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Netflix staffers who helped design a new curriculum for emerging Black talent share their advice for getting a start in the tech industry

Business Insider logo Business Insider 10/22/2020 arodriguez@businessinsider.com (Ashley Rodriguez)
a group of people posing for the camera: Netflix employees and devColor members at an event held at its Los Gatos office in January. Netflix © Netflix Netflix employees and devColor members at an event held at its Los Gatos office in January. Netflix
  • Netflix says a demonstrated ability to learn and apply new skills quickly can be the key for Black talent who want to get their start in the tech industry.
  • A fast pace of learning is a core element of a new bootcamp that Netflix announced on Thursday, with the HBCU Norfolk State University and edtech company 2U.
  • The online program, which Netflix helped design, is a 16-week crash course in technical fields including advanced data science, UX/UI design, and Java engineering.
  • Two Netflix staffers involved with the program told Business Insider about some of the core elements that Black talent who aren't affiliated with Norfolk could also learn from it, including mentorship and getting exposure to growing fields earlier in their careers.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Silicon Valley moves swiftly and Netflix says a demonstrated ability to learn and apply new skills quickly can be the key for Black talent who want to get their start in the tech industry.

"In the corporate world, you're constantly challenged to pick up new skills and apply them rapidly to the problems in front of you," Kabi Gishuru, director of inclusion recruiting programs at Netflix, told Business Insider. 

A fast pace of learning is a core element of a new bootcamp that Netflix announced on Thursday, with the HBCU Norfolk State University and edtech company 2U.

The online program, which Netflix helped design, is a 16-week crash course in technical fields including advanced data science, UX/UI design, and Java engineering. It's open to up to 130 students at Norfolk and recent alumni.

The streaming giant, which also recently moved some of its cash to Black-owned banks, said it wants to expand the program to more HBCUs and universities geared toward underrepresented groups. Gishuru said the primary goal is to invest in emerging talent, but that improving representation within Netflix would also be a "win."

Gishuru and another Netflix staffer involved with the program, Michael Chase, told Business Insider about some of the core elements that Black talent who aren't affiliated with Norfolk could also learn from it.

Netflix chose to focus on applied data science, java engineering, and UI/UX design because those skills are in high demand today and growing, it said, citing data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the analytics platform Burning Glass.

However, some roles in those fields, particularly in data science, require PHDs. Gishuru said the Netflix's data-science and engineering bootcamps are open to students in as early as their junior years in undergraduate, and the design program is open to freshman. They're meant to give Black students a taste of those fields early on in their education, which is something people outside of the program could explore, as well. 

The Netflix bootcamp also includes a mentorship program. Participants are paired with mentors from Netflix's data science, engineering, and UI/UX design teams, who they'll meet with regularly throughout the program. 

Chase, an engineer at Netflix and alumni of Norfolk, said a mentorship program he participated in at IBM shaped his own entry into the tech world. He encouraged other young Black talent to pursue mentorship program, even if they're not sure precisely what field they want to enter.

"I loved to code, but I didn't really know that I loved to code," Chase said. "It was really this mentor that helped me see and understand that, this is something special and I should focus on it."

Chase also encouraged emerging Black talent to find their communities in whatever industry interests them. 

"I know a lot of people I grew up with that are not in the tech industry, but we're so fascinated with technology in a variety of different ways," Chase said. "But because of social norms or whatever the case may be, they didn't pursue it. Where I got lucky, honestly, was finding my community, and realizing that if I put all of my energy over into this area ... it can take me far."

He added: "It can be daunting to pick up a new skill and it can be daunting to break into a new industry. And if you do that alone, it's just that much more difficult."

The Netflix bootcamp starts in January and is accepting applications now. Netflix is offering scholarships to participants to cover the cost of attendance.

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