January is National Mentoring Month, and here at Viasat, mentorship plays a central role in driving continuous learning and development. At the same time, it fosters connections to the company and its unique culture.
While National Mentoring Month places a focus on youth, at Viasat, we believe that mentoring is an integral part of the workplace, too. With three formal mentoring programs, we’re harnessing experience and leadership to promote knowledge sharing and a culture of continual learning and development.
These include the Mentorship Program for all employees and Facilitator Program for newly hired engineers (available through an online platform). There’s also the Buddy Program, where a buddy is assigned for new hires to help them acclimate to their new work environment. While each program is a different, they are all designed to enhance and assist in the professional and personal growth of employees through knowledge sharing and exposure to multiple Viasat business areas.
Business technology analyst Eric Ballou has been on the giving and receiving end of the Mentorship Program. Over his five-plus years with Viasat, he’s mentored other employees from different areas of the company and has also sought the guidance of a mentor when moving into a new role.
“In my previous position, my job was pretty self-contained,” Ballou said. “As I moved into my current position, I had to broaden my scope. To help me do that, I sought out a mentor who helped me be more effective in my new role.”
As a mentor, Ballou has passed on that positive experience to others. He also realized that he wasn’t the only one doing the teaching.
“What I found is that I learned a lot, too,” he said. “I’ve gained new knowledge, perspectives and fresh ideas from the employees I’ve mentored.”
Learning and Development Specialist Lana Barendse, who works closely with Viasat’s mentoring programs, said they’re critical to the company as it grows.
“Whether it’s being part of a new hire’s onboarding experience with the Buddy Program, or forming longer-term mentoring connections in the Facilitator and Mentorship Programs, I think it’s important now more than ever to allow the opportunity for employees to learn from one another and network as we continue to grow on a global level,” Barendse said.
Helping guide and connect
Since joining Viasat more than 12 years ago, software engineer Javier Sotelo has mentored more than 20 employees through the Facilitator, Mentorship and Buddy programs. He understands that, for new hires — especially new graduates — it may be difficult to begin their careers in an environment where there’s a lot of openness and freedom.
“As a mentor in the Facilitator Program, I help new employees become acclimated to the Viasat culture and working environment,” Sotelo said. “While openness and freedom sound appealing, it’s important to ensure that new hires, especially recent grads, have a comfortable understanding of the culture and how it really promotes innovation and creativity.”
Sotelo acts as an objective listener and advisor who can help make a new employee feel comfortable, encouraged and welcomed.
“As a mentor, my door is open. I can share my experiences and help them understand how their contributions impact their teams and the organization as a whole,” he said.
Quality manager Melissa Namjoo echoes these sentiments. As someone who has worked her way through the company over the past 11 years, she said she truly understands the influential role a mentor can play throughout an employee’s career.
“Through a special two-year operational leadership program, I was assigned a mentor, since my role changed every six months,” Namjoo said. “My mentor encouraged me to take on new opportunities and helped me talk through my future plans. It was someone who wasn’t my boss and who I could really open up to.”
As a mentor in the Buddy Program, Namjoo is passing on her extensive experience to new hires. She enjoys being able to welcome new team members, help them feel connected and provide them with objective advice about work and even life situations.
“While we have these formal mentorship programs to help introduce people to our company, Viasat has always been about teamwork,” Namjoo said. “It’s embedded in our DNA. We support each other and help each other succeed. It’s what makes our company great. Mentorship is our culture.”
And it’s a part of the culture that becomes even more vital as the company prepares for the dramatic expansion that will come with ViaSat-3.