Corporate innovation is difficult at established businesses with international operations, so in a business of nearly 200,000 staff globally, this could be a real challenge.
That’s why I was really struck by this article about Disney VP of Technology Nikki Katz’s CODE: Rosie initiative, which helps re-train existing staff to code software. CODE: Rosie is a program that gives women already at the company in non-technical roles an opportunity to switch careers. The name of the initiative is an acronym, standing for “Creating Opportunities for Diverse Engineers”. The “Rosie” part references Rosie the Riveter, the symbol of World War II’s working women.
The course itself sees a cohort of existing employees undergo three months of training - in everything from basic computer-science concepts to programming languages such as Python. Successful graduates of this programme then undertake year-long apprenticeships consisting of two six-month terms in different teams within the company.
Gender diversity in technology, particularly in developer roles, is a much discussed area. This programme really contributes to increasing diversity in technical roles at Disney as the top candidates were 75% racially and ethnically diverse. They also cover a wide range in terms of age, tenure at the business, and the positions and divisions of Disney they came from. This programme runs in parallel to Disney’s own 700-member Women in Tech group, which it’s VP of Technology Nikki Katz cofounded. “We haven’t found any precedents—internally or externally—for program like this,” says Katz.
But this is more than just a nice employer branding story for Disney. A quick look at Disney’s career site shows that there are 258 open technical positions at the House of Mouse currently. Disney, like many other established businesses, needs to be able to compete in the war for developer talent. An initiative like this provides a real business benefit to the corporation, providing a conveyor belt of developer talent into the business.
Among the aims of Disney’s own 700-member Women in Tech group, which Katz cofounded, is attracting talented women to the company’s engineering ranks and then keeping them happy once they’re there. It was that goal that led to CODE: Rosie’s unique mission. As she explains, “I found myself having the same conversation over and over again with a variety of women who for one reason or another, even though they were passionate about tech, just never had the opportunity to pursue that passion professionally and wanted to figure out how to break into the space.”