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All About Internships


About this episode

In this episode, we are discussing the much-anticipated topic of Internships!

Internships are not that common in cybersecurity and that’s because they are a huge long-term investment, which is risky for lots of organizations especially in the private sector.

Some of the issues that come along with internships are the time and resources that must be invested, and on the side, the risk of all these resources being blown away when the intern decides to not continue with the organization.

You can also expect not to see two internship programs that are similar to each other. They are always different and very customized to fit the organization providing these internships.

Internships can also be a great help to break barriers that a lot of entry level workers face when trying to get a job for the first time in many different fields, not just cybersecurity.

There are also other benefits to internships, including better networking opportunities and more improvements to your team’s communication skills, and the way they work with different skill levels, which can enlighten you about areas of weaknesses and points of improvement.

  • Why are internships hard to get?
  • What are the differences between paid and unpaid internships?
  • How do internships help break barriers in cybersecurity?
  • What are the benefits of internships?

Relevant websites for this episode

Episode Transcript

Kip Boyle:
Hey everybody. Guess what? This is Your Cyber Path. We’re the podcast that’s going to help you get the cybersecurity job you want or if you’ve already got a cybersecurity job and you want to get promoted, you want more responsibilities, you want greater pay, you want better compensation. We’re going to help you with that too. So wherever you are in your cybersecurity journey whether you haven’t begun it yet or you you’re on your way somewhere, we’re going to help you. Now, I’m Kip Boyle. I’m here with Jason Dion. Hey, Jason.

Jason Dion:
Hey Kip. Nice to be here again.

Kip Boyle:
I’m so glad that we do this together and everybody in the audience is going to hear why today, particularly because the topic we’re going to talk about is internships. And as always, I’m bringing more of a private sector perspective on whatever it is that we’re talking about, because that’s where I’ve really spent the last 20 plus years of my working life.

Jason’s bringing a different perspective in, which is more of a defense government contractor, federal government perspective, which it’s a different world. And if you have a choice, you should be considering either of those worlds, because they each have something to offer. I started in the U.S. Air Force, I was on active duty. There were some wonderful advantages for me to do that. I probably never would’ve known about cybersecurity as a fit for me. If I hadn’t gone into the Air Force, I don’t know what I’d be doing right now. But anyway, so we’re going to talk about internships.

Now, first thing about internships that I want to say is they’re not common. In the private sector, there aren’t many internships, and why is that? Well, one reason why I’ve observed is because they’re a long play on talent development. In other words, if I go to my boss, if I’m the chief information security officer and I say, “I want to start up an internship program,” my boss might say, “Great. Fill out a business case on that.” And I’ll go get the business case template and I’ll look at it and it’ll say things like, “How much money do you need? What’s the return on investment for this? What are the business benefits?”

And a lot of organizations, their business cases are really slewed towards what am I going to get in 90 days? And that’s not the nature of this at all. So it can be very difficult to get the money that you need and the commitment that you need to start an internship program in the private sector, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we don’t see very many. But Jason, from your point of view, I think what you’ve been telling me is that’s really not the case. Internships on the government side are a lot more common. Is that a fair way for me to say it?

Jason Dion:
Yeah, I think it’s more common. I see it a lot more in the government world, especially for the government civilian employees, which are what we call GSs. For a government civilian, that is where you basically work and you are a W2 employee of the federal government for either the military, for Department of Treasury, for the IRS, for Homeland Security or something like that. Personally, I know when I graduated and got my master’s degree from University of Maryland, there was a program that they were a part of, the National Cyber Education Initiative or something like that, it’s one of those three or four-letter acronyms, and it was partnered with the NSA. And so the NSA actually has a partnership with about 100 schools around the country that says if you do your program a certain way and your students get a certain grade point average, they’ll automatically be offered an internship or a position with us when they graduate.

And so when I graduated, I got a letter from the NSA saying, “Hey, we would like you to come join us. We’ll make you a GS-9 since you got your master’s degree in cybersecurity from this school and you had a 3.8 GPA, we’re interested, we think you’d make a great fit.” Now, they assumed I have no experience. They assumed I have no knowledge, no certifications, just that degree and a certain grade point average, but that was enough for them to say, that’s interesting. We will bring you in as an intern for six months, a paid internship to help you through that and get some experience.

