Paz Patel, Viasat’s Vice President of Talent, has worked for some of the most admired and innovative companies in the world. Most notably, Amazon Web Services (AWS), where he served for six years as global Human Resources leader. But he was sold on Viasat – a company he’d never heard of when recruiters first approached him – by its culture and opportunities.
“The main thing for me was it’s a company that’s open to change, and not afraid to experiment and try new things,” he said. “When I interview people, I look for two key qualities besides competence and potential: humility and adaptability. I’ve seen both of those in the people I’ve met at Viasat – and they are clearly excited about what they are building.
“Viasat is not as well-known as Amazon, but this creates an opportunity to tell our story, to get our image and brand out there, so we can accelerate the pace of hiring. The easy job is where the brand is already established, and I’ve done that. I don’t want an easy job. I want to be where there’s a big opportunity to have an impact.”
ViaSat-3, the company’s upcoming global constellation, will expand the company’s global reach. And that makes hiring leaders who can develop quickly while evolving Viasat’s culture in new countries increasingly important. Patel’s global experience will play a key role in this, as well as driving the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy forward.
“Customers create a business. Putting them at the heart of our talent strategy is critical in building long-term success in a market where everyone is looking for great people.”
Patel joined Viasat in July in his newly created job title. Talent acquisition and talent development traditionally have been separate divisions, but that’s changing – not only at Viasat but at many other companies.
Melinda Kimbro, Viasat’s Chief People Officer, helped hire Patel. She said the decision to add the role of Vice President of Talent came after careful study.
“We’ve actually been planning to make this change for several years now, and we felt the time was finally right to bring both talent acquisition and development together under one leader,” she said. “Having one organization to deliver talent solutions is a win for our businesses and our employees, who should see even more opportunities for career growth and internal mobility as a result of these changes.”
And Patel has a plan for achieving those goals.
“One part is how we hire people,” he said. “The other part is how we keep them and grow them. I’m a firm believer that when you hire somebody, their experience should be fantastic and seamless from the moment we first engage with them.”
Patel was born in the United Kingdom and graduated with a degree in physics from King’s College, London. While his career path took him in a different direction, the degree set the stage for all that’s followed.
From a young age, Patel has been curious about things like why we exist and what the universe is about. “I realized physics was the science of giving us some perspectives, together with mathematics and philosophy,” he said.
When Patel graduated, a friend suggested he consider working in the banking industry. While physics and banking might seem an odd combination, Patel soon realized they were not. The numerical methods used to solve physics problems have direct applications to finance, and top financial institutions regularly employ students with math and physics backgrounds.
“These were early days when artificial intelligence and machine learning was still relatively new in banking,” he said. “You used mainly Excel to model your portfolio risks.
“But I realized what I was really curious about were the people on the trading floor, and why some people took more risks than others. I wanted to learn about psychology and decision-making science, and their relationship to performance in a role. That’s how I transitioned to human resources.”
After graduating, Patel spent more than 10 years working in the financial services industry for Goldman Sachs, Barclays and HSBC before moving to the technology sector in the late 2000s, including stints at Expedia, the BBC, and Amazon.
“Looking back on my career now, spending time working in different parts of an HR organization helped me to develop broader leadership skills,” he said. “Working in the technology sector taught me how to scale and build HR organizations in entrepreneurial and enterprise businesses. I’ve been very fortunate to be given those opportunities.”
A new role with Viasat
Companies around the world are rethinking recruitment and retainment practices in the wake of a pandemic-spurred surge in voluntary employee turnover. Experts theorize that months in lockdown gave people time to reconsider their lives and career paths, and many are opting for changes they feel will bring them more money, flexibility, and happiness. According to NPR, a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021 alone.
While company leaders say the turnover rate at Viasat is lower than other technology companies, attracting and retaining top talent is an ongoing priority that has only grown during the pandemic. The hiring surge anticipated with ViaSat-3 elevates those priorities even further.
Patel said his priority is to hire and develop leaders who raise the talent bar, and that starts with how the company positions itself both internally and externally — from recruitment marketing to job descriptions. “They should be compelling and consistent, enabling faster internal mobility for employees, ensuring the digital candidate experience doesn’t lose the human touch – and brings a diverse perspective and customer-centric mindset,” he said.
“Having great people with diverse perspectives is what makes a company great.”
That’s a statement backed by statistics. A 2020 McKinsey study shows companies with diversity and inclusion cultures and policies are 35% more profitable than those without, and those with female managers on their teams are 25% more profitable.
“Right now, we’re having to do a lot of work informing candidates on what the company does, and that’s the piece we want to get beyond,” Patel said. “I want people to get excited about the role, because they already know what a great company this is.”
Patel recently relocated from Los Angeles to Viasat’s headquarters in Carlsbad, CA. When he’s not working, he is an avid hiker and self-described astronomy geek who also loves building complex Lego models.