Daniel Cope first learned about Viasat as an electronics technician in the Marines, where he used Link 16 and became familiar with the portable Viasat BAT-600 Multi-Mission Terminal. He never imagined he’d someday work for the company.
“I’m thankful every day that I get to come here,” said Cope, a manufacturing supervisor at Viasat.
After 21 years in the U.S. Marines, Cope joined the company in August 2017 after serving a military fellowship. He felt an immediate connection to Viasat, particularly because of its deep government services roots.
“I felt from the first day it was very military friendly; it’s a company that understands how the military works, and the military culture,” he said. “It’s also a big corporation, but it doesn’t feel like it. You walk around and see smiles on people’s faces; people here are happy and willing to help.”
Cope found Viasat through a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Department of Defense program called Hiring Our Heroes. Designed to help ease the transition from military to civilian life, the program functions similarly to an internship but at no cost to the employer or job seeker. It matches corporations with active military service members for a paid, 12-week work experience.
Qualifying participants, which Hiring Our Heroes describes as “the best and brightest transitioning service members,” must have a degree and at least three years of leadership experience – or equivalent related experience.
Viasat also works with other partners in its corporate fellowship program, including Wounded Warriors, CSP SkillBridge, US Airforce Cooperative Research & Development, WorkEx and the Honor Foundation – all of which function similarly.
Like an internship, the transitioning military members participating in the program are sometimes offered regular full-time positions with the companies providing fellowships. And even if that doesn’t occur, the skills they learn during their program can be applied to other positions.
In Cope’s case, his Marine Corps experience as an electronics technician dovetailed with a project he took on at Viasat.
“Viasat uses an Oracle-based system that’s identical to what the Marine Corps rolled out a few years ago,” he said. “I was able to take that experience, and start eliminating a lot of paper, instead putting everything into Oracle so anyone can view it. One of our programs is now fully paperless, and we’re starting to roll it out to other programs, too.”
In addition to the on-the-job experience, the program includes weekly educational sessions focusing on interviewing skills, resume writing and communications – all proficiencies that were either not required in the military or that are applied differently in a corporate environment.
“Hiring Our Heroes is an amazing program,” Cole said. “Even if I hadn’t landed here at Viasat, it taught me what to expect. Coming out of the military, especially after 21 years, you have no idea about the outside world. So an experience like this is invaluable.”
Bringing value in a new way
Viasat business development manager Brian Heatherman has a similar experience, serving 23 years as a Marine Corps officer before coming to Viasat on a Hiring Our Heroes fellowship.
“I did everything I wanted to do in the Marine Corps; now I want to bring value to another organization,” he said.
His experiences while job searching clearly illustrated to Heatherman the value of such programs.
“What I found out while interviewing with multiple companies is that, while a lot of people talked about hiring veterans, it didn’t seem like it got past a pat on the back,” he said. “Hiring Our Heroes gives you that face time. It’s on-the-job training, and also kind of a try-before-you-buy for employable service members.”
Heatherman, who has a head for business, initially was placed in corporate management at Viasat. While he completed his 12-week fellowship, he spent his lunch hours and other free time talking with other Viasat employees, seeking the right fit within the company for his talents. He eventually found it in business development, where he’s strategizing plans to increase revenue.
Not only is the position a perfect match for his skills, Heatherman said he’s gratified knowing his work still supports the military.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “I like the culture and the mission of getting the best technology to the warfighter to give them that technological advantage.
“I believe a good business is not just about making money; it’s about making a contribution. I think Viasat is making a contribution both commercially and to the DOD because it’s beacon of innovation across the board.”
A critical bridge
Viasat talent acquisition manager Tanya Upton, who helps oversee the program, said it provides an often critical bridge between military and civilian life – one that goes well beyond offering insight into a corporate environment.
“They’re used to a very structured military environment, so various corporate company cultures can be very different; it can be a massive life change and real cultural shift,” she said. “But because many of them are familiar with Viasat, and have often worked with our communications in the military, it helps them make a connection. We often hear statements from our fellows and veterans such as ‘While I’m no longer in the military, working at Viasat, helps me feel like I’m still helping the military.’”
A new group of veterans – including five active military fellows and two military spouses – recently started their 12-week fellowship at Viasat.