By McKenna Middleton | Opinion Editor
An internship program with Baylor’s ITS information security team gives students real life experiences protecting Baylor’s technological assets. Jon Allen, Baylor interim chief information officer and chief information security officer, said the program has been in the early stages for the past few years, but is now becoming more formalized, with four students working as information security interns.
Allen said the program includes students from interdisciplinary backgrounds and emphasizes the wide range of skills needed in the cybersecurity profession. In this way, the internship program fits into the goals of Illuminate, Allen said.
According to the Illuminate webpage, Baylor data sciences is one of the five signature academic initiatives and seeks to consider the ways data analysis impacts the rest of the university. Illuminate goes so far as to consider data sciences “the field that can drive all others.”
With that interdisciplinary perspective in mind, Allen said the ideal student for the internship is not necessarily someone interested in coding for hours on end.
“The goal is to find students that are interested in cyber — not necessarily by degree plan. If you talk to any of the students, you’ll find they kind of span all over the place, and that reflects kind of what’s needed in cyber. It’s a very broad skill set that’s needed. I think a lot of people think it’s just a computer science degree. And while that’s important, there’s a lot of other degrees or skill sets that are important in cyber as well,” Allen said.
The program seeks to hire students in their sophomore year so they can spend a few years training and working hands-on with Baylor’s cybersecurity systems.
“One of the challenges entering this type of field is that a lot of times companies don’t want to hire somebody who doesn’t have experience,” Allen said. “We had a need to have people who could look at data, to process data, things like that. Likewise, I saw that there was a huge need for students to get hands on this type of thing. So it really was an ideal match to pair these two together like this.”
The student interns work about 10 hours a week and help process data at the initial tier of data analysis. Allen said students receive basic training and training in more specific programs like Splunk before getting to work analyzing data and looking for anomalies that upper level analysts can look into.
Allen also said he hopes the program can help interns find summer opportunities at high level internships outside of Baylor.
St. Louis, Mo., junior Carlos Marascia started the information security internship program this year. He majors in management information systems, a field at the intersection of business and computer science. He said the program helped solidify his desire to pursue cybersecurity as a future career.
Marascia said he has learned a lot of technical aspects of the job so far ranging from computer security protocols to using Splunk. He said the outside, hands-on experience the internship offers is unique.
“It’s a great resume builder. I’m learning a lot things that I probably won’t learn in my MIS classes because it’s a lot more technical, a lot more hands on stuff,” Marascia said.
Allen said the program is relatively small — only four students participate — to allow the internship to have a mentorship aspect with the full time employees on the ITS information security team. Those professionals are able to help perfect the internship program’s curriculum through their shared experience and expertise in diverse areas of the cybersecurity field.
“One thing we’re trying to make sure is this is something we can adjust. So the thing that is very true in cybersecurity is it changes constantly, so so what works today from a curriculum standpoint probably isn’t going to work in two years. It has to be something that’s very modular, you can switch out components as needed so that we can make sure we’re producing and getting the right skills for students,” Allen said.
Each week, interns present what they’re learning and field questions from the professionals they work with. Allen said this provides them with more than just technical skills.
“Security professionals in the cyber field need to have a very broad skill set. Not just a technical skill set. They have to be able to communicate, they have to be able to understand business, they have to be able to translate those things back and forth. And so it’s an extremely broad skill set that they need. And I think a lot of people don’t recognize that,” Allen said.
Allen said the hands-on, real-world experience that the information security internship offers sets students apart in job interviews.
“At that point, they’re better prepared because they’ve gone through these situations where they’re presenting and being asked questions to have those sort of conversations,” Allen said.