2021 year in review: Our people

As we head into the New Year, we’re looking back on some of the top stories of 2021. In this roundup, we focus on stories about the people and initiatives that help make Viasat a success.


Committed to making a difference

Viasat’s inaugural Environmental, Social and Governance report a roadmap for continual improvement

When Viasat released its first Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report this fall, it was the culmination of years spent growing our efforts in these areas. The inaugural ESG report is an important stake in the ground in defining Viasat’s commitment to a set of principles, and it also establishes a benchmark for how we continually improve on these goals in the years ahead.

“We are on a journey to connect the world using sustainable, responsible, and inclusive business practices, and the launch of our first ESG report reinforces the commitment our leadership and global team has made to better understand our impact on the world,” said Melinda Kimbro, chief people officer at Viasat.

The 2021 Viasat report provides details and metrics on the priority issues as defined by internal and external stakeholder analysis, including: business continuity, corporate governance, diversity and inclusion, ethical conduct, product stewardship, supply chain management, and talent management and engagement.

Going forward, this document will serve as a set of guiding principles we can turn to in our ongoing efforts to make Viasat more responsible and responsive to our employees, our customers, our investors, and the global community.

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Solving problems is data scientist’s passion

Leen Schafer took nontraditional path to her current role at Viasat

Leen Schafer’s personal and professional path has been anything but traditional, including stints as a nursing assistant, researcher, heavy metal singer, rock climber and mother. But each has opened new doors and provided new insights, eventually leading her to Viasat.

A senior data scientist at the company, Schafer calls problem-solving her superpower, so a company culture that encourages innovation and exploration is a perfect fit.

In her new role as manager of Chief Information Officer Krishna Nathan’s office, Schafer hopes to accelerate Viasat’s goal of customer centricity through machine learning and data. This includes helping to enable more segments to collaborate by using machine learning.

And Schafer believes Viasat’s culture is designed for collaboration.

“I really like the cultural aspect of being able to reach out beyond whatever tree you’re in and talk to anyone,” she said. “It encourages autonomy and you’re also able to transcend your structure. I think that’s really important for growth. When you’re able to look at everything as a system, new interactions reveal themselves.”

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Viasat exec zeroes in on accountability

In COO Kevin Harkenrider’s popular class, he says excuses are the enemy of an effective leader

Viasat Chief Operations Officer Kevin Harkenrider has taught his “Creating a culture of accountability” class 58 times in nine years. Each offering still has a waiting list.

Harkenrider believes that’s in large part because accountability remains an issue.

“I think if more of us took responsibility, the company and the world at large would be a more positive place, so I guess this class is my attempt to change the world,” he said.

During the past nine years of teaching the class, Harkenrider has added his own distinctive style. That typically means encouraging class participants to offer examples of workplace issues, then explaining how their responses played into the situation and how different responses could change the outcomes.

Harkenrider’s end goal, and the goal of his class, is to inspire and motivate Viasat’s employees – actions that can then trickle down throughout the organization.

“And if you are the model of personal accountability, the probability of your team modeling that behavior is much higher.”

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Andrew Dobson
Dobson in his military days.

At Viasat UK, the CTO is an army veteran eager to give back

Andrew Dobson taps his past experience in the military to drive communications tools for the future

When Andrew Dobson was young, he envisioned a career in the arts. Instead, Viasat UK’s chief technology officer followed in his father’s footsteps and enlisted in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

Dobson brought that creative insight – along with his technical expertise and military experience – to Viasat in April 2020 as chief technology officer. Today he is also the head of engineering for Viasat UK.

Shortly after joining Viasat Dobson was instrumental in acquiring an October 2020 contract for Viasat and CDW to provide NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps with a next-gen command post, developing secure wireless military networks that will use enhanced battlefield command and control capabilities.

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Viasat CFO blends enthusiasm with realism in her work and personal life

Shawn Duffy is laser-focused on the company’s growth potential with the upcoming ViaSat-3 constellation

Viasat Chief Financial Officer Shawn Duffy’s father instilled in her the belief that anything is possible, but to always beware of potential downsides. Those teachings continue to influence both her career and professional life.

Working in the space industry comes with high risk and requires thinking through all possibilities.

“Things happen that you don’t expect, that are out of your control,” she said. “An important part of my work with the leadership team is making sure our business can withstand mishaps, that we have the things we need collectively to weather the storm. I think about the levers – if this happens, what would we do. And I try to have a suite of options.”

Duffy is also responsible for detailed quarterly reports and participates in earnings calls to Viasat’s investors, including helping to showcase the potential impact of the investment the company has made on ViaSat-3.

“If you roll forward five years, we expect to double our revenues and be double the size,” Duffy said. “The Americas (the first ViaSat-3 satellite) will be up there and starting to hit some sweet points on revenue generation. APAC (the third ViaSat-3 satellite) will just really be getting started. So there are still some pretty good growth drivers beyond that.”

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On the regulatory front lines, Viasat’s Amy Mehlman says education is key to global connectivity

The telecom veteran is part of a team helping spread the word about the critical role satellite plays to connect the unconnected

When self-described policy geek Amy Mehlman joined Viasat in 2020 she brought with her a wealth of knowledge and experience about policy and regulation specific to the telecommunications industry — and satellite in particular.

The Vice President of Government Affairs and Policy says satellite intrigues her because of the power it has to reach almost anywhere without that extensive and expensive infrastructure required by direct fiber or cable to the home.

Mehlman and the other members of the team have their finger on the pulse of what government and industry players are doing, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

“We’re constantly in contact with regulators around the world to ensure they understand the intersection of policy and innovation from an industry perspective,” Mehlman said. “There are a lot of competing factors, whether it’s about spectrum allocation, minimizing risks of collisions in space or other standards that need to be in place to ensure balance.”

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