Kip Boyle:
That’s really-

Jason Dion:
And so stuff like that exists, those are things you should look at. And I think this goes back to, you said in the business case, right? As a organization, i.e., the government, they can afford to have a more of a long-term play on this stuff. If I bring somebody as an intern, as a GS-9, a GS-9 in the Fort Meade area where NSA is makes around 60 to $80,000 a year, so it’s not a cheap internship for them, either. But they’re hoping they’re going to get you in, they’re going to get you your clearance, they’re going to find value in you, bring you on as a full-time employee, and then you’ll have a career with them hopefully over the next 15, 20 years because they gave you a shot.

That doesn’t always work out. Sometimes people will do that for their six months, get their clearance, get their internship, and then they’ll jump over to a government contract because now they have a clearance and they have some certs and that kind of thing. And honestly, for the government’s perspective, they’re kind of okay with that, too. Because whether you’re going to work for them as a GS, a government civilian, or you’re going to work for them as a contractor under Booz Allen or one of the other big contracting firms, to them, they’re still getting the talent they need. And so I think there’s a different ROI, whereas if Booz Allen Hamilton was having this internship program and they trained you for six months and then you left for General Dynamics or Lockheed Martin, they’re going to be pissed because they spent six months training you, getting you the experience, and now you’re going over there because you can make more money now that you have some experience.

Kip Boyle:
And that’s another reason why they don’t tend to fund internship programs in the private sector because again, it’s like where’s our ROI? We just poured a ton of money into this person and they walked. So for them, they see it as a transaction. And I think most people in the private sector do see people issues in terms of transactions, which is unfortunate. And I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s a failure to invest.

Anyway, now there’s some downsides, or I should say maybe caveats, not so much downsides, but caveats to some of the programs you’re mentioning, Jason. For example, you need to qualify. Not just anybody if you got the right GPA is going to get these offers because as you just said, there’s going to be a government clearance that’s going to be required. You have to be eligible to work for the government, right?

Jason Dion:
Yeah. So when I got my letter, they didn’t know necessarily if I was, what color I was, what creed I was, what nationality I was, because all they knew was-

Kip Boyle:
About your felony record.

Jason Dion:
Yeah, right. And so they made me an offer, and then you have to go through the interview process, then you have to go through the onboarding process, then you have to go through the clearance process and all that. In my particular case, I was in the military already when I finished my degree and I was under contract with the military to stay there, so I wasn’t accepting the internship anyway. And had I gotten that offer, I probably wouldn’t have accepted that internship coming out of college anyway, because I already had 10 years of IT and cybersecurity experience from working in the military and I would be more like a GS-11 or a GS-12 if I just went in through the front door going through the standard application tracking system and getting hired that way. But the nice thing is for those who do just have a degree and don’t have the experience, these things can give you that first shot.

And this is one of the things I always talk to my students about is that the first job in cybersecurity is always the hardest, right? Breaking down that barrier, getting in there when you have no experience and all you have is a degree or all you have is a certification, if you can get an internship, it can open that door for you and get you that six months of experience that then opens the door. Because once you’re in and you have six to 12 months of experience, now hiring managers are interested in you.

And this again goes right back to that business case we were just talking about, right? If I’m going to hire somebody, I want somebody who I know can do the job. I have several people on my team that are currently in their probationary period because we’ve hired them in the last three to six months and as an employer, if I hire somebody, I’m paying them for three to six months during that probationary period. I’m trying them out and hoping they’re going to be fitting. But if they don’t, I just wasted three to six months of effort, I wasted three to six months of salary, I wasted all these other things that are valuable to me in my company. Plus it was just a distraction because in my case, when I’m specifically hiring new instructors, I am working with them to get them up to speed to teach the way I do and that takes a lot of my time and effort. And if they don’t work out or they leave me in three months or six months, that is always the time I have to start all over again.

And so to minimize the risk of that, I can hire somebody who already is an instructor or somebody who already has those skills. So when you and I worked on our first course together, Kip, it wasn’t a real big deal because you’d already been an instructor for three years, you already knew how to film. And so for me to teach you my ways took like three hours. If you were brand new off the street and you’d never done a video course before, it could take me three months to get you to be valuable to me as a company.

Kip Boyle:
Assuming I can even do it.

