“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
– Lao Tzu
Internships have a stereotype. You’re hired to mostly put things in envelopes, get coffee, peel seedless grapes to feed whatever senior bosses in the organization request it, and learn how to use a giant emu feather for a fan.
Applying to be an intern at a tech company is itself a weird process. You do loops in your head: “I think I’m good enough for this… but they should be hiring someone who knows what they’re doing… but I think I know what I’m doing, I’d just like to learn from them how to do this correctly.”
I spent one month bickering back and forth in my brain, incapable of making a decision after attending my first Security Conference at OpenDNS, S4 Respond Con. I went for two reasons: to learn everything I could, and to get extra credit for a class. What I found myself doing after a very interesting speech by Lenny Zeltser on malware was speaking with Andrew Hay, Senior Security Evangelist at OpenDNS, and asking if there were any open internship positions. Asking for an internship even though I had a full time job, part time schooling, and an upcoming wedding.
IT is an interesting field. Some people are excellent at hearing the same person call you each day and tell you how they broke something. I’m personally not one of those people. I like finding out how something works, not how someone screwed it up. An internship at OpenDNS is learning from extremely smart people how technology works. When I start my day, I sit next to a PhD in Graph Theory on my left, and a penetration tester who used to work at NASA on my right. My code is reviewed by experienced programmers working to make OpenDNS highly respected in graphic visualization of malware. My off conversations with anyone at the office are more educational than most of my undergrad.
I’m not the best programmer—I’m still learning every day how to do what I’m being paid to do better. For me, the best part about OpenDNS isn’t the free lunch Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It’s not Waffle Wednesday or drinking microbrews on Friday and reviewing code with the Engineering team.
These are all marvelous and fun experiences, but what really makes me feel good as an intern, what I love dearly, is the challenge. Learning how to be good at your career is the best gift you can get at a workspace, and so few internships actually do that. As an intern, I don’t do busywork—I write code that’s applied in creating models for identifying malicious activity. I get training in memory forensics because we need to detect malware and we need to detect it tomorrow. I get to play with a Rasberry Pi and configure it to set it up as a man in the middle device.
An internship at OpenDNS is the first step in your career in this new age. You may want to be a developer, you may want to be a penetration tester, you may want to be a big data guru, you may just like hacking everything around you. OpenDNS provides that space to grow and apply yourself.
If you’re just starting your college CS career, if you’re restarting your career entirely in CS, or if you know you want to work for an organization that matters and is looking for people who want to make a difference in security past installing Malware Bytes on your grandparents’ computer, OpenDNS is the best start you can ask for. I left my job because I knew that it was stale and uninteresting. I started an internship to build a career learning computer security from the ground up from professionals who I respect and admire.
I don’t know where I’m going to land and I’m not worried about it at all, because I know I’ll have my experience at OpenDNS for the rest of my life.