Booz Allen Hamilton prepares college students for bright futures as cybersecurity innovators.
Booz Allen Hamilton — a world-class defense cybersecurity provider that has gradually expanded its operations at the Port since 2010 — has cultivated a rich pipeline for developing cyber experts.
The firm, whose portfolio of clients includes various federal and defense agencies, offers a cyber-based internship program at its Port site that is open to local college students with computer science and cybersecurity backgrounds.
Upon the completion of the program, interns are empowered to launch their cybersecurity careers.
"Overall, it's a four-year paid internship," said Internship Program Coordinator Oren Upton. "This is because we bring many students on after they graduate high school and we give them an opportunity to work on different projects."
As part of its most recent cohort of interns, Booz Allen Hamilton worked with a team of bright students in summer 2020 who were recruited through several different channels, including the Data Science program at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and the local CyberPatriot program — a nationwide program that prepares high school students for success as cyber professionals.
Spanning eight weeks, the internship program introduces students to the Booz Allen Hamilton workplace culture and engages them in year-round activities as they gain their security clearances in preparation for full-time employment with the firm.
"Here in San Antonio, our main client is the military," added Upton. "By having their security clearances, students are prepared to manage a variety of high-level tasks."
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Booz Allen Hamilton interns shifted to a 'work from home' model during 2020. Participants in the firm's summer internship program were: Top row - Daniel Forestier, Dayana Castro, Edgar Ruano, Frieda Farias. Second row - Grace Dockery, Isaac Knotts, Jacob Rahimi, Jana Hendricks, John Harrell, Mateo Morales. Third row - Nathaniel Jackson, Noah Woinicki, Oren Upton (internship program coordinator), Omar Shamaa, Rob Gonzalez, Sasha Rukhina. Bottom row - Sirach Zamora, Swapomti Surampudi, Truitt Millican. Not pictured: Daniel Atkinson, Jakob Beauchamp, Zach Bernstein, Jason Conklin, John "Carter" Cook, Lewis Harrison, Hannah Hughes, Shandra Levy, Joshua McDaniel, Jacob Morse, Joshua Spivey, Ryan Yu.
Among the projects assigned to summer 2020 interns was the development of a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) between the firm and the Air Forces Cyber agency. A CRADA is a written agreement between one or more federal laboratories and one or more non-federal parties under which the government, through its laboratories, provides personnel, facilities, equipment or other resources.
Students also took part in developing training materials for Air Force cybersecurity defenders, creating cyber software, data analysis, building computer clusters and machine learning models, devising automated cyber anomaly detection models and undertaking malware analysis. These projects — some of which were assigned under a short deadline — further allowed interns to expand on their skills, drive and maturity.
"A great part of this internship is learning things on the fly, as it accelerated my ability to grow as a professional," stated Rameez Shaukat, who worked with Booz Allen Hamilton as a student intern for over three years before being hired full-time in June 2020, upon his graduation from UTSA.
Shaukat was also one of the first CyberPatriot students to become a Booz Allen Hamilton intern.
The local CyberPatriot program, which Booz Allen Hamilton has sponsored for over ten years, focuses on providing cybersecurity training for grade 6-12 students and allows them to take part in regional competitions.
In 2017, the firm began welcoming CyberPatriot participants into its internship program.
"This was the third summer we have had CyberPatriot interns work for us," continued Upton, speaking about the summer 2020 cohort. "These students are mature and ambitious and, over the course of their tenure in the program, end up serving as mentors to other incoming interns. We feel that this model will serve as the blueprint for similar company-wide internship programs across the country."
Each year, Booz Allen Hamilton offers the top three winning CyberPatriot teams the opportunity to apply for internships — an initiative that is highlighted annually at the Mayor's Luncheon. These internships are viewed by community and industry leaders as key for the continuing investment and cultivation of cybersecurity academic programs. With 350 local CyberPatriot teams typically vying for the top spot, those ultimately selected by the firm as interns are positioned to learn from some of the leading cyber experts in the country.
"I was in the CyberPatriot program and my team did really well, so Booz Allen Hamilton wanted to have our team on as interns," said University of Texas student Zach Bernstein, who has been an intern since 2019. "It's really exciting to learn so many things while helping the company support the missions of its clients."
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