A young man in a dark T-shirt pictured at home. There is a glass door and a large potted plant behind him.
Brandon Caffery. Image: Viasat

How this customer support engineer intern is learning by example

3 Mar 2021

College student Brandon Caffrey got more than he bargained for in his internship in Viasat, which has opened his eyes to a career path in tech and computer engineering on a global scale.

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Working in tech isn’t just for people with a wealth of experience. There are lots of young people who are just trying to get a foot in the door.

We chatted to one such person: computer engineering student Brandon Caffrey. By availing of an internship programme at Viasat, Caffrey is gaining work experience as a customer support engineer. Through this internship, he has found a greater understanding and focus for his future career possibilities.

‘I am learning invaluable things that cannot be taught in a classroom’

What are you studying in college?

I am currently studying a BSc (Honours) in computing at the National College of Ireland. This course covers a range of modules such as programming, databases, operating systems, IT project management and many more. Some of the roles that you can progress to upon completion of this course are software developer, web developer, data analyst, IT support and security analyst. These are just a handful of career prospects after you graduate from this course.

What drew you to Viasat when you were seeking an internship?

Prior to interning with Viasat, I wasn’t aware of the significant role they had in the telecommunications industry and how they were operating on a global scale. It was only when I researched the company’s online profile that I saw how large the company was in terms of size and globalisation.

What really drew me to Viasat was the scope and importance of their work. Knowing that the work they do has a global impact on various industries including aviation, maritime, military and telecommunications was very intriguing to me.

What expectations did you have before you began your internship?

The pandemic has had a huge impact on all internships since it began. However, this didn’t take away from my excitement for interning with Viasat.

Going in, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of communication in a virtual environment with the company. Was everything going to be communicated on Zoom? How was work going to be assigned to me?

Thankfully, being a global company, Viasat had systems in place for communicating and operating with teams and stakeholders in various locations in a virtual setting. I was shipped my equipment and had a thorough introduction with the company and my team, which made the onboarding process seamless. I was also sent some cool swag. That was a nice touch.

What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?

During my first week, I was getting to grips with the various systems and applications that Viasat uses in order to gain familiarity with them to help our customers. At the same time, I was navigating working from home, which was new for me.

Currently, I’m working on one of the systems that Viasat has to offer which is called Aerodocs. This is a document management system that allows airlines to produce various documents for regulation reasons. In the beginning, it took a little getting used to. If I had a question about the system, rather than being able to walk over to someone’s desk and ask, I had to reach out via Zoom or text someone a message. That being said, my colleagues were very helpful to me in this regard.

Did the scope of your work change as the internship progressed?

Definitely! As the internship progressed, I began to engage a lot more with customers and that was exciting. It gave me great insight into how tech companies deal with customer queries on a daily basis. I also got to see the huge demand that customers have for companies like Viasat.

As I am only a few weeks here at Viasat, I am hoping to gain a much better understanding of all of the systems that the company uses and broaden my knowledge of them.

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

I start my day off with a casual team meeting in the morning that is then followed up by a check-in meeting where we discuss any issues from the previous day and our plans for the day ahead. This is where our manager may assign specific tasks for us to be completed.

After that meeting, I will follow up on some customer queries and help solve any problems they may run into. Throughout the day, we have various calls with customers online that allows them to raise any issues they may have with our systems.

As an intern, I also have an opportunity to meet with my teammates to connect on any questions I may have and if there is anything blocking me from my work. I find it to be a very beneficial mentoring opportunity.

After lunch, I go back on and see if there are any tickets that need to be fixed. Whenever a customer raises an issue, it is raised through a ticketing system. A ticket consists of a description of the issue, the components of the system it affects and the severity of the issue for the customer.

What key things have you learned during this internship?

Communication skills are essential. I’ve learned many key things but in order to be successful in any role, you must have good communication skills. Especially these days, working from home. I work in a customer-facing role where poor communication can have a negative impact.

Another key thing I’ve learned is not to be afraid to ask a question. Viasat believes good ideas can come from anyone, anywhere and encourages employees to speak up and find better ways to do things. If you’re unsure about something you’re working on, ask! The only way we can learn is if we ask questions. It’s a very collaborative company that takes employee development seriously.

Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path?

For sure! So far I’ve really enjoyed working within this industry. I am learning invaluable things that cannot be taught in a classroom.

I feel as though my internship with Viasat has set me towards the right career path and I hope to progress further down this path in the future. It has also allowed me to see how a large company that builds enterprise-level products operates day-to-day, and how they design, build, deploy and support their products for delivery to the customer.

Do you feel more prepared for working life following your internship?

Yes. Going into this internship, I wanted to gain experience. Whether it was navigating working life, learning new things or meeting new people. This internship has definitely opened up my eyes. It has given me insights into the daily life of someone working in the tech industry. Every day, I get to work on real-world problems that affect our customers on a regular basis. I hope to translate this internship experience into a career within this industry.

Why should someone take up an internship at this company?

Interning with Viasat means gaining worthwhile industry experience and being able to work on real-world projects with a global impact. Even as an intern, I’ve always felt like my voice has been heard. I also get to work with really great people. Everybody is so welcoming and there is a real togetherness within the company.

You are constantly learning new things and enhancing your skills here at Viasat. It is an ideal environment for me as a student to grow and develop. Linking the theory that I’ve learned in college with my role in Viasat, within the team environment, shows that this company is an ideal place for any student to combine theory and practice in the tech industry.

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