Category Archives: Career Skills

NOVA Student Success Spotlight in DCO: Tim Shutz

Last year, Tim Shutz  departed from his previous career in search of something new.

Starting his new career pathway at NOVA, he dove into Engineering Technology, Data Center Operations, and Computer Science. He also signed up for CLRI (NOVA IET’s Career and Leadership Readiness Institute) in 2022 to hone his professional and interpersonal skills, after which he landed an internship with AFCOM Potomac Chapter in 2023, fostering a passion for Data Centers along the way.

Now he has secured a job at Iron Mountain Data Centers as a Critical Facility Specialist.

When deciding to switch careers, Tim started with a leap of faith:

“It was as nerve-wracking as you can imagine, leaving behind the comfort, rhythm, and familiarity I had known. With the onset of the 2020s, as the world grew increasingly volatile, technology appeared to be on an exponential rise, and the pace of change outstripped my preparedness, I knew I needed to undergo a personal transformation. This journey brings to mind a cherished quote by Warren Buffet: “If the future is uncertain, invest in yourself.”

After Tim invested in himself through NOVA, CLRI, and AFCOM internship, and now at Iron Mountain, Tim’s leap of faith is paying dividends and he is confident about the future:

It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m grateful for the series of events that have brought me to where I am today. I can’t wait to contribute my skills and embark on this exciting journey with an amazing team. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my path.”


Interview with Tim Shutz

We caught up with Tim and asked him a few questions about his experience with CLRI and AFCOM and how it prepared him to go to the next level. His answers give some insight on what he has learned and accomplished, who has helped him, and where he sees himself in the future.

Tim’s CLRI experience: 13 questions and answers
(Internship-specific answers detailed after the CLRI portion)

Q: What IET field are you pursuing and why?

I pursued and finished an Engineering Technology certification, and am continuing a Data Center Operations certification and an Associate’s degree in Computer Science. These choices stemmed from a desire to engage in technical work while also challenging myself through the pursuit of a computer science major.

Q: How did you find out about CLRI?

My introduction to CLRI came during my fall semester when I received an email about the program. Recognizing the importance of exploring various clubs and opportunities, I was drawn to the intriguing prospects offered by CLRI.

Q: Why are soft skills and effective interpersonal communication vital if you’re pursuing a career in a technical field?

The significance of soft skills and effective interpersonal communication cannot be overstated for those venturing into technical careers. While technical expertise opens doors, it’s the soft skills that pave the way for advancement and growth.

Q: How have you fostered continuing professional relationships with fellow CLRI peers?

Cultivating enduring professional relationships with fellow CLRI peers has been an organic process. By embarking on the AFCOM internship together and sharing subsequent experiences, we have forged strong bonds that greatly ease navigation within this field.

Q: Tell us about how CLRI aided in building your personal brand?

My involvement in CLRI significantly contributed to the refinement of my personal brand. Beyond the connections I established, working closely with a professional resume writer resulted in a standout resume that has garnered numerous compliments for its quality.

Q: In CLRI you worked on building an effective resume. What are the best ways to make your resumé stand out both technically and with the content you include?

Crafting a remarkable resume in CLRI involved strategic decisions. Placing my educational achievements at the forefront and quantifying my contributions with specific metrics enabled the resume to stand out both technically and content-wise.

Q: How did CLRI hone your leadership skills? Why is it important to have these skills even if you are not interested in pursuing a management role?

CLRI played a pivotal role in honing my leadership skills, particularly aiding me in enhancing my networking abilities after a period of isolation due to the pandemic. These skills hold value even for non-managerial roles, as they facilitate meaningful interactions within the data center profession.

Q: How did mock interviews prepare you for real interviews?

Participating in mock interviews through CLRI, particularly the ones hosted by Amazon, allowed me to refine my STAR interview technique, offering invaluable preparation for real-world interviews.

Q: How did CLRI enhance your professionalism and accountability?

CLRI’s influence on my professionalism and sense of accountability was substantial. Engaging with experts on soft skills and receiving personalized advice provided valuable insights. One conversation with a speaker helped me recognize the depth of experience I possessed, boosting my confidence.

Q: It was said during CLRI “every day is a job interview.” What does that mean to you?

The adage “every day is a job interview” underscores the importance of presenting oneself in the best possible light during all interactions. Just as in formal job interviews, daily encounters offer opportunities to make positive impressions.

Q: How effective was the networking event? Anyone in-particular that you connected with?

The networking event was effective in connecting me with individuals who have since become valuable professional contacts. The experience was highly positive, although additional in-person talks would have enhanced the connection-building process.

Q: What’s next for you? What opportunities do you feel you might have missed if you hadn’t taken CLRI?

So recently I was offered a job at a great company. Without CLRI I don’t think I would have gotten there. CLRI introduced me into data centers which got me into the DCO program, then into AFCOM, right into a job.

Q: What would you say in recommending CLRI to NOVA students?

I honestly think a program like this should be mandatory for students. My point is that school is only a part of the recipe to success, if you don’t go out of your way to meet industry professionals you will have a very difficult time getting the dream job you want, or even figuring out if the major you are in is the correct one.

Q: Anything else that we’ve missed?

CLRI introduced me to inspiring professionals and fellow students, setting the stage for what was to come. Thank you M. Andy Chaves and Sedrick Settle!

TJ Ciccone’s ENE195 class was a game-changer, teaching us the art of acing interviews and igniting my passion for data centers. Thank you Thomas (TJ) Ciccone


Tim’s AFCOM Internship: 14 questions and answers

Q: Generally, why are internships important?

Internships hold universal importance as they offer firsthand experience, allowing individuals to assess their suitability for a role and their compatibility with a company. Additionally, internships facilitate longer and more revealing interactions with potential employers.

Q: What did you learn during CLRI that helped you in your AFCOM internship?

The insights gained from CLRI played a pivotal role in my AFCOM internship experience. This foundation enabled me to engage effectively in discussions surrounding data center operations and ask pertinent questions, showcasing my acquired knowledge.

Q: A number of CLRI grads have gone on to do internships together. How has that developed a sense of professional community?

The collective pursuit of internships by fellow CLRI graduates fostered a profound sense of professional community. This camaraderie not only provides ongoing support but also expands networks, enabling connections that will likely endure throughout our careers.

Q: Tell us about your AFCOM Internship experience? How did it build on what you learned through CLRI?

CLRI played a pivotal role in enhancing my soft skills during my internship. Many individuals have emphasized that cultivating these skills is indispensable for securing a position in data centers, which further underscores the significance of my experience there.

Q: Why have you pursued an internship in this particular field?

My motivation to seek an internship in this specific field was fueled by a keen interest in data center operations. The desire to comprehend the intricacies of these facilities and contribute to their efficiency guided my choice.

Q: What specific activities have you engaged in during your internship? What has been your favorite task or project?

During my internship, I engaged in a range of tasks, including rounds, coil cleaning, and learning about the building management system. These activities allowed me to gain hands-on experience and expand my understanding of data center operations.

Q: Who has had a particular influence on you during your internship?

My mentor, Hansen Troy Hill, significantly influenced my internship experience, providing valuable guidance and support. Thank you Troy and AFCOM Potomac Chapter. Moreover, Stephan Plock, the manager at DLR, offered indispensable insights during my job search.

