Having a squad has been the single most important factor during my coding journey. It just may be for you too, and here’s why.
Tech is very collaborative; Coding is a team effort. All of your favorite applications were built by a team. You can absolutely be individually talented at a sport but, what use is that if you cannot effectively contribute to your team? As an only child, I am sometimes guilty of wanting to do things in a silo, alone and unbothered. But I had to flip that on its head when I made the decision to learn how to program. Collaborating with other techies makes your own work better; it also gives you a better chance at being hired. Companies look to see that you have contributed to open source, leadership experiences and have given back to the tech community in some way. All of these things are made easier when you are active in your local (or online!) tech communities.
Learning to code can be frustrating, difficult, and even feel defeating at times. Knowing how to ask the right questions when it comes to programming is crucial. Having a community of people, ranging from beginner to seasoned vets, to be able to ask these questions to is paramount. Google becomes your friend, but sometimes you need more than just a static answer. You need someone to take the time and walk through the problem with you. There is so much to be gained from knowing how to communicate and problem-solve effectively with other coders. There are so many online communities centered around code that getting the feedback and support you need is most likely a tweet or FB post away!
Representation matters! We all know the abysmal numbers of underrepresented/marginalized people in tech. How can one see themselves in a role/position/company when there is no one there that looks like them? All of these things can contribute to Imposter Syndrome, and we will need reminders on why it's not you, but them. When I began to learn how to code, I went to Girl Develop It classes, attended women-centered events like Ela Conf, joined inclusive groups like Tech Ladies, and began following POC/female/LGBTQ developers on Twitter. This has expanded my knowledge about tech, code, and life in ways that a classroom has not. In addition, I was creating an invaluable network of people who have already ‘gone through it’ and were rooting for me. Dealing with microaggressions, institutional oppression, and the like is flat out exhausting and having a group of people who can relate becomes necessary.
How does one go about forming their squad? For the most part, it seems to happen organically.
Volunteering is a great way to get involved, especially if you are a beginner and/or shy! I have volunteered for a number of events that put me in front of devs and designers that I admire and follow on Twitter.
Speaking of Twitter, having an online presence contributes to easy squad formation as well. Participating in Twitter chats and engaging with other coders is a simple but effective way to expand your network. Sometimes those online acquaintances become friends IRL.
Attending meetups, events, conferences and hackathons is a surefire way to meet more people in tech and make friends. If you're not volunteering, definitely aim to be participating. I attended my first hackathon a few weeks ago and connected with a teammate, who after the hackathon said she would be happy to continue helping me build out my app idea. Need I say more?!
"Strive to make the tech industry more inclusive and accepting of everyone." This is the goal. Tech literally touches everything, thus we are all affected by it. It's only right that all of us have a part in the 'how' of technology. When you have an inclusive mindset and the output to match, you will happen along like-minded individuals, and great things are bound to happen.