Plugging in to Virtual Mentorship

Jul 29, 2020 11:00 AM ET

At Comcast NBCUniversal, our core values are rooted in improving the communities where we live and work. Today, as we face extraordinary challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the growing calls for social justice and equality, our employees remain committed to giving back to those in need. Below are two examples of how our employees are virtually volunteering in their communities during these extraordinary times.

A Challenge for a Cause in Washington

Throughout the past school year, dozens of Washington state high school students spent many hours eagerly preparing for a competition – the Comcast Innovation Challenge 3.0. With a focus on using technology to address social issues, the challenge enables teens to flaunt newly-acquired STEM education skills as they vie for college scholarships, free laptops, and of course, bragging rights. But just as the students were entering the final stages of preparation, COVID-19 struck. Rather than abruptly end their efforts, they worked with their school, the Technology Access Foundation, to transfer the competition to a virtual collaboration workspace.

This is the third year that Comcast has hosted the Innovation Challenge, and with the help of employee mentors such as Uzo Nwokedi, a supervisor for one of Comcast’s operational centers of excellence in Washington state, the students quickly pivoted from live to livestream.

Uzo said he was impressed with how comfortable the students were with the transition to an online environment. “We met in person in the fall and winter, but when we flipped to a virtual world in March, they dove right in because that was all we had,” he said. “They became more organized, gained confidence, and when it was time to present their final projects, their presentations were smooth as silk.”

This year’s assignment was to create designs to support the disability community during a natural disaster. The students envisioned concepts, built prototypes and presented their inventions to their mentors, parents, classmates and the community who all voted on the winners. Highlights included inventions such as air vests, hooded wheelchairs, and an evacuation virtual assistant. Learn more about the winners here.

Making It Work in Philadelphia

Across the country, employees like Uzo are committed to finding ways to best serve their local communities.

Raphael Soto, a technical analyst in Philadelphia, knows the importance of supporting organizations that lift others up. He recently volunteered as a mentor for a workshop with Tech Impact, a nonprofit that helps prepare young adults for careers in IT, without the need for a degree. Just three short years ago, he was a student himself in Tech Impact’s ITWorks program.

“I used to have no direction. I didn’t know what I wanted, but my roommate worked at Comcast and I thought it sounded exciting. I did some research and learned I didn’t need a bachelor’s degree to enroll in ITWorks,” Raphael explained. “I joined the program and simultaneously worked two jobs to support myself. Although I only slept about four hours a night, I knew the payoff would be a foundation to build my career on.”

Ultimately, Raphael landed a position at the “Techbar” on the Comcast Center Campus, which is an internal technology help center for employees. He has since been promoted to a role where he focuses more on knowledge management. He often meets with ITWorks students who visit the Comcast Center Campus for tours and discussions with employees, thanks to a program led by Rob Keeton, a Comcast executive director in Information Systems Solutions.

Rob began providing the tours because he remembered the feeling of being 21 years old and preparing to enter the IT workforce without having a clear vision of a “day in the life” of a professional. “Helping others thrive by connecting them with someone who can explain how to start their career has been incredibly rewarding,” Rob said. “ITWorks is literally transforming lives, and I’m thrilled to have a part in that, alongside my colleagues.”

When COVID-19 struck, Rob and the team reimagined the tours to allow for a virtual setting to keep the momentum going. Recently, they hosted a day-long online workshop for ITWorks students. Employees who signed up as volunteers ranged from more senior employees, such as Cathy Rees, who has 20+ years of cybersecurity experience, to newer employees, like Raphael.

One student participant, Bryan Yong, a 24-year-old recent graduate of ITWorks, attended the workshop hoping to gain tips for landing his next job. After family priorities left him unable to continue his pursuit of an education, he spent the last five years as a table games dealer. “At the casino, I didn’t have role models to teach me professionalism – especially in tech,” he said. “The software developers in the workshop explained the importance of always having a portfolio ready, possessing a willingness to learn, and letting your personality come across in a video interview.”

Comcast NBCUniversal is proud of its employees who are making a difference in their communities, especially during these times of uncertainty.