My DSL Journey working from intern to undergrad test technician

My name is Zachary Simone, and I am currently a junior at UNH majoring in computer science. I have worked at the UNH Interoperability Lab (UNH-IOL) for almost two years, as I started in December of 2020. Prior to this, I had the honor of being a part of the IOL HighTech Bound internship during the summer of my high school junior year in(2019). At the time, I was attending the Seacoast School of Technology for a more in depth computer science curriculum than what was offered through my high school. It was here where I first heard about this great internship opportunity the IOL was offering and I instantly applied. Luckily enough, I got an email saying I earned an interview, after which I was accepted into the program. I was placed in the Broadband testing group at the IOL and was specifically working on a project related to DSL (Direct subscriber line). 

On the first day at the internship, my manager Dan Moss told me that the project was going to be implemented into what is used for their actual real world testing. To me, this was the coolest thing I’ve heard until this point! Any work I'd ever done had never been implemented into the real world and on my first day at the IOL I was told I would be working on production systems. Our project was to create a test automation for a Broadband Forum test procedure known as TR-115. I had no idea what this meant or any of the materials and software they tasked us to use, but this was part of the process. The software we were using, Test Sentinel, was created by the IOL and was an automated software tool that members could use to test technologies like DSL, wireless, and Gfast. I was very confused and asked many questions, but my group actually applauded this and welcomed questions as it showed them my interest in the project and my overall interest in computer science. 

We finished our project two weeks ahead of schedule, and because we did such great work they let us work on bugs and features that were scheduled to be added into the “Test Sentinel” software, and those changes still exist in the program today! Before my internship, I had no idea if computer science was the path I wanted to take and was very hesitant on what my plans were for the future. However, I quickly learned after my internship experience that computer science was the direction I wanted to go, and because of the amazing learning environment the lab gave me, I was able to gain some real-world experience.

A major part of my initial interest in attending UNH for computer science was the IOL and I knew I wanted to work there throughout my college experience. I applied the summer before my freshman year began and unfortunately the DSL group I worked in previously, wasn’t hiring.I was told it isn’t uncommon to apply a couple times as it all depends on what groups are hiring and for what positions. So I applied again and my persistence paid off! The DSL group reached out to me about applying again and I have been there ever since. 

I have been working with the Broadband DSL group and have learned so many skills and life lessons I would have never developed in just college alone. Not only did I learn collaboration, but also how to interact with real customers, vendors and companies and how to act in a professional manner. One of the biggest advantages of working at the IOL is that the things I am learning in my classes I can apply to the lab, and things I am learning in the lab I can apply to my classes. This direct correlation allows me to make better contributions to my team, while also building my skills in my field of study.

I have also made a lot of friends through this experience and created some great connections with coworkers and industry professionals that could be very beneficial in the future. My IOL experience has been great, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a rewarding and enlightening experience!