Q: What skills have you learned during your internship that will help you during your career?

The internship equipped me with vital skills, particularly in terms of networking and professional connections. These relationships will likely play a pivotal role in shaping my future career endeavors.

Q: Have you discovered a job or career path through your internship that you want to pursue?

I’ve taken a job in data center operations at Iron Mountain which I plan on pushing as far as I can. I do plan on going further into the data center realm but I want that fundamental understanding of how the buildings work in order to hopefully help with engineering/software aspects down the line.

Q: Tell us a little about the personal side of internships. What are the relationships like with peers and with supervisors?

I had a great relationship with the team over at DLR. I really enjoyed the managers and team and thought they provided me with a lot of openness and helpfulness in understanding different aspects of the company.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

I had some challenges making sure that I was pushing myself to ask the right questions and make sure if I had nothing to do I found somebody who did. This took a bit of getting outside of my own comfort level but I think I managed to do that well.

Q: What has been the biggest game-changer for you in this internship?

It was the ability to get three different job offers, which was a blessing. I went from nobody responding to my applications to three on the table, you can say that was a huge confidence booster.

Q: What else should we know from your experience as an AFCOM intern?

I think the AFCOM internship is essential for anybody that wants to get into data centers. Even if you have an in, you will gain so much more than an immediate job.

Q: What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

I hope to become a manager in 5 years and in 10 years working on engineering projects within data centers to help push the boundaries.

 

NOVA Student Success Spotlight in DCO: Liz White

 

Elizabeth (Liz) White wants to be successful in an in-demand tech career field and she’s making all the right moves.

Liz is currently pursuing a double major in Engineering Technology (with a focus on Data Center Operations) and Information Systems Technology (with an emphasis on Cloud Computing).

Liz also is a recent graduate of NOVA IET’s Career and Leadership Institute (CLRI) and recently completed a 10-week internship with AFCOM, an association for career advancement of IT and data center professionals.

On top of that she just got hired at Google as a Data Center Facilities Technician. She’s also a mom to two children.

We did a Q&A with Liz to discuss how CLRI and the AFCOM internship equipped her for her new position at Google and a fantastic new career path (30 questions and answers).

It’s not just about the technical skills required for a degree, it’s also about interpersonal adeptness, knowing how to interview, networking effectively with potential employers and a lot more.

Her answers and insights are instructive to anyone wanting to pursue an in-demand technology career path, especially after making a career switch.


Liz’s CLRI experience: 15 questions and answers
(Internship-specific answers detailed after the CLRI portion)

Q: What IET field are you pursuing and why?

I am currently pursuing a double major in Engineering Technology with a focus on Data Center Operations, and Information Technology Systems with an emphasis on Cloud Computing. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 prompted me to reevaluate my career as a hairstylist, recognizing its vulnerabilities in times of crisis. The realization led me to make a conscious decision to put my hairstyling career on hold and pivot towards achieving an academic degree. For years I dreamt of earning a degree, but words woven with fear and doubt were the shackles that restrained me. The pandemic was the catalyst that propelled me forward.

My interest in cloud computing was initially sparked by its high demand and resilience in the face of uncertainty. As I dove deeper into my classes, an opportunity through CLRI allowed me to gain insights into the stable job market and flourishing demand within the data center sector. This prompted me to embark on a path within the data center field by starting with taking TJ Ciccone’s class ‘Intro to Data Centers’. The steps taken from there laid a foundational understanding that I believe will serve as a strong basis for my career journey.

Q: How did you find out about CLRI?

Being a student enrolled in an IET division degree program, I regularly received emails showcasing numerous opportunities within the division. One day, an email landed in my inbox detailing CLRI, which offered a series of workshops designed to bolster soft skills, aid in resume refinement, and culminate in a networking event featuring prominent figures from the industry. CLRI was the exact opportunity I had been searching for.

Q: Why are soft skills and effective interpersonal communication vital if you’re pursuing a career in a technical field?

Venturing into a technical career demands a readiness to engage in productive teamwork. Strong interpersonal abilities and effective communication are pivotal resources for fostering successful collaboration. Particularly within the technical field, where advancements occur rapidly and assertively, individuals must be prepared and capable of strategizing and executing alongside their colleagues.

Q: How have you fostered continuing professional relationships with fellow CLRI peers?

I can’t take full credit for maintaining the comradery between fellow CLRI peers. WE formed a close bond and made sure to keep in contact throughout our journey; we shared similar ambitions and aspirations related to pursuing a career in IET, regardless of our varying ages and backgrounds. Our camaraderie extended beyond casual interactions as we consistently stayed connected and harnessed the valuable resources offered by CLRI and the IET division.

Interestingly, most of us ventured into the same data center course, an opportunity that arose from a data center tour led by CLRI leaders Andy Chaves and Sedrick Settle. Among these connections, three of my friends, Tim Schutz, Daniel Rivera, and Prasit Acharya, who are also CLRI alumni, enrolled in the “Intro to Data Centers” class taught by TJ Ciccone. TJ was the person who previously guided us on a tour of STACK Infrastructure, serving as a source of inspiration. Significantly, all four of us secured job positions while in the AFCOM Internship program, which paved the path for promising careers within the data center industry.

Q: Tell us about how CLRI aided in building your personal brand?

CLRI played a pivotal role in equipping me with the essential resources to navigate my career transition in a successful way. Through their guidance, I not only cultivated self-assurance and professionalism, but also had the opportunity to connect with genuinely accomplished, authentic, and motivating individuals.

Q: In CLRI you worked on building an effective resume. What are the best ways to make your resumé stand out both technically and with the content you include?

Crafting a standout resume requires balancing technical formatting and strategic content. On the technical side, maintain a clean layout with consistent fonts and headings, ensuring appropriate white space. Customize the length based on your career stage. For content, tailor your resume to each job posting, spotlighting relevant skills and experiences.

Begin with a concise professional summary, emphasizing key skills. Highlight notable accomplishments in work experience and focus on outcomes. Prioritize job-related experiences while showcasing transferable skills. Include a dedicated section for technical skills and certifications. If needed, emphasize education or relevant projects. Prioritize relevant education and relevant projects if work experience is not within the industry being applied for. Incorporate volunteer work if applicable. Avoid personal details and proofread for errors.

Q: How did CLRI hone your leadership skills? Why is it important to have these skills even if you are not interested in pursuing a management role?

While managerial roles may not be the immediate goal, life invariably presents us with choices. These decisions, in turn, come with their own outcomes, and navigating them effectively hinges on possessing leadership skills. The ability to exhibit courage and determination when confronting situations with a disparity between right and wrong is no simple feat. Leadership entails the willingness to opt for the more challenging route for the betterment of the collective and the welfare of those involved, regardless of whether you hold a formal management position.

Q: How did mock interviews prepare you for real interviews?

Participating in mock interviews proved instrumental in enhancing my interview performance by simulating real-world scenarios. Practicing allowed me to receive constructive feedback and valuable insights into both my strengths and areas that needed refinement. Engaging in multiple mock interviews further honed my adaptability and flexibility in addressing diverse interview dynamics. The experience reinforced  my belief in my capability to excel. As the saying goes, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance,” and mock interviews undeniably played a crucial role in my readiness for real interviews.