Jason Dion:
Yeah, assuming you don’t fill out and wash out, and those are the kind of things you have to think about there. The other thing I want to say real quick is, I think we probably should have said this at the beginning of the episode, but we’ll put it in now. When we talk about internships, there’s really two main types of internships to [inaudible], right? There’s paid and unpaid. And there is a difference between the two, right? There are lots of companies that would love to have you on as an unpaid intern because it doesn’t cost them anything and therefore they’re getting free labor. Well, I will say it does cost them something anyway. Every member we bring on board costs us something, whether I’m paying a salary or not. I still have software tools I have to give you. I still have time I have to give you, I still have equipment I have to give you, office space I have to give you, all those kinds of things.

But if I get somebody who’s free labor for three months as an intern, that’s a lot easier for me to say yes than somebody saying, “Hey, I have zero experience. I just graduated college. I want you to pay me $70,000 a year and teach me everything I need to know.” No, I don’t want to do that. And that I think brings us to point number two, which is there’s just not as many internship programs as we need because they cost time, they cost money and all of those other things even when they’re unpaid.

And so we can move into point two here, which is there aren’t as many internships as we need, and why is that, Kip? Why is there not as many internships as we need?

Kip Boyle:
I think you just did a very nice job of explaining what some of the issues are for the decision maker.

Jason Dion:
It’s all about money.

Kip Boyle:
Well, a lot of it is about money, but it’s also about time, and it’s about getting to know somebody, investing in them knowing that they can walk away at any moment and you will not be able to benefit directly from everything that you’ve done to help them. But I’ll say that to the extent that there are internships in the private sector, I believe it’s because there’s somebody who is in a executive sponsorship position, that is to say they have the authority and the resources that they can commit to this internship program, and these people are usually more of a people-oriented person. Which is to say, they sort of take a different view, which is anybody I hire isn’t going to stay with me forever. It doesn’t matter if they’re an expert, top-shelf skills or if they’re an internship or an entry-level person. I’m probably not going to retain everybody I hire and they’re all going to come and go at different times.

And so as a result, they’re not quite as fixated on the fact that, “Oh, Kip just walked out the door. I just lost, quick, get the adding machine. This is how much I lost.” They don’t quite have that mind. Now, especially if they’re in a big organization and they have a ton of resources, then they can better afford to have that attitude. Guys like you and me, we’re running small companies, we don’t have that much margin. We don’t have that many resources. We have to be way more careful.

But if you’re like T-Mobile, here in the Seattle area where I live, T-Mobile has a very, very structured internship program. They actually have an agreement with the University of Washington and the UW graduates and the juniors and seniors in their programs, many of them get offered internships with T-Mobile. Some of them convert to employees or not. But I know that T-Mobile is very concerned about having a talent pipeline, and they understand that a talent pipeline costs money and that they’re not going to retain everybody that goes into that pipeline, but they’re focused on the pipeline and they can afford it. And so that’s, I think, why they do it. And that’s why a lot of companies don’t do it because they just want to get butts in seats. They’re not thinking about a life cycle for talent. So I think that’s a big difference.

Jason Dion:
Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. And I will say that you mentioned that a lot of times you won’t see small businesses or medium-sized businesses doing internships because of the cost. I think you already know this, but we have interns at Dion Training and we actually use two different internship programs. One, we’re specifically focused on young students. And what I mean by that is 15 to 18-year-olds, usually 10th, 11th, 12th grade. And so during the summer, this summer and last summer, we did an internship program with a local high school here that’s focused on technology and cybersecurity, and we brought in their folks.

Now, when we bring in those high schoolers, do they have any skills we can put immediately to work? Not really, right? But what we’re doing is we’re trying to help them get their experience, we’re trying to introduce them to this world of certification, introduce them to different aspects of our business. And so last year we had five interns. One went on our development team and was working as a full stack developer, one was working on the customer service and operations team, and then three were working on our production team helping us with things like researching and editing scripts and doing video editing and things like that.

So the jobs that we were hiring for at Dion Training were not cybersecurity roles. And I think that’s another big distinction of why we see it’s really difficult to get internships in the cybersecurity world, because we’ve talked about this before. There’s not really entry-level cybersecurity positions. You have to have some kind of level of knowledge for us to be able to use you.

