Laura Ivers of Viasat discusses her route from philosophy graduate to programme manager.
Laura Ivers is a programme manager in Viasat Ireland, but the path she took to arrive at this point in her career was anything but conventional.
She told Siliconrepublic.com about her journey from philosophy graduate through project and community management, to performance art and, ultimately, the world of aviation software and communications technology.
‘I love people, I’m flexible and I love to laugh. All of these come in very helpful in programme management’
– LAURA IVERS
What first stirred your interest in a career in this area?
Since I was a young child I’ve had an avid interest in new technologies, computer science and innovation.
What experiences led you to the role you now have?
My education and career history has been quite varied and interesting. I began my studies in philosophy, achieving a first-class honours in my undergraduate and master’s degrees. After this, I had a desire to work within philosophy for youth education, however, with no infrastructure in place in Ireland to pursue this I jumped on the technology bandwagon and trained in project management for software development in the Digital Skills Academy at Dublin’s Digital Hub.
On completion of this, I combined my loves of technology, philosophy and youth education to work with the CoderDojo Foundation as community manager. CoderDojo is a global network of free coding clubs for kids where volunteers give their time to share their knowledge and love of technology with the next generation of digital creators. In my role here, I supported organisers and volunteers by assisting them to set up and run their clubs, gathering and generating education resources, and representing and advocating for the movement internationally.
After some time with the CoderDojo Foundation, I wanted a change and moved my focus to the performance arts world – another great passion of mine. I worked as an administrator for the Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network, tour coordinator for Clowns Without Borders Ireland, and as the general manager of Dublin Circus Project on top of teaching and performance work.
Sometime later I received a call from a dear friend from my CoderDojo days inviting me to support him in his product management work in a little aviation software company called Arconics. I began with Arconics initially a day or two a week, and then once they were acquired by Viasat, I transitioned to a full-time role.
Initially my role was product project manager and as our Aerodocs sales and implementation projects grew, there was a need for a dedicated product training manager. I was offered this role and gladly accepted. In this new position, I had the pleasure of visiting many of our aviation customers across the UK, Asia and the US, introducing them to our powerful Aerodocs system.
Recently, a new opportunity arose to transition into a different business area and role, residential satellite internet, and, being the ‘yes woman’ that I am, I took the challenge to join the crusade as programme manager to launch our new EU residential internet business.
What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path and how did you deal with them?
I was most surprised by the value of my education in philosophy in both business and technology. Strong skills for communication, empathy, critical thinking and creativity have served me incredibly well throughout my career so far.
In a world that is constantly evolving, whether it’s tools, techniques or technologies, the ability to change, to move with it and to stay open-minded and positive is crucial!
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
There have been numerous people who have elevated me and supported me throughout my career and professional life. Most notably in this case would be my dear friend Clyde Hatter, who I met in my CoderDojo days. A passionate and creative man, he originally invited me to join Viasat (previously Arconics) to support his work, and the rest is history.
The managing director of the Viasat Dublin office, Dave Elliott, has also been greatly supportive and influential for me during my time in Viasat.
What do you enjoy about your job?
The people – it’s always the people for me. We have some truly brilliant and talented folks at Viasat and it’s fantastic to hear them share their stories and experiences and to learn from them where possible.
I also enjoy opportunities to travel and see new places. I’ve been blessed to have the chance to travel to Malaysia, Japan, Philippines, Switzerland and across the US and UK during my time with Viasat.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
I love people, I’m flexible and I love to laugh. All of these come in very helpful in programme management and working closely with people.
No matter how challenging, high pressure or chaotic a project may get, it’s important to always focus on the humanity of those involved.
How did Viasat support you on your career path?
Viasat has been incredibly supportive of my career path ever since I joined the company. I have always felt accepted and appreciated and am grateful to have been offered fantastic opportunities. I have strived to rise to the occasion.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one?
The only stupid questions are the ones left unasked. Be yourself and trust in your abilities. It’ll be grand!