When it comes to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech industry, companies and universities can't afford to operate in silos. Alone, we are limited in our ability to create change-but together, public and private entities have the potential to drive outsized impact.
Over the past year, I've seen firsthand how public-private partnerships like the 2U-powered Netflix Pathways Bootcampcan help create opportunity for individuals historically underrepresented in tech, offering financial support and access to training and mentorship for the in-demand skills and knowledge they need to help them launch successful careers.
Last month, I was joined on EDU: Live-my discussion series on equity, access, and opportunity in higher education and beyond-by two of the leaders charged with architecting and activating this inspiring program from the start: President of Norfolk State University, Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston ("Dr. J"), and Talent Acquisition Leader at Netflix, Corey Twitty. They shared why they believe public-private partnerships like the Netflix Pathways Bootcamp create powerful opportunities for learners and companies alike.
Equipping Students with Future-First Skills
The global tech talent gap has grown significantly in recent years-and by 2030, the U.S. could miss out on over $160 billionof annual revenues if this problem persists. Together, higher education and companies can be a part of the solution.
"We wanted to bridge the gap between theoretical computer science education and real-world application in a tech environment," said Twitty, recalling the inspiration behind the Netflix Pathways Bootcamp.
Credit-bearing and free to all accepted students through Netflix sponsorship, the Netflix Pathways Bootcamp is "an opportunity for students who wanted to learn subjects they otherwise might not have had the chance to explore subjects like UX/UI, data science, and Java," added Dr. J. "Instead of going online to learn these subjects alone, students have faculty, mentors, and sessions to brainstorm and problem solve. Those things separate a program like this from going online and trying to get a certification."
Providing Life-Changing Mentorship
Imposter syndrome is omnipresent in the tech world-and without a strong support system, even the most talented students can fall behind due to lack of confidence.
At Norfolk State, Dr. J has seen how Netflix employees instill students with the courage, resilience, and perspective needed to get ahead in a technically challenging field. "The Netflix Pathways Bootcamp is not easy," she explained. "Students are super grateful for the program, but say that it was one of the hardest things they've ever done. Their mentors are the reason they were able to stay in the program and succeed."
To further highlight the importance of mentorship, Dr. J often returns to one particularly powerful metaphor. "I ask: Who's sitting at your dinner table?" she said. "If you're sitting at a dinner table with computer scientists, data folks, and Netflix employees, you have a different view of the world than others who don't have that exposure. This program gives our students a seat at that dinner table. It gives them the opportunity to hear from, engage with, and be supported by people who are really excellent in these areas and can deliver both the content and the context. And that is really important."
Supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts
The tech field can feel isolating, in large part because there is a lack of representation in leadership roles. Public-private partnerships like the Netflix Pathways Bootcamp have the power to shift the balance by providing industry-relevant education.
"Through panels, authentic conversations, and mentorship pairings with Netflix employees, we explore what it's like to be a marginalized group in tech," said Twitty.
"Our program debunks the bias that some can do this work but others can't," added Dr. J.
At Netflix, Twitty and his team are focused on increasing representation and expanding their pipeline of talent. "How do we sharpen our inclusion lens and the perspectives we need to continue growing as a company?" asked Twitty. "Our success depends on the content and stories we tell and products we create, so it's important to have many perspectives to be relevant in the space."
Universities and Companies Create Stronger Impact Together
Of course, launching a successful public-private partnership requires strategic planning and foresight. But a commitment to providing quality technical education for learners of diverse backgrounds is key to optimizing talent and building workplaces that improve equity from the inside out. Together, companies and universities can accelerate change, foster innovation, and expand opportunity-helping to create better outcomes for all.
Interested in learning more about the Netflix Pathways Bootcamp? Watch the full EDU: Live video here, and check out the program here.