Founded by members of by Comcast engineering team five years ago, BENengineers aims to bring together the black tech employees of the Philadelphia-based company. With an eye on access, it now also focuses on the public.
The group – aka the Engineers Network of Black Employees – formed after one of Lab weeks, which offers employees the opportunity to work on projects of their choice. He has since hosted professional development panels and workshops, provided mentorship and other services to local organizations such as Coded by kidsand organized a series of internal technical conferences.
A few years and a pandemic later, the group is gaining momentum. Last week, he hosted his annual conference for fellow black technologists at Comcast, but for the first time, he also opened the event to the public. During a full day of sessions, technologists talked about their career paths and mentorship, networked with each other and Comcast technology leaders, and listened to keynote addresses.
Co-founder of BENGineers Ransom Muminnow head 2 of software development and engineering, led the conference with fellow co-founder and emeritus engineer Michael Winslow. After years of feedback from band members, they realized it was on par with scheduling similar technical conferences. It was time to make it an outside effort.
“As we developed this over the past few years with the intersection of the pandemic, we knew we could serve this experience not only to our members, but also to the public,” Ransom said. Technically.
It was important that the programming didn’t focus on “executive talk,” Winslow said. They had different levels of engineers on panels sharing their experience, with one focused on technologists by Leslie Chapman path to the role of Distinguished Engineer; Jacqueline Joson, an Engineer 2, moderated the session. She said the energy, conversation and connections shared were “a rewarding sight to behold”.
“BENgineers have always been about making an impact and maintaining the fundamental pillars of the community, and this conference showed that,” she said.
Likewise, women have always been an important part of the ERG’s mission, Ransom said. Since its inception, at least 50% of the group’s leaders have been black women, and this year 60% of programming was led by women.
As the conference enters its third year, Ransom and Winslow said they’ve also had time to learn and implement changes.
“The programming is broad to make sure we understand that Comcast’s tech community is a broad community,” Ransom said. “We are the BENgineers, but they are engineers, product owners, scrum masters. They represent the spectrum of the tech industry. So when we develop content, we make sure it reaches them deep into those spaces and provides enough content to have a good bite out of.
It’s also ensuring that someone in one part of Comcast’s technical teams can learn more about another job; an engineer who might be interested in the product may hear of someone working in that role. The group focuses on mobility within the industry. And a key feature of this conference were the pre-recorded sessions, organizers said: Instead of going live and answering questions at the end of a session, panelists were in chat, reacting in real time. and engaging with conference attendees.
BENgineers continue to work internally on staffing various interview panels for Comcast’s hiring process, working with HBCUs to connect technology talent and bring new employees to the group. They got to see new people come into the fold during the conference’s rapid mentorship, connecting Comcast employees with each other and outside attendees with each other, organizers said. It was a time to “meet” someone you may not have seen since before the pandemic, seek advice from a superior, or mingle with a senior Comcast executive like Rich Rioboli.
That’s another benefit of virtual: “Even if we were in person,” Winslow said, “I don’t think people just bumped into the CTO.”
The BENgineers intend to continue the conference as an external event.
“Five years later, it’s amazing to see where we’ve come from in the community we have right now,” Ransom said.