Kip Boyle:

Jason Dion:
If I took those three interns or those five interns, we had five last summer, five this summer, and I put them into a cybersecurity role like a SOC analyst, it takes two months to train somebody. Well, they’re only here for eight to 12 weeks, so the entire eight week of their internship would just be getting them up to base level where they’re ready to do something. It’s like, okay, now how do something go back to your school for the next three years and then go back to the field. It’s not as useful because it’s not a direct pipeline to session in that case.

The other internship we use is through SkillBridge, which is a U.S. military program, and it allows the service members, people who are active duty for the last three to six months of active duty, they can go work for a civilian company. The nice thing about that program is the military continues to pay their salary, and the people that are coming there are coming from the military. Usually they have four years, eight years, 12 years, 20 years of experience depending on who they are. And so these people have a lot of technical background in various areas, and some of them have been working in cybersecurity for 20 years at places like the NSA and the CIA and other places like that. And so they are highly qualified, highly skilled people. And the reason the DOD started that program was because they saw a lot of service members were having trouble shifting from a government job into a civilian job. And so this was a way to get these people into the civilian sector in a very de-risked way for us as employers because I don’t have to pay this person for three to six months.

And so several of my instructors that I’ve been hiring have come through that program. And the reason is I basically get to try before I buy, and I get six months to see if they can spin up and can they learn to teach and can they be presentable on screen and can they do research? And all those things are hard to identify in an interview for 20 minutes. But we give people a shot, they get a three to six-month internship and if they work out, we keep them on full-time afterwards. And I will say, so far, everybody we’ve had through the SkillBridge program, and we’ve had one, two, three, four, five, six so far between the last 12 to 18 months, they’ve all landed into a full-time job with us at good rights. And so it’s turned into full jobs for them.

Kip Boyle:
That’s fantastic.

Jason Dion:
But that is not always the case. I see some companies who abuse this and they will use this as free labor and they’ll take 10 people and think, “Well, if I hire one out of 10, I’m doing good.” Well, no, because the other nine [inaudible] don’t have a job now. And so for us, when we bring somebody on for internship, we have the intention of if this worked out, you’re going to stay with us, at least in that program. On the school side, the intention is you’re going to be here for the summer, you’re going to leave. Next summer if you want to come back, we might have a spot for you, but we’re not going to keep you during the school year. That being said, last year we did have two of the five interns that stayed with us in a part-time capacity through the school year, as well. And then when it came time for internships, we brought in five new ones, and those two are still actually here from last summer and still work here, too.

Kip Boyle:
That’s great. So you see it as part of your talent pipeline?

Jason Dion:
For us, we do see it as part of the talent pipeline, yeah. And a way for us to, with the high school internship, it’s a way for us to give back in this world of IT. So that’s how we look at it, and it is really a cost for us. I mean, it probably costs us $50,000 a summer to pay for these interns and the support staff and everything else that we do, but we feel that it’s a value add to the community at large, even if it’s not a value add to Dion Training itself.

Kip Boyle:
Right. And see, so you’re community-minded and you are trying to figure out how can I invest in my community, right? My online community, my local community. And with the emphasis, at least in the United States, I’m not going to speak for other economies of the world, but in the United States, the dominant philosophy is that corporations exist to produce profit, right? And so anything that’s not producing profit is seen as suspect. And it hasn’t always been like that, but this is sort of the world we’ve been living in since probably, what, the 1970s or something like that is kind of when this really got ensconced as this is the purpose of businesses.

And so that’s another reason why it’s kind of rare that you see a business being willing to invest in their community with no expectation of an immediate payback. So I love hearing about your high school interns that come in. I love hearing about how you position the SkillBridge program in order to help a service member transition and also create an opportunity for Dion training. I think that’s fantastic. I would love to see more organizations behaving like this, but the reality is, I don’t see a ton of organizations behaving like this and I think it goes back to something we said before, which is there just aren’t a lot of internship programs out there, but we really do need more of them.

I would say a couple other things. One is that I’ve never seen two internship programs the same. So if you are thinking about getting an internship and you’ve been maybe poking around and you’re like, “Man, I just don’t see any commonality from one program to the next.” Don’t expect, because all this stuff is very bespoke, custom to that organization, for their reasons. Some of them are just summer only, like Jason runs a summer high school internship program, others are for transitioning service members. So you’re talking about a completely different use case and situation.

