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Cable and media conglomerate Comcast is launching its Comcast Grows to Code program to create a career path for frontline employees to learn coding skills and launch into entry-level engineering roles.
The program targets frontline employees who have worked at Comcast for a while but didn’t have the traditional college educations that would put them on the path to the higher-paid positions as engineers.
Like other companies, Comcast is finding that it takes bigger actions to improve diversity in the company’s technical ranks, and so it is undertaking the new step of training frontline employees to become software engineers.
One of the first participants is Philadelphia native Shelina Watts, who is a field technician for Comcast but is looking for opportunities to grow.
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Watts said in a statement that she remembers a staff meeting in spring 2020 when her manager told the team about the program, which the company was offering for the first time ever. She remembers her friend asking her quietly, “What are you thinking, Watts?” She knew she was going to try for it, and she was one of 12 frontline employees selected for the program.
Comcast partnered with LaunchCode, a nonprofit cultivating talent pipelines and building customized talent strategies for companies across the country, to develop the program. The six-month program includes an intensive coding training boot camp, an onboarding program, and an apprenticeship.
And unlike typical coding training programs, employees are paid full-time, at their average hourly rate, and do all their coursework as part of the 40-hour per week program. This allows the participants to advance their skills without taking more time away from their families. All 12 members of the first Comcast Grows to Code class completed all their course requirements and are now full-time Comcast engineers.
“It was just right on time,” Watts said. “This program allowed me to combine my love for creating new things with the real-world experience I gained as a technician to serve our customers in an entirely new way. This was an amazing opportunity.”
Watts’ final project in Comcast Grows to Code drew on her passion for restoring, painting, and designing older sneakers. She used her coding skills to build a searchable encyclopedia of sneakers.
“Who better to build tools for our frontline employees than some of our best and brightest frontline employees? Working directly with customers gives them expertise that’s extremely applicable to the technical work we do,” said Rick Rioboli, chief information officer at Comcast Cable, in a statement.
Emmanuel (Manny) Mwaipopo, raised by a single mother in Tanzania, has worked at Comcast for over 10 years as a line technician. He applied and was also admitted to the first Grows to Code class. He said in a statement that participation in the Comcast Grows to Code program and becoming a software engineer represents “the realization of a dream that he once thought would never be.”
And David Rhoton, whose first job was with Comcast, is now following in his father’s footsteps working on computers. Rhoton said in a statement he felt like a kid on Christmas morning when he first heard about the program. After living with his parents for the last few years, trying to navigate his career and future, he now feels like he has the stability to start a family of his own.
Based on the success of the first Comcast Grows to Code program, and thanks in large part to the tremendous efforts and performance of emerging Comcast technologists, the company is extending and expanding the program, seeking a broader number of frontline employees and expanding it beyond the pilot location of Philadelphia to other communities where Comcast works.
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