My MITRE Internship: A Route to SuccessSeptember 2019
When I began my first semester at the University of Maryland, I was confident that I would graduate with a business degree, just like family members before me had done. After taking a few communications and rhetoric courses, the path I was on changed course.
I found the art of persuasion intriguing. Majoring in communications would allow me to work in business while growing my knowledge of oratory and writing techniques. I found the best of both worlds.
After talking to my parents and professors, I officially changed my major from business to communications. Yet, I still had doubts. I wondered what sector I would fall into after graduation. I needed hands-on work experience and began looking for an internship to help me fill the gap.
The Internship Search
My internship search began in earnest in the fall of my junior year. I sent dozens of resumes to prospective employers. Finally, I landed an interview with MITRE for an internship with the National Institute of Standards and Technology's National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence’s (NCCoE) Outreach and Engagement (O&E) team.
The NCCoE is the primary work program of the MITRE-operated National Cybersecurity Federally Funded Research and Development Center. After several interviews, MITRE offered me a position. To say that I was excited is a major understatement.
Nervous, Yet Reassured
MITRE internships—just like all new hires—begin with a half-day orientation at the campus in McLean, Virginia. Afterwards, we made our way to our respective offices. My internship was at the NCCoE headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. I was nervous when I walked through the door, but my anxiety soon went out the window. I was greeted warmly by my new colleagues and made to feel right at home.
Throughout my 12-week internship, I excelled in my duties, which I attribute to the strong sense of camaraderie and collaboration that permeates the NCCoE. I also learned that growth isn't easy. I could execute the tasks I was given, but my advisers and mentors pushed me to analyze information at a deeper and more profound level. This is what growth feels like—uncomfortable yet gratifying.
My tasks included analyzing the NCCoE's RSA Conference submissions. (RSA is a series of major IT conferences that take place annually in San Francisco; it has approximately 45,000 attendees.) I recommended ways to strengthen the content to increase our submissions acceptance rates and gave a formal presentation to NCCoE staff.
I also designed a "web tree test" to help improve the NCCoE's website and presented my recommendations to the O&E team. These tasks helped me understand the communicator's role and how it applies to most organizations, including gathering data, identifying trends, and making recommendations to senior leaders.
Even as I pack up my cubicle and prepare to head back to school, I'm excited for what the future holds. I'm saddened to bid farewell to my colleagues, but I'm hopeful our paths will cross again.
Serving as a MITRE intern put me a step ahead in my communications career. It was everything I thought it would be, and more. I grew personally and professionally and made some great friends along the way. And that's exactly what an internship should be.
—by Thomas Walters
Tommy Walters is a senior at the University of Maryland. He is pursuing a degree in general communications.