I want to tell you about an internship program that I ran when I was a CISO at an insurance company. We have a community college here in our local area, and it’s actually the one that I went through. And so I made a connection with the professor that runs their IT and cybersecurity degree program, and I was helping him revamp his curriculum, and one of the things we ended up talking about over a series of meetings was internships. And he said, “Gosh, I really value internships and I really wish we had more of them.” And I said, “All right, I’ll go ahead and start an internship program. Let’s talk about what you would want it to look like.” And so I, for three or four years, had one intern each year come and work with us, and it was a year-round program. We didn’t just do summer, we actually had expanded hours in the summer and then abbreviated hours during the school year so they could put their focus on their studies, which is where it needed to be.

Now I want to tell you a story about one of my interns. So this kid came in and I’m going to say kid, because he was like this 18-year-old, 17-year-old, 19-year-old kid. And it was funny because he was super enthusiastic, but he just lacked some common sense. So for example, one time somebody came in and found me and they said, “Hey, Joe,” whatever the intern’s name is, “Joe. I just saw him at the cafeteria and he was bumming lunch money off the CEO.” So I’m just like, oh my gosh. “Joe, come back over here. We need to talk,” right? So anyway, so I had to talk about that. So you have experiences like that where interns just like they don’t understand, they don’t understand how the world works outside of school. You don’t know how they grew up, you don’t know their situation and his situation. He kind of grew up in a family where he just didn’t get taught everything he needed to know. And so sometimes when you get an intern, you’re kind of being a parent to him a little bit too, depending, right?

But here’s the thing about this guy, Joe. So that happened like 10 years ago or 10, 12 years ago. I ran into him at the local Costco recently. My wife and I were in there shopping and I saw him in there. He was in there with his wife and his two kids. And I was like, “Joe, how’s it going man?” And he started telling me about this wonderful job he has, the home that he bought, the family that he has. And he never said, “Oh, it’s all because of your internship.” That’s not true, he didn’t need to say that. But I really loved seeing how that little bit of investment that our internship program made in him, he did other things too. It’s all him, he did it all. But it was so gratifying for me to see what he’d done with that little bit that we had helped him with. And there’s no ROI on that, but I love how he took that and became this member of our community, and it was just fantastic.

Jason Dion:
Yeah. So I got a couple of things out of your story there. I didn’t hear your whole story when we did our pre-show prep, so I’m just coming from the plot here of some of the things I think about when I hear that. And one of the ones I hear about is the fact that you were partnering with a community college, and that doesn’t surprise me. Because when I used to be a professor at a community college, we worked very closely with our local businesses to develop our programs and make sure that the skills we’re giving people are skills that the businesses actually needed.

And so in our case, we actually built out a program that had four certifications, A+, Net+, Security+, and CCNA. And between those four certifications, the students would come to us for a year-long program at the community college. It wasn’t even a full degree program, wasn’t an associates, wasn’t bachelor’s, nothing like that. Just four certifications and four other courses that were focused on soft skills and things like that. And when we built out the program, we met with four to five of the largest employers in that area and said, “Look, we are trying to build you more cybersecurity candidates. We know you’re not going to do it yourself. So if you were to have the perfect candidate, what skills do you want?” They said, “Oh, I need somebody who can do this, this, and this.” And we made sure those were in our curriculum and we got all those from those local employers and then we made a deal with them and said, “Hey, as we go through and put these students through and they graduate, will you bring them on?” And so all the employers agreed, anybody who graduates from this program will get an interview. And then based on that, they’ll decide who they would take.

And so we had usually about 20 students per cohort going through, and every six weeks we’d start a new cohort. And out of those 20 students, usually about 15 would make it to graduation after the year because life happens, some fail out, some had life issues, some had wives and kids and other things and medical issues and whatever else it was. And then when they got to that year point, they finished the training, the companies now had a good pool of candidates to hire from, and they would bring somebody in for a three to six-month paid internship, and if they survived that, then that would roll into a real job. And so they were using the internship as part of the talent feed pipeline to go, okay, you got the degree, or you got the classes. We know you have this minimum level of knowledge now we’ll give you some on-the-job work, and if you can handle it, now you can go into a full-time position.

