Co-Op Stories: for Liam Ortiz, hands-on cyber experience advances skills

Co-Op: Story from the Field featuring Liam Ortiz

, Liam Ortiz

Credit: Penn State

Editor's note: This story is part of a series profiling internship experiences of undergraduate students participating in Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op. For more stories like Ortiz's, visit The series is written by Kacey Harper, a second-year Penn State Schuylkill student majoring in corporate communication.

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. — Fascinated by the inner workings of technology devices, Liam Ortiz tinkered with computers by installing new software and fine-tuning the settings for better performance starting at a young age. And after recovering a personal computer from a malware incident when he was in high school, Ortiz’s curiosity was sparked.

Now a third-year cybersecurity analytics and operations student at Penn State Schuylkill, Ortiz intends to pursue a career as a cybersecurity analyst. Such a role would put him on the forefront of protecting organizations against cyber threats by protecting computer systems, software and networks from unauthorized access, data theft and potential losses.

This summer, Ortiz worked on campus as an intern with the Penn State Schuylkill Information Technology (IT) Services department and served as a Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) coach. In IT, Ortiz gained hands-on experience by holding office hours where he assisted students, faculty and staff with essential software like Office 365, Zoom, Canvas, Kaltura and more. As a TLT coach, Ortiz collaborated with peers in the cybersecurity and information technology programs from Penn State campuses across the commonwealth on tactics, new ideas and ways to work together to advance knowledge on their desired subject matter.

Ortiz said this internship and newfound community have impacted his growth both personally and from a professional development standpoint — a journey he feels would have been difficult to embark upon without his experience in Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op.

Ortiz joined Co-Op after discussing its benefits with his academic advisor. Despite being in his first year of studies at the time, Ortiz immediately knew it would be a great opportunity to learn more about practical workplace skills early on. Through Co-Op, Ortiz created a foundation of the soft skills needed in the workplace and learned how to work well with a team, a skill that’s proven valuable throughout his time as an intern and a TLT coach, where he consistently worked alongside others. Ortiz also learned strategies for managing tasks while on the job, which significantly contributed to his overall performance and growth throughout his internship, he said.

With this extensive knowledge and recently developed competency in cybersecurity and the functions of the workplace, Ortiz said he is ready to take on the next academic year and professional journey, wherever it may lead him.

Q: What led you to choose this internship?

Ortiz: I enjoyed that it offered me the opportunity to work with fellow students as well as faculty and staff. I’ve been able to have hands-on experience with different kinds of software, which is essential to helping me understand potential vulnerabilities and exploitation in cybersecurity. This has been the perfect opportunity for me to broaden my expertise in software applications, enhance my IT know-how and prepare for my next steps.

Q: What has surprised you on the job?

Ortiz: In my role at Penn State Schuylkill, I have been surprised by the valuable learning experiences that come from being part of projects that enhance student learning and the overall campus experience. Working in this environment has greatly benefited my career by teaching me essential IT and cybersecurity skills and knowledge.

Q: What have you learned in Co-Op that helped you succeed in your internship?

Ortiz: Co-Op played a large role in helping me secure my internship. It taught me important aspects of how to build a career and be mindful of how I convey myself in a professional setting. It also helped me learn how I work on a team, and what I’m able to bring to one — which has made a significant impact on how I view working with others. Everyone plays an important role in the workplace, and that was proven true in my current internship.

Q: Describe a specific project/event/experience that you had which made this internship memorable.

Ortiz: One standout experience was when Julie Meyer, instructional designer with Teaching and Learning with Technology, gave me the chance to work with Dr. Joseph Squillace, assistant teaching professor of cybersecurity, on a project to set up a computer lab in our Classroom Building. As a cybersecurity student, the opportunity to get hands-on with computers is always valuable. I was involved in assembling and configuring the computer hardware and had the chance to explore different software and security systems. This practical experience deepened my understanding of computer systems and enhanced my cybersecurity skills.

Learn more about Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op.