft

The Making the Move series strives to inspire those who come from unique backgrounds and want to break into the world of tech. Here’s a secret… You don’t need to be a computer science major!

Today, I am excited to share the journey of Tonya Derieg, who is currently an Analyst Relations Manager at Microsoft. In this role, Tonya works with research and analyst firms to understand market trends and incorporate customer feedback into Microsoft’s product strategy.

A unique start in the military

At 18 years old, Tonya became a massage therapist because she had a love for healing others. Over time, she realized that she didn’t want to do this forever, and thought about going to school. To pay for her studies, Tonya joined the military which strongly encouraged personal and professional development. Over the next 8 years, Tonya studied psychology and human development while serving roles in public affairs and human resources. In public affairs, she worked with reporters and hosts from local media outlets. In human resources, she advised and counselled military personnel. Throughout this experience, Tonya discovered a passion for building communities and supporting people.

Transitioning into the corporate world

Overtime, she decided to transition from her military career into one where she could work remotely and take care of her son. She found an entry-level customer support role at a research and analyst firm called Forrester, where she handled the logistics for analyst requests.

In 7 years, Tonya moved up the ranks by being proactive with her career development and seeking feedback. She did not hesitate to ask her managers what it took to get to the next level, and what else she could be doing.

In the corporate world, you need to advocate for yourself, ask for feedback, and be willing to accept it and apply it to your work.

tonya derieg

In the first year of any role, Tonya emphasizes the importance of learning, understanding, and figuring things out—while still giving yourself grace. The second year should be focused on becoming a master and subject matter expert, someone that people can come to for help or guidance. Throughout it all, build trust with your manager and team by understanding their goals and needs.

Eventually, Tonya ended up working on the Microsoft account while she was at Forrester, and had the opportunity to work closely with the Analyst Relations team that she ended up joining!

Highlighting your transferrable skills

Transitioning from the military into Corporate America isn’t always the most obvious path, but Tonya encourages military personnel to consider the transferrable skills and hard work ethic that are gained through the military experience. Soft skills like watching out for the team, and advocating for others, and acting with integrity are just as important in the corporate world.

Final words of advice

  1. Recognize what lights you up. What are you passionate about?
  2. Do a self inventory. Get a solid idea of what you need to live your best life.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try something new or pivot. No one says you need to stay in the same job for 20 years.
  4. Find mentors and role models that you can job shadow to learn about different roles.
  5. Give yourself grace. Reach out to others if you’re struggling and talk things through.

As a big believer in mental health, Tonya shares the importance of getting help when you need it. We’re all navigating a complex world with unrealistic ideals and expectations—it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by it all!

Thank you so much to Tonya for taking the time to share her story and advice to inspire those who may be in the military or studying in different fields! Please check out more inspiring stories here.

My personal philosophy is growing 1% everyday through finding inspiration to share with the world.

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