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Celebrating Black History Month: How 300 Black Technologists are Building a Community

Erika Harley

by , Manager, Experience and Communications, Technology & Digital

We strive to create a culture of inclusion, where everyone is welcome and ideas and contributions from our diverse workforce help us grow. Across the globe, our cast members come together around shared identities, interests, and pursuits to form employee resource groups or affinity groups. Today, we’re excited to feature D’Yanna Craighead, founder of Black Technologists at Disney and senior manager technology, Disney Signature Experiences.

D’Yanna Craighead

D’Yanna has worked at Disney for the past decade. In Sept. 2020, D’Yanna grew her personal network of Black colleagues in technology, digital design, and project management into Black Technologists at Disney, an affinity group for cast members, with a goal of making a positive impact on a history of under-representation in the technology industry.

“We can make Disney a place where Black technologists can see themselves. A place where they are eager to grow and learn,” shared D’Yanna.

While forming this affinity group, D’Yanna and her colleagues found inspiration from Marvel’s “Black Panther” and the film’s focus on technology.

D’Yanna explained, “For anyone who knows [Marvel’s] “Black Panther,” Vibranium is how technology in Wakanda is created. It’s noted for extraordinary abilities to absorb, store, and release large amounts of kinetic energy, which is motion or movement. And that is exactly what we need – forward motion and velocity for more Black technologists.”  

In its first year, Black Technologists at Disney found its forward momentum and has now grown to include more than 300 cast members in various technology roles including engineering, data science, and product management.

“I remember one of our first meetings. It was a Zoom call and there were about 80 people. As people were signing on, I was just thinking, ‘Wow. Where have all of these people been? There are people who look like me, black technologists.’ There was a sense of comfort and community.”

The instant sense of community was also felt by fellow technologist Will Brown, a senior product manager who is celebrating nine years of service in Disney Technology.

“I came to Disney from the aerospace industry where we were all essentially working on one product, rocket engines. Coming to Disney and being exposed to every type of product and person you can think of has been a dream. We are able to connect with people from ABC, ESPN, [Disney] Parks, everywhere,” shared Will.

Together, this community of technologists focuses on recognizing and celebrating the STEM contributions of our Black cast members – and there are many impressive accomplishments to celebrate. Behind the scenes, Will has led change management initiatives that have reduced business costs and created efficiencies for countless cast members. D’Yanna helped launch software engineering projects around the world from MagicBands at Walt Disney World to the Disney FASTPASS system at Tokyo Disneyland Resort.

“Many cast members know me for my diversity and inclusion work, but I’m a technologist. Most recently, I’ve been working on all of the shipboard applications for the Disney Wish. It’s incredible to say I’m helping launch a cruise ship,” D’Yanna said.

Through Black Technologists at Disney, Will and D’Yanna are also championing the greater technology community. They both recently attended AfroTech, one of the largest multicultural tech conferences in the country, where they shared their experiences as Black technologists at Disney and helped recruit diverse talent for open positions.

“We are a group of passionate people. It is in our DNA to give back and to mentor others,” said Will. “Giving back makes it all worth it.”

D’Yanna, Will, and their ever-growing community of Black technologists at Disney are excited to continue this forward momentum of fostering a culture of mentorship, innovation, and inclusion. Next on their agenda, they will be mentoring students at the Disney Dreamers Academy.

For more inspirational stories highlighting our diverse cast members, follow along on the blog and @DisneyParks on social.

Comments

  • Glad to hear such a conscious and consistent effort in Disney to embace the diversity as a strength. The culture of inclusiveness to champion technology centric initiatives takes advantage of talents from different backgrounds. If organizations from countries that boast of multiculcultural etnicities can emulate such initiatives, it will go very far in terms creating sustainable employment.