Software engineer Bradley Sturgeon first saw the name “Viasat” on a banner at his university’s 2017 career fair.
“It listed all the engineering disciplines they were interested in,” he said. “I had a double specialization in communications systems and digital signal processing, and I was also taking software electives. I saw all three of those, one after another, on that banner. It looked like a perfect fit for me.”
Sturgeon also noticed the long line of University of California – Irvine students at Viasat’s booth – another good sign. He joined the line and, in 2018, joined Viasat as a fulltime employee.
He’s part of the commercial mobility team, helping his co-workers create a more scalable system for this fast-growing segment of Viasat’s business connecting aircraft. Sturgeon and his peers design tools and automate processes that other commercial mobility engineers use, expediting the internal process. That speeds the workflow for Viasat employees further down the process chain who are updating software and making other changes to the company’s in-flight connectivity systems.
“Our customers are the coworkers we see on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “It’s cool to have such a direct feedback loop, and to immediately see people benefit from it - especially since many of them are also friends.
“I really enjoy what I do, and I like the team I’m on. The work we do is interesting, and we also use the tools we create, so it helps us, too.”
Early love of science
It’s a perfect fit for Sturgeon, whose father first opened his eyes to science – an exposure that led to a love of engineering.
“When I was very young and just learning about the world, he would demonstrate science and physics experiments for me,” he said. “Seeing that the world operates by certain rules really piqued my interest. I wanted to understand why those rules are the way they are.”
The Thousand Oaks, CA native graduated from an early interest in Legos and K’NEX toys to video games and coding.
“I would think about all the decisions that went into making those games the way they are, and I wanted to know how they implemented them,” he said.
With a knack for math and a general love of learning, Sturgeon decided to major in mechanical engineering at UCI.
“It seemed to include a little bit of all the engineering types, and I thought that would be a good way to learn as much as possible yet stay flexible about which path I would ultimately take,” he said. “Then I took my first software engineering class, and it just really clicked. I felt naturally good at it.”
After standing in that line at the 2017 UCI career fair, Sturgeon secured an internship at Viasat that led to his current fulltime role.
Viasat has installed its in-flight connectivity system on nearly 1,400 commercial planes around the world. Sturgeon said he’s looking forward to helping the company meet the growing demand for its service, which will accelerate even faster with the upcoming ViaSat-3 global satellite constellation.
“We’re looking at what happens when there are 30,000 planes, and creating a more scalable, standardized system to match that expectation,” he said.
Sturgeon enjoys not only that challenge, but a culture he feels supports those goals.
“I really like the work environment Viasat actively promotes,” he said. “It feels very cooperative, like we’re all helping each other out. It never feels like we’re competing; we actually enjoy each other’s company.
“I’ve noticed as we bring new people onto the team, the concern isn’t just if they’re the best engineer. It’s also, ‘Could we work with this person?’ ‘Would they fit with the team dynamic?’ There’s an emphasis on maintaining this as a place you like to work with coworkers you like to work with.”
Like most Viasat employees, Sturgeon has been working from home during the coronavirus crisis. He’s temporarily shifted from pursuing his love of hiking and climbing to playing board and video games with his roommates and friends online.
His workday, however, hasn’t changed significantly.
“Viasat’s given me an extra monitor to help me work from home; my work’s been unaffected and I’m very busy,” he said. “As things change, I’m updated with company communications. I feel comfortable, and I am trusting our leadership through this.
“My goal is the same as it’s always been – to continue to work and do a good job.”