A man standing holding a saftey helment.
Stephen Kouevi, a VCU information systems major in the School of Business, is interning at Newport News Shipbuilding this summer. (Photo contributed by Newport News Shipbuilding).

VCU business student appreciates career lessons gained in cybersecurity summer internship

Stephen Kouevi’s preparation and perseverance to land a funded summer internship with the largest military shipbuilding company in the U.S. opens a portal to more career possibilities.

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This summer, Stephen Kouevi bought steel toe boots.

The information systems major in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business needed the footwear to tour the Newport News Shipbuilding shipyard during his 11-week paid summer internship.

“I did have some opportunities to go to the shipyard and walk around with my steel toe boots,” said Kouevi, a rising junior. “I saw the cool infrastructure they're building, and the materials they use for the submarines. It was super cool.”

He thinks his footwear purchase is an investment for a possible professional future with Newport News Shipbuilding, the largest military shipbuilding company in the United States, which also provides professional services to government and industry.

As an intern, Kouevi is sitting in on sessions with his Newport News Shipbuilding information technology team and an outside audit firm, learning about their evaluation processes.

“I also help with orchestrating projects that could help our department in cybersecurity, focusing on efficiency and trying to make processes quicker,” Kouevi said. “And I also help using Excel a lot. They're teaching me new tools regarding helping meet compliance [regulations].”

Funds from the VCU Internship Funding Program are helping Kouevi pay for his living expenses.

He’s getting a lot of hands-on experience as well as professional development advice.

“They're really welcoming and helping me learn, so that with the more questions I ask, the more answers I have,” Kouevi said. “Eventually people will ask me questions, and I will have the answers.”

Kouevi said his supervisor has provided him with invaluable career advice, such as to network as much as possible and to seek certification in the business project management space, specifically the scrum master prep certification.

“It pushed me to learn more about it. And eventually I think I would want to apply that more to careers in the future,” Kouevi said.

The internship program at Newport News Shipbuilding is large and very structured with resume, interview and workplace strength-building workshops as well as networking events and recreational outings to area attractions.

“I'm glad that they have an internship program that makes us feel welcome, so we can meet other interns and go through it as a group,” Kouevi said. “I met some other interns from NC State, JMU and Virginia Tech. I'm making new friends out of this. I love how they're orchestrating the internship program, providing that value and fun experience for us.”

Forging a path with opportunities

Kouevi applied to the Newport News Shipbuilding internship in early fall. That process entailed a videotaped interview, which proved challenging because of the impersonal mechanics involved in recording his answers to interview questions. But he felt prepared because he received training on how to practice for interviews and to create a strong application from his involvement in INROADS, a national organization that helps diverse students prepare for internships and work.

Being a part of and leading numerous student organizations and clubs at VCU has helped Kouevi learn, network and help others. Kouevi is president of the VCU Information Systems Organization. He’s also IT director of VCU’s Developing Men of Color and a senator of the VCU National Black Society of Engineers.

A first-generation college student, Kouevi describes himself as someone who likes leadership roles and to help other people.

“I'm really career and professional development focused,” said Kouevi, who also has an ongoing IT internship with the VCU Police Department. “I like to inspire people to work on themselves.”

Kouevi sees connections to his business classes in the application of his internship, especially the Winning Presentations class, which has given him confidence not only with public speaking but with interacting with executives and others in the workplace.

Kouevi said he is grateful for the help he has received to build his professional credentials and expand his knowledge.

“The way I got this internship was working hard and leaning on my team, and that team was my friends, my family and the VCU internship funding family,” said Kouevi. “Working hard to meet these employers and actually doing the applying was the hardest thing. I'm really appreciative of having a program like this that provides students with the opportunity to go chase their dreams.”