Northrop Grumman Summer Internship Reflection

Jacob Walters
STEP Internship Experience

My STEP experience was truly one that I can say changed the way in which I view my passions, goals, and the world around me. This summer, I had the opportunity to conduct my STEP project in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio as a Cyber Software Engineering Intern at Northrop Grumman for a duration of 12 weeks. During the internship, I was tasked with studying and furthering my knowledge in Cyber, working on a team of Software Engineers to improve a vast testing framework, and learning about the defense industry.

Through my internship with Northrop Grumman, I learned much about myself and the work that I desire to pursue in the future. Prior to working the internship, I had my sights set on the video game industry as a potential career. After working for this outstanding company, I was exposed to cyber and defense. I believed that the defense industry had a tendency to be volatile based upon the needs of the United States government, however, after learning the “ins and outs” of defense contract bidding and buying, I became convinced that the need for cutting edge defensive technologies was here to stay.

Not only did I learn about my own interests and the mechanics of a new industry, but I also learned about how I can use the work I do at Northrop Grumman to change the world. While the video game industry is exciting and would be work that I would personally enjoy, at the end of the day, I am just putting another product on a shelf. My STEP signature project exposed the dangers that the United States and individuals face everyday, and that I can make their world a safer, more secure place in which to live. I can secure individual identities, help fight cyber crime, help the United States secure National Cyberspace, and many other applications. I learned many concrete skills as well, like bash scripting, the way in which mobile devices send and receive information and was trained in Certified Ethical Hacking (CEH).

I grew in my personal health in addition to professionally. The Northrop Grumman facility offered an employee gym that was free to use for the entirety of summer, and I was able to utilize it three days of the work week. Through this experience, I was able to improve my health and knowledge of human nutrition and self-care.

There were many experiences that contributed to the above professional and personal development. Much of this development came with the formation of many relationships with my coworkers and supervisors. As I progressed throughout the internship, I was able to work and collaborate with many senior engineers at Northrop Grumman. With their help, I was able to better understand the projects I was working on, and how the work I was doing helped the senior engineers around me. As the relationships grew, I gained hands on experience with new technologies, projects, and unique reverse engineering techniques that I can use in the future.

As an intern at Northrop Grumman, I, and many of my fellow interns, were given the opportunity to take a training course in Certified Ethical Hacking. The course was a total duration of approximately 70 hours, and included training in penetration testing, ethics, networking and cyber knowledge, policies, prevention, and workplace education. At the end of this course, I became eligible to take the Certified Ethical Hacking exam and gain a globally recognized certification in “white hat” ethical hacking. Without this course, I would not have gained much of the knowledge that I now possess in the cyber security field.

A third of many valuable experiences that shaped my professional growth over the 12 weeks was the periodic performance reviews and reports. Through these reviews, I learned how to communicate progress on specific projects as well as inform my supervisors of steps that will be taken in the future. While performance reviews were encouraging in many cases, I also learned how to take constructive criticism and build upon my own habits, skills, and practices so that I can become a better leader and engineer in the long run. At the end of the summer, it was communicated to me that I had improved my technical and soft skills over the course of the 12 week internship. My potential to be an effective leader and skilled engineer gained me an offer to return for an internship at Northrop Grumman during the summer months of 2018.

Academically, I will be able to attribute much of my knowledge to the hands on experience that Northrop Grumman provided over the course of 12 weeks. As many students know, understanding the material taught in class is only part of the learning experience. It can be difficult to put worth to what is being absorbed during class time without hands on, practical experience in the field in which one is studying. After the conclusion of my STEP project, I have gained the ability to understand how the information that I am being taught will be useful in the future as an engineer. I believe that without my recent experience, I would still be searching for this purpose in my studies. While it is still early in the autumn semester of my third year, I have already experienced the purpose of ethics and the importance that it holds in the industry in which Northrop Grumman leads.

Finally, I am now a step closer to accomplishing personal goals that were set at the beginning of my college career. I was able to gain valuable experience before my third year at The Ohio State University in the form of an internship. This experience marks the completion of a short term goal with long term effects. In addition, I have also been exposed to a unique industry where I could see myself residing for a long period of time or even entire career. As a student with no previous engineering experience before beginning my journey at Ohio State, I feel very confident in my choice of major and academic focus area, and am excited to pursue a career in the defense industry.