Q: How did CLRI enhance your professionalism and accountability?

In many ways, CLRI emphasized the significance of consistently making choices that align with our utmost potential. Whether it pertains to our roles as students, professionals, or individuals in our personal lives, the everyday decisions we make influence our professionalism and accountability. The demonstration of professionalism extends beyond words; it encompasses maintaining proper posture, active engagement through eye contact, and investing effort in establishing meaningful connections. These traits collectively reflect one’s level of professionalism and accountability. CLRI notably highlighted the effectiveness of networking, showcasing how connecting with others can yield significant benefits.

Q: It was said during CLRI “every day is a job interview.” What does that mean to you?

The statement “every day is a job interview,” as emphasized in CLRI, holds a distinct significance. To me, it underscores the idea that opportunities can arise unexpectedly in any situation or encounter. Regardless of our location or context, we are constantly interacting with diverse individuals. How we carry ourselves, the attitude we embrace, and the mindset we adopt are all within our control. Each day presents us with a choice—a choice that invariably yields a consequence. This decision shapes the outcome we attain. Essentially, the notion encapsulates the idea that our daily approach influences the results we achieve.

Q: What did you learn from the executive mentoring program?

The lessons I gained from the executive mentoring program exceed what I can encapsulate in this response. It became evident that dedicating myself fully, investing genuine effort, and translating the advice received into actionable steps reaps rewards that make the exertion entirely worthwhile.

Q: How effective was the networking event? Anyone in-particular that you connected with?

The networking event acted as a catalyst for numerous opportunities that have unfolded in my journey. Its impact exceeded my initial expectations by far. I had the privilege of connecting with individuals who not only became sources of inspiration and mentorship but also turned out to be those I interned for, received job offers from, and built lasting professional relationships with.

Q: What’s next for you? What opportunities do you feel you might have missed if you hadn’t taken CLRI?

My next step involves commencing my career with Google next week. Reflecting on all of this, it’s apparent that I might not have been presented with this remarkable opportunity had I not been a part of CLRI. The transformative sequence, transitioning from my role as a hairstylist to a student at NOVA College, subsequently embarking on an AFCOM Internship, and now securing a full-time position at Google, underscores the profound impact of my involvement with CLRI. CLRI opened a door, I just had to walk through it.

Q: What would you say in recommending CLRI to NOVA students?

Honestly, I’ve recommended this program to every friend in school I’ve encountered since my graduation from CLRI. The program has unequivocally transformed my life for the better. CLRI, TJ Ciccone, and AFCOM provided me with an arsenal of tools, invaluable exposure, and a platform to demonstrate my dedication and commitment to my aspirations. It has enabled me to be part of a meaningful impact.

My gratitude extends eternally to the leaders of CLRI, the IET Division, TJ Ciccone, and AFCOM. During times of self-doubt, they believed in me. They propelled me past my apprehensions of inadequacy, urging me to transcend the fear and reveal my true capabilities and identity. My journey is a testament to their unwavering support.

Q: Have we missed anything? What else should we know from your CLRI experience?

In reflecting on my CLRI experience, I believe we’ve covered the significant aspects. However, it’s worth mentioning that CLRI not only provided me with invaluable professional growth but also fostered a sense of community. The connections I formed with fellow participants, mentors, and industry leaders have continued to shape my journey beyond the program. The supportive environment, coupled with the exposure to real-world scenarios, has been instrumental in preparing me for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in my career.


Liz’s AFCOM Internship: 15 questions and answers

Q: Generally, why are internships important?

Internships are a pivotal steppingstone to creating your own fulfilling professional journey. They’re a bridge between academic knowledge and real-world experience. They provide an opportunity for hands-on experience and opportunities to develop and refine both technical and soft skills relevant to your area of interest.

Theoretical knowledge can be applied to real-life scenarios through an internship with room to receive constructive feedback. It’s much easier to make informed career decisions by gaining insights into the daily operations, challenges, and opportunities in the industry of interest. Internships give you a chance to make connections and friendships which can help open even more doors for job opportunities and mentorships.

The exploration you have through an internship is eye-opening; you gain a much clearer understanding of what aligns with your career goals and what doesn’t. The confidence building you gain through an internship offers validation of what you’re capable of and reinforces your belief in your ability to meaningfully contribute to a team. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and adapting to new environments will only encourage personal growth and enhance your resilience and problem-solving capabilities.

Q: What did you learn during CLRI that helped you in your AFCOM internship?

I discovered the importance of making choices driven by courage, rather than succumbing to the fear of inadequacy. This perspective empowered me to confidently engage, understanding that every question holds the potential for valuable contributions.

Q: A number of CLRI grads have gone on to do internships together. How has that developed a sense of professional community?

Many of the friends I connected with during CLRI embarked on similar journeys. While our paths led us to intern with different companies, we stayed connected throughout the process. We consistently made an effort to meet in person, exchanging our individual experiences and insights. In particular, a few individuals offered their invaluable support during challenging times, helping me to overcome obstacles. I hold deep gratitude for their presence in my journey. These relationships have not only enriched my professional growth but have also magnified the significance of such connections in my career development. I have full confidence that we will remain connected throughout our careers. If that isn’t a genuine sense of professional community, I’m not sure what else would be…

Q: Tell us about your AFCOM Internship experience? How did it build on what you learned through CLRI?

My journey throughout the past three months as part of the AFCOM Internship encompassed a dynamic learning adventure. This period not only provided me with a comprehensive understanding of data center critical infrastructure but also served as a practical lesson in navigating the complexities of the business world. The principles instilled by CLRI, particularly the significance of professionalism and accountability across all situations, came vividly to life during this internship. The multitude of decisions presented each day carried their own set of consequences; a concept emphasized by CLRI. The alignment between my goals and the choices I made was a testament to how CLRI’s teachings guided me in making meaningful decisions throughout this internship.

Q: Why have you pursued an internship in this particular field?

My drive stemmed from the desire to acquire practical, hands-on experience within the data center sector. Despite dedicating extensive hours to studying inside and outside the classroom, I recognized the immense value of an internship that transcends theoretical learning. Honestly, as a 30-year-old mother of two, my aim was to establish a steadfast foothold in my career transition by gaining early exposure and reliability. An internship felt like the most pragmatic approach to this change.

Q: What specific activities have you engaged in during your internship? What has been your favorite task or project?

If I could share my internship reports with you, you would witness the extensive array of activities I engaged in over the summer. During each visit to a data center site, my primary focus was comprehending the intricate power distribution network throughout the building. Subsequently, I delved into understanding the nuances of cooling requirements, their utilization, and maintenance protocols. Every day presented me with numerous avenues of exploration, spanning mechanical and electrical systems, fire life safety protocols, building management systems, and electrical power management systems, among others.

One of my most cherished tasks involved collaborating with the remarkable and welcoming team at STACK NVA04D. I dedicated time to cleaning chiller coils, makeup air units, and rooftop units alongside this team. This experience provided a deeper understanding of the equipment and the integral role each component plays within the larger system. Despite the challenging outdoor conditions, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside the team. Amidst our diligent efforts, they generously answered my myriad questions, willingly sharing their valuable knowledge and expertise.

