Meredith Totten traveled to the Innovation Hub in Puerto Rico as part of Viasat’s recent volunteer service trip. Meredith’s Digital Marketing workshop showed participants how the internet can provide new opportunities for small businesses.
The Puerto Rico volunteer experience is a tremendous step forward in how Viasat can bring it mission of “connecting the unconnected” to life. This idea is bigger than our internet service alone. It helped empower employees like me to be the connector, and I hope it’s a direction we continue to pursue as we grow Viasat’s Social Impact program.
In late May, I had the fun task of hosting the first workshop of the series in Arroyo. I stood in front of the room 10 minutes past start time and we had two people from the community seated patiently, waiting to get started. Soon enough, a flood of 15+ came through the door to the Innovation Hub, and the room filled with the energy of bustling bodies.
That’s when I got nervous.
I present in front of groups frequently for my job, but this was the first time it’d be in Spanish. Fortunately, my Viasat teammates smiled and gave me the thumbs-up from the back of the room. I looked back there often, especially the first day, for reassurance from this powerful group.
I had met most of the other Viasat employees 24 hours before at our hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. By the time we were having our last dinner together on Thursday night, it felt like a group of old friends – the kind who will inspire and challenge you for years to come.
It’s hard to describe what happened in between, but I think 90-minutes van rides and family-style dinners go a long way to bring people together, no matter where they come from. Seeing Kaitlin, Jeshsika, and Sarah in front of the group during their workshops, I did my best to smile and give the thumbs-up right back so they knew they had a friend nearby — just as I had. Now that I’m back in the States and in my day-to-day routine, I still know I could call any of these women for words of encouragement when self-doubt creeps in. I’m incredibly thankful to have these relationships at Viasat.
A rewarding experience
One of the most rewarding parts of hosting the workshops with the Viasat Social Impact team was the face-to-face dialogue with people in the communities of Arroyo and Utuado. During the workshop I facilitated, we started by breaking the ice and getting to know why each person was there. We had people at many different stages in their marketing journey: some had businesses already, others had business ideas, and some just came to support their friends. In Utuado, one young woman already had a Facebook page where she promoted her handmade goods – baby blankets and burp rags, plus jewelry for the new mom. She was looking for ways to make her page and online sales even stronger, but had never heard of Etsy.
Throughout the workshop, each person was creating their own communication framework from the ground up – starting with their brand and adding in their ideas about competition, differentiation, then ultimately how to deliver their message across digital platforms. The workshops went fast, and we reassured them that they didn’t need all the answers right away.
We gave each person a list of free online resources they could leverage when they came back to the Innovation Hub in their community.
In each community, my challenge to our workshop attendees was to commit to watch one video or take one tutorial the next day, then set goals for the next day, week, and month. Too often, we leave our learning to “some day.” The tangible goals help set the expectation for learning to continue long after the workshop.
Most of us know that Viasat has made efforts in Mexico and other Latin American countries focused on connecting the unconnected, but the experiences in Puerto Rico brought to life what that actually means. With our workshops, connecting the unconnected went beyond the internet Viasat was already providing. The connection came from sharing resources and new ideas with the community – new ways of using the internet for positive change that they hadn’t before known.
We helped create a spark among the go-getters. I’m proud of helping ignite that, and hope that flame grows across the community.