Employees find a way to give back virtually during Viasat Volunteer Week

The company’s annual outreach event was held Oct. 12-16, and this year the annual event went mostly virtual.


The Viasat team in Dublin worked on a canal cleanup project.

Viasat Volunteer Week was held Oct. 12-16, and this year the annual event went virtual. Today we highlight some of the ways our employees reached out to help others.

Viasat engineer Anna Kochalko knew from a young age she wanted a career that involved math and science. But as a student, the details of what her career would look like were hazy. This year, she tried to change that for some third-grade students in Baldwinsville, New York.

As a virtual volunteer educator, Kochalko talked about Viasat via Zoom to children in a classroom across the country.

Kochalko is a reliability engineer working in Viasat’s commercial aviation sector.

“One of the cool things about reliability engineering is we get to break things, to test them to see what the limits are,” she said. “I talked about that, trying to give them a picture of what a job like that would be like for them. It was a lot of fun. They were engaged, interested and intelligent.

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Part of Anna Kochalko’s presentation to a third-grade class in New York was describing how Viasat delivers internet connectivity to aircraft.

“I think it’s such a good way for kids to see all the possibilities in their futures. Hopefully sparking these ideas of what they could do in their careers early – showing them those options are limitless – could help them when it’s time to make a decision about the work they pursue.”volunteer slide

The students’ teacher, Marisa Casciano, agreed.

“After Anna presented to my third-grade class, I received an overwhelming amount of excitement and feedback from both students and parents,” she said. “The kids were filled with interest and excitement, while both parents and I were thoroughly impressed with the content of the presentation.

“This program is a great opportunity to promote learning with Viasat professionals while students are learning remotely from home.”

Project manager and engineer Dan Roberts was also a virtual volunteer, talking to kindergarten-through-second graders who were part of the Carlsbad Education Foundation’s summer camp. Like Kochalko, he emphasized not only his career but his off-work hobbies.

“I was raised in the beach cities of California and got involved in skateboarding,” Roberts said. “My father died when I was young, and I put myself through school through skateboard riding and instruction.

“So I went into some of that to keep them interested and to let them know your parents don’t have to be rich for you to go to college. And that you can be cool and be an engineer.”

Kochalko and Roberts both played videos for the students of the ViaSat-1 satellite launch.

“To see their interest as the satellite video played left me with a real sense of pride in what we do,” Roberts said. “We work for a great company that is doing great things, and to be part of sharing that with tomorrow’s generation was most rewarding.”

Roberts, who’s advocated for technology careers at STEM fairs and taught Sunday school, said such outreach is vital during coronavirus – when many children are learning remotely.

“I really like to reach out to the young kids, and it’s important now more than ever for them to hear from someone other than their mom or dad,” he said.

Giving back in other ways

In Denver and Carlsbad, several employees volunteered with Missing Maps, a collaborative program dedicated to mapping the most vulnerable places in the developing world so agencies can better respond to crises there.

Allison Znachko, a Carlsbad-based instructional designer, spotted the opportunity on the Viasat Giving site.

“I am a map lover so it caught my eye,” she said. “With Missing Maps, I was given a map and you go slowly through it and identify all the homes you can. I definitely would do it again.

“I love graphics, so this was fun; it’s also very addictive. Hopefully, it really does make a difference for people.”

In Ireland, 10 of the Dublin office’s employees gathered for a socially distanced cleanup project. They picked up trash along the Grand Canal, which passes by the Viasat office.

“It was very much a feel-good event – the giving back as well as the social aspect of it,” said Community Manager Lauren Pritchard, adding that most of the volunteers hadn’t seen one another in months. “Everyone wore masks and we split into teams of two so it wasn’t a group of 10 going out together.

“We filled a big bin and rewarded everyone with doughnuts at the end.”

Social Impact Coordinator Alyssa Gaffney said she hopes Viasat employees will continue to engage in volunteering.

“Virtual volunteering is a great option because it’s more flexible and can be done throughout the year,” she said. “Volunteering doesn’t always have to be for a specific organization or during volunteer week. You can do acts of kindness in your neighborhood – cleanups, helping a neighbor, delivering meals or groceries — and still make an impact.”

Viasat will continue volunteering and making an impact on Giving Tuesday, set for Dec. 1. Giving Tuesday is a global effort created in 2012 to encourage people to do good.

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