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Teen protects data through internship

Tyler Alexander works at Ongoing Operations LLC, a company based in Hagerstown

March 04, 2011|BY TIFFANY ARNOLD | tiffanya@herald-mail.com
  • Tyler Alexander, 18, plans to take classes at Hagerstown Community College and then pursue computer-science and cyber-security degrees at Shepherd University.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

When disaster strikes, Tyler Alexander wants to keep your data safe.

Alexander, an 18-year-old senior at Washington County Technical High School, is an intern at Ongoing Operations LLC. The Hagerstown-based company backs up data for credit unions and other financial institutions nationwide in a process known as disaster recovery.

Alexander, who has been with Ongoing Operations since October, is responsible for setting up racks for servers. He also configures laptops and phones for the company.

"It's been a great experience for us as an institution," said Kyle Stutzman, Alexander's supervisor. "He's always provided some level of value. We look forward to continuing to do that, plus hopefully finding places for Tyler to continue."

Getting a technology internship as a high school student is a big deal. Careers in the technology industry materialize because of what you have accomplished and who you know.

"It definitely helped my career, got my foot in the door," said Ongoing Operation's founder and CEO Kevin Drake, who got his start in the industry as a high schooler intern for a company in Oregon.

"It's very important to have experience, to be able to fill out a resume, to show you at least have exposure, or have had some hands-on experiences with some key pieces of technology," Drake said. "You want to have that."

Alexander said he developed an interest in technology as a kid. Back in the late 1990s, his parents gave him his first computer. He doesn't remember much about it, except that it was huge and wide.

But he does recall having a fascination for the Internet and the vulnerability of information. He's been in David Long's computer and networking classes at Washington County Technical High School since he was a junior. He started learning about cyber security during his senior year.

"The analogy is you have a lock on your house with a house key, and in theory, it should protect you, but we all know that burglars can get in if they wanted to," Long said. "Our cyber security curriculum talks about how data is stolen and misused."

As part of the class, Long's students can intern or enroll at classes at Hagerstown Community College — some students opt to do both. Long said that when he got the lead on the Ongoing Operations internship, he told their recruiters, "I've got just the kid you're looking for."

And based on what his supervisors say, Alexander has been doing a good job. In fact, his intern tenure could have an enduring effect after he leaves —  he plans to take classes at Hagerstown Community College and then pursue computer-science and cyber-security degrees at Shepherd University, though he'll probably work at Ongoing Operations over the summer.

 "We'd love to have more high school interns (based) on our experience with him," Drake said.

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