Summer 2023 Internship Highlight: Chibundu Onwuegbule

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As part of fulfilling citation requirements to complete the ACES program, ACES students complete an experiential learning requirement. For many, this takes the shape of an internship. But, ACES students don't just do traditional cybersecurity internships; they embark on transformative journeys that redefine the boundaries of tech and innovation

Chibundu Onwuegbule, a vibrant sophomore majoring in Computer Science along with the ACES LLP, embarked on an exciting adventure in the tech world as she secured an internship at Snap Inc., a renowned tech company known for its innovative approach to Augmented Reality (AR) and camera technology. Chibundu, hailing from Nigeria but raised in Maryland's vibrant Prince George's County, found herself at the heart of the digital revolution, using her creativity to make an impact in the world of AR.

Discovering the Opportunity

Chibundu's journey to Snap Inc. was anything but conventional. In a testament to the power of social media, she stumbled upon the internship opportunity through TikTok while following one of her favorite content creators. The prospect of utilizing her creative abilities to craft deliverables for a tech giant like Snap Inc. was too exciting to pass up. With this motivation in mind, she applied and soon found herself on a path to becoming a Lens Developer at one of the world's leading tech companies.

A Day in the Life of a Snap Intern

Chibundu's day-to-day life at Snap Inc. is a whirlwind of meetings, collaboration, and independent work. She finds herself in meetings with staff, Snap executives, and fellow interns, building valuable connections that are essential in the corporate world. A significant portion of her time is dedicated to learning from accomplished Snap Lens Developers, who not only contribute to Snap's success but also run their own AR development companies. “The highlight of my day is usually the opportunity to work independently on projects and explore the diverse array of features that Lens Studio has to offer."

Creating Inclusive AR Experiences

One of the most impactful tasks Chibundu undertakes is the lens development process itself. At its core, Snap is a camera company with a mission to bring AR to the world. “As a woman of color working at Snap, I’m proud to contribute to this goal by ensuring my lenses can accommodate people of color who traditionally have found it difficult to find flattering filters that harmonize with their natural features.”

The Power of Collaboration

Despite working remotely, Chibundu has had the opportunity to collaborate closely with interns from various sectors of the program. Snap encourages this collaboration through regular Zoom team-building meetings, fostering meaningful bonds that make team projects seamless. This collaborative spirit exemplifies the dynamic and inclusive culture at Snap Inc.

Overcoming Challenges

Chibundu's internship being fully remote presented some challenges in connecting with in-person interns. However, she took the initiative to address this issue by creating a Discord server exclusively for their intern cohort. This platform offered a more informal and familiar environment for interns to chat, network, and bond, proving that distance couldn't hinder their sense of community.

Gaining Valuable Skills and Knowledge

Through her internship, Chibundu recognizes the significance of networking and making a name for oneself within a large organization. As she rightly puts it, "It's not about what you know, most of the time, it's about who you know." The experience gained at Snap Inc. will undoubtedly be invaluable as she progresses in her tech career.

"One incredible experience I got to participate in this Summer was a fireside chat with Snap’s Chief Security Officer, James Murray (the former Director of the United States Secret Service). After putting aside my fangirling, I was able to ask Mr. Murray questions regarding his career in the cybersphere and his expertise from working in the U.S. government to his role at Snap. Truly a very memorable and insightful experience that highlighted Snap's dedication to staying at the forefront of data security and privacy!" 

The ACES Program and Beyond

Chibundu's involvement in the ACES program motivates her to excel and leave a lasting impression. It serves as a reminder to always present her best self in every endeavor.

Her role as a Lens Developer not only allowed her to explore the creative realms of AR but also reinforced the responsibility of handling user data with the utmost care and diligence. 

“As a Snap Lens Developer, I aim to create engaging and inclusive lenses that cater to user interests. To achieve this goal, I have been given access to valuable user data, such as age, gender, Operating System (iOS, Android, etc.), geographic location, and interests/hobbies. This data enables me to develop lenses that not only retain my current audience but also attract more users with similar interests, expanding my audience and consequently, my data pool."

"Snap associates stress the importance of safeguarding user privacy. As a responsible Snap Developer, I ensure that the data collected during analysis remains completely confidential and anonymous. Snap has robust systems in place to guarantee this. For instance, to access our work laptops/PCs, we are equipped with a USB token, which provides a secure two-factor authentication process, using our fingerprints." explained Chibundu.

In the ever-evolving tech landscape, safeguarding user privacy remains an unwavering priority, and her learnings from ACES  allowed Chibundu to play a pivotal role in ensuring a safe and engaging user experience.

Future Aspirations

Looking ahead, Chibundu aims for a tech career that keeps her challenged and fuels her thirst for learning. She envisions herself working for social media companies like Snap, TikTok, or Instagram, where her personality aligns with the dynamic nature of these platforms. Her internship at Snap Inc. serves as a launchpad for her professional career, providing access to influential figures within the tech industry.

Words of Wisdom

As Chibundu reflects on her journey, she has one piece of advice for students considering an internship in the tech field, particularly aspiring Women in Tech: "Do not let your lack of experience hold you back. Apply, even if you don't feel like a 100% match, and put your best foot forward. Do not be afraid to ask for help." Her story is a testament to the power of ambition, determination, and seizing unexpected opportunities.

Chibundu Onwuegbule's internship experience at Snap Inc. showcases the limitless possibilities that await our ACES students who dare to pursue their passions and dream big in the ever-evolving tech landscape. Her journey is a reminder that in the world of tech and cybersecurity, creativity knows no bounds, and innovation is limited only by one's imagination.

Published September 28, 2023