By Erica Yee
Growing up, as he played video games with his friends, Nick Hanflig (BSCS ‘20) would spend hours exploring complex, virtual worlds. That early curiosity led him to an immense passion for programming. In high school, he was able to take four years of computer science classes, which helped him find friends with similar interests and form meaningful relationships with teachers. He always thought he would eventually put his programming skills to use in the video game industry, but a co-op experience changed that path.
Hanflig recently completed his co-op at Exabeam, a cybersecurity company based in San Mateo, California that aims to make security practitioners more effective and efficient at their tasks. The Exabeam platform helps security analysts collect log data from their systems, detect attacks, and automate incident responses.
As a full-stack software engineer, Hanflig’s responsibilities varied daily and stretched across all the different technologies that Exabeam’s platform uses. Some days he implemented a new feature for the user experience; other days he worked on internal tools to improve the development process. “The company has supported me and encouraged me to explore parts of the business beyond just software engineering,” he says.
Hanflig’s supervisor is Lin Zhao, Manager of Engineering, who graduated from Khoury College in 2009 with an MS in CS degree. He praises Hanflig’s readiness for his role at Exabeam: “Nick showed a level of maturity uncommon for professionals his age and level. He came to the program with a clear goal to develop skills cross-functionally.” Commenting on Hanflig’s specific contributions, Lin Zhao adds, “The platform engineering team he worked with constantly collaborates with different departments, and Nick really shined. He would patiently listen to feedbacks, understand the dependencies, and turn ambiguity to clarity. I relied regularly on Nick to reach consensus and move projects forward.”.
Exabeam’s supportive culture, which results in a “fast-paced but fun workplace,” is part of why Hanflig decided to accept a full-time offer at Exabeam after his graduation next May. “A byproduct of having such a great culture is knowing that the people I work with are phenomenal,” he says. “Everyone is driven, believes in the company, and does what it takes to get the job done.” Over the course of his co-op, Hanflig also had the opportunity to participate in a variety of social activities such as costume contests and team outings to baseball games.
“Nick Hanflig’s experience at Exabeam is a wonderful example of the rich co-op experiences available to our students whether in Boston or beyond. Through co-op, our Khoury College students have the opportunity to gain valuable technical and behavioral skills that help launch their careers,” says Karyn Rosen, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Academic Advising & Experiential Learning at Khoury. Lin Zhao, Hanflig’s supervisor at Exabeam, would agree. He says, “One would attribute Nick’s competence in communication to his past co-op and TA experience.”
Between his co-ops, Hanflig also worked as a teaching assistant (TA) for the Khoury class Object-Oriented Design, an experience he found rewarding because of the opportunities to both help others and improve his own technical skills. He says he had inspiring TAs who helped him throughout his academic career, and so he wanted to carry those experiences forward to assist other students.
As a TA for Professor Clark Freifeld, twice, Hanflig is grateful for how dedicated the professor was to the courses and students. “He would meticulously plan every detail of the course, then ask his TAs for feedback, then iterate and repeat,” says Hanflig. “His class taught difficult content, but he was determined to give every student the best experience.”
Relationships and experiences like these will stick with Hanflig long after he graduates and starts working full-time at Exabeam. “Looking back on these years at Northeastern, I don’t think there could have been another school for me,” he says. “Between my co-op experiences, the classes, traveling abroad, and the people I’ve met, I’ve truly had a wonderful time.”