Making career and family fit together

Engineer Shefali Jain says Viasat’s culture makes it possible

Shefali Jain and her family

Shefali Jain and her family

Shefali Jain grew up in India surrounded by family, with full parental support of her education and career goals. Now a Viasat engineer living on the other side of the world, she’s raising her children the same way.

That family-oriented culture is what brought her to Viasat and that – along with Viasat’s culture – is why she’s stayed.

“The way Viasat treats their employees is an example for other employers,” Jain said. “The trust they put in their employees provides the flexibility people need, without sacrificing the quality of work we do here.”

Jain is a software architect in Viasat’s Germantown, MD office, working on a project to refresh the technology behind the Blue Force Tracking 2 (BFT-2) situational awareness system. The system enhances the ability of warfighters in helicopters and combat vehicles to assess an environment and potential threats, increasing safety and improving responses. Jain is specifically tasked with leading a team to enhance security while providing a modular architecture of the BFT-2 transceiver.

These days, Jain, her husband, 14-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter are all working from home. The four find separate corners of the house from which to work by day, and gather evenings and weekends for family time.

“This COVID time has been great,” she said. “While the days are very busy, we love to spend our evenings and weekends playing board games, watching movies, cooking new food or just lounging around and having a good time as a family.”

Focus on family

Jain grew up with a similarly close, but much larger family in New Delhi that consisted of multiple generations, including her grandparents and others. In India, it’s common for several generations to live under one roof — a lifestyle with advantages Jain sometimes misses.

“With kids and work, there are so many things that I need to juggle ” she said. “In India, those things were never a concern. Your house was always open, and there was family around to help out. You also learned how to live with others.”

Jain’s family also supported one another as they planned their futures. She, her two sisters and brother were encouraged to study hard and strive for advanced degrees.

“My parents wanted all their kids to be professionally qualified,” Jain said. “They wanted us to pick our own careers but insisted on getting a degree. This outlook was equally applied to everyone, irrespective of gender.”

Jain urges those growing up in more challenging circumstances to overcome their personal barriers and reach for their career goals.

“Do what you love and follow your passion; there is no turning back or thinking twice about it,” she said. “If you follow that rule, I think it’s the key to your success and happiness.”

In India, Jain earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, and a masters in computer applications.

She met her husband while studying for her master’s, and they both went on to work at Hughes Network Systems’ India division.

Jain worked as a software engineer on a platform that enabled two-way transmissions between remote terminals and a ground system through geostationary satellites. She later worked on development of the ground system components for the Globalstar LEO satellite platform.

“I liked the fact that there were concepts of physics and computers in my work there; I could see I was applying both degrees in one place,” she said.

The couple moved to Maryland, where Jain joined Hughes Network’s Maryland headquarters.

After their second child was born, Jain was ready for a change.

Move to Viasat

“I was looking for some flexibility in my work schedule to better manage my work and family life,” she said. “I’d heard great things about Viasat – how they value their employees’ family lives in promoting remote work and flexibility of hours.”

In 2013, Jain joined Viasat, and found all that she had heard was true.

“My son fractured his foot last year, and because of Viasat’s great work culture, I never really had to think about how I was going to handle it,” she said. “I would pick him up from school and then continue working from home.”

The Germantown office works on a wide array of Viasat businesses, from the ViaSat-3 ground network and defense programs to government mobility and in-flight Wi-Fi. Jain’s work has been focused on the defense side, including the LinkWay satellite modem system; platform development of a satellite modem to support multiple waveforms; and as software development manager/product owner for the Protected Tactical Service Field Demonstration (PTSFD) of a hub-spoke satellite modem.

Just as Viasat makes accommodations for family, Jain feels they acted similarly in their handling of the pandemic.

“I give credit to how Viasat was set up from Day One – they expect people to do the right thing and people in turn act responsibly,” she said. “We had all the tools and infrastructure in place to help people work remotely. When the pandemic happened, the transition to working from home was very smooth, and my team was even more productive.”