Another highlight was my time spent with the team at CoreSite’s VA3 building. Their guidance extended to teaching me about telecom operations, utilizing a visible fault locator for fiber tracing from MDF to IDF to ODP to the client’s cage – a process aimed at troubleshooting light level issues. I also gained insights into tasks like cleaning and inspecting fiber before connection and the termination of copper Cat6 cable, alongside acquiring knowledge about fiber splicing. Engaging in POST troubleshooting on servers within the data halls was yet another invaluable learning experience.

Q: Who has had a particular influence on you during your internship?

Countless inspirational people. TJ Ciccone VP of Operations at STACK Infrastructure, Miguel Ramos Sr. Data Center Manager at CoreSite VA3, Chris Lettiere Sr. Director of CoreSite VA, Emily Maldanado Data Center Technician at CoreSite VA3, Shelby Angulo Data Center Technician at CoreSite VA3, Ju Kim Data Center Operations Manager at VA1/2, Troy Bowen Operations Manager at Infrapros, Zachary Miller Area Operations Manager at Google, Isaac Canales Critical Operations Technician at STACK Infrastructure, Ray (Ramone) Critical Operations Technician at STACK Infrastructure, Angela Maruca Critical Operations Technician at STACK Infrastructure, Shane McDonald Critical Operations Technician at STACK Infrastructure, Brandon Osefoh Critical Operations Technician at STACK Infrastructure, Reid Thomas Critical Operations Manager at STACK Infrastructure, Joe Kendra Critical Facilities Manager at STACK Infrastructure, Troy Hill Director of Iron Mountain VA, and the list goes on.

Every individual I had the privilege to engage with, collaborate alongside, and foster professional relationships with significantly shaped my internship journey. Expressing my gratitude for each of these individuals is beyond the scope of mere words.

Q: What skills have you learned during your internship that will help you during your career?

I gained a comprehensive understanding of HVAC systems, including vaporization cycles, chilled water systems, CRAC/CRAH units, and humidification systems. I performed preventative maintenance tasks, which included routine activities such as blowdowns, cleaning water-cooled and air-cooled chiller coils, replacing filters for VESDA systems and air handlers, and maintaining chiller strainers.

Fire Life Safety Systems became familiar territory as I engaged in hands-on tasks such as jockey pump replacement for fire pump systems and methods of procedures for isolating fire pump valves. My proficiency in double interlock pre-action systems was complemented by my experience in managing VESDA systems and STULZ humidification systems, contributing to a comprehensive understanding of safety protocols.

I also gained valuable experience in managing additional daily rounds of the building, quarterly and annual maintenance duties, ensuring the reliability and longevity of critical systems. I feel more enabled to effectively manage and maintain climate control systems, ensuring optimal performance in various environments.

Moreover, my internship exposed me to critical power distribution concepts, ranging from utility/generator, main switchgear to client load, and I became well-versed in electrical fundamentals such as Ohm’s law and single, two, and three-phase power. I gained more confidence in making informed decisions regarding power management and efficiency in my future career.

In terms of infrastructure management, I learned about IDF/MDF/MMR rooms and structured cabling. This experience highlighted the importance of organized customer space and proper maintenance, ensuring seamless operations and scalability of systems.

Shadowing technicians exposed me to various software applications and control systems. This built my confidence to effectively troubleshoot and replace faulty hardware. I oversaw internal management of data center cabling using FNT, ensuring well-organized and efficient connectivity.

My ability to collaborate actively within a team to troubleshoot hardware issues, perform cross-connect terminations and relocations, and verify device statuses was greatly enhanced. I also conducted end-to-end fiber optic cable continuity checks, further solidifying my grasp of connectivity diagnostics.

Additionally, I gained proficiency in terminating copper Cat-6 cables with RJ45 pinouts and learned about fiber cable splicing. In the realm of network management, I was provided hands-on experience in learning how to manage IXPs, point-to-point, and point-to-multipoint connections. I verified device physical statuses and adhered to the BICSI standard, ensuring high-quality information and communications technology systems.

Overall, my internship equipped me with an extensive range of skills encompassing HVAC systems, critical power distribution, infrastructure management, fire life safety systems, control systems, troubleshooting, cabling, and standards. All of this undoubtedly contributes to my success and competence in my future career endeavors.

Q: Have you discovered a job or career path through your internship that you want to pursue?

Yes, I am now a Data Center Facilities Technician at Google. I plan to fully pursue an Operations path and hopefully end up in a leadership role.

Q: Tell us a little about the personal side of internships. What are the relationships like with peers and with supervisors?

The level of inclusion extended beyond mere formality; I found myself fully immersed in the day-to-day operations of the team. What stood out was the genuine encouragement and openness with which I was met. I was not only invited but genuinely welcomed to participate in the team’s troubleshooting, problem-solving, and daily operations. This sense of collaboration and shared involvement went beyond the ordinary expectations of an intern’s role, underscoring the supportive environment that defined my internship experience. My peers and supervisors alike fostered an atmosphere where my input was valued, and I was able to contribute meaningfully to our collective efforts.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

Overcoming imposter syndrome has undoubtedly been my most significant challenge. As is often the case, there’s inevitably someone who attempts to undermine or disparage your journey, regardless of your path. Transitioning from a hairstylist role to that of a Data Center Operations Technician could have easily overwhelmed me with intimidation. Along the way, I encountered instances where individuals sought to convey that I didn’t belong in this industry, a sentiment compounded by the imposter syndrome I grappled with. Confronting these challenges has proven to be far from effortless.

Yet, it’s important to recognize that those who dismissively closed their doors are mistaken, much like the unfounded notion of my inadequacy. Amidst these doubts, I constantly remind myself that I am more than capable of contributing significantly to any team. I am more than enough.

Q: What has been the biggest game-changer for you in this internship?

Providing a definitive answer to this question is a challenge in itself. The entirety of this internship has been transformative, redefining my outlook. If I were to pinpoint a single experience, it would be the journey I undertook during the interview process, culminating in the moment I accepted a job offer. This marked a particularly significant turning point.

Q: What else should we know from your experience as an AFCOM intern?

This opportunity has had a profound impact, not only on my life but also on that of my family. Before being accepted into this internship, I found myself in a position where I believed that commencing my career would remain a distant goal, despite my unwavering determination to start immediately. Navigating the complexities of college education and job-searching while raising two children, particularly amidst the backdrop of a pandemic, was a daunting challenge. Life’s expenses, coupled with the considerable cost of education, cast a shadow over my aspirations.

This internship not only provided me with an education but also paved a path into my chosen career. This convergence of education and career prospects has wrought a seismic shift in my life’s trajectory. The magnitude of this transformation cannot be overstated. I’m profoundly grateful to have been a part of this remarkable opportunity, which has provided me with the means to shape my future and break barriers that once seemed insurmountable.

Q: What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

My aspiration is to gradually climb to a role where I can extend the same kind of support that I’ve received. I envision myself assuming a leadership position, collaborating with a team of authentic individuals, and contributing to bridging the talent gap within the industry.

 

 

Q and A With CyTalks Intern Maseeh Lalee

We spoke with NOVA cybersecurity student Maseeh Lalee about getting ready for the real world, self-advocacy, and career goals.


