Co-ops and Internships Give Developer a Career Head Start

Michael Rodrigues

After just a year at MITRE, web applications developer Michael Rodrigues is providing technical and project leadership on several efforts to create and update software tools that keep our internal systems secure, support employees in doing their work, and help them connect with other staff.

He credits his experiences as a MITRE co-op and summer intern for these opportunities. "Those programs allowed me to get these leadership experiences earlier in my career than otherwise would have been possible."

While studying at Northeastern University for his bachelor's degree in computer and information science in 2014, Rodrigues began working for MITRE through our co-op program. Co-ops are cooperative education programs that provide college students with work opportunities. Students typically alternate periods of academic study with periods of employment. 

Co-op Provides Web Development Learning Opportunities

"Going into that co-op program, I didn't have a whole lot of web development experience," Rodrigues recalls. "I got to learn about Node.js and AngularJS, two JavaScript technologies that were fairly new—and getting pretty popular—at the time."

That new knowledge paid off when Rodrigues returned to Northeastern after his six-month stint here. "At MITRE, I discovered that Node.js and AngularJS could do things older technologies couldn't. I began integrating them into projects that were part of my coursework."

A year later, Rodrigues returned to MITRE for a second co-op stint. "That year, I worked on a larger project. We developed an internal application that provides an overview of staffing and projects for each organization within the company."

After graduating, Rodrigues decided to pursue his master's degree in cybersecurity at Northeastern. But he didn't lose touch with MITRE. For the next two years, he participated in our summer internship program.

Expanded Responsibility Comes with New Internships

"At that point, I was given even more responsibility," he says. 

In one project, Rodrigues and another student built a new system to replace technology that was no longer compatible with certain browsers. "It was a really cool experience. We were basically given the task and allowed to run with it." 

The two students met with a full-time team member every two weeks to report on their progress and get help with any issues. "With that support, we built the whole system from the ground up."

The following year, Rodrigues was back at MITRE again—this time contributing his newly gained cybersecurity expertise to his projects. 

Driving Cybersecurity Change and Paying It Forward

After finishing his graduate degree, Rodrigues joined MITRE as a full-time employee. 

"We were thrilled that Mike decided to come work with us full time after getting his master's," says his supervisor, Dede Ball. "He's been a very productive member of our team since day one of his first co-op."

The extended nature of the co-op program, she says, helps both MITRE and the students. "Since it's six months long, the students really become an integral part of our team. 

"And the contributions go both ways. We work hard to mentor the students in the areas where they want increased experience, and they contribute new skills, ideas, and perspectives to our operations."

Today, Rodrigues' duties include a focus on both software development and cybersecurity.

"I've enjoyed using my experience with cybersecurity to drive change here at MITRE," he says. "I've suggested some ways to make our software development techniques more secure."

Additionally, Rodrigues works with his team members to analyze the many applications we offer our employees, with the goal of identifying and patching any security vulnerabilities.

He's also taking a lead role in hiring co-ops and summer interns for his team.

"It's a great opportunity to help bring new talent to my team and, at the same time, give other students a chance to have the same kinds of enriching experiences I've had here."

—by Marlis McCollum

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