Netflix, Virginia Universities Work to Diversify Tech
Broadly speaking, technology fields have a diversity problem. A recent Harvard Business Review article cited slow diversity improvement in the industry over the past several years. Among the ongoing issues: In many jobs reports, relative to the general population, very few new tech hires come from underrepresented minority groups, including Black, Latino, and female workers.
At the streaming media company Netflix, Inc., a diverse workforce isn’t just about fairness, but making a great product.
“Our goal at Netflix is to entertain the world and bring our members joy,” Netflix Program Manager of Emerging Talent Victor Scotti said. “We know that in order to fulfill this mission, we need our team to match the diversity of the world. We are committed to creating opportunities for the next generation of leaders and innovators.”
Scotti manages the Netflix Pathways Bootcamp, a partnership that includes the online learning company 2U — which develops education platforms and courses — and, currently, a group of seven American universities that are either Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) or Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), where the undergraduate student bodies are at least 25% Hispanic. Two Virginia universities are participating in the program. Norfolk State University, an HBCU in Norfolk in the Hampton Roads region, was Netflix’s first partner for the bootcamp, and Marymount University, an HSI in Arlington County in Northern Virginia, signed on in the next wave of schools.
The 16-week bootcamp offers tuition-free coursework that gathers students in an online setting where they learn technical skills, experience a professional environment, and build a portfolio while earning credits through their universities. Students also benefit from mentorship from Black or Latino Netflix employees, and start developing a professional network in their chosen field.
Programs like our Netflix Pathways Bootcamp are important in creating access and opportunities for historically excluded groups. Our partnerships with Norfolk State University and Marymount University help us — together — bridge the gap between college and career.
Admission requirements may vary from school to school, but the boot camps are generally openly available to students within certain fields of study, or even recent alumni. The bootcamp offers three courses: the programming language Java, data science, and user interface and user experience design (UI/UX). Each course has an entry-level and advanced version. Participating schools are mixed together in virtual classrooms.
“The fact that the classes were multi-university was good for the students. They could then see how they would be competitive in the workplace based on how they were doing in the program,” said Diane Murphy, director of the School of Technology and Innovation in Marymount’s College of Business, Innovation, Leadership, and Technology. Murphy also served as the faculty of record for the UI/UX course, keeping an eye on how the course worked within the Marymount curriculum and advising students in the bootcamp.
The Pathways program is still young, with room to grow. It started in January 2021 at Norfolk State, open to students and graduates from the university’s previous two classes, and has expanded to Marymount and five other schools: HBCUs Edward Waters University, Morgan State University, and Talladega College, and HSIs St. Edward’s University and the University of California, Irvine.
Murphy called the first bootcamp semester at Marymount in fall 2021 “good validation that we’re teaching the right things and preparing students for the workforce,” referring to technical and interpersonal skills as well as the ability to quickly grasp unfamiliar workplace-specific technologies. Much like an internship, the bootcamp provides professional experience that will help students wherever they work in the future, whether that’s at Netflix or another company with technical requirements.
“Programs like our Netflix Pathways Bootcamp are important in creating access and opportunities for historically excluded groups,” Scotti said. “Our partnerships with Norfolk State University and Marymount University help us — together — bridge the gap between college and career.”