Q: Please explain the importance of cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity deals with every aspect touching the digital realm. I think when people think about Cybersecurity, they think about anti-virus or technical stuff like firewalls. In fact, it’s often simple concepts. For example: don’t overshare on social media, guard your digital footprint, use complex passwords, don’t add people who you don’t know, etc. The importance really lies in trying to limit the methods that an attacker can compromise a system or a person by gaining information, which often is publicly available. Also never assuming your data is safe or your privacy is ensured, cybersecurity’s importance is emphasizing that security is a shared responsibility that everybody is involved in.

Q: Generally, why are internships important?

Internships really give you a good look at how work, and to a larger extent business, is conducted in a professional environment. In this internship with CyTalks, I found the access we were given to Office 365 cloud suite gave us an opportunity to experiment with things and to complete the tasks we were given. I also value internships as a networking avenue, I met some people on my team that I’m still in contact with today.

Q: What specific hands-on activities have you engaged in during your internship? What has been your favorite task or project?

We were doing so many things related to Cybersecurity. The first project was auditing our systems to take a security baseline and it gave us some insight into system hardening and the compliance or legal side of Cyber. We reviewed guidelines like the NIST Risk Management Framework which outlines the process of managing risk associated with systems added to a network and the subsequent security controls put in place to secure those systems. I also got to write a paper on the Cyber Skills Gap which was pretty fun just doing research about the field I am actively pursuing. My favorite task or project was actually the most unsuccessful, which was malware analysis. Basically, we ran malware or a virus inside a virtual machine to observe its behavior. Although the malware’s execution didn’t work for me, building this sandbox environment really motivated me to doing this stuff on my own time since it was aligned with what I’d like to do in the future.

Q: Who has had a particular influence on you during your internship?

Dr. Kohy and my team lead Bethany has much influence on me. Dr. Kohy gave us insights in how we should carry ourselves and industry specific advice. Bethany gave our team a lot of motivation and support to stay on top of deadlines.

Q: What’s the importance of soft skills (communication, problem solving, working with people) in cybersecurity and what have you learned during your internship in this capacity?

Soft skills is super important and I think it was stressed on so much that it became ingrained in our mindset. Just working as part of a team let us know the importance of soft skills. For example, managing projects and their deadlines, effectively communicating and resolving any problems with your team. The golden rule I learned is you must be personable and be a self-advocate. Nobody’s going to help you if you’re not willing to help yourself.

Q: How did your experience as a NOVA student prepare you for your internship?

NOVA’s classes were much in line with what we were doing. Mostly I was pulling from self-study and research assignments I’ve done at NOVA to streamline the projects to complete them smoothly.

Q: Explain what you think are the benefits of a 2-year degree in Cybersecurity and also a 4-year degree. Do you plan to go straight into the workforce or transfer after NOVA?

I think there are both direct and indirect benefits. The direct benefits are what people often look to when they’re trying to convince students to go to college, that the degree makes you more employable. However, I think it really depends on the person cause self-study is definitely possible. I know people with 2-year degrees that don’t really know anything. They just went through the classes at NOVA but never retained the concepts. So it’s really about the work you put in. If you’re already an IT professional, a 2 year degree would suffice. If you’re just entering straight out of high school, a 4 year degree could be in your path because there are many fundamentals you have to learn in order to get into Cyber. Simply because Cyber isn’t really entry level even though there’s many “entry level” positions open. As far as my plans go, I’m transferring to George Mason University but am also actively partaking in other internship opportunities and applying to full time IT/Cyber jobs.

Q: What particular area of cybersecurity do you want to pursue?

I want to get into SOC, Incident Response or Vulnerability Management. They’re all Blue Team or defense roles but particularly SOC interests me because being a Security Analyst is my dream job.

Q: What type of software have you used in your internship and how has it equipped you?

It was primarily the Microsoft Office 365 Suite, which was Outlook, Teams, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It has benefited me because in the internship I’m at now, we primarily communicate through Outlook and Teams. Learning to schedule meetings on Teams was extremely useful.

Q: Tell us a little about the personal side of internships. What are relationships like with peers and with supervisors at Cytalks?

With peers it was great, I had 2 teammates and I really liked them both. One of my teammates his name is Justin, he ended up becoming good friends with me and I got to know him well. My supervisor Bethany was an extremely invaluable resource for me and she was extremely kind. I received great mentorship from both her and Dr. Kohy for guidance as we were navigating through the internship and figuring out our paths.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

The biggest challenge is adapting. Trying to stay ahead and be able to manage the workload, because if you can’t deliver a project on time, it’s a bad look on your time management skills. I just tried to stay ahead and keep adapting to any new information I encountered.

Q: What has been the biggest game-changer for you in this internship?

I’d have to say the confidence I got with learning self-advocacy and getting myself out there as much as I can. I was taught an interesting lesson. “It’s not what you know but who you know”. It gave me an idea as to how important networking and the need to build connections with your colleagues or people who can become future friends. Even just treating everybody with respect is super important cause if you think about things solely on how someone can benefit you, you’re harming yourself. This internship was a humbling experience seeing people who’ve been in cyber for years volunteering their time made me think in more positive terms.

Q: What else should we know from your experience as a CyTalks intern?

It’s a great opportunity for interns to learn as much as they can. You’ve got to experience it to find out how great of an environment it is. It was insightful seeing how much freedom they gave us interns as to which projects we could choose but also in managing and creating these projects. We were just given a deadline and some guidelines, but as to how we implemented it was up to us and our creativity as a group. I was surprised how much research we did at CyTalks, it was almost like we were in a class but it never felt like a classroom environment. The team leads were always very motivational and supportive to us. I think that’s what really made this internship, we were put into teams and I felt accountable to my teammates and didn’t want to disappoint them.

Q: What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

My career goal is to get into Cybersecurity, specifically the defense side of things. In 5 years I want be a Tier 2 or 3 Security Analyst working on incident response or in a SOC. Eventually I want to get into Cyber Engineering or the management side of things which can happen in 7 years. Cloud computing is a big field now so I would like to also incorporate my knowledge of cyber to become a Cloud Security Engineer which I could achieve in 10 years or just go towards Cyber management like CISO.

Q: Bonus question: Do you have a favorite show that depicts Cybersecurity? What do TV and movies get right and wrong about Cybersecurity?

I don’t watch much shows but I can speak to this a bit. I watched a couple episodes of Mr. Robot, and I can say it was somewhat accurate. Most ethical hackers have a strong background in cyber so they’ll be in a cyber engineer jobs cause there’s simply more blue team/defense jobs than red team/hacking jobs. From watching Snowden, I can say that’s pretty realistic too. Especially the part where he’s downloading files onto a USB and then exfiltrating it off the servers. He was a security analyst so he would’ve had access to those specific files/data and also the biggest threats are often insiders or employees/Ex-employees cause of their levels of access and knowledge of the network’s architecture or inner workings. It would be easy for them to break into a system they know like the back of their hand.

 

NOVA Wins Gold, Silver, and Bronze at SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference!


