Summer of cyber security for CyberFirst scheme students

This summer, Zaizi placed three interns as part of the CyberFirst scheme. The university students have been working closely with our teams over the last two months, delivering projects and learning about cyber security.

CyberFirst is a scheme that supports and prepares undergraduates with paid cyber skills training. Each summer, students intern with organisations that work with the Public Sector, like Zaizi.

Zaizi’s been a keen supporter of the initiative, training young adults that want to pursue a career in digital and cyber security.

“Zaizi wanted to ‘give back’ and do our bit in helping to narrow the skills gap that exists in the industry,” says Tracey Robinson, HR Manager at Zaizi.

“The students have been very hands-on and enthusiastic. They have been an asset to the company and fitted in well with the Zaizi culture.”

We sat down with ‘R’, ‘G’ and ‘J’ (for anonymity, we’ve decided to use the interns’ first initial) to find out more about their time at Zaizi and what they’ve learned.

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you did an internship at Zaizi?

R: “I’m studying for a Computer Science degree at Reading University. Previously I did a BTEC in IT — so my education path has been pretty IT focused.

“I wanted to work in London and, during my initial phone call with Zaizi, I realised there would be interesting work and the atmosphere would be fun – they mentioned pub lunches and nerf wars!

“There’s a tendency for companies to look down at interns but at Zaizi it seemed like they valued interns and we’d be given responsibility and be mentored at the same time. That’s why I chose Zaizi, and that’s exactly what’s happened.”

G: “I’m a student at Cardiff University, studying Chemistry. I do a science degree and everything that’s new is based around technology. Lots of the research work is around things like computational chemistry. That’s how I got interested.

“I picked Zaizi because I wanted to be in London and I wanted to know more about cloud development. The interview was fun; it made me want to work here!”J: “I’m studying Physics at Imperial College London. I chose Zaizi because of the work I’d do around cyber security.

“I think there are great opportunities in cyber security, especially in small companies where you can start quickly and use new technology. I enjoy coding and being able to do that from anywhere; working on solutions to problems… just from a keyboard.”

Cyber Security Students

What have you been doing at Zaizi?

R: “With any project, we have to ensure security is considered from the start. I do a lot of tasks around that, including setting up security steps, testing and researching different software.

“I’m also getting a good view of Agile methodology — a way to manage projects and regularly deliver updates to the client.”

G: “When I started, I was working with the chief information security officer (CISO) and did security auditing and surveillance monitoring. A few weeks later, I did more customer-focused work and learned about various project management methodologies – like Agile and Waterfall. I never knew any of that existed and found it quite interesting.

“I also learned about the process of developing a service through to delivery and worked with customers.”

J: Since being here, I’ve learned about DevSecOps and the Agile way of working. I’ve picked up different tasks and been assisting the various teams. I’ve been looking at how to design a platform from the ground up and how security really works from the get-go of a project.

“I worked on the beta stage of a project; looking at the backlog and seeing what tasks need to be done, what we prioritise, looking at timescales and working with the customer to see what they want to implement.”

What have you found interesting/unique and what have you learned?

R: “The technology they teach at university isn’t always new. Here, I’m dealing with new tech and learning how to apply it in real-world situations.

“It’s all been very interactive. So, as you’re doing the work, you’re getting regular feedback. It’s also interesting how a lot of work is undertaken in a short time frame. Delivery is quicker, faster, and there isn’t much downtime.

“I’ve been introduced to the Agile project management methodology. It’s had a real impact on how I do and see work. I’m going to use it for my final year project at University; it will definitely make me more productive.”

G: “Zaizi has many women working for them, including in senior roles. It was inspiring working with them. They are great role models.”

“I’ve learned a lot more about business management and project management then I thought I would do. I like working with other people, in teams and enjoyed the business side of things.”

J: “I know how to undertake penetration testing and learned about AWS (Amazon Web Services). More widely, I’ve been working on cyber security, especially knowing what DevSecOps is and what it entails.”

Cyber Security Students

What advice would they give to students who want to follow a similar path in Cyber Security?

R: “The education system hasn’t kept up-to-speed with the reality of this ever-changing environment and I think that’s why there’s a skills gap and a need for cyber security specialists. So, if you want more knowledge about cyber security, you need to do your own work. Keep reading about the industry as it’s ever evolving.”

G: “If people are interested in IT and security, I would 100% recommend CyberFirst. You get a bursary and a work placement every year.”

J: “Having an internship is great. It’s good for your CV and you gain insight that you might not get during university. Employers definitely want to see you get some experience.”

What’s your ambition for the future?

R: “I wanted to go into coding and software development but as I learn more about cyber security, I’m really starting to get interested in this area. I want to do penetration testing as a career and Zaizi has showed me there’s a gap in the market and a need for that type of work.”

G: “Zaizi’s helped me think about working in a business environment. I always did science and thought I’d eventually end up in a research role with a lab coat, working with test tubes etc. But working in the city, in an office… I’ve got that experience and I enjoyed it.

“I’m not sure whether I want to go into chemistry or go into cyber. But doing the placement has made me think that this could be a job for me.”

J: “I’ve enjoyed my time at Zaizi and hope to extend my placement. Now, I definitely feel comfortable pursuing a career in cyber security – I can see my career going there. It’s been great that the scheme has introduced me to this field.”

Cyber Security Students

Finally, what have you enjoyed about the working culture at Zaizi?

R: “Everyone’s super friendly. It’s not just the work and how supportive and collaborative everyone is, it’s also the socialising — the pub lunches, people buying treats for everyone. It’s a tight-knit group, and it shows.

G: “It’s been great. Everyone’s professional, as you would expect, but it’s such a fun environment to work in.  Everyone is friendly and chatty. The fact that Zaizi makes an effort to organise away days and team building events shows what a nice environment this is. “

J:  “I love the small team and got to know everyone in the first few weeks. I was partnered with the CTO and having that mentor programme was very helpful. And the working culture was great — the lunches, free food and the nerf guns! Although, I think, ‘R’ enjoyed that more than me!

You can find out more about the CyberFirst scheme on NCSC’s website

Find out more about working for Zaizi

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