Blog | Sept. 1, 2021

Humans of CCPO: Ethan Nguyen

CCPO took summer interns for the first time in 2021. The intern program was an exceptional opportunity to provide high school and college students with hands-on government experience,  and some of our full-time employees with management experience. Staying true to CCPO, we quickly integrated our interns into the product teams to start working on projects! The interns directly contributed to our ongoing projects with the Strategic Communications (StratComm) and Engineering teams, leaving their valuable, unique marks on the program office. We greatly appreciate their hard work and dedication to CCPO’s vision of transforming cloud to enable the Warfighter. Keep reading to learn more about our very own Engineering intern Ethan Nguyen.

Ethan Nguyen, Engineering Intern, Cloud Computing Program Office

I can’t find the right words to express my experience, but from the first day, the Cloud Computing Program Office (CCPO) shattered my expectations for what a summer internship would look like. When I was on the hunt for a summer job, I found a position with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) for “perform[ing] a variety of clerical office support functions[ing] various basic functions of other software types such as calendar, electronic mail, and spreadsheets ... and print[ing] a variety of documents for the office staff.” Wow, what fun.

Nevertheless, I applied and, to my surprise, I was offered a position with CCPO as an engineering intern. Working for the government sounded intriguing, but working as an engineer  for an office that derives its work from Warfighters at the edge sounded even cooler. That said, I continued to be hesitant as I expected to perform the tasks that nobody else wanted to do and anticipated it being a lonely summer as I would be fully remote and, therefore, unable to meet anyone in person. Moreover, I believed that the closest thing to real time collaboration would be a painfully slow process of calling people back and forth over the phone.

On the first day, I realized that this government program office was different. I was surprised to learn that the office used modern technologies like Slack, JIRA, and Google suite for collaboration. Daily morning meetings were helpful to connect with others on work and provided a readily available outlet to receive help. Additionally, interns were encouraged to “pop in” to most meetings to learn about CCPO and its portfolio of projects.
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Ethan with fellow interns in the office with CCPO chief of staff

CCPO’s technologies enable its culture. Everyone is encouraged to speak up and express their opinions. Before I started, I read articles on “what to expect working for the Pentagon.” I found that the juniors are expected to listen during meetings and never speak up, while the seniors are the only ones whose opinions matter. However, the CCPO environment was completely different. All CCPO employees - from intern to Executive Director - are encouraged to contribute their opinion and speak freely.

My time at CCPO was, truly, one of the best summers I’ve had because I had the opportunity to learn about the cloud technologies that the Department of Defense (DoD) uses. For instance, I helped support CCPO’s DoD Cloud Infrastructure as Code (IaC) project and assisted with a pilot to evaluate Amazon Web Service (AWS) Sagemaker and Azure Machine Learning, Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud machine learning platforms. DoD Cloud IaC, is a project to deploy pre-configured, pre-authorized baselines to help mission partners deploy cloud quickly by minimizing the manual work typically required to deploy cloud environments.

I had the opportunity to improve upon the DoD Cloud IaC project by helping the team incorporate AWS’ Appstream into the DoD Cloud IaC baseline, allowing other DoD users to rapidly deploy Appstream instead of manually configuring everything to meet DoD specs. Appstream allows users to access applications from anywhere with only a web browser. 

I feel lucky that I ended up at a program office like CCPO, where I was able to directly contribute to one of their key projects, while simultaneously learning about the government. This fall I am headed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to begin my bachelor's degree in computer science. I will miss working for CCPO and look forward to (possibly) returning next summer.