Lamp, pencil holder, laptop and NCSC’s CyberFirst scheme logo on a dark background

What’s it like being on a CyberFirst scheme placement with Zaizi?

After a brief sojourn due to Covid, we welcomed another group of interns from the NCSC’s CyberFirst placement scheme this summer. 

The NCSC’s internship program provides paid cyber skills training for undergraduates. Every summer, students participate in internships with organisations like Zaizi.

We’ve been a dedicated supporter of this initiative, and before Covid, we had the privilege of onboarding cohorts in 2018 and 2019. A few of these interns even joined Zaizi after they completed their studies. 

We sat down with this year’s cohorts to learn more about their experience at Zaizi. 

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your experiences within the CyberFirst internship program?

Intern 1: I’m starting my third year of a four-year Bachelor in Maths and Computer Science. My main passions are music and wildlife photography. With computers, I have a burgeoning interest in cloud engineering, which started when I got into web development at 16. This is my first placement, having been in the academy (bootcamp) last summer. 

Intern 2: I’m studying for an integrated master’s in Computer Science at university. I’ve always had a passion for computer science, and thanks to the CyberFirst scheme, my interest has grown in cybersecurity. I had a placement with another organisation and completed a training bootcamp. These opportunities allowed me to expand my knowledge and develop my skills. I’ve found it incredibly useful to put into practice all of the knowledge I’ve gained in a professional environment.

Intern 3: I’m studying Mathematics and Computer Science at university and have always had a strong interest in computer science and cybersecurity. The internship has allowed me to explore these topics more and given me a chance to get real-world, hands-on experience with cybersecurity.

  1. Why did you choose Zaizi for an internship?

Intern 1: Zaizi’s advert was the most eye-catching when I searched for placements. I felt aligned with Zaizi’s culture from the interviews. I realised how important people are for Zaizi and how much they look after their team. Their goals are very much in line with my own, and I am so glad the listing caught my eye as it did. 

Intern 2: From researching Zaizi, I was very impressed and interested in the projects they worked on. The focus on carrying out work that benefits the general population aligned with my values, and I wanted to be part of that. The interview was a good insight into the friendly and open culture, and it made me feel very comfortable. 

Intern 3: From the first interview, I could sense the company culture was very friendly and welcoming. After learning about their work and ambition to help the wider public through digital services, I knew I wanted to work on similar projects. I also wanted to get more experience with cloud engineering, so the placement was ideal.

READ: From graduate to cloud engineer – a career in cybersecurity at Zaizi

  1. What have you been doing at Zaizi?

Intern 1: We’ve [interns] been working together, initially, on educational research tasks designed to further Zaizi’s information bank. Without us realising, it was a brilliant experience in peer programming. When assigned to a larger migration project, we complimented each other, looking at the problem from different angles. We worked with Docker, Application Load Balancing with Elastic Containers, amongst other AWS tools. 

Intern 2: Expanding Zaizi’s internal knowledge base involved researching new topics and experimenting with various software. We also took part in a presentation internally, which was a great experience. We then moved to work on a cloud migration project. 

Intern 3: Working on the internal knowledge base helped me explore unit testing and Golang. I also learned softer skills, like presenting. We worked with industry-standard technologies on the cloud migration project and learned to operate in an Agile team environment.

”I’ve gained valuable experience with various technologies and programming languages, like Java, Ruby, Golang, Docker, and AWS. 

I’ve also learnt a lot about working in an agile environment; the processes and ceremonies involved, and how to collaborate as a team.

NCSC’s CyberFirst scheme intern at Zaizi
  1. How has the experience developed you?

Intern 1: The experience has been great! I’ve had the opportunity to explore the areas I wanted to for a long time but never had the chance before. Plus, I learned invaluable people skills that can’t be taught at university.

