Name: Thomas Kim

Major: B.S. Computer Science ‘25

Minor: Information Security and Policy (ISP) 

Extracurricular Involvements: Robotics Club, Former Resident Advisor and Program Support Assistant for Office of Residence Life and First Year Experience (RLFYE), Former Back Office Assistant for Information Systems and Technology (IS&T)

For some Fowler School of Engineering (FSE) students, transitioning from work-study jobs to off-campus employment may seem initially intimidating. But for others, gaining work experience at Chapman has prepared them for these independent roles within technology. Such is the case for Thomas Kim, current Network Security Intern for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

Kim was a Resident Advisor for Henley Hall during his sophomore year. As a Resident Advisor, Kim helped plan programs to better his community of first-year Fowler students while also juggling his responsibilities as a full-time student. Afterward, Kim worked as a Back Office Assistant for IS&T, where he aided students and staff through general tech support. With these experiences, Kim competed against roughly 1,000 applicants for his position at SAIC. 

Before embarking on his study abroad program with Korea University, Kim shared his experience transitioning into his most recent internship with SAIC, contracted with the City of Anaheim.

The Value of Campus Experiences

While working as a Back Office Assistant for IS&T, Kim gained valuable skills in computer networking. “During my time there, I got to work with the Network Engineers. Just working with them and getting my basic computer networking skills down helped me with my interview for my internship,” Kim said. 

Additionally, besides working for Chapman, Kim also learned the necessary skills for cyber security and computer networking through his classes at FSE. Despite initially not knowing what to do with computer science, Kim ventured out into cyber security topics through his classes. 

“I chose ISP [Information Security & Policy] as my minor because during the spring, I took ISP 371: Advanced Topics in Cyber Security with Professor Demetrios Lazarikos,” Kim said. “Professor Laz inspired me to get into this cyber security field, and my niche happened to be network security, application security. It’s been fun so far, and coding comes in handy here and there.” 

Kim also mentioned how Professor Michael Fahy’s CPSC 353 networking class helped him understand some of the fundamentals of networking. He said, “Fahy’s class helped me learn the basics and general ideas for networking, but now I’m working with the nitty gritty stuff.”

Life as a Cyber Security Intern

After applying for multiple internships throughout the semester, Kim finally secured a position at SAIC as their Network Security Intern. Thanks to his prior knowledge from classes and working for IS&T, Kim noted, “I didn’t have to do a third interview because of how well I performed during my second interview.”

During his first month interning at SAIC, Kim received training on how to set up Cisco switches. Cisco switches help with network security, performance, and flexibility. Around July and August, Kim transitioned into working on disaster recovery sites.

“We went from a cold site to a hot site, which basically means if the City of Anaheim network were to fail, we would have a back up,” Kim said. “If we were to go down or get hacked, such as through ransomware, we would have a backup so the City of Anaheim could function as it is.”

While working, Kim worked with Palo Alto firewalls, providing advanced protection for the City of Anaheim’s virtual cloud networks. “I replaced the PA-220s with PA-820s just because they were getting old,” Kim said. “Over the last six months, I’ve dealt with around $50 million-worth of equipment, just moving them back and forth from the City of Anaheim to the County of Orange.”

Now, Kim has been assigned to Computer Networking tasks, such as working on Local Area Networks (LANS), and Network segmentation.

Challenges and Triumphs of Being an Intern

Over the summer, Kim worked over 40 hours a week. During the summer, Kim explored SAIC’s Data Center and noted how he “didn’t really have anything else to do” besides his internship. Though, the challenges quickly became prominent when Kim continued his career while returning to school.

“Managing my classwork as well as office hours was one thing I struggled with,” said Kim. “For Programming Languages, we would have to go to events, like guest speakers, for participation points, but because I had my internship, I couldn’t go to some of those.”

Stress management posed a slight challenge for Kim. “Working and having the pressure of making sure I’m up to date with my projects at my internship and my homework for my classes was definitely a challenge,” he said. 

To combat the stress and balance his work life, Kim turned to setting a schedule for himself. “I had a set schedule almost every day. For me, it was going to the gym before class and also having up to two hours of break for my internship,” Kim said.

Additionally, throughout the semester, Kim maximized his time management skills by turning to his strengths in productivity. “Another thing that definitely helped a lot was doing everything last minute,” Kim said. “For me, I work well under pressure. It wasn’t necessarily procrastination, but it was more or so managing my priorities.”

Advice for Students and Beyond

After almost 10 months at his internship, Kim continues to persevere through his academics and remain resilient. In the spirit of upcoming internship applications opening up, Kim was also kind enough to share his tips for securing internships. 

He said, “Practice interviewing. That was the key part of how I got my internship. I got really good at interviews over the years, especially since my high school days when I would have to have interviews with colleges and the Naval Academy.”

Kim also expressed his vulnerability when he was applying for internships. “I’ve messed up countless interviews, but I would recommend students to mess up first and keep going. You’ll get interview experience and experience from interviewing. Definitely use ChatGPT for possible questions, and use every tool at your disposal,” he said.

Lastly, Kim heavily suggested finding crucial people to help students throughout their career searches. He expressed his gratitude for the people in his life who’ve helped him along the way. 

“My first two years of college, professor Elia was really crucial in my steps in college. Professor Laz has also been crucial in helping me sate my cyber security career. Fahy is also a mentor figure, and as I continue taking his classes, I learn more and more just because he’s a subject matter expert. My friends have also always helped me with coding projects and motivating me. Those are some of the crucial people who helped me, too.”

For more career guidance visit the Fowler School of Engineering website!