Internship Offers Students Cybersecurity Skills

Abbott partnership aims to strengthen HBCU cybersecurity programs and prepare students for the jobs of the future.

HIRE EXPERIENCE     |    Sep. 29, 2022

College student Ola Olalumade spent his summer working at Abbott, finding ways to simplify patient care website registration for senior citizens who take medications that reduce blood clots.

Meanwhile, fellow student Jordan Owens and his Abbott team built an app to help people answer questions about the implantable cardiac devices that help treat their cardiac arrhythmias.

Both Prairie View A&M University students interned as part of Abbott's participation in Advancing Minorities' Interest in Engineering’s (AMIE) HBCU Cybersecurity Industry Collaboration Initiative Pilot. The effort brings companies like Abbott together with Engineering Schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The goal? strengthen HBCU cybersecurity programming while developing a diverse pipeline of cybersecurity career-ready students. The AMIE pilot is underway while the U.S. job market has more than 700,000 open cybersecurity jobs and is projected to need 3.5 million professionals worldwide by 2025.

Experiences at Abbott shape career paths

During their internships with Abbott, Olalumade and Owens learned skills that will be valuable in their future careers. For Ola, it was getting comfortable asking questions.

"The more questions you ask, the smarter you will become," he says. "At first, we tried to figure things out ourselves. But when we began asking more questions, we grew as professionals much more quickly."

Owens was intrigued to learn that there was no direct, defined path to enter the workforce using his electrical engineering major. Over the course of the internship, he met people from fields as diverse as finance, chemical engineering and auditing who pivoted into different roles during their Abbott careers.

"That opened my eyes to be open to different opportunities," he says.

Owens' manager wanted to offer him additional perspectives across healthcare. He connected Owens with Abbott’s electrical engineers working on embedded medical devices in the San Francisco Bay Area. Owens spent a week with the engineers gaining hands-on experience.

Recruiting skilled cybersecurity professionals in a competitive job market

"In today's digital-first world, skilled cybersecurity workers are critical," says Sabina Ewing, Global CIO, Vice President Business & Technology Services at Abbott. "They help ensure the safety of our enterprise as well as the products we provide people to live better, healthier lives."

Cybersecurity professionals need to represent a wide swath of the population to adequately address the challenges facing the field. However, African-Americans make up only 11.8% of information security analysts in the U.S. With the launch of the AMIE cybersecurity initiative pilot, stakeholders hope to see an increase in this figure. 

"This effort couldn't come at a more critical time," says Veronica L. Nelson, AMIE’s executive director. "The U.S. greatly needs skilled cybersecurity workers. HBCU Engineering Schools represent a rich pipeline of untapped, diverse talent."

Shaping the future of STEM at Abbott

The cybersecurity internships that Olalumade and Owens participated in represent Abbott’s efforts to diversify the cybersecurity workforce. It’s one way Abbott aims to build the diverse, innovative workforce of tomorrow.

The AMIE pilot initiative aims to position HBCUs, like Prairie View A&M University, as premier national centers for cybersecurity education while simultaneously preparing their students for the world's essential cybersecurity careers.

As one of those students, Owens says he understands the impact of his work can have on people with illnesses and in supporting Abbott's purpose – helping more people live healthier lives.

"I wanted to be in the medical field all my life," Jordan recalls. "All my brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles have health issues. If I can improve the health of my family members or somebody else, that is important to me."