Project management role
Ruf received a federal scholarship in 2018 that led to the job at NIWC Atlantic. UW-Stout is recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense as a Center of Academic Excellence for Cyber Defense.
In addition to the scholarship, Ruf had to commit to working a year for the Department of Defense, with an option to remain on staff beyond the commitment.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I had to go for the scholarship. At the time it was out of my comfort zone to be assigned a position postgraduation without knowing much about it, but because I was interested in IT — I’ve been interested in it since middle school — I took the risk and applied,” she said.
Yuan said Ruf was a standout student at UW-Stout and the scholarship boosted Ruf’s career aspirations.
“Nikki is one of the most intelligent and strong students from our CNIT program. The Department of Defense cybersecurity scholarship program is a life-changing opportunity for our students and helped Nikki enter into the cybersecurity profession right after the graduation. I am glad to see she is doing so well and protecting our country’s cyberspace,” Yuan said.
At NIWC Atlantic, Ruf is especially enjoying her project management role — she learned about project management in business courses that were part of the CNIT major — and could see herself gravitating toward that area in her career.
As part of the Information Warfare Research Project team, she manages as many as 10 prototype projects at a time in areas such as cloud computing, cyberwarfare and the internet of things.
“The goal of the team is to advance naval information warfare through rapid prototyping so the war fighters can do their job. We’re trying to push out these prototypes into production. My job is to get them through the process,” Ruf said.
“Some aspects of the job have come pretty easily; some I’ve never touched before, like contracts, funding and other in-depth aspects. I’m learning to adapt and take on the challenges.”