Learning from scratch

I’m Niilo Lehtikuja, an intern in the security team at the Ericsson Research and Development Center in Jorvas. The summer offered a really wide spectrum of tasks – from coaching kids at a code camp to helping with a patent application!

Students from many different fields join Ericsson Research for internships or thesis work. You could be next. Follow our blog to learn more about the students at Ericsson Research during the summer of 2018.

When I started, what I knew about computer security was limited to not clicking spam mail. However, my colleagues at Ericsson were eager to teach me right from the start and they helped me a lot, especially Patrik, my mentor.

Diverse work assignments

My first task was to compare methods of protecting the Domain Name System. Great. I had heard about DNS before, but was not really sure what it meant. The first week or so went by just studying what DNS is and why it needs protecting. Now I’ve almost finished my report about the subject and I plan on writing my bachelor’s thesis on protecting DNS as well. During my time at Ericsson I hatched an idea about a way of protecting DNS that I found no prior work on. I therefore got to write an invention disclosure about it and hopefully Ericsson will decide to patent my invention. Even though I didn’t take part in the actual patent application procedure, learning about patenting was a great experience.

Right after midsummer I had a completely different kind of work assignment. Because of my background working with children in the scouts, I was asked to help at a code camp for Ericsson employees’ children. My main job was meant to be organizing outside activities every day, but I ended up helping with the coding part for the entire week as well; creating games with Scratch was a lot of fun for me also. I wish I’d had the opportunity to go to a camp like this when I was younger, as in today’s world it’s great to start understanding computers early on.

My Experience

The summer internship at Ericsson has been a really great experience. The way of working here is very relaxed and I’ve enjoyed lots of freedom in regard to working hours and methods, which was sometimes challenging, as it requires discipline to stay focused. It’s great that summer interns have so many possible tasks to work on.

I had some challenges with motivating myself to polish my DNS report after working on it for a month, and I think that being with the children in the coding camp was a refreshing experience between weeks of sitting in the office.

Towards the end of the summer I’ve been participating in a project about 5G security and I have learned even more new things!

How I got here

As I was studying Information Networks at Aalto University, Ericsson didn’t seem like a very likely place to work. My thoughts about Ericsson were that it is a big corporation that builds wireless networks and researches hardware-related stuff, and that the Information Networks program was not technical enough to merit working for a company like Ericsson. However, in the Information Networks program we study mostly frontend stuff, and not knowing anything at all about the backend stuff bothered me. I like to have an understanding of a system (for example the internet and the online tools we use) as a whole. An internship at Ericsson seemed like a great place to learn something concrete, which resulted in my spending the summer at the Jorvas R&D Center. My thoughts about my personal knowledge were proven right as soon as I started. There were lots of things about the internet that I knew nothing about, one being the DNS that I first started working with.

Who is Niilo?

I’ve always lived and studied in Espoo. The Ericsson internship at Jorvas was the summer job farthest away from home (it is really close to Espoo) – well, you have to start somewhere. Before university my main interest in school was the natural sciences, and I always thought that I would become some sort of researcher. I was always good at mathematics and chemistry, and in biology I made it to Biology Olympiad in 2015. After high school, I had to choose what subject to study further. I had no idea what to do, and I think many kids finishing high school have similar feelings. Right now, I’m studying Information Networks and I’ve enjoyed it very much so far. There were completely new areas to study including computer science, industrial engineering and product design. I knew nothing about computers beforehand and in my opinion they’re probably the most interesting part of my studies.

Outside my studies I’m an active scout and sometimes I like to pick at the guitar. I like all team sports, but beach volleyball is my favorite.

I’d say that the three best things about Ericsson have been flexibility, learning a lot and the great people who work here. There’s not a lot more anyone could ask of a summer job.

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