Meg Riggle, a National Security Seminar and AIP alum, is now an authority in the security field, as Manager of Integration and Test Engineering at leading global security contractor, Northrop Grumman.
The combination of her Cyber Forensics and Information Security major, both seminars and her D.C. internship have resulted in greater self-confidence in a demanding field, particularly for women.
When were you at The Washington Center and where did you intern?
I interned during the fall 2015 semester with McClure, Brown, & Associates, a small, private company that does cognitive research and neuroanalytics. While I was there, I helped in creating a neuroanalytics database for them, as well as work on cyber policy. I went to the launch of the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Capitol Hill working groups on their behalf - NIST creates standards for everything cyber computing - and I was part of the cloud computing working group. Whenever there was a big new thing in cloud computing, I got to participate in those meetings.
What prompted you to start looking for an internship as part of your college experience?
The TWC National Security seminars are what prompted me to look at the Academic Internship Program. After the National Security seminars I was interested in working for a government agency and felt the internship was a start. I didn’t end up at a government agency, though. I instead chose to be part of the private sector. I got a lot more benefit out of that than I originally realized for my career path because I got to experience work that touched upon the private, government and corporate sectors.
Why did you choose this program over others?
I did other internships during my college career. They were in the greater Pittsburgh area, one with a pharmaceutical company and another with the Allegheny County Police. I worked with the NCFTA (National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance) and also got to work with the local FBI office through the police. TWC was the only D.C. program that I knew about, heard of or applied to. I believe TWC had not had a cyber-tech intern before me and another person from my university that came who was in the field too. I’m happy I chose TWC and it has worked out well.
What was the most impactful experience or memorable encounter you had during your time in D.C.?
My most impactful thing during my internship was participating in the ambassador program. I was able to help several international students: a student from Sierra Leone, one from Mexico and another from Belgium. I still have friendships with all of them. The student from Mexico is a big fan of the Steelers (Pittsburgh’s football team). We try to schedule a yearly Steelers game to attend together. I also met one of my best friends through the ambassador program. She’s actually moving in with me next week in San Diego. That’s the most impactful thing I have from TWC, that involvement and how it helps me with my networking and communication skills with individuals from different cultures. I network daily as part of my job and my customers aren’t always from the United States. Learning how to communicate cross-culturally in D.C. is definitely something I never would have experienced without the program.
Describe briefly what it was like to intern at your organization. How has it affected your professional development?
It was incredibly exciting. At first, it was a little slow in terms of understanding what they were trying to do because what they were working on was so fantastic. My biggest takeaway was discovering the different communication patterns that exist within everyone and knowing how to identify and match them. The way your head is tilted means something, the way your shoulders are, your eyes have an integrated feedback loop that they go through whenever you think about something and it all has meaning. Their creation helps you to align yourself in a conversation and make the person on the other side be more comfortable and trusting of you. It’s not something many people have the ability to learn and experience. I know what it means thanks to my internship and I’ve taken it to companies and performed people mapping for entire offices for my current employer, albeit in a different role. I make sure that there won’t be any issues among personnel. I’ve coached employees and managers about how to go about certain situations or identify future leaders within an organization because of all the things my internship taught me.
How would you describe TWC and its impact to someone else?TWC is an experience unlike anything else. It makes you a better person and helps prepare you for the real world because it’s bringing you out of your comfort zone just by being in D.C. It’s really challenging, in a good way. It brings out the best in you. You might have a moment where you falter, but the support team that is TWC doesn’t let you fall on your face. They are there with the support and professionalism necessary for you to have a constructive experience.
They help you get up right away so you can keep climbing the ladder, learning and growing. It’s a very encouraging environment.Meg Riggle
During your time in D.C., when you encountered a challenge or struggle, how did you deal with it? What resources did you rely on?
The one area I would say I had a struggle was working cyber policy on the Hill. I would go to these meetings of all men, older generations than I am, who have been working on cyber since its creation. I would walk into the room and be discounted immediately. It was disheartening to have them discount me and my knowledge simply because I am young and female. My internship supervisor, who was also female, warned me I would be and that I needed to be prepared. The first few times that I entered those working group meetings with her she helped create a platform for me to work from confidently. She would throw my name out there, add a few things about me and then look for me to continue. By the end, I had several of them impressed with me and commending me for knowledge they were surprised that I had. It was a scary situation going in, but walking out of it, I was really proud of myself. There I was, still in college, trying to speak to an older generation of policymakers and I did it almost seamlessly. That was a challenge, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
What is the single greatest benefit TWC provides to students such as yourself?
I think the single greatest benefit for me was the ambassador program because it allowed me to help others. I enjoy helping others and coming here, having the opportunity to gain leadership experience while helping others who aren’t familiar with the area or our culture and bringing them up to speed on things, was something that I hold really near and dear. Being in the ambassador program, I got to assume a leadership position. The ambassadors came early, had training on how to be better leaders and helped students move in. We were the face of TWC as the students moved in and people who weren’t even my protogees came up to me with questions. Being an ambassador was one of the most memorable components because we brought people together as friends, or like a family. It was the most welcoming program that I could have ever expected to be involved in as a student.
With the seminars and my internship, I have been able to accomplish what seemed like an impossible feat. I feel more comfortable going into new work situations. I can communicate a lot better thanks to all of the uncomfortable situations - like those on the Hill - I have been in. Being a female in this field is not easy. My experience has made me who I am and a lot stronger than I could have ever imagined myself being