The Internship Series – An Unmatched Experience
In the fall of 2019, I was approaching my senior year at The University of Alabama in Huntsville and started looking for opportunities to gain experience in my field, my only relevant exposure to the industry being an undergraduate research assistant.
I started applying for internships and received an invitation from Parsons for a career fair. At the event, I got the opportunity to experience the company culture firsthand and to meet the employees. Everyone at the event did such a tremendous job making me feel welcome and informing me of the ways that I could contribute to the team. At that moment, I knew Parsons was where I wanted to be and couldn’t wait to hear back from them.
Fast-forward to June 2020—I am interning in the cybersecurity team under the Missile Defense and C5ISR branch. Thus far, this experience has exceeded my initial expectations despite the complications of a global pandemic. My internship became a virtual position, but the transition was seamless and hasn’t hindered my ability to communicate with my team.
Currently, my project is to provide support for cyber tabletop events. The purpose of each event is to test the vulnerabilities of our system by attacking it using techniques that an adversary would use. Each event takes months of planning and involves a considerable amount of data. My assignment in this project, alongside two other interns, is to create a database tool to automate the collection of data from the event. My mentors have been extremely resourceful when tackling my assignment and have provided me with the necessary tools and examples to get started on my project.
During my first week at Parsons, the company’s emphasis on communication and teamwork stood out to me. I learned to work effectively in a team and to hold myself to a higher standard. My boss and mentors communicate with me constantly and try to get to know me personally. Having a strong relationship with my team is both motivating and encouraging, resulting in optimal performance.
My mentors are very knowledgeable in their fields and have done a great job exposing me to industry terminology and processes. They’ve also taught me the proper protocols to follow in the federal department.
When I envision myself as an engineer, I imagine a position that’s constantly challenging me—forcing me to think creatively and expand my skillset. Working on this project allowed me to experience all of that. With the help of my team, we have come up with creative ways to solve various problems. Being able to solve a problem as a unit is one of the most rewarding experiences of this internship. This role also allows me to use my classroom knowledge of coding and apply it in the workplace.
Parsons has done a tremendous job at creating a virtual experience that allows me to pick up industry knowledge through the use of several WebEx series. The series includes: Coffeeology, Meet the Markets, and Missile Defense. The meetings, hosted by experts in their fields, allow the interns to ask them questions directly after each meeting.
The Coffeeology series introduces topics that are normally not taught in the university curriculum, such as finances, time management, and thoughts on retirement. It allows me to consider making changes in my routine to work productively and to think about my future. The Meet the Markets series lecture on current markets in the industry, such as Missile Defense and Cyber & Intelligence. The last series is the lecture series hosted by the Missile Defense team. These topics ranged from cybersecurity to systems engineering and radars, and the lectures provided me with an in-depth analysis of the various branches of the Missile Defense market.
Out of all the Webex meetings, the one that stood out the most was the Missile Defense Agency overview hosted by Brian Clemons. The meeting highlighted the departments within MDA, such as ballistics and the new hypersonics division. Brian was very helpful in answering any questions I had and after the meeting provided me with additional resources to further learn about hypersonics.
My experience with this internship will be a vital factor when considering my future career and professional development.
This internship has set the standard for my future endeavors. Parsons has provided me with an unmatched experience to learn as much as possible. My mentors have done a tremendous job challenging me to step out of my comfort zone and take on new challenges. Any considerations for my future career and development would have to match my experience from this internship.
My mentors provided me with an extremely rare opportunity to have a mentoring session with our President and Chief Operating Officer, Carey Smith. During our conversation I was able to gain insight into the current direction of the Missile Defense industry, challenges she faces as a leader, and receive leadership advice.
Being able to learn about the industry provided me with a glimpse of what to expect when I start my professional career. However, the most noticeable part of our session was when I asked her about the challenges she faces as a leader and how she overcomes them. She used the current COVID-19 pandemic as an example, to overcome the uncertainty of the pandemic, she gathered her team leads and came up with innovative solutions to protect the health and safety of the public. That showed me the mindset of a leader when presented with challenges. Overall, I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with Carey Smith, she was extremely knowledgeable and down-to-earth.
The most memorable part of my internship would definitely be the after-work events hosted by the team. There are two events that stick out to me: the virtual paint night with the inclusion & diversity team and the trivia night with the intern group. Both events allowed me to get to know Parsons employees outside of my team and in different parts of the country. The employees that participated were very diverse and from various backgrounds and cultures. Notably, these events reminded me of the amazing Parsons culture that I experienced back in 2019 at the career fair.