Ricky Sala Security Engineer Intern at HP

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and background?

I am currently majoring in math and chemistry at Oregon State University, I was originally majoring in computer science and math, but felt math was sufficient enough for what I want to do. I added on the chemistry major because I want to work in a medical related field. During my senior year of high school I worked on encryption and enjoyed the math behind the computer science. When I worked on my ISEF project, I originally wanted to be a doctor, but after ISEF I wanted to go into encryption and math because I realized there was opportunities within that field that were very interesting.

How did you come across this internship?

One of my friends worked at HP and really enjoyed it there and he sent me a link for a position. I applied through a web application and heard back 2 weeks later. They reached out for a phone interview, which was pretty generic, they wanted to get to know me and asked questions like, why I choose HP, and why I choose to major in math and chemistry.

After my first phone interview I made it to the next round, and was give a test where I had to do some basic coding problems. Once they reviewed my code, I was passed onto the final round, which was the formal interview. Again I was asked behavioral like questions and company fit questions like, what you want to do, how is HP different from its competitors, etc. Later that day I got a call saying they would like to offer me.

Can you tell us about your role?

I worked on hard drive encryption and algorithms to make them more secure and make sure 3rd parties couldn’t get into the hard drives. I mainly worked in low-level development languages like assembly. One of my last projects for hard drive encryption was to make sure someone couldn’t get into the bios or through other back door paths. I would get reports of bugs from users, and then go through those reports, prioritizing which issues were the most important and then find solutions to fix them. One of the hardest parts of my job was sorting out what was the highest priority bugs because everything in security is somewhat a high priority. I figured out how complex each bug was by my ability to replicate the bug and would determine its priority, if it were easy to replicate then I would fix it first to get it out the way for more challenging fixes. Having the source code to many of these issues made my job much easier.

What was the company culture like?

I went to HP right as a large organizational restructure was happening; we went from having a lot of mangers to having a lot less. For example we went from 5-6 people having 1 manager, to 40 people working under 1 manager. After this change it was more of a 1st come 1st serve basis on what things you wanted to work on. 

Everybody was really driven, smart and competitive, and there were awards given out to people that stood out and made a huge impact. Everyone worked together as a family and everyone was a group of friends rather than group co-workers. A lot of my role consisted of improving the customer experience, which was both high level and low-level tasks. Essentially I felt like we were reporting directly to the customers.

What was the highlight of your internship experience?

The highlight of my internship experience was the company picnic because I met so many different people that I had never met before.  HP is a very large company so often times you don’t know a lot of people, but events like this allow people to get to know each other.  The Corvallis campus has over 1000 people working there, this opportunity allowed me to network and build some really meaningful relationships.

Is there anything you wish your internship program could have improved on? 

The interaction between the teams could have been better. Because of the large company structure, cliques were formed because you don’t get to interact with other teams.

How does this internship help you in your future?

This gave me good experience for my resume and it also helped me figure out that I don’t want to work at a giant company and don’t like working with that many people. Additionally, I was able to learn great technical and problem skills, which is beneficial in my next role.  I see myself trying to work at a smaller company in the future and specifically a hospital where I will get to interact with people on a deeper level.

If you could give advice to a student seeking a similar prestigious internship, what would you tell them?

Be able to work independently and make sure you are good at what you do, if you can demonstrate your skills rather than being all talk, it really makes you stand out. I personally believe that actions speak louder than words.  If you see a position or opportunity, just apply for it you never know what can come out of it.

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