This year for Black History Month, we’ve asked some of our employees to share their own experiences as Black professionals in a changing time.
By Mallory Howard
It was the height of the financial crisis and I’d just been laid off from a family-owned manufacturing business. Luckily, I was recruited to work in a temporary role at Viasat in the import/export (now Global Trade) division. Though I started working here with an interest in starting a career, like many millennials, I also had my sights set on what was next. It didn’t help that I’d just finished an undergraduate degree in screenwriting and was still picturing my name in lights instead of on an office door.
Now here I am, almost 14 years later, and all-in as a growing leader in this company.
If you were to have asked my 20-something self if this is where I saw myself in 10 years, the answer would have been “absolutely not.” Not simply because I was holding tight to my silver-screen dreams, but because I didn’t see myself at Viasat. There was no reflection of me across the conference table, no executive leaders with hair or skin like mine, and like most of my life growing up in Southern California, I was “the other” — the only Black woman in the room.
For me, that came (and occasionally still does) with an immense amount of pressure to represent all those who look like me and aren’t in the room. Now, I’m one person with my own unique experiences as a Black woman, but somehow the weight of fighting every negative stereotype and feeling the pressure to prove that Black women are exceptional has been something I’ve carried. This is no one person’s fault. It’s just one of many side effects of being “the other.”
The great thing about Viasat is that, no matter the feelings that have challenged my ability to always be authentically me, I’ve still managed to feel like this is where I belong. Viasat’s “no org chart” mentality and overall culture have allowed me the latitude and comfort to lean into my otherness and make a positive impact. The absence of hierarchical boundaries allows me to not limit myself by my discomfort and do what it takes to be an impact player.
My leaders in corporate security are also a huge reason for me feeling at home at this company. I’ve never felt like I’ve had to make myself palatable in regard to how I wear my hair, dress, or even speak — as many Black women often do. I’ve been supported, respected, and appreciated for my contributions, and they’ve enabled my development. Most importantly, my leaders are invested in learning why diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are vital not only to the success of the company, but to the sense of belonging for their employees like me. When I’ve shared my unique experiences, specifically at Viasat, they don’t deny what they’ve heard or question the plausibility; they absorb it as a lesson. I’m thankful for that.
Like many companies, Viasat still has work to do incorporating DEI as a strategy and into the Viasat culture, but if there is one thing that my experience at Viasat has shown me in this regard, it’s faith. DEI is a work in progress at Viasat, and I’m proud to be able to have a hand in the budding DEI movement via the Global Diversity & Inclusion Council and Black Professional Alliance (BPA) Employee Resource Group (ERG).
There’s a motto I’ve heard since I started at the company: “Do the right thing, the right way, all of the time.” It’s been something I’ve lived by. Like I said, I’m all in and believe that our Viasat leaders will do the right thing. I don’t know that anyone has all the answers or knows the “right way” to infuse DEI into the company, but I know the right thing to do is to earnestly try.
I look forward to bearing witness to and being involved in Viasat’s growth because truthfully, I’ve grown up here.