Cybersecurity Internships Provide Hands On Experience, Benefit Local Businesses
Originally a math major at a four-year college, Andrew Valliere decided to follow his heart, change his major, and enroll at Howard Community College (HCC) to pursue an associate degree in cybersecurity.
In the classroom, he has gained theoretical knowledge, as well as practical hands-on skills. Out of the classroom, he has taken advantage of the many resources available at HCC to help students get a degree and a job.
“Once you are in the field, I think it’s easy to progress,” Valliere said. “But it’s hard to find that first opportunity. No one wants to hire you until you have experience. HCC has helped me find that.”
At HCC, students are connected with a broad array of internship opportunities – including many opportunities with cybersecurity businesses – that provide professional work experience.
Valliere’s first opportunity was with iSystematics, part of the Cybersecurity Association of Maryland. He took a summer internship, learning and applying new programs as part of the company’s suite of managed security solutions. The internship became a part-time job, which eventually led to full-time work.
“There is so much opportunity in this field,” said Valliere. “Right now, my focus is on getting a lot of exposure and trying different things so that I can figure out exactly what I want to do once I have my degree.”
Connecting students with local companies not only gives students an opportunity to gain experience working in the cyber field, but help businesses as well.
Aaron Altscher, chief executive officer at Handteq, is one of many business owners who has benefitted from HCC’s commitment to link students with local companies. Handteq, headquartered in Columbia, is a software development firm that offers mobile-based data collection and documentation tools for contractors involved in building audits, inspections, and surveys. In need of help to support product development, testing, and prototyping, Alscher turned to HCC for support in finding a qualified candidate for a summer internship.
“We are a small company, so our intern really had a voice at our table and was able to make a big impact,” said Altscher, who launched Handteq in 2011. “She worked with various programming tools to build visuals and wireframes for a new product concept, based on our goals. Her contributions were very valuable to us, and I am confident she got very practical, solid work experience. Everybody won.”
Echoing that sentiment is Tony Busciglio, co-founder of Acumen Security. Busciglio says that cybersecurity, networking, and system design are the backbone of his company, and finding and recruiting people who can bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table is instrumental for Acumen’s long-term success.
“HCC has been an invaluable partner for Acumen,” he said. “The students we work with are integrated into our various teams and have helped with many tasks, from report writing, test cases, and lab infrastructure design projects. Our hope is the students we work with have an experience at Acumen that will springboard their career.”
One way Busciglio and his team are providing the springboard is by exposing their HCC interns to technologies that they may not have previously experienced. For example, the team recently trained several interns on a program called MACsec, a lower level of encryption than much of the cryptography that is typically used on the open internet. The interns were assigned a project that required application of that new knowledge.
“Acumen is a pretty fast paced organization, and I believe our interns leave here prepared for the real world,” said Busciglio. “We have identified several students for potential long-term hire.”
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