Viasat engineer Mary Lynn Smith has spent the last 15 years helping develop a relationship between Viasat and Atlanta’s Georgia Institute of Technology (GT). The GT graduate clearly sees the benefits new college graduates provide to companies like Viasat.
“They bring new thinking and new education,” said Smith, who speaks regularly at the College of Electrical and Computer Engineering seminar classes and is active with the alumni association. “If we can capitalize on that, we can keep being that disruptive force. We’re not going to be a disruptive force if we just keep relying on the people we’ve had for 30 years.
“I see it as critical to have that university grad influx.”
What makes Georgia Tech a particularly logical partner for Viasat is its focus on engineering and technology.
Viasat’s Duluth campus near Atlanta is also just 30 minutes from Georgia Tech. A considerable portion of Duluth’s engineering workforce are GT graduates, making the growing relationship between the two a natural one. The company has taken a multi-step approach to strengthening the company’s connections with the school.
Starting in 2019, Viasat rented space in GT’s Coda at Tech Square, a mixed-use facility built to encourage collaboration between university researchers, students and industry. Viasat University Relations Specialist Rachel Gardinier has her primary office there, allowing her direct interaction with the students.
“Our space at the Coda center allows us to have closer access and build relationships with people there,” she said. “University grad students are highly sought after. This is one way to give us a competitive edge, to network, find out more about research opportunities and expand the Viasat brand within the Georgia Tech community.”
Viasat also sponsors the school’s Women in Electrical and Computer Engineering and GT Society of Black Engineers student organizations, as well as its College of Computing. Through the College of Computing sponsorship, it’s hosted student functions like mid-term ice cream study breaks and other events designed to let students become familiar with the company.
The company is also partnering with the College of Electrical and Computer Engineering to guide a senior design project, in which select engineering students work with a Viasat employee on a project specific to the company. This year’s assignment is focused on fine-tuning the tracking system for satellites. Viasat hopes to sponsor other new projects in the future.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” said Dr. Bruno Frazier, a GT electrical and computer engineering professor who’s worked with Viasat on the senior design program. “We get projects for the students, the students get an interesting project and the opportunity to work with industry. On Viasat’s side, the opportunities are recruitment, branding and strengthening our relationship with Georgia Tech.
“We have a number of students who have a keen interest in satellites, so we think this is good for them.”
All these efforts are increasing GT student and staff’s awareness of Viasat.
“Through our presence at Georgia Tech, I think we’ve gotten much greater name recognition over the last few years,” Gardinier said.
Program Manager Shawn Giguere is among Duluth Viasat’s many GT graduates. Like his fellow alum Smith, he sees the school as an ideal recruitment source for Viasat, especially as the company continues to emphasis diversity among its workforce.
“If you’re in engineering, it’s essentially the place to be,” said Giguere, who earned his graduate degree there. “I also personally appreciate that Georgia Tech ranks at the top for engineering doctoral and master’s degrees awarded to Black Americans. As a Black American, it was a great place to be socially, and the education was topnotch.
“It definitely set me up for success. I was very well trained in anything I attempted.”
Giguere said the GT graduates who work at Viasat have a bond, and also have confidence in one another’s abilities.
“There’s definitely a sense of pride to being a Tech alum in the Atlanta office,” he said. “And if somebody’s coming to Viasat from Tech, we know they’ll be able to handle anything we throw at them.”
Smith said efforts to recruit GT graduates are not limited to Duluth. The school’s reputation for engineering excellence makes it an ideal recruiting pool for all of Viasat. And creating a strong bond with the school can also extend to a relationship with its alumni, Smith said, which can eventually lead to the desirable mix of young and seasoned employees every company needs.
“It’s a good conduit for us overall,” she said. “We don’t have to travel far to screen them. They can find out about us by just coming to campus on Duluth.”
And for those potential employees, Viasat’s technology and leadership offers a compelling blend.
“The great thing about Viasat is we’re still run by engineers,” Smith said. “For engineering students, that is very appealing.”
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