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How did you get involved in software engineering?
Ever since I was a kid, I liked to take things apart and put them together so I could see how they worked. My older brother, who was a computer engineer, gave me a C++ programming book to read when I was fourteen. He was my role model so I quickly read the book and got hooked on programming. By the time I was in high school, I was programming Linux systems and majored in computer engineering in college. I found computer engineering to be extremely challenging. I love solving problems, so it fit well with my personality. When I heard about Booz Allen, they had a lot of projects focused on embedded software development, much of which I didn't learn at school – so I knew it was going to be challenging but was excited to see what I could do and what I could learn. I've been able to continue to learn and grow here at Booz Allen. It's why I stayed here – I keep getting to try new things, learning all along the way how to solve really hard problems.
“Try to look at every opportunity as optimistically as you can. You never know what you’re going to learn.”
- Wahab Jilani
Can you talk about a project that has been particularly satisfying?
My role in the Booz Allen Cyber Internship Program has been a great experience. The internship programs mirror client work, so we try to give our interns real-world experiences where they can develop and hone certain skills. Last summer I helped lead a team of interns and staff who reverse engineered a traffic control system. That was very interesting – the interns were able to find a lot of vulnerabilities. We had an opportunity to brief the company on the issues, and the project got a lot of visibility. It helped to create a new policy for the firm on how we disclose vulnerabilities to industry.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to grow their career?
Try to look at every opportunity as optimistically as you can. You never know what you're going to learn from it. Even if it is something you weren't intending to do from the beginning – every opportunity has ability to teach you something. I don't think a lot of people realize that. Stay open to as many opportunities as you can, especially those that might require you to reach out of your comfort zone, because you will learn the most when you are stretched.
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