And so that was one of the ways I was able to break down those barriers in cybersecurity of getting in, because all those jobs were entry-level stock analyst jobs. And so that’s why we built that program that way. And there’s such a demand in that area, because I was up in the DC metro area for those types of things, we were able to work with a lot of employers. And I see this across lots of different industries.

My son lives up in South Carolina, and in South Carolina, there’s a huge Boeing airline plant at the Charleston Airport. That’s where they make the 787 Dreamliners. And so before Boeing came to town, they actually met with the different community colleges there and said, “Look, if we’re going to bring our plant there, we need electricians. We need guys who can do wiring. We need electronics technicians. We need mechanics, we need fabricators, we need welders,” all these things we need.

And so they worked with the different community colleges there to feed their pipeline in. And there’s a partnership with Boeing with a lot of these community colleges. And I say community colleges specifically, because I know so many people think you got to go to a four-year school, you got to go get your master’s degree. And honestly, if you get an associates from one of these community colleges, you may actually be better off than having a master’s degree in terms of getting your foot in the door and getting into a job. A master’s is going to be useful later on when you’re trying to get into the C-suite or you’re trying to become a leader or a manager, but to start out, you’re actually overqualified and it’s going to be harder to find a job. If you come to me with no experience, you’re 21 years old, 22 years old, and you’ve got a master’s degree in cybersecurity, I don’t really know what to do with that. Because you’re qualified to be a manager, but you don’t have the life experience or any of the work experience to be a manager.

Kip Boyle:
You’re not ready.

Jason Dion:
And so I see a lot of people will over-certify themselves, they’ll over-degree themselves, and then they’re not eligible for things like an internship that would’ve gotten them that step in the door. The other thing I want to talk about is if you are going to a traditional college, talk to your professors. A lot of them have connections with the business industry in your area and can help you get into an internship. And the other thing is, take it upon yourself to go find that internship. Back in episode 95, we did an interview with a cybersecurity student named Sam Bodine, and he actually got an internship at Lockheed Martin and nobody gave it to him. He went out and found it himself. He was hustling, and he found the right contacts through LinkedIn. And I will say, Sam, if you haven’t listened to that episode, episode 95, go back and listen to it. Sam is an impressive guy. He really is. He goes the extra mile to really get what he wants.

In fact, when we were going to film that episode, I was like, “Yeah, we just film over Zoom. No problem.” Because he lives up in Virginia, I’m here in Florida, and he’s like, “Actually, I’d love to fly down and sit with you in your studio so that I could spend the day with you.” I was like, “You know what? If you’re willing to fly down here, I will clear my calendar. You can pick my brain all day.” And we spent all day together. He shadowed me for the day as I was doing my work. We did our podcast together, we went to lunch, we had lots of talks and things like that. And he got a lot of great value being able to pick my brain for an entire day. And I was like, “Well, if you’re willing to fly down here, I’m willing to give you my day.” But it’s just that kind of thing that most students won’t ask for that, but he did. And so he got something nobody else got, right? So yeah, I think that’s important.

And then the other thing I wanted to mention as we’re getting close to the end of this episode is, we focused a lot on what you can do as far as finding an internship or why they don’t exist. The other thing is, I know that we have about half our audience are people trying to get into cybersecurity. The other 30 to 50% is really a lot of people who are already in cybersecurity and they may be those managers, they may be those executives, they may be those leaders. And specifically, we have a couple of people at our listenership who are in the C-suite, for instance, that I’ve personally talked to.

So for those of you, I’m going to spend the next couple of minutes talking to you and what you can do to create an internship in your organization, right? [inaudible] is, you’re going to spend some money here and you’re going to have to get buy-in from your executive team to give you that budget. And I think it is, like Kip said, this is a long play on talent development, but it’s also good for the industry. And if more organizations like yours, whoever you are listening, are doing these internships, that means there’s more. And it doesn’t feel like a huge program. As Kip said, when he worked for that insurance company, that was a mid-size company, right, Kip?

Kip Boyle:
Yeah, that’s right.

Jason Dion:
So 500 to 1,000 employees probably?

Kip Boyle:
Oh, yeah, definitely in that range.

