I wanted to use my first blog post to share about my experience as an NCCoE intern. It’s been an amazing opportunity to have access to the technology and people that make learning cybersecurity all the more exciting. Surprisingly enough, I’m not going to talk about firewalls or the latest cyber attacks. I want to share about something we’re all familiar with, which is the nervousness accompanied with exiting your comfort zone. It’s never pleasant in the moment, but you always end up better for it.
The NCCoE’s Open House was the pinnacle of my internship so far. It gave the interns a chance to present our research and demonstrate some of the cybersecurity solutions we’ve been working on for the past four months. With an audience of approximately 140 guests including fellow researchers, friends from USG, and potential employers, the pressure to succeed was definitely on. I’ll be honest. At this point in my career, I’m not the best public speaker. So, you can imagine that speaking in front of all of those people definitely threw me out of my comfort zone.
In the days leading up to our presentation, my teammates and I rehearsed a lot. After hours of practicing, we realized that practicing wasn’t going to be enough. No matter how much we went over our material, it became less about the content and more about how we felt about our project. Tackling real-world problems as a college student can be very challenging. On one hand, you want to be taken seriously and you want your work to stand out as a viable solution. On the other hand, you can’t help but doubt yourself for being too “green” or for being an “entry-level” contributor.
At the end of the day, we have something that is almost synonymous with youth and with a lack of experience. We have passion. As one of our senior security engineers says, “Passion isn’t something you can learn in a classroom.” It comes from taking risks and from seizing opportunities even when you can’t believe they’ve been offered to you. In a way, no matter how much experience you have or how knowledgeable you are, it’s best to stay fresh and never consider yourself an expert. As in life, the work is never done and there is always something to learn.
Once we decided to trust ourselves to do what we came to this internship to do, the atmosphere became more relaxed. We became more relaxed. After a while, talking about our project came naturally. Our presentation went very well and we’re even more motivated than ever to continue working on our project. It feels great to say that I grew from this experience and even better to say that I have a new comfort zone. I probably won’t be running up to any podiums anytime soon, but the next time I’m called to speak, I’ll be ready.