If I’ve learned anything from going through a trauma, it’s that it takes time to heal, you have to be patient with yourself, and that community matters. And I can’t help but re-experience what I went through before now, but with everyone else experiencing it along with me. And it’s weird because we’re all experiencing this in different ways, whether we have kids home now, we’ve lost our jobs, we’ve not been able to take care of loved ones, or we’ve enjoyed a slowed pace and had opportunities to reconnect with others; we’re all experiencing it differently. But one of the hardest parts about going through trauma, is the feeling of being isolated. Before, I thought I was the only one who had gone through a birth trauma like I had–I wasn’t far off, it was extremely rare. Now, the world around me is experiencing trauma. But that doesn’t mean we don’t feel isolated.
We’re losing our community all around us. We aren’t going into work, or we’ve lost our jobs and we don’t get to see the people we saw on a daily or weekly basis. Many of us are living with a shelter-in-place order where we can’t go out and see our friends or family. We’re isolated from the lives we were living six weeks ago.
So here’s the thing, community is more important now than it was six weeks ago. Because community allows you to be a part of something. It gives you a safe place to grow and feel helpless and to lift others up. It gives us a sense of belonging outside of ourselves.
For me, the tech community was a huge part of my healing process. The tech community welcomed me in when I felt broken and worthless and fragile. They cheered me on when I learned how to get “Hello World” on the screen for the first time and when I graduated bootcamp and got my first job. And after the emotional roller coaster and chaos of the last three weeks, I’ve found that familiar comfort with talking to other people in the tech community. On Friday, I was lucky enough to have virtual coffee with ten developers, most of whom I’ve never met before. I was inspired by a pre-pandemic virtual coffee with Kyle Welch. All or most of us were job searching either because we had lost our jobs or we were looking for first or new opportunities. We learned from each other. We built community. And we left that fifty minute coffee break knowing that we had the support of each other.
This is why I’m baffled by seeing so many companies laying off their community builders right now. It doesn’t make sense. This is when we need community builders more than ever. We need to be distracted by the cool things devs can do with your tools. We need to see and understand the practical applications that we can use to help others during this really vulnerable time. We need people that help us feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, a community.
I couldn’t sleep last night, so I was flipping through some articles until I could stop my mind from flying a million miles a minute when I came across this article that talked about Mark Cuban’s take on firing people. He said, “You can’t fire people by email in this period. You’ve got to communicate. Even if you have a thousand employees you have to work through HR and touch each one of them personally.” But what really hit me the most was this line, “[You’ve] got to be cognizant of the reality that what do you do as a company today is how you will be branded for the next decade if not more.” This. This, people. If you let go of the people who are helping you to create relationships and trust with developers, it’s going to take you a long time to recover that. And it’s going to take a long time for us to recover together.
Now is the time to find new ways to approach the world. Look at the needs. Look at the most vulnerable. How can you bring us all closer together? What tools do you have that could aid the support staff, whether hospitals or those who serve the most vulnerable populations. How can you rethink what you’re doing to bring us together, to help us to heal as a community? These are the kinds of questions that show a growth-mindset. These are the kinds of questions that create trustworthy bonds. These are the kinds of questions that allow you to develop a long-term supportive community.
We’re in this together. Be kind to yourself and to others. This week, take some time to set-up or join a virtual coffee. Get to know someone else in the community. Ask someone how they’re doing. Connect with former co-workers you miss. And please, stop laying off your community builders.