Jason Dion:
Yeah, so 500 to 1,000 employees, right? Could they have done a five-person internship? Probably. But they started with one. And one is enough to get started because if everybody did one, there’d be a lot of internship jobs going around and people can start getting this experience they need. I’ll tell you personally, I love doing internships. I’ve done them for years in my company at Dion Training. I started a new company this year, and we actually have our first intern with a new company who started this week, as we’re filming this, three days ago and he’ll be with us for six months, and he’s a college student, and the internship he’s in is a full stack developer position, and he’s working with our C T O as we’re building out all of our different functionality in AI and ML and he’s doing all sorts of cool stuff there. But we think this guy coming out of, he’s a junior in college, does he already know how to do AI and ML? Heck no, right? But he at least has a background in programming because he’s been in school for three years doing that, and so we can now teach him, okay, let’s go into this AI, ML side of it.

But I would implore you, it does help the community, but it also helps your business. There’s also some good public relations things you can get out of it, right? We as a company, we’re a small little training company, but we can go, we talk at conferences about internships. The school that we are partnered with has an annual conference called TechFest that’s pretty big here in the Orlando area, and lots of big companies and sponsors come in. And so while we’re there talking about the fact that we work with the school and have interns, they’re also going, “Oh, we see Dion Training and maybe we want to buy your products for our team, as well.” And so it’s actually led to some sales for us. And so there are benefits of doing an internship that it’s not a direct, I do this, I give $10,000 out in an internship, I’m going to get $50,000 back. It’s not as clear-cut as that, but there are benefits for you on the team.

I’ve seen, the last thing, and then I’ll pass it back to Kip here, is I’ve seen that it actually helps increase our team and the way our team works together. Because the way adults work with adults and the way adults work with either high school or college students or those newer in the field is different, and it actually makes them grow as leaders, too. Because now they’re having to think, “How do I communicate cross-generationally?” Because a lot of my team leaders are all in their 35 to 45 range, and now they’ve got these 18 or 22-year-olds that they’re working with, and being able to communicate and get that work style keeps the company young and flowing, too. So I see a lot of benefits, and I would implore you all to think about doing internships. They don’t have to be expensive. You could do them as no-cost internships, you can do them as unpaid internships, and then it brings your cost way down, but it will take some of your time and effort, but it is well worth it. Kit?

Kip Boyle:
I wanted to just add something to what you said, and then I think we’ll be ready to wrap this episode. The, oh God. I tried to hold it for so long and then it just slipped through my fingers.

Jason Dion:
I went on my diatribe, sorry about that.

Kip Boyle:
No, no, no. I really enjoyed what you said. Oh, it’s employer brand. That’s what I was going to say. When you’re recruiting people who are not interns, they’re thinking about your company like, “Do I want this company on my resume? Is it going to help me in the future, or do I just want to be involved in the company with this kind of reputation?” Well, a really robust internship program is going to help your reputation as an employer. It’s going to enhance it. So if you’re having trouble getting your human resources department to support you with your internship program, make sure you mention this, because they’re very interested in making sure that their brand as an employer is as good as it can be, and this is a way to enhance it. So that business value, make sure you make that connection.

Jason Dion:
Yeah. And actually, as you were talking about that, it brought one more thing to my mind then we’ll wrap this up, and this is that internships are not just at the beginning of your career, either. And this is something that I think a lot of people don’t understand, and this is probably something that Kip’s probably going to go, “What the heck is Jason talking about,” because he’s probably never seen an internship at a senior level, but in the government, it does exist. And I see this all the time. And what they’ll call them is things like fellowships, they’ll call them internships, they’ll call them work study, they’ll call them all sorts of things.

But one of the things I’ve seen in the 20 plus years I worked in the government was that we had programs where we would take somebody and for six months, we would put them in a different organization to learn something different. And what I mean by that is, for instance, I had somebody who came from the Naval Shipyard in Seattle, Washington, and they moved him for three months over to the NSA and specifically fleet cyber command for the Navy so he could work on cyber defense stuff. And it was part of an executive internship because they’re saying, “Okay, you’re already a,” I think he was a GS-13, and they wanted to move him into a 14 position or a 15 position, which basically means he’s going from leading a three or four-person team to a 30 to 50-person team or more. And they were moving him from more of a technical role into a more managerial or leadership role.