NOVA’s SkillsUSA National Competitors

Back Row (L to R): Soham Nawthale, Jonatan Solomon Gebremichael, Nathaniel Bunger, Ardian Peach

Front Row: Takeshi Tamashiro-Pardo, Marcus Dent, Claudio Molina, Dhyuthi Chegu, Kanykei Korosheva, Mahelet Gebremichael, Nora Kaup


Last September, upon being recognized at a special NOVA ceremony for winning a bronze medal in Cybersecurity at the 2022 SkillsUSA National Conference, Ardian Peach was prescient about NOVA prospects in future SkillsUSA events when he declared “although this is NOVA’s first medal on the national stage, it won’t be the last.”

How right he was. Last week, June 19-23, at the 2023 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Atlanta, NOVA took home Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals, with Peach one-upping himself from last year with a silver in Cybersecurity.

The Skills USA National Leadership & Skills Conference is the ultimate recognition of excellence in career and technical education. This event brings together thousands of students, instructors, business partners, and administrators to celebrate the accomplishments of those preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, and it’s an incredible opportunity for students to showcase their talents and skills on the national level.

NOVA’s Jonatan Solomon Gebremichael Wins Gold!


NOVA triumphed with their first national gold. Jonatan Solomon Gebremichael won in the category of Internet of Things: Smart Homes, a three-day intense hands on event where he was required to install a smart TV, smart thermostat, antennae and more onto a make shift room. The event included a troubleshooting component which required him to fix certain things that “went wrong” with his installation.

Gebremichael was ecstatic over his win, saying “It felt amazing. It was something that I’ve never thought would happen because I did not imagine that I was going to win. I worked so hard, not because I wanted to win, but because I truly enjoy what I do. Being encapsulated in my work and my love and appreciation for STEM and engineering led me to this moment. I’ve won at other competitions, but nothing this big nationally, and for that I am so, so happy. Words cannot even express right now. NOVA has brought me to the forefront of my dreams.”

Read more about Jonatan’s experience here.

As mentioned earlier, Ardian Peach returned to take silver in Cybersecurity and earned back-to-back National stage winner status. The three-person team of Nathaniel Bunger, Kanykei Korosheva and Mahelet Gebremichael earned bronze in the Engineering Technology Design team challenge. Claudio Molina also took bronze in Principles of Engineering.  Dhyuthi Chegu took the silver in Extemporaneous Speaking.

Mahelet Gebremichael, Kanykei Korosheva, and Ardian Peach with their medals.


Ardian Peach remarked on his continued success “there’s really something special about being able to compete at nationals against some of the brightest students in the country, and fly home with a medal. We’ve proven that our skills go far outside the classroom and have real world impact, and I’m really proud of that. I’ve gotten opportunities at NOVA that I couldn’t get at a lot of 4 year institutions, which have definitely put me ahead. Shoutout to AllCyber at the Woodbridge campus for helping me prepare for SkillsUSA Nationals!”

Peach will transfer to University of Central Florida this Fall and just this week received news that he has been accepted to the USA National Cybersecurity Camp/Combine, which is used to select the team to compete at the International Cybersecurity Challenge.

NOVA’s SkillsUSA team began their journey in Fall 2022, which culminated in 13 gold medals at the State Championship in April (read more about that here) and 12 students qualifying for Nationals. Students arrived in Atlanta on Monday, June 19, registered and went straight to work.  Some worked on final adjustments to their projects, others put in one final night of studying and review while others met other students and industry professionals from across the country.  The conference was held at the Georgia World Congress Center with some events held at nearby venues.  Thousands of students competed from all 50 states.

The theme for the conference was “Our Time is Now” and NOVA students proved themselves up to the task.  Each team member supported each other and cheered each other on as the conference and competitive events progressed.

One of the bronze medalists In Engineering Technology, Kanykei Korosheva (who is also president of NOVA’s Student Government Association), said that being part of SkillsUSA “has truly been an extraordinary journey throughout my college experience, enriching me with invaluable skills and unforgettable memories. The camaraderie and collaborative spirit we fostered as a team were instrumental in our success. The networking aspect of SkillsUSA opened doors to new friendships, mentorship possibilities, and potential career prospects.”

Her teammate Mahelet Gebremichael added “this has been an incredible journey for me. It required courage to step out of my comfort zone and explore various areas of engineering, technology, and design through my competition. NOVA has played a crucial role in my growth by providing opportunities to engage in clubs, attend conferences, and even pursue an internship that exposed me to real-world applications of my studies. NOVA’s commitment to providing opportunities for all students, regardless of their background or level of confidence, is truly remarkable and Skills USA plays a big role in connecting students with the same passion and interest, providing a platform for collaboration and learning from one another.”

Nate Bunger, a fellow bronze medalist, was similarly grateful for the support he has received in his success: “SkillsUSA, along with the gracious help and resources of NOVA, helped build my skills, let me explore my passion, and gave me the tools necessary to succeed in our competition.”

NOVA’s medalists are listed below.

  • Jonathan Solomon Gebremichael – Gold medal: Smart Homes, Internet of Things
  • Ardian Peach – Silver medal: Cybersecurity
  • Dhyuthi Chegu – Silver medal: Extemporaneous Speaking
  • Nathaniel Bunger – Bronze medal: Engineering Technology Design, 3-person team event
  • Mahelet Gebremichael – Bronze medal: Engineering Technology Design, 3-person team event
  • Kanykei Korosheva – Bronze medal: Engineering Technology Design, 3-person team event
  • Claudio Molina – Bronze medal: Principles of Engineering

There was success for other NOVA students as well. Marcus Dent, placed 5th in telecommunications/cabling and received an immediate job offer from his mentor. Takeshi Tamashiro-Pardo competed in Information Technology and earned his industry certification, CompTIA A+ core 1 and core 2.

Along with all the students listed above, Nora Kaup – First aid/CPR, Soham Nawthale – Computer Programming, and Tanjim Redhwan – Realted Technical Math competed at the national level after winning at the State Championship in April.

Special thanks goes to NOVA IET’s CTE Coordinator M. Andy Chaves and NOVA SySTEMic’s Fab Lab Coordinator Mary Ratcliff for expertly guiding and advising students through the entire process.

Congratulations SkillsUSA NOVA students! You make us proud and boldly lead the way for others at NOVA to strive and succeed.

#BoldyNOVA #SkillsUSA #InDemandTech #NOVAIET

PDI Completes Inaugural Cohort with Pitch Event

On Friday, June16th students from the Fab Lab’s inaugural Product Design Incubator (PDI) presented their product pitches to an audience of faculty, staff, and industry guests.

PDI is a project designed to train groups of community college students through a product design challenge. The PDI curriculum integrates entrepreneurship training and design thinking to guide students from initial ideation through the prototyping and pitch processes. PDI increases contact between students and industry professionals, fosters interdisciplinary collaboration between NOVA students and staff, and increases the supply of IET workers with industry-required collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills.

At the pitch event, student groups met informally with guests during a networking event, then gave formal 10-minute pitches. Two product prototypes were presented: Student Rise, a student-led recruitment service for internships; and Novagation, a mobile indoor navigation app for college campuses.

Isaiah Harris, a PDI student who helmed Novigation, said “PDI is a great opportunity because it puts you in contact with so many people in the industry and it allows you to learn so many different skills from business to marketing to product design and creative thinking. Definitely recommended. It really allows you to work as a team and will help you figure out what your strengths are and also how to improve upon your weaknesses.”

