By: Yetunde Daniels Rubinstein
In 2014, I accompanied a friend to a networking event for what was then called 85 Broads. It was the first time that I remember being in the company of a community of women (and complete strangers) who support each other. That evening, I had numerous conversations with women who offered to mentor me; I absorbed the energy of many others who oozed confidence, strength, style, and power I had never witnessed. I was intrigued. Who are these women? Why are they supportive and not competitive? I felt comfortable. I had found my people — women who were boldly themselves. So I made the decision to join these women in their quest.
Over the years, I continued to be involved as 85 Broads transitioned to Ellevate Network. The introduction of the Squads program this past fall coincided with my own