Day 1-3: Setup and Trial by Fire

Day 1-3: Setup and Trial by Fire

So, since I haven’t posted yet, here’s what’s going on.

This is officially my third day working at a startup cyber security firm called Avirtek, which works on Autonomous Cyber Security. Since its cyber security, I’ve already run into the problem of “Wait…what can I publicly say that I’m working on??” Because of that, I’ll focus more on how I got here and what working here is like.

Monday was my first day, though I had  worked on familiarizing myself with a couple things prior, namely Ubuntu and Python. Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system, so rather than Windows or iOS, I’m working with a completely different operating system. I’ve discovered it’s not all that different though, the main differences are that the Python programming language is more integrated into the system itself and the command line is easier to work with. Command line is basically giving your computer direct text commands, and if you type “cmd” into the Windows search, you can find the command line pretty easily. In Ubuntu, it’s called a terminal.

Prior to working here, my experience with programming was more or less what Mr. B had taught me, though I had worked through some Code Academy and W3 Schools tutorials as well. Mr. B’s class made me pretty confident in Java, but only Java. There are hundreds of different programming languages that each have their own various capabilities and uses. For example, if you press Fn + F11 or CTRL + U (depending on your computer) you will get the HTML code for whatever site you’re on, because most websites are written in a combination of HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and XML. HTML and JavaScript serve to display the website, and XML can store data within the HTML code. The Windows operating system is written in Java, iOS is written in C++, etc. Each language has its own advantages and disadvantages, and based on these they are created and used for different things.

When I arrived at Avirtek on the first day, Dr. Hariri greeted me at the door and gave me a key. He is the head of the company and the one who had interviewed me. I had gotten there a few minutes early (for my friends who are in shock at that fact, yes, I have been on time or early every day) so for the first few minutes, he sat me down with Doug (another one of the higher ups) and talked about what I’d be working on. Within that time, Fabian and Chintan arrived. Fabian is my official boss, and Chintan is my mentor.

Fabian and Chintan then set me up at my desk (yes apparently I get a desk):

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The guy in the purple shirt is Chintan:

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He’s the guy who I sit next to all day and the one I ask a million questions a day. If you’re reading this Chintan, thank you for both putting up with me asking “What’s next?” every few hours, and helping me settle in to Avirtek. I would be very, very lost if not for you.

The two monitors I have are each connected to a different computer, one is black and one is white in the picture. The one on the left is a Windows machine and the one on the right is a Linux machine. The little white box between the monitors has buttons to switch between the two.  I’ve pretty much only used the Linux machine. The monitor that’s on is displaying the project in Python I’ve been working on and the command line.

So, what I’ve actually been working on:

Again, sorry, but I can’t tell you the specifics. I signed a contract.

When I first sat down at my desk, I figured I would be coding. After all, that’s what I signed on for. To my slight disappointment, I didn’t jump into coding right away. The first task I was given: research ——- upcoming data type and write up what I find.  At first I figured okay, they’re trying to have me brush up on what they already knew. Oddly enough, that wasn’t completely true. When I talked about what I had found with Chintan, it was new information to him. It wasn’t unfamiliar, he had been researching and working with a corresponding data type, but it was still relatively new to him. I had already begun doing something useful, regardless of how small.

The rest of the day was writing, in Python, a program that processed the file type I had researched earlier. This requires I/O, or reading/writing to files. I had never done that before, even in Java. So this is what I was doing only a few hours into my internship:
I was writing a program in a language I didn’t know, for a process I had never attempted, on a data type I had never heard of prior to that day. I must have googled “how to do X” or “how to do Y but in python rather than Java” a hundred or so times each hour. I think the expression “trial by fire” is very much appropriate. By the end of the day though, I had successfully processed a file.

Day two:

I arrive at Avirtek, and Dr. Hariri sits Chintan, Doug, and I to discuss what to work on next. For me, that meant Doug later gave me articles on —— data type on a USB drive. I had never seen a 256 GB USB before. For comparison, the average iPhone can hold 16-64 GB. I opened up the files he had given me. Did I mention I think most of this is over my head? Had you figured that out yet? Yes? Okay good because it is. The articles are all college or graduate-level research on —— data type that I understand about as much as I understand high-level Spanish, so every fourth word or so. Reading those has been half of my work yesterday and today. The other half of my work on day two was upgrading the processing program to process multiple files in a folder and skip any subfolders present. That was my reminder that programming can be very, very frustrating. Again though, by the end of the day I had a fully functional program. It is basic, and it will take upgrading before it can be used, but it works. It’s weird but amazing knowing that I’m actually contributing to Avirtek. I think it’s work that someone like Chintan could accomplish in a couple hours, but hey it’s work that is in fact done.

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