For Viasat executive and mother-of-three Tiffany Carpenter, working remotely through the coronavirus has been both challenging and immensely rewarding.
Her husband, Matt, lost his job in mid-2020, and is now helping care for the children – ages 14, 12 and 1. But Carpenter and her family found a wealth of positives in the unexpected event.
“It was in our long-term plan that he would eventually stay home, but it was a five-year plan, not now,” said Carpenter, the vice president of finance for Viasat’s Space and Commercial Networks business. “There’s been a lot of bad, but a lot of good.
“It’s nice to have an extra set of hands with the kids. He’s super dad and has endless patience. And together, we’re seeing all these little things with our baby we would have missed if we were in the office – her learning words, learning to jump. If I were working on campus, I wouldn’t have even known I’d missed them.”
Carpenter and five other San Diego-area female leaders spoke about their experiences during coronavirus during an Oct. 29 webinar, “How Women Lead When ‘Shift’ Happens,” sponsored by the North San Diego Business Chamber. The webinar focused on the pandemic’s impacts on women, who often face the unique challenges of balancing childcare, home schooling and careers.
In the past several months, Carpenter said she’s not only enjoyed unexpected additional time with family, but also witnessing how well her team functions remotely.
A nearly 10-year Viasat employee, she is heavily involved with ViaSat-3 – the upcoming constellation of three satellites launching in the next few years.
“We’re building three satellites and getting ready for service launch, and 75- to 80-percent of our segment is working from home,” she said. “It’s been so impressive to see how effective and efficient people are – in some cases, even more effective working from home than the traditional office scenario.
“Thinking long term, we want to incorporate some of the silver linings we’re seeing now into the future. We’re getting benefits from empowering people to make the decisions that work best for them. For women who are always multi-tasking, I think this is especially advantageous.”
For Carpenter, that may occasionally mean taking time out of her day to help her 14-year-old with homework, then making up those work hours in the evening.
“It’s important to give yourself and your team the flexibility they need to do their job,” she said. “Give yourself grace.”
Support for families
Viasat’s support and family-focused benefits have also been crucial throughout the coronavirus. Its newest employee resource group, Families Helping Families, launched earlier in 2020; Carpenter serves as an executive sponsor. The group’s online meetings give employees with families a place to talk and share tips about the challenges and joys they’re experiencing.
“In addition to the standard benefits, Viasat has been very supportive of its people by offering flexible work schedules, as well as giving a financial stipend to help offset some of the expenses of working remotely,” she said. “One of the things I love about Viasat is the focus on people, and it has shown during these unprecedented times.”
But as good as the work-from-home experience has been, Carpenter will be ready when the office doors finally reopen.
“I’ve worked in the same segment at Viasat the entire time I’ve been here, and we are very close-knit,” she said. “I definitely miss seeing them every day. Even with the video calls, you don’t get the same connection that you do in person.”
Here’s a partial list of resources available to Viasat employees and their families:
- Copays for virtual medical and counseling services are being waived during the coronavirus, a benefit that currently extends through Dec. 31, 2020.
- Bright Horizons, a center-based or in-home back-up childcare benefit, is available for a small copay.
Bright Horizons can also be used for support of elder parents or other family members.
Among other benefits, the service can also help find sitters, nannies and housekeepers, run free basic background checks and discounted enhanced background checks. It can help link families to tutoring or learning pods– small groups of school-aged children who can safely study together during the coronavirus.
- Parenting leave allows all new parents to take up to 6 weeks of paid timeoff to spend with their newborn or newly adopted child.
- Pregnancy recovery leave, offered in addition to parenting leave, allows moms who have given birth to take up to 8 weeks of paid time off following the birth of their baby.
- Anthem “Future Moms” program offers support and resources to moms during pregnancy and after baby is born.
- Adoption assistance and fertility treatment benefits
- Collegebound 529 plan allows employees to save for their child’s college education, including tax-free earnings growth, tax-free distributions, and a variety of investment options. Those savings can be used for tuition, room, board, books and supplies at colleges and universities nationwide.
- Anthem Employee Assistance Program provides up to four free counseling sessions per incident, per year, for emotional support. Available in-person or virtually, this benefit is extended to anyone living in the employee’s household.
- Dependent care flexible spending account allows employees to set aside up to $5,000 in pretax dollars per household per year to pay for eligible childcare expenses.