Student Worker Experience – Matt Fortier
Incoming students have a lot on their minds when they first arrive at Champlain. They may be worried about making friends or where their classes are. When I arrived on campus, I was worried about one thing: getting a job. I had applied for numerous positions including at the Emergent Media Center, the Rental House, and the LCDI. I was ready to apply at the cafeteria. I have had a job since I was sixteen years old, and have worked just about every week since then. At this point, I didn’t know anything else but working, and I needed the money to pay for textbooks and dinners with friends. I really wasn’t looking for anything in particular when it came to a job either, I just knew that I needed to get to work because I didn’t know what else to do with my time. I also figured no one would like to hire a first year programmer, so I planned to just get my foot in the door somewhere.
When I received an email from my career advisor that I had gotten an interview for the Office Assistant position at the LCDI, I was ecstatic and could not wait to get in to interview. When I walked into the LCDI for the first time, it was in disarray because they were in the process of building the new office. Even with all the construction going on, I knew this was a place I wanted to work. All I saw was state-of-the-art technology. I saw custom build PCs all around, massive TVs mounted to the wall displaying information for employees, and tons of digital forensics equipment that I didn’t recognize.
I spent the entire first semester cleaning windows, emptying trash, retrieving equipment, and logging hours. Another Office Assistant and I were eventually tasked with implementing digital signage software for the labs displays, to replace the slideshow that was on them at the time. We were selected for this task out of all of the other Office Assistants because our project manager thought that we could complete the task without ignoring our other duties. We ended up finding a web application called RiseVision that allowed us to design our own web-based displays filled with slideshows, Twitter and RSS feeds, calendars, and other features for free. I really enjoyed the work I put into the RiseVision displays and it allowed me to research different software packages, put my own design ideas into the displays, and get to work on something that I was invested in. This experience just goes to show that you can make a big difference at the LCDI, at any position, even if you are a first year student. Over time, all of the Office Assistants have been trained to use RiseVision, and it is now a main source of information for all workforce members in the lab. The research and development I did on RiseVision inspired me to apply for the Research Assistant position for the second semester of my first year. I ended up approaching my project manager Joe Williams about my interest in the position, and I got the position not too long after. I was very excited to have been promoted after only one semester of work, and was very eager to see what my research project would be.
The beginning of my second semester at the LCDI was a brand new experience. Now I was able to sit inside the lab, at my very own workstation, and do research that provided me with relevant work experience. I was also nervous about my placement because my new position typically only went to digital forensic or cybersecurity majors, and I was a computer science major. However, the LCDI does a great job at placing workforce members into projects that they are interested in. I was relieved to hear that my project would involve researching digital citizenship for elementary kids. I was now able to use my knowledge of technology, specifically mobile devices, to educate younger kids about how to use them safely. I specifically researched social media and application safety, along with cyberbullying. My team and I created a Prezi that included talking points about application permissions, security settings, cyberbullying, hacking, and much more. I was then able to travel to two elementary schools in the Burlington area and present the information that I had researched. This was a great experience as it gave me greater confidence in my public speaking abilities, as well as leadership experience. This experience is what also gave me the confidence to apply and eventually get hired as a Resident Assistant on Champlain College campus.
My next challenge at the LCDI seemed far more daunting when presented to me. My third semester at the LCDI I was given a choice of what I would like to do. I could lead a team of digital forensic interns on a Raspberry Pi forensics project or I could contribute to the video game the LCDI has been developing. As a non-digital forensics major, the Raspberry Pi Forensics project was the perfect starter project for me to research as well as lead. I was given this option because my project manager thought that I could lead the team regardless of my digital forensic knowledge. Given that I also recently switched majors away from Game Programming to Computer Science and Innovation, leading a team of interns with little digital forensic experience seemed like a great learning experience and challenge as opposed to making a game. As the team lead, I was able to do some research and development work like implementing a small touchscreen and Bluetooth keyboard on my Raspberry Pi to make it completely portable. I was also able to do some coding and wrote a script that executed the task my interns were doing automatically from an icon on the touchscreen.
I was also able to educate my interns on the basics of forensics through Linux, teaching them how to execute commands through the terminal, how to mount hard drives, and how to image and view the imaging process in Linux. I gained invaluable leadership experience from this project and learned about forensics, as well as how to be an effective leader. At the end of the semester in my end of the year meeting, I asked my project manager Joe Williams if I could apply for the programmer position. I had been looking over the shoulder of the lead programmer all semester, asking his advice whenever I could. I had always wanted the programming position at the LCDI, and I figured this was a good time to ask. Joe then assigned me to the inventory site, and asked me to fix all the errors and add some functionality. The semester ended before I got much work done, so I had to postpone my work until the next semester.
Now I am a programmer at the LCDI. I was tasked with either fixing the inventory management system that we had in place or recoding the site. As a first time programmer at the LCDI, I wanted to prove that I could create something. So, in eight weeks, my intern and I delivered a final product that looked and worked better than the previous site. Issues like missing item photos, incorrect logs, and missing fields on the homepage had been fixed, and the rest of the site was redesigned. Leading this project is just another great experience I can put on a resume. I am now tasked with maintenance on just about every other programming project in house, as well as coming up with new programming ideas for the future.
I believe this is where I will stay for now. I have certainly jumped around from position to position previously because the LCDI has so many opportunities. The LCDI hires people from all majors, and really gives them every tool for success. We have everyone from Game Programming majors to Communications Assistants, Graphic Designers, and even Computer Science students like myself. The LCDI is not limited to Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity majors, and that is one of its selling points. It is a place where you can gain real world experience while you are still learning. A place where you bring back what you learned in class and apply it to what you are doing, no matter what major or position you hold here. All I had to do was get my foot in the door and show them that I was hardworking and reliable. The most important thing that I learned about this whole process is communication. I had to show interest in every promotion I received here. I’ve found that communicating your interests to your bosses is an extremely important part of getting the position you want. If you never express your desire for a position, your boss may not know to consider you. The LCDI is a fantastic place to gain invaluable work experience and knowledge for people of all backgrounds, and I couldn’t be happier working here.