Viasat’s 2022 interns give their experiences high marks

Company welcomed 200 U.S. interns and several international candidates


Interns Eric Lawson, left and Jackie Leonard

Viasat intern Eric Lawson’s career sights were set early.

“Anytime a teacher asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said ‘programmer,’” he said. “So as an adult, I felt I owed it to my childhood self to try this.”

Those childhood instincts have proven right. While Lawson spent the first few years of his early adulthood working as a cook, an EMT, and an airport ramp manager, he’s now a computer science major at Utah’s Western Governor’s University. He says he feels completely at home in his new field.

“My classes have felt almost natural to me,” he said. “I liked my other jobs but I knew those weren’t things I wanted to do my whole life. With software engineering, I feel I can be creative, and that is what I have always wanted.

“This internship was really the icing on the cake. It’s been awesome in terms of learning the actual work experience.”

Lawson, an intern with Viasat’s global technology team, is one of almost 200 U.S. students serving internships with Viasat this summer. Several more interned or are finishing internships in the company’s international offices.

While the majority of these positions are remote, this is the first year since the pandemic began that Viasat has had a full roster of interns. In 2020, Viasat had about 80 — a dramatic decrease from the approximately 230 who worked for the company in 2019.

To help this year’s remote interns feel connected, Viasat established an interns’ Slack channel and hosted multiple group trainings and meetings on Zoom.

“This year’s program stands out because, even though we had primarily remote internships, the interns found a way to connect with each other,” said Anjali Chopra, an early career technical recruiter with Viasat. “They set up hiking and surfing Slack channels and coordinated their own events among themselves.”

In Dublin, where fewer employees are working remotely, intern Jacqueline Leonard is having a very different experience. Leonard works at home most days, but goes into the office once a week.

“We had an in-person lunch before I started my internship, and I have felt welcome since that day,” said Leonard, who got her UX design certificate during the pandemic. “Meeting with the team at the office is amazing. I like the change of environment, and socializing with them is so nice.

“But whether it’s in person or remotely, they always help me with anything I need. They ask my opinion and include me. I participated in three different projects, and I feel like part of the team. I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience.”

Like Lawson, Leonard did not take a traditional route to pursuing a career in technology. The native of Brazil worked as a database administrator in Brazil for several years. The pandemic prompted her to take her career in a dramatically new direction.

“I realized if I didn’t do something different, I’d be working in a job I hate for the rest of my life,” she said. “My dream job was to do design. I had studied animation and graphic design, so I took a UX design course and decided to change my career.”

The UX course confirmed Leonard was on the right path.

“I fell in love with it,” said Leonard, who worked as a software support engineer in Oracle’s Dublin office before her internship. “I could create so many things — websites, apps, etc. — using my design skills. I was so excited to start my career, but a lot of companies wanted people with extensive experience. So when I saw the Viasat internship, I knew it was my opportunity.”

Making a difference

Leonard is working in product design and says she’s been impressed by the depth of her involvement. She’s working on an app to encourage airline passengers to engage more online, and on a separate prototype app for one of Viasat’s new international carriers.

“Normally when I think about internships, I think about doing basic skills, small things that nobody is going to use in the future,” she said. “But I’m actually participating in big projects. And my managers let me use my skills. If it’s not the right way, they say ‘maybe you could do this, or that,’ so I have to figure out and learn from my mistakes. I learn much better that way.”

Lawson had a similar experience with his internship.

“I was pretty nervous starting out because switching to this type of work environment was such a big change for me,” he said. “But my team really welcomed me and made me feel I was part of it and not some auxiliary intern.

“Everybody wanted me to have as much knowledge as I could have, and seemed eager to teach me. And that’s exactly what I wanted out of this internship.”

Lawson helped collect data on Viasat’s ordering process to help improve the flow and ensure no orders are left unfilled.

“The goal is to create a better customer experience,” he said. “It’s been an awesome project, and it’s great to work on something that’s important for the company.”

Looking to the future

Both Lawson and Leonard hope to join Viasat as fulltime employees.

“This has been a career change for me, and every day I’m thankful I chose to make it,” he said. “I just love it.

“I think our mission of bringing internet to the world is pretty awesome. And I love the idea I’m making something that interacts with a satellite way out in space. It’s really incredible technology.”

Leonard said the company’s philosophy dovetails with her own.

“The goals of the company fit with my goals,” she said. “They really care about getting internet to people that don’t have opportunity or access; that’s really important for me as well.

“Also, they want people here to have a good work environment, to have diversity in the company. That’s really important for me because I’m half Asian and half Brazilian. It’s definitely not just my dream job, but also my dream company.”

Chopra said that enthusiasm for Viasat’s mission is among the key factors she appreciates hearing from intern candidates.

“When I talk to candidates, the ones who stand out come well-researched about Viasat,” she said. “In particular, I love hearing the excitement from candidates who want to make an impact in connecting the unconnected.

“We hope that our interns grow into future leaders at Viasat. I think some of this year’s are definitely going to be very successful in what they do; hopefully, it’s at Viasat.”