The company shifted gears to offer online internships during the pandemic
This is the first of several stories we’ll post featuring our 2020 virtual interns.
Viasat interns Rebecca Kreitinger and Nia Rich were both uncertain about serving an internship virtually — a fact of life this summer as the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than six weeks into the experience, those fears have long since vanished.
“I was a little disappointed not to be on campus and experience it that way, but so far I’ve been really happy,” said Rich, an electrical engineering major at Georgia Tech who’s interning with Viasat’s Duluth, GA. office. “The project I’ve had this summer has a lot more autonomy than I thought I would have going in; I really appreciate having that amount of responsibility.”
Even remotely, Rich said she got a strong sense of why Viasat is always popular with interns.
“The culture here is what I really like,” she said. “There’s definitely a sense of striving for excellence. Viasat seems to want people to learn and grow together, and still do amazing and cool things. I’ve been impressed with that.”
Even though she’s working from her parents’ New Mexico home – far from the Carlsbad, CA campus where she’d originally planned to spend her summer – Rebecca Kreitinger said she still feels like part of a team at Viasat.
“I was worried that the person-to-person interaction might not be enough and might feel isolating,” said Kreitinger, who’s pursuing her masters in computer science at the University of California San Diego. “But I meet with my team on WebEx regularly – with my supervisor once a week and my project lead and team members three times a week.
“And there are always intern events, so I’ve been able to network as well. It’s been an enriching experience.”
The two are among 79 student interns at Viasat this summer.
University Relations and Recruiting Manager Sarah Iglesias said the company changed course rapidly in the spring, taking fast steps to create a virtual experience that would be not only valuable, but enjoyable.
“It was all hands-on deck for this scenario,” she said. “We know it’s been a wild ride for college students the last six months, so we wanted to ensure that even though they’re working remotely, their internships provided meaningful work and the opportunity to grow.”
Kreitinger and Rich both said that’s been the case.
Kreitinger believes her experience as a virtual intern may even be better than a traditional experience. She’s working in product testing on the government side of Viasat’s business.
“Specifically, I’m creating a web interface for running tests on an encryption device,” she said. “My manager mentioned that interns usually have a set project just for them. But because everything is remote, they just put me with the engineering team. So I actually get to work with what they’re doing, see the impact of my work and know they’re going to be using this down the line. In a way, I like that better.”
Rich is helping design a system to test large diameter antennas at the Duluth campus. It’s there that employees build antenna systems for Viasat, as well as government and commercial customers.
“The virtual aspect of it makes me want to work for Viasat in the future on-site, to get to do and experience the things I didn’t get to do this summer and to be hands on,” she said. “This has been very new for me in terms of things I’ve been learning, and I’ve really enjoyed that new aspect of it.”
Rich said she’s had ample help and support from the Antenna Systems team members, and she’s taken advantage of career development courses, tech talks and social events offered to interns. Viasat has hosted virtual happy hours, trivia contests and other events to help the interns connect.
Kreitinger had a similar experience.
“Trivia night was fun; it was virtual – which is definitely weird at first,” she said. “It’s hard to kind of start the interaction. But I think we‘re all getting used to it.
“I feel like the people I’ve worked with and the people putting together the intern events have done a really good job minimizing the effect of everything being remote, and still ensuring we’re able to talk to people.”
Kreitinger hopes to someday visit Carlsbad and meet with some of the people she’s worked with this summer.
“Going into the internship, I heard a lot about the culture, but I didn’t quite understand what that meant,” she said. “It wasn’t until I actually started working that I finally got it.
“It was nice I had the freedom to work on this project, knowing that my perspective is valued. I saw that my team wanted me to try different things, too, and that it’s OK to fail; it’s a learning process. So I finally get why everyone was hyping up the culture. It’s definitely something that’s great here.”