Courtesy: Norfolk State
In October 2020, Norfolk State University announced a partnership with Netflix Inc., the world’s leading entertainment streaming service with 204 million paid memberships in over 190 countries, and 2U, a global leader in technology education, to create the Netflix HBCU Boot Camp. The program offers students the chance to gain market-driven skills in advanced Java programming, applied data science and UX/UI (user interface/user interface engineering) through the pioneering curricula developed by industry experts and Netflix professionals. Accepted students receive a Netflix scholarship to cover the cost of attendance. The boot camp, championed by NSU alumnus and Netflix senior engineer Michael Chase, is the first at an HBCU and is expected to serve as a model.
If we really hope to increase Black representation in the tech industry, we need to address our current gaps while expanding access to Black students,” said Kabi Gishuru, director of inclusion recruiting programs at Netflix. “This starts with being intentional about building future talent pipelines. These boot camps are just one step in that direction, but we can’t do it alone. We hope more companies will invest in technical training for Black talent at the college level, contributing to a necessary shift in the future of our industry.”
Dr. Claude Turner, professor and chair of the Norfolk State Department of Computer Science, says the Netflix partnership benefits the University in several ways including:
- offering industry-specific training in three areas of need in the private and public sectors: applied data science, Java and UI/UX.
- providing scholarships for students,
- furnishing financial support for student-related activities.
The inaugural virtual boot camp began in January 2021. Eighty students have enrolled, mostly from the sciences and tech areas, but 17 students are from “other than” science fields. According to the Netflix HBCU Boot Camp website, any major is welcome to apply and participate in the program. Through this partnership, the Netflix HBCU Boot Camp offers cutting-edge programs that allow students and alumni to participate in a 16-week course. This next crop of students will gain real-world training applicable to the tech industry and, in the process, students will also create that all-important professional portfolio that showcases their knowledge. Additionally, students will establish one-to-one mentorship with seasoned Netflix employees, ideally creating long-term network relationships.
According to Vernā Meyers, Vice President of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, “The most important thing we’ve learned is that when you pair Netflix’s culture with diversity and inclusion – it unlocks our ability to innovate, to be creative, and to solve problems. It breaks up group think. It brings different lived experiences and perspectives to a problem, so that we’re no longer solving them in old ways. And, we’re able to better entertain our current and future members.”
Chase is expecting that the boot camp has at least two favorable outcomes. “I hope that we get more NSU representation at Netflix. Exposing students and graduates to these high-tech roles is expanding our representation,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to think about a long-term pipeline.” Chase views the partnership as a way to get high-tech companies to seek out NSU students, and as a way for students to gain the needed skills and obtain jobs at high-tech firms. Because as Chase sees it, “It’s good business to have diverse people throughout a business.”