Tina Dang, another PDI student added “I’ve been able to meet some amazing people in PDI. It has taught me how to communicate better and learn how to adapt in difficult situations and has also allowed my creativity to expand.”

As far as the advisors, Fab Lab Coordinator Richard Sewell praised what the students achieved: “I’m immensely proud of the work that students accomplished during their time at the Lab. They’ve all shown tremendous growth in their ability to collaborate, innovate, and design.”

In addition, NOVA associate professor of business and PDI advisor Cameisha Chin embarked that “each project presented was clear, compelling, and commercially viable. Students demonstrated both an entrepreneurial spirit and a shrewd business sense.”

For more on PDI in general, click here.

 

CLRI Celebrates Spring Graduates at Networking Event

On March NOVA IET hosted the Executive Mentoring (EM) and Networking event at the Annandale Campus as the culmination of the Spring Career and Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI). 

CLRI students completing the program networked with nine industry professionals from various organizations including Microsoft, Coresite, Iron Mountain Data Centers, HRTech, Simple Technology Solutions, Cytalks, AWS, and Lockheed Martin.

A total of 23 students completed the Spring CLRI program and were recognized for their efforts with a short ceremony where they received CLRI leather portfolios and a CLRI T-shirt. They participated in facilitated roundtable discussions with the industry professionals who shared insights into careers in the IT industry before a catered networking event with CLRI grads eager to learn and build their networks.

The industry professionals shared their stories, provided career advice, and encouraged learning and professional development as keys to starting an enriching career. The CLRI program depends on the participation from industry professionals both as workshop presenters and EMs.

The Spring CLRI program offered a blended approach including virtual and in-person workshops, Technical Resume Writing, in-depth discussions about Government vetting and clearances, Mock Interviews, a team project formulated around a case study with a community service component and the EM and Networking event.

All sessions were recorded and are available through Canvas.

NOVA IET’s Sedrick Settle and M. Andy Chaves lead this Spring cohort and served as mentors and guides to encourage attendance, participation and completion of the CLRI program elements.  Many of these students have applied for paid summer internships offered through various NOVA IET strategic partners.

For more about CLRI go to www.nvcc.edu/career-services/clri.html

 

 

NOVA Students Win 13 Gold Medals at SkillsUSA State Championship!

At the SkillsUSA Virginia State Leadership Conference in Virginia Beach this past weekend, 15 students represented Northern Virginia Community College: 13 won gold medals for NOVA and 2 won silver!

Each of the gold medalists were declared State Champions in their respective competitive events (including Cybersecurity, Computer Programming, Engineering Technology Design, Information Technology Services, and more) and qualify for the National SkillsUSA Conference in June in Atlanta.

Overall there were 10 individual champions and 2 team champions (a two-person team and a three-person team).  Here are the winning NOVA students and their events:

Competition # on team NOVA Student/SKILLSUSA Member SkillsUSA Virginia State Leadership Conference 2023 Placement
Computer Programming 1 Soham Nawthale State Champion
Related Technical Math 1 Tanjim Redhwan State Champion
Cybersecurity 2 Chimere Nzedu State Champion
Cybersecurity 2 Ardian Peach State Champion
Engineering Technology Design 3 Maddie Gebremichael State Champion
Engineering Technology Design 3 Kanykei Korosheva State Champion
Engineering Technology Design 3 Nathaniel Bunger State Champion
Internet of Things 1 Jonathan Solomon Gebremichael State Champion
Extemp Speaking 1 Dhyuthi Chegu State Champion
First Aid CPR 1 Cindy Tran Silver Medalist
First Aid CPR 1 Nora Kaup State Champion
Information Technology Services 1 Alyssa Vasilica Silver Medalist
Principles of Engineering 1 Takeshi Tamashiro-Pardo* State Champion
Telecommunications & Cabling 1 Claudio Molina State Champion

The State Leadership Conference provided students with the opportunity to utilize the technical knowledge learned in the classroom to solve problems and apply what they learned (with coaching and advising from industry professionals) in a competition environment. Now they have the opportunity to represent NOVA on the national stage!

#InDemand #SkillsUSA

 

Fall Design Challenge Winners Awarded

 

The NOVA Fab Lab held an in-person awards ceremony on Friday, February 26th, to recognize the Fall 2022 Design Challenge winners. Winning students received their certificates and prizes, networked with judges and sponsors, and toured NOVA’s state-of-the-art Fab Lab after the event, where the challenge submissions were on display.

The Fab Lab holds the Design Challenge twice a year, so this ceremony was to honor students who participated in the Fall 2022 event. (The Spring 2023 challenge is soon to be announced). Of the two challenges each year, one is geared more towards design and the other is focused more on fabrication.

The Fall 2022 challenge was for middle school, high school, or college students to fabricate a replica of their favorite science fiction prop, which proved to be a popular topic. As scientists, artists, engineers, and inventors the Fab Lab staff believe the foundation of prop making, especially in science fiction requires a seamless blend of innovation, problem solving, creativity, and craft.

Students submitted their designs and design process online, then submissions were narrowed down to a final number of select projects. From there students fabricated their own props and brought them in to the Fab Lab, where winners were selected from a panel of industry judges.

There were 3 categories for award winners: College/University, High School, and Middle School. First place winners in each category received $250 plus a 3D-Printer and accessories. Second-place winners received $250, and third-place winners took home a $100 prize.

Middle School Winners:

1st Place: Max Choe, Kilmer Middle School.
Submission: “Drill to the Upside Down” from Stranger Things (3D-printed).

2nd Place: Christopher Jones, Robinson Secondary School.
Submission: Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber from Star Wars: A New Hope (3D-printed).

3rd Place: Henry Eckholdt, Saunders Middle School.
Submission: Imperial Star Destroyer from the original Star Wars trilogy (3D-printed).

High School Winners:

1st Place: Jason Armstrong, Home School.
Submission: The Flux Capacitor from Back to the Future (Fabricated from Wood, Acrylic, and PVC),

2nd Place: Mihai Ziu, Home School.
Submission: Iron Man Mark 42 Helmet from Iron Man 3 (3D-Printed).

3rd Place: Jack Register, Manassas Park High School.
Submission: Marty McFly’s Hoverboard from Back to the Future 2 (Mixed Media).

College Winners:

1st Place: Bruce Escalante, NOVA.
Submission: The Lament Configuration Box from Hellraiser (Fabricated from Wood).

2nd Place: Makayla Draper, NOVA
Submission: Luke and Yoda’s Dagobah Lamp from The Empire Strikes Back (3D-Printed, Acrylic).

3rd Place: Sunmeet Maheshwari, NOVA
Submission: Thor’s Hammer from Avengers: Endgame (3D-printed, Leather).

Honorable Mention:
Alek Merkt, Stone Bridge High School
Stuti Aryal, Woodbridge Senior High School
Rian Doyle, Washington-Liberty High School
Christopher Robinson, NOVA

NOVA student and College division winner Bruce Escalante said “It was a really fun challenge, it helped me learn about myself and my abilities. It definitely helped me to be more problem-solving.”

Fellow NOVA student and second-place college division winner Makayla Draper reflected that the Design Challenge “allows you to think out-of-the-box and use techniques that you are getting from school. It’s a really good learning experience.”

