Comcast Grows to Code: From Frontline Technician to Software Engineer in Six Months
Philadelphia native Shelina Watts loved being a field technician for Comcast, but with her personal passion for tinkering and working on creative projects, she was always looking to grow. Opportunity presented itself in the form of Comcast Grows to Code, a new program that trains and prepares frontline employees to become software engineers.
Watts 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. Shelina remembers her friend asking her quietly: “What are you thinking Watts?” It was at that moment, she knew she was going to try for it. Shelina applied immediately after the meeting and was one of 12 frontline employees selected for the program.
Comcast Grows to Code is a career path program for frontline employees to learn coding skills and launch into entry-level engineering roles. 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 bootcamp, 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 time away from their family. All 12 members of the first ever Comcast Grows to Code class completed all their course requirements and are now full-time Comcast engineers.
“It was just right on time” Shelina 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.”
Shelina’s 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, a project she said, “was pretty hard,” but extremely rewarding. The project had added meaning for Shelina who each year hosts a sneaker drive to customize used sneakers and give them to children in need.
After completing the program late last year, Shelina is now a member of the team, helping to build and evolve the very same app that she used as a technician in the field.
“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, EVP and Chief Information Officer, Comcast Cable.
Emmanuel (Manny) Mwaipopo had been with Comcast for over ten years as a line technician before applying to the first Grows to Code class. He says 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."
Raised by a single mother in Tanzania, Manny became interested in computers at a young age when his mother brought home the family’s first laptop, which he promptly took apart and taught himself how to put back together. Later in his life, when unforeseen events caused him to cut short his studies in computer science, he focused on working and earning a living, but he never lost the passion for technology. Now after graduating from Comcast Grows to Code, Manny works on a team dedicated to monitoring the performance of the Comcast network – an essential function that became even more critical during the pandemic.
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.
And David Rhoton, whose first job was with Comcast, is now following in his father’s footsteps working on computers, adding “Comcast definitely launched me in the right direction.” David said 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 like Shelina and Manny, Comcast 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.
“Our frontline technicians and care agents represent a deep, wide pool of incredibly talented individuals who understand our technology and the unique needs of our customers better than anyone in the world,” Tom Karinshak, EVP and Chief Customer Experience Officer, Comcast Cable said. “It’s incredibly exciting to find yet another way to tap into that reservoir of talent, as we work to fill critical needs on our software engineering teams.”