Student internships lead to full-time careers

Terra Verde employees

Arizona State University alumnus Ed Vasko is truly putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to supporting his alma mater. Vasko’s Scottsdale-based cybersecurity firm, Terra Verde, brings several students from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on board each semester as interns. Four of those former interns, now New College alumni, have obtained full-time employment with the company.

“There is a worldwide shortage of trained cybersecurity professionals,” Vasko said. “Recent reports put cybersecurity job growth at 10 times that of other technical fields, and these internships provide a direct opportunity to enter this field.

“Another motivation we have for offering internships is that Terra Verde is committed to giving back to the local communities where we work and live,” he added. “And the ability to work with the next generation of professionals is beneficial for our employees just as much as the interns.”

Interns at Terra Verde research a specific security topic that is mutually chosen between the intern and one of the firm’s senior security professionals with whom the intern will be working. Topics have ranged from best methods to secure wireless networks to bringing about cultural change that helps improve cybersecurity adoption at large corporations. Interns also assist Terra Verde’s security teams with their day-to-day needs.

“My internship really got me a lot of hands-on experience working with managing a network, maintaining a network and troubleshooting with office staff when problems arose,” said Stephen Calvert, who now works full-time for Terra Verde after completing his New College bachelor’s degree in applied computing.

“On top of that, it let me use devices on which we only learned core concepts in class,” Calvert said. “I was able to interact with customers, which showed me what type of cybersecurity activity people in various industries see in real-world situations.”

Calvert and the other interns are treated as professionals during their internship experiences with Terra Verde. That starts with the hiring process. The potential intern interviews with people ranging from the company’s human resources manager to the director for whom he or she will be working.

“Through this process, we help expose interns to what interviews are like and also identify specific areas through which we can mentor our interns on improving their communication skills to be more effective once they enter the job market,” Vasko said.

Ultimately, what you get out of an internship is affected by what you put into it, said New College alumnus Brian Saenz, who also landed a full-time job with Terra Verde after an internship.

“If you treat the internship as you would a real job, your outlook will be a lot better and you’ll come out with a better understanding of your field and the direction you might want to take when you complete your degree,” said Saenz, who conducted back-to-back internships in the summer and fall of 2012, and was hired when he graduated with an applied computing degree in December.

But it’s not just applied computing majors who can land internships with Terra Verde.

“We want anyone with a passion to learn new things and grow with that new knowledge by applying it in innovative ways to feel welcome at Terra Verde,” said Vasko, who earned his New College degree in 1995 as a history major. “We are not looking for specific majors so much as the ability to absorb, synthesize and produce quality work. Students in all majors can – and should – apply.”

Founded in 2008, Terra Verde provides cybersecurity services and solutions to clients around the world. The company’s clients include large government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, as well as small businesses. “Our services include assessing, designing and implementing cybersecurity solutions that are pragmatic and value-driven to help our customers protect their critical information,” Vasko said.

And the company is strongly committed to providing an environment in which both interns and full-time employees continue to expand their talents.

“During my internship I was given responsibilities that led me to develop my skills in many areas relating, but not limited, to computer security,” Saenz said. “I’m still growing and developing, and Terra Verde is doing a big part to push me towards new skills, abilities and certifications. I have traveled out of state to work with clients and experienced a lot more than I could have expected to be doing within a year of graduating. This will not only help me now and make me more valuable to the company, but will also set me up for a prosperous career.”