Sunmeet Maheshwarim, another NOVA Design Challenge award winner, added “It’s one of the amazing competitions which gives you experience on the engineering side and also creativity.”

Design Thinking and creative solutions to common challenges are a prominent feature in STEM education and the technology workforce, making the Design Challenge a touchstone for talented young minds to generate ideas in an equitable way.

The NOVA Fab Lab’s mission is to decrease the growing skills gap in the digital fabrication arena by providing students a more holistic fabrication experience, including access to the most advanced processes, training in 3D Modeling and design, and a foundation in the principles of design thinking and creative problem solving.

“One of the Fab Lab missions is to empower students to think and fabricate in unison and help them unlock their potential to recognize and solve complex problems” said Richard Sewell, NOVA’s Fab Lab Coordinator.

Sponsors for the Design Challenge were BAE Systems, Micron, and Lockheed Martin.

More information about the Spring 2023 Design Challenge will be available on the NOVA Fab Lab page by mid -March, as well as on our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages. #WeDoSTEM #DesignThinking

Need Cybersecurity Workforce Experience?

Students from community colleges, technical colleges, and universities can join the NCyTE Virtual Cyber Career Challenge!

The challenge is project based and designed to build technical and soft skills. Students will work virtually over ten weeks in small teams to configure, operate, protect, and defend a network of machines.

By completing the project, students will have demonstrated how they were able to plan, problem solve, work in teams, communicate effectively, write reports, and present findings. It is intended to be a real-world workforce experience students can put on their resume to gain future employment.

Eligibility 

Students need to complete the following requirements by March 2.

  1. An introduction to networking course
  2. An introduction to cybersecurity course
  3. Turned in a Cybersecurity Challenge Commitment Agreement (distributed at the information session)
  4. Attended a one hour information session (pick one):

Cyber Career Challenge Schedule

  • March 2 – Commitment Agreement due
  • April 10 – Workshop begins: Introduction to program work roles
  • April 17 – Introduction to the network requirements and team selection
  • April 24 – Network admin basics, Kanban, Gantt charts, Visio diagrams
  • May 1 to June 5 – Teams work independently and receive guidance on network management and pentest prep
  • June 12 – Pentest
  • June 15 – Team presentations
  • September 15 (Optional) Virtual Career Fair

Learning objectives

Students will work in teams of three to successfully complete the following:

  • Develop a project plan for an Information System that supports a fictitious business.
  • Utilize project management tools for communication and project implementation.
  • Operate a network of nine devices within the technical requirements specified.
  •  Defend their network against a penetration test.
  • Analyze the network for any evidence of attacks or compromise resulting from penetration testing.
  • Present their approach to operating the network and findings from the penetration test.

College credit – Students who are interested in earning internship or co-operative education credits by completing the CCC need to inquire with their institution. The CCC does not offer college credit. The CCC instructor, however, holds a similar role as an employer would in an internship. Students need to contact their program advisor at their institution to find out if the CCC will qualify and the process for earning credits.

Visit the NCyTE (National Cybersecurity Training & Education Center) website.

CLRI Celebrates Fall Graduates at Networking Event

The Fall Career and Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI) concluded on November 17 at the Woodbridge Campus (at the site of the future NOVA Data Center Training Facility). NOVA IET students put their newly enhanced career skills in action to make industry connections at a final networking session, the culminating event for students before they receive their certificates of completion. This was particularly notable this semester as it was the first in-person CLRI at NOVA since it was established in 2020.

Through an extracurricular 5-week course, CLRI students were trained how to interview, create a resume that stands out, manage interpersonal skills in a diverse workplace, and more. Students were also treated to two tours of an IET partner, STACK Infrastructure Data Center.

The final networking event kicked-off with remarks from VP of IET and College Computing Dr. Chad Knights before students and IET professionals gathered for a round table discussion and Q & A on relevant experiences and pressing needs in the tech workforce. After the discussion, Executive Director of the NOVA Foundation Kelly Persons addressed graduates and presented them with completion certificates and a leather CLRI portfolio. Graduates also receive a digital CLRI badge that they can add to their LinkedIn profiles.

Following the certificate presentation, CLRI students put their skills to the test during a catered meal where there were opportunities to network with the industry partners from the roundtable discussions. One of the major draws of CLRI and especially the final networking event is that graduates obtain immediate internship opportunities and receive priority consideration for our paid summer internships. 2-3 students from the fall CLRI cohort have been offered winter-break internships at Digital Realty and 3 CLRI students have already been extended an offer of employment from various industry partners.


Feedback from CLRI graduates included the following:

“CLRI helped me to get professional skills, to meet people, to make connections, to build my network. I really learned how to rebrand my resumé to attract hiring managers.” – Kanyin, NOVA IT Major

“I want to get better, I want to be better, I want to do better, and I want an opportunity to come my way. This gave me the opportunity. It was a lot of fun and definitely built my confidence” – Elizabeth, NOVA IT Major

“The nicest thing about CLRI is that you get to know a lot of people who are like-minded, and industry professionals who give you really good advice. It’s definitely worth joining.” – Hamid, IST Major

“I would 100% recommend CLRI. The networking aspect was what I got the most from. Tom (Tom Gerencer, CLRI’s Technical Resume Instructor), who I was able to contact via LinkedIn, turned my resume from OK to fantastic.” Tim, ET Major

“Once [NOVA students] come into the program, they will feel how impactful CLRI is on their career journey.” – Tahiba, IT Major


For the Fall 2022 cohort, 34 NOVA students are scheduled to complete CLRI (make-up sessions are due Dec 15) and 52 students attended at least one workshop. Overall, since it’s implementation, CLRI has surpassed 100 completers.

Special recognition goes to M. Andy Chaves, NOVA SySTEMic CTE Coordinator, and Sedrick Settle, IET Career Advisor for their exemplary work in running CLRI with excellence and enthusiasm from beginning to end this semester.

You can reach M. Andy at machaves@nvcc.edu and Sedrick at ssettle@nvcc.edu


Industry Partners who attended the CLRI Networking Event:

Keron Taylor, Data Center Operations Manager, Google
Troy Hill, Director of Data Center Operations, Iron Mountain Data Centers
Jay Mitchell, Operations Manager, Iron Mountain Data Centers
Scott LaCasse, Supervisor of Workstation Support, PWCS
Darlene Armenta, Director of Talent Acquisition, Red River
Koren Flint, Senior Director of Customer Experience, Red River
Christopher Lettiere, Director of Data Center Operations, Coresite
Rob Morgan, Director of Project Management, CompuDynamics
Sal Amado, Director of Learning & Development, Simple Technology Solutions


Spring CLRI Opportunities:

If you are a NOVA student and want to get ahead in your career, CLRI will continue in Spring 2023, with a kick-off event on Feb 16 and workshops beginning the following week on Feb 21. You can sign up for our Spring 2023 Interest Form at https://www.nvcc.edu/career-services/clri.html to be notified when applications are available. We will also keep you up to date through our monthly Newsletter, which you can sign up for at http://newsletter.novastem.us

Another good resource to keep up with IET and future CLRI sessions and feedback is the NOVA Engage App, which you can find on Apple and Google Play. Some CLRI students who received internships applied directly through the App.