Project Management Alumni Story: Becoming an IT Project Manager Certificate helps army vet Marizsa Rahbari embrace a new career
Project Management Alumni Story: Becoming an IT Project Manager Certificate helps army vet Marizsa Rahbari embrace a new career

After working as an IT specialist in the United States Army for nearly a decade, Marizsa Rahbari knew that staying in the industry would ensure a stable job when her service contract ended.

“One thing I like about technology is that it’s transferable,” she said. “I knew after nine years in the military I could step out in the world and be successful.”

Marizsa had relocated to the Seattle area, and she quickly found work in IT before ultimately landing at Blue Origin, the privately funded aerospace and spaceflight company founded by Jeff Bezos in 2000.

Though she began her tenure at Blue Origin as an IT help desk technician, Marizsa knew she was ready for a career change.

“When it came to IT, I could do it, I knew how to do it and I got things done — but after 10 or 12 years, I wasn’t really passionate about it anymore,” she said. “I wanted to do something bigger.” 

Marizsa found the opportunity for something bigger within Blue Origin as an IT project manager — a position that let her continue using her well-honed IT skills on the business side of operations.

Though she had the IT know-how, Marizsa knew she could use a stronger foundation in project management. When she learned about the UW Certificate in Project Management, she contacted Veterans Affairs to check on the status of her education benefits.

“I asked, ‘Hey, do I have any benefits left? I want to enhance my career,’” Marizsa said. “It just so happened that I had a year left of learning, so I enrolled in the program and have been working in project management ever since.” 

In Her Own Words

Marizsa Rahbari discusses how she used her Veterans Affairs Education Benefits to earn a Certificate in Project Management.


serving to learn 

Marizsa, who grew up in the Bay Area, began her military career in Fort Drum, a New York military base 30 miles south of the Canadian border. From Fort Drum, Marizsa was deployed to Afghanistan, where she served for 15 months.

After her first deployment in Afghanistan, Marizsa served two subsequent tours — one in Iraq and another in Afghanistan — before returning stateside to Fort Lewis, where she served in the 62nd Medical Brigade.

From the beginning of her army career, Marizsa worked in information technology.

“I worked in a tactical technical role,” she said. Working with satellites and antennae, Marizsa “got communication flowing between different parts of the base.”

Eventually, Marizsa transitioned to “doing more hands-on repair and learning the database side of things, which turned into an IT, help-desk technical role,” she said.

As a help-desk technician, Marizsa was part of the Division Automation Management Office, which ensured that soldiers had the communication tools they needed to serve safely and effectively.

The team made sure the computers, phones and server worked properly, and Marizsa managed the help desk and assigned soldiers trouble tickets. 

Are you a veteran interested in earning a UW certificate? 

If you'd like to use your Veterans Affairs educational benefits to enroll in a certificate program, contact the Veterans Education Benefits Office. 

Marizsa appreciates how the military has given her the chance to advance her education — first at American Military University, where she earned her bachelor’s in information systems security, and now at UW Professional and Continuing Education.

“I’m grateful because I was given an opportunity to go to school, and I didn’t have to pay for it out of my own bank account,” she said. “I know people who’ll say, ‘You served your country, and you deserve this.’

“But really, I served my country because I wanted to, not because I was looking for a handout,” Marizsa said.

Learning In-Class and Online

Marizsa began her Certificate in Project Management by attending the first course in person before transitioning to online coursework for the second and third courses. Marizsa liked the flexibility of gaining foundational knowledge in project management both in person and online.

“I hadn’t been in a classroom environment for a while, so it felt good to be among other students,” Marizsa said. “It felt refreshing just to be around other people because you learn a lot — everyone’s bringing something different to the table.”

But, with her busy schedule and a long commute from Covington, Marizsa also enjoyed being able to switch to the online format to better fit her schedule — and avoid dealing with traffic and parking.

Whether in-class or online, the certificate program gave Marizsa tools she could use at work and helped her feel more comfortable in her new role.

“I think what school did for me was give me the confidence that I didn’t have before,” she said. “Now, I feel confident, I know what I’m talking about and I know how to work out a problem.”

Marizsa is helping manage Blue Origin’s relocation to its massive new headquarters in Kent, Wash., which is letting her flex her project management skills. She’s also training to become a yoga instructor, another example of her desire to continually educate herself and grow.

“I love learning,” Marizsa said. “This certificate opportunity means that I have knowledge now that I didn’t have before, and I like to share my knowledge with people as I go along. It’s a way to connect with people and then better yourself, and I’m always looking to better myself.”

For more alumni stories from UW Professional & Continuing Education, visit the News & Features section of our website. To learn more about our certificates, specializations, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

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