A Winning Playbook: The Student-Athlete Intern Experience at MITRE
In 2021, hundreds of students from across 35 states joined MITRE to participate in our extensive internship program. Among them were over a dozen student-athletes who participate full-time in NCAA athletics while pursuing their degrees.
Leading into the summer of 2021, student-athletes were specifically recruited due to their demonstration of MITRE's cultural attributes—as well as for highly developed skills that don't always show up on a resume. These “soft skills” are particularly valuable in our team-oriented environment, where the ability to perform under pressure, remain resilient, and lead people and projects help us achieve our mission of solving problems for a safer world.
How did it go? Before summer’s end, we asked two recent interns about their experiences. (Above, Reagan Bustamante during a cross-country event for Virginia Tech. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech Department of Athletics.)
Reagan Bustamante: Cross Country to Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration
Reagan, what’s your major?
I have a bachelor’s degree in human and organizational development from Vanderbilt University. At Virginia Tech, I am currently getting a Master of Public Administration, which I will be finishing in 2022.
What sport did you do at Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech?
I ran cross country and track!
What made you decide to intern at MITRE?
MITRE offers the unique opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-world projects by joining a high-performing team and working in partnership with senior staff.
How was your internship experience?
It’s been great. I get to work on crucial projects side by side with my team for our sponsor and have creative liberty and ownership over my work.
The culture here supports curiosity, asking questions, and collaboration, aspects that have enhanced my overall internship experience.
Who did you support in your internship?
I supported the Missile Defense Agency division and worked with my team on our sponsor’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense. I also supported organizational change strategy, and some of my projects touched on business process, roles and responsibilities, and organizational alignment.
How do you see your experience as a student-athlete helping you at MITRE?
Team culture and operating cross-collaboratively is emphasized here. My experience as a student-athlete has allowed me to maintain a team mindset while using the resilience and adaptability I developed through college athletics.
Cam Lischke: Football to Computer Forensics
Cam Lischke successfully combined athletics and academics at Wake Forest. (Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics.)
What’s your major, Cam?
I studied computer science and criminology at Wake Forest, and in the fall of 2021, I will start pursuing my master’s degree in security informatics at Johns Hopkins University.
What sport did you play at Wake Forest?
And what made you decide to come intern at MITRE?
Since I was a kid watching “Criminal Minds,” I've always wanted to start a career in security or computer forensics while supporting a government agency. MITRE provided great opportunities to do just that while supporting a range of different sponsors.
How was your internship experience?
I've learned a lot about a career field that I really want to explore further, and I've met great professionals who excel in their careers. This is my first real job, so it has been an awesome ride.
Who did you support during your internship?
I supported DHS's Office of Biometric Identity Management. OBIM is deploying new software to extract, store, match, and analyze a host of different biometric modalities. I was able to support MITRE's Red Team Exercise for this new software, and it was extremely exciting.
What skills have you picked up in your internship that will help you long-term?
Long-term skills I've added to my toolbox are Linux system administration processes and techniques, offensive security concepts and tools, as well as an overall understanding of networking, software, and web security.
Non-technical skills I've developed include a customer-centered mindset, prioritizing communication in all aspects of work, and professional networking and branding.
How did you see your experience as a student-athlete helping you at MITRE?
The ability to handle adversity in high-stakes situations was critical. There were days when nothing would go according to plan, and just being able to be mentally tough and work through were paramount.
Time management and determination were huge during the internship. Being an athlete and understanding that teamwork and collaboration are vital to success is a lesson that will go far at MITRE.
I’m glad to help out this new program and can't wait to see what it brings!
—interviews conducted by Grant Bowden
If you would like to know more about MITRE’s student-athlete internships, as well as our collaborations with colleges’ NCAA programs, please contact us.
Learn more about MITRE’s student programs and our opportunities for early-career professionals.