'A dream come true for me' Norfolk State grad helps other Spartans break into the tech industry

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Posted at 7:38 AM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 07:50:31-05

NORFOLK, Va. - It wasn't long ago that it was Michael Chase walking to class on the Norfolk State University campus.

Fast-forward to 2020 and the 2012 computer science graduate is celebrating three years working at Netflix, where he's a senior software engineer.

"A lot of focus on grades and classes," Chase tells News 3 of his time in college. "Not terribly too much focus on, 'What is my career going to look like? What job am I gonna go for?'"

In the end, Chase, who's originally from Maryland, was able to break into the technology industry, where Black Americans make up just 7.4 percent of the high-tech workforce, according to data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Now, he's giving back as a mentor in Netflix's upcoming partnership with Norfolk State, Virtual HBCU Boot Camps.

"It's quite literally a dream come true for me," Chase, who now lives in California, told News 3 over a recent Zoom call. "I've always understood that Norfolk State is a good fit for Netflix to partner with."

Chase says he happened to be in a 2019 meeting where Netflix discussed challenges of recruiting minority talent on the East Coast.

Chase says he told Netflix to take a look at Norfolk State. After a successful visit to campus, the two struck the partnership that's now set to begin this upcoming spring.

Netflix announced its first-ever Virtual HBCU Boot Camps last month; an online curriculum built in partnership with NSU that's all about promoting real-world education.

Mentorship is also a key component. Chase says he was recruited to Netflix via a connection through a peer mentoring group for Black software engineers called Day of Color.

"It was really roundabout in that sense," Chase recalls.

Now, he'll get to do the same for fellow Spartans, who may not have the resources or connections to break into the industry on their own.

"I think being able to say, 'I know someone that works at Netflix,' is a big deal in gaining access to the tech industry," said Chase. "Being able to say as a black person at an HBCU, 'There are people who look like me working at these companies, and I can see myself working at this company because of that.'"

There are 130 spaces available in the upcoming Virtual HBCU Boot Camps for current Norfolk State students and recent grads of all majors.

Click HERE to apply.