Musings of a Cybersecurity Intern
Some of my biggest breakthroughs have come from opportunities I wasn’t expecting and from choices I almost didn’t make.
I had been following Cyrus Robinson (Ingalls SOC Director and IR Lead) for a time, and it was a week after college classes started in August 2021 when I saw his hiring post about the SOC Analyst Internship.
I know many are drawn to offensive security, however, I’ve always had an interest in defensive security.
Folks from my Black Hills Information Security training were aspiring SOC analysts (possibly because one of the training sessions was about SOC core skills), and security operations center positions were all the rage with my LinkedIn connections who were looking to get into cyber.
However, it’s rare to find good defensive security internships. A few of my classmates who are interested in this side of security struggle to find real opportunities, which is why when I saw the Ingalls SOC Internship post, I was so impressed. A SOC Analyst internship, and a remote one at that? It was ideal, so I was sure that all the aspiring SOC analysts would come out of the woodwork to apply. I shared the posting with a classmate who was looking for defensive security opportunities, and he said it was exactly what he had been looking for.
Aptitude and Willingness to Learn
I didn’t have any experience but I saved the post because even if the position wasn’t for me yet, it could be! Speaking with people in various professions and positions is a hobby of mine, and I decided it would be a good idea to speak with Cyrus about the position and determine what it would take for me to get the position next time around. After I reviewed the internship listing and made a few notes, I messaged Cyrus to ask if he had time for a call. He responded a minute later, and we set up a call at the end of the hour. I asked what Ingalls was looking for in an intern, and what kind of experience I would need. To my surprise, Cyrus encouraged me to apply for the internship and talked about how one of the most important aspects wasn’t that a candidate had experience, but rather was their aptitude and willingness to learn and engage. What an amazing opportunity, an internship with a company where the ability and willingness to learn are valued over experience!
I applied for the internship, and although I believe I completely bombed the technical assessments, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t land the internship. So how did it go?
Big Actions, Small Actions
Big actions make the loudest bang, but the small, consistent ones have the biggest effect.
I went into my Ingalls internship understanding that some of my tasks would be repetitive, mundane, and boring at times. I also knew I would also gain invaluable experience and learn skills that would serve me well as a cybersecurity professional.
The job was mostly what I expected—the repetitiveness, the learning, and even some of the boring bits—but the people were and always will be what sets an experience apart from others. The team at Ingalls Information Security is a jolly group, and while no workplace is ever exactly like family (unless it is family), they are amazingly professional, fun, and helpful at the same time.
I was encouraged to ask questions—and I often did, likely to the annoyance of all. Everyone I spoke with was as prompt as could be in replying, and was always very helpful. I appreciate that my interview team was passionate and had positive energy, but they did not sugarcoat what the work would be like.
It was a Slam Dunk
One of the best compliments I can give a job or internship is that it is what I expect it to be. If I expect to learn certain skills, and I learn those skills, I consider it a slam dunk. Through this internship, I was able to gain the technical skills I was looking for, see how a security operations center runs, learn other aspects of the job, and work with passionate cyber professionals.
I may not have had the full-time internship experience as I only worked two days a week with school in between, but I still felt like part of the team. The workplace of Ingalls Information Security is a lot less formal than I expected—and that’s not a bad thing—I appreciate that everyone is invested in the growth of themselves and others.
If all I learned were the skills and processes I expected to learn, this internship would be good. But like other work experiences I’ve had, it would be forgettable.
With the support and encouragement of the Ingalls Information Security team to explore new things, learn more, and pursue what I’m interested in, it has been an amazing experience.
Thanks to the many conversations I’ve had with people from so many different departments, I’ve begun work on a podcast, a newsletter, and to really pursue cyber topics I’m interested in. It’s difficult to describe how excited I am to be working on so many things. I have very high standards and expectations for myself. This can lead to some anxiety and concerns I am not doing enough, I am not good enough, or I am not fast enough. Here at Ingalls Information Security, I don’t feel inferior or that I am behind, but rather I’m simply on a different step.
A Formative Experience
When you apply for positions you have no experience in, there is often a fear you will fail at the job, even if you are confident you can learn the required skills. I know my scores on the assessment were not the best or brightest, but it means a lot that when I was told, and it held to be true, that the passion to learn and grow was more important.
My experience as a Security Operations Center Analyst Intern has been a formative one and has helped me grow in ways both expected and unexpected. I gained experience as a cybersecurity analyst, learned the necessary technical skills, and gained confidence in myself and my ability to grow and learn. And with the aptitude and a willingness to learn and engage. I believe future interns will have a similar experience.
After the internship, I accepted Ingalls’ offer to work as a part-time SOC Analyst. This allows me to continue to pursue my Bachelor’s degree and participate in professional organizations. I also contribute to the security community by regularly presenting at professional groups and conferences, and serving as a program director for a cyber outreach program for middle and high school students.
Summer Internship Program Now Open
Have you thought about a career in cybersecurity? Ever daydreamed about sleuth-level mastery the likes of Charlotte Justice, Easy Rawlins, or Veronica Mars... or perhaps captivated by the show Mr. Robot, national news like the SolarWinds breach, or the topic of election security? Ingalls Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst 2022 summer internship may be for you! Check out the job posting for our internship program to learn more!
Ingalls Information Security
Ingalls Information Security understands cybersecurity. Since 2010, we’ve been in war rooms and boardrooms, investigating computer networks targeted and attacked by criminals and nation-state-sponsored hackers. This experience gives us a powerful edge in preventing and responding to cyberattacks.
If you’d like to learn more please contact us here. One of our cybersecurity experts will be more than happy to assist you and answer any questions you may have.
About the Author
Mariel is a Cybersecurity Analyst and a Network and Security Administration student at Dakota State University. She is passionate about security and enjoys sharing her knowledge and skills by presenting at professional groups and conferences, appearing on podcasts, and creating training and learning opportunities for middle and high school students.