Intern 2: My experience at Zaizi has been amazing! I learned a lot and developed new skills in Ruby, Golang, Docker, and AWS. Working on various projects helped me grow soft skills and be part of an Agile team. Everyone has made us feel very welcomed and created a fun, friendly and safe environment to grow and learn. And special thanks to our fantastic Delivery Manager!

Intern 3: I’ve gained valuable experience with various technologies and programming languages, like Java, Ruby, Golang, Docker, and AWS. 

I’ve also learnt a lot about working in an agile environment; the processes and ceremonies involved, and how to collaborate as a team. University doesn’t, and can’t, teach this — only real-world experience can provide the development I’ve gone through this summer. It means I can present, work collaboratively, and communicate ideas and issues effectively. Thanks to the supportive team, especially our Delivery Manager, I’ve grown professionally and personally. 

  1. What are your ambitions for the future?

Intern 1: To work at Zaizi… My ambition for the future is definitely to work for a company that does fulfilling and meaningful work, like Zaizi. While I’m unsure about what I would like to do, I know it involves programming. I’d love to try my hand at various disciplines: frontend and backend. 

Intern 2: I’ve really enjoyed the work here and would like to pursue a career in this field. I have thoroughly enjoyed working at Zaizi and would love the opportunity to work here in the future. Cyber security interests me, and I want to explore it further.

Intern 3: I’d like to explore careers in cybersecurity. I’ve only scraped the surface with cloud engineering, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done, so maybe more in that area. Otherwise, I’d like to explore DevSecOps and possibly secure software development.

  1. (a) Would you encourage the CyberFirst scheme to others?

Intern 1: Of course; it provides invaluable experience for a student and the potential of getting employment with a company you’re familiar with in the future. To top it off, there’s a handsome bursary that can’t be sniffed at.

Intern 2: I would definitely encourage the CyberFirst scheme as it offers valuable experiences through its internships, networking opportunities, and practical skills gained during placements. The scheme puts you ahead of other graduates, allowing you to progress with your career.

Intern 3: Yes – aside from the bursary it provides, the opportunities and networking the summer internship are invaluable. It’ll make you stand out compared to other graduates in your year, which is always helpful.

READ: Day in the life… of a Zaizi CyberFirst scheme intern

(b) And what advice would you give?

Intern 1: Don’t be afraid to throw yourself in the deep end. Practising and learning new skills can be very challenging at first, but don’t be scared by the steep learning curve. 

Intern 2: Make the most out of every opportunity, put yourself out there, say yes to things and ask questions! Keep learning new things, and most importantly, have fun :)!

Intern 3: Learn and explore non-syllabus content in your own time. University teaches you the fundamentals, but there are many things it doesn’t cover. Practise ethical hacking if you want to go into cybersecurity, keep up with tech news, and get an internship if possible.

  1. How have you enjoyed the culture at Zaizi?

Intern 1: I’ve loved it. Zaizi clearly breeds a culture of caring about its employees. The encouragement to work the way that achieves the best results is incredibly important, whilst the acknowledgement of mental health is also refreshing. 

Intern 2: It’s been absolutely amazing! I’ve never worked in an organisation like this; the passion, care and motivation every single person shows is heartwarming. From day one, everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. I felt like a permanent colleague rather than an intern, which made this experience much more enjoyable. I really value the work that Zaizi does and their mission to help the public. It aligns with my personal values, so I have really enjoyed working on these projects. 

Intern 3: Everyone has been very warm and friendly. The general perception is that interns are often looked down upon, but it couldn’t be more different at Zaizi. I’m treated as an equal, and I feel that’s contributed to my personal development here. Everyone is motivated by the wider company goals of helping the public too, which I love! Sometimes corporations only care for themselves, but there’s a strong altruistic message behind all the work done here.

*Names have been anonymised 

If you are interested in cybersecurity and/or woul’d like to know more about NCSC’s CyberFirst scheme, please get in touch.

Thanks for joining us! We’ll keep you informed with regular updates.

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