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Several ViaSat employees, who previously served in the U.S. Armed Forces, speak to current and former military members during the company’s transition workshop Tuesday in Carlsbad. Photo by Steve Puterski
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ViaSat holds workshop for military

CARLSBAD — With Veterans Day activities in full swing this week, the city’s largest tech communications company put on a pair of events Tuesday and Wednesday.

ViaSat held a workshop Tuesday for individuals transitioning from the military to civilian life. One of the goals, according to Melinda Del Toro, ViaSat’s vice president of human resources, was to deliver basic skills such as resume building and interviewing techniques to those moving on from the military.

On Wednesday, the company held a Veterans Day ceremony featuring the Color Guard from the Wounded Warriors and a speech by ViaSat’s own Bryan Benson, who retired from the U.S. Air Force.

ViaSat also donated about $75,000 to veteran causes last year, Del Toro said.

“We have over 500 veterans employed at ViaSat,” Delo Toro added. “We really care about this program and those who transition into the civilian workforce. They are really important to us.”

On Tuesday, however, former Marines Bob Rota, Facilities and Security VP, and Adrian Haskamp, a senior project manager, relayed their experiences of life after the military.

Rota spent 10 years in the Marines before being discharged due to medical reasons. Haskamp, meanwhile, retired after 20 years of service and was hired by VisSat in January.

Both, though, spoke about how current military personnel can get ahead of the transition by prepping at least one year before their discharge.

“They are at an extreme pivot point in their career,” Haskamp said. “They need to have a really comprehensive look at what does that fit look like for them.”

But there is a catch, Haskamp said. While in the Marines, he found it difficult to convey those future plans with senior personnel. But Haskamp knew he had to act quickly before leaving the Marines or find himself jobless and in the same situation like thousands of former military members.

“This should be a safe topic to talk about a year from getting out,” he added, “and in my experience it wasn’t. I made the decision three years out. I would say two years out, people should be thinking about it. Less than a year, you are going to have a hard time.”

He scoured job boards and various company’s looking for the right fit. He said just as important as salary is figuring out what a person wants to do and finding the right culture.

Haskamp, though, found his second career at ViaSat.

“I never thought I would be in a high-tech company,” he said. “A service member should be thinking about how important culture is. I’ve seen ViaSat’s culture in action. It starts with every employee having this common understanding that we are going to do the right thing. It’s not a top-down thing. We all believe this.”

Rota, meanwhile, worked in the intelligence field for the Marines and had a smooth transition after his exit. He found steady work with defense contractors before landing at ViaSat.

His experience, which was more than 25 years ago, came with a more monetary approach to leaving the military. He said he was told he should be worth a certain amount for a salary.

But entering civilian life, and the business world, was much different. He began at more entry-level type positions before working his way up the corporate ladder.

“No. 1, understand better how their military experience correlates to the business,” Rota said. “The other thing I always recommend to people is to look at the total picture. The military tells you what you are worth. Nobody tells you to look at the benefits, the culture and the environment you’re in.”

In addition, workshops like these with soon-to-be veterans are great recruiting tools for Via Sat, Del Toro added. Since many veterans have work experience similar or directly related to projects ViaSat does, it’s a natural fit to many who have moved away from the military.

“You ask the person what they want to do,” Rota said. “What do you want to do and how do you add value. People getting out of the military are very regimented, we’re not.”

As for the workshop, one of the toughest aspects for military personnel is building a resume detailing their skills. In addition, Del Toro said the event also outlined tips on using LinkedIn, a business professional social networking website, interviewing skills and a panel of current ViaSat employees who made the jump from the military to the business sector.

ViaSat also partnered with Strengthsfinder, which enables individuals to discover what they do best.

“It’s personality-based tool to help you understand the strengths you uniquely bring to whatever job you what to do,” Del Toro added.