And so they put him through this three-month internship. It was paid at his current pay rate and all of that, and once he got through that internship, then he was eligible to go to this next-level job and get a promotion. I’ve seen several of those programs out there, so that is something to keep in mind as well. If you can find these type of programs, it can be a career stepping stone. And I do have a lot of people who ask in the past, “how do you get to be in a C-suite?” Well, things like that, there are the pathways where they are part of the talent pipeline, like Kip said earlier, where they’re taking you from an individual contributor to a manager, from a manager to an executive, from an executive to a C-suite leader, right?

Not everybody’s going to be on that track. It’s probably one out of 1,000 or one out of 100 or something like that. But if you can find those tracks and get into it, it does help.

Kip Boyle:
Yep. Okay, great. So thank you, Jason, for helping us unpack this topic of internships, and we hope that that has helped you, whoever’s listening to this episode to better understand, okay, why are internships, why is that such a weird thing? How come I can’t find one? Now, that doesn’t necessarily solve your problem, but hopefully this insight will give you some ideas for what you can do to actually find the right internship for you, or maybe even encourage a company to create an internship of one.

Jason Dion:
Yep. And I would definitely look at, as you’re thinking about where can I find these, go on LinkedIn, most companies that have these internships will post about it on LinkedIn. The other thing you’ll find is that if you have an affinity group, for instance, you went to the University of Maryland and got your bachelor’s degree. Their alumni association can help you get placed into an internship. If you’re currently in college, talk to your professors. They know about internships. If you’re looking for internships, you’re going to find better luck trying to find an in-person one than a remote one. Remote ones are really, really hard to find. The odd thing is, our internships at Dion Training for the high schoolers are all remote, and it’s kind of weird because a lot of these students, this is their first job and now they’re having to learn how to work remotely, which is already a weird and difficult skill.

And so there are different ways that these internships are done, paid and unpaid that exist all over the place. If you’re trying to find them in the commercial sector, stick with the bigger companies, you’ll have better luck. Things like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, T-Mobile, Verizon, et cetera. Bigger companies have the ability to afford these type of internships. In general, you’re not going to find a smaller company like CRO that has five or 10 people being able to support an internship even if you gave them a free body. Kip’s team would struggle to use that free body because they’re busy already doing all their other work, right? And so that becomes a challenge.

And I will tell you personally, our first interns, we had about 15 to 20 people on our team. We added five interns. That was a lot of work, because it was almost like there was one intern for every three of my employees. And so it started taking a lot of our employees time, too. So just keep that in mind as you’re looking, and you’ll be able to find an internship hopefully, and that will be able to get you that experience. Even if it is a two or three-month internship, that two or three months of experience on your resume is better than zero experience and a certification. So you want to make sure you have those, get some experience, get some certifications, and then go get that real job.

All that being said, I want to thank you for listening to another episode of Your Cyber Path. If you enjoy the episode and you want to learn more about how to write your resumes for those internships, how to do your interviews, how to do your negotiation, check out our course over at IRRESISTIBLE, which is How to Land Your Dream Cybersecurity Job. You can find it at yourcyberpath.com/udemy. That is yourcyberpath.com/udemy, and that will have the link to all three of our courses that were made by Kip and I, which includes IRRESISTIBLE, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework Course, and the NIST Risk Management Framework course.

And hopefully, going through the IRRESISTIBLE course will help you get your resume into the right positioning so that you will be able to get that internship once you’ve identified one. And we also talk about where to find jobs in there, such as how to use LinkedIn and how to use cyberseek.org and things like that, and that does apply to internships as well. So I think you’ll find a lot of value out of it. It’s about $10 usually for the course, 10, $12. And again, you can find that at yourcyberpath.com/udemy. That being said, until next time, this was Your Cyber Path and we’ll see you next time.

Kip Boyle:
Later on, everybody.


Headshot of Kip BoyleYOUR HOST:

    Kip Boyle
      Cyber Risk Opportunities

Kip Boyle serves as virtual chief information security officer for many customers, including a professional sports team and fast-growing FinTech and AdTech companies. Over the years, Kip has built teams by interviewing hundreds of cybersecurity professionals. And now, he’s sharing his insider’s perspective with you!

Headshot of Jason DionYOUR CO-HOST:

    Jason Dion
      Dion Training Solutions

Jason Dion is the lead instructor at Dion Training Solutions. Jason has been the Director of a Network and Security Operations Center and an Information Systems Officer for large organizations around the globe. He is an experienced hiring manager in the government and defense sectors.


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