Why Found a Tech Squad?
Welcome to Cherry on Tech! This is a post about my experience joining a tech squad and what it means to me to be a Cherry on Tech.
Together with four other cherries, I founded Cherry On Tech in the summer of 2020. We are a tech squad - a group of people who want to help each other advance in our careers, continue learning together, and provide support and accountability. The idea came from Mo Hampton's talk, "Breaking into Tech From the Trenches." If you want to know more about what Cherry On Tech is doing, or if you are interested in starting your own tech squad, get in touch!
What is a tech squad?
For me, a tech squad means a group of people committed to helping each other enter, and level up in, the tech industry. We assume different tech roles so we can make portfolio projects that are more impactful and more fun. We lean on one another when we are feeling down and we celebrate each other's successes.
How did it all start?
At JuneteenthConf 2020, software engineer Mo Hampton gave the talk, "Breaking into Tech From the Trenches," which detailed some of her journey making a mid-career pivot into tech from a non-traditional background as a United States Army veteran, a Black woman, and a mother. As part of her suggestions on networking, Hampton talks about finding a tech squad. Hearing her advice to find the people with whom you can share your insecurities and receive honest feedback was absolutely inspiring.
Being an avid overthinker, I just sat with that wisdom for a bit. Then, sometime in July 2020, designer Julieth Fajardo posted on a slack group for women in tech. She wanted to know if anyone wanted to get together and do a project together. When we met, we decided to make the project an ongoing thing. We liked the idea of becoming a tech squad, and the rest is history (or rather, the rest is for another blog post).
Why join a tech squad?
Lifelong learning...out loud
Tech professionals are often pictured alone, coding without interacting. In my experience, that's pretty far from the truth. I spend almost as much time working with my teammates as I do working alone. We give and receive feedback, discuss problems and ideas, and pair program (a lot!). We support each other with information, understanding, and lots of GIFs.
Outside of work, this kind of closeness is harder to find. I want to demonstrate the skills that I am developing with real projects. I also want to teach others what I do know. For me, working collaboratively is the best way to achieve both of those objectives. Doing this work out loud means we can demonstrate skills to employers and inspire community members who want to do something similar.
Support and accountability
I want support and accountability from a few people who really know me - they've seen my features and my bugs. I want people who can see me in my weaker moments and help me out - whether through giving me reality checks, technical advice, or just their vote of confidence.
I also want to give support and accountability. I have been in tech for several years, and now it's my turn to open the gates even wider. I meet with other cherries often, and I can see the ongoing impact of our interactions. The resources, mentors, and opportunities that I can suggest are better tailored to their situations. The help that I can offer them as they face their own worries and insecurities comes earlier, and more often. To me, this relationship feels more sustainable than offering help on a one-off basis.
Giving each other support and accountability reminds us that we're not alone, and that we do, in fact, know some stuff. (Plus, it reminds us to double check what we think we know!)
Preparation for the job market
Right now I have a job I love, and I hope that doesn't change! That said, I strongly believe in being prepared for a changing market - if not for myself, then in order to support our other squad members.
Especially for people new to tech, jobs can be super hard to find. One part of a strong resume is a portfolio of projects. Working as a squad, I think we will create better, more joyful, more robust projects. In making our code and our process open on Github and Github Projects, we'll demonstrate not only our technical chops, but our skills at communicating across roles.
Many of the other cherries are currently on the job market, and it is part of my mission to help them get jobs they love, too. (If you are looking to hire, send us a DM on Twitter!)
Super awesome! What now?
This is just the beginning! Cherry on Tech is a relatively new tech squad. We're creating our website, blog, and glossary. We're getting to know each other and how we work best together. If you are interested in keeping up with our progress (and being among the first to play with our creations), feel free to follow us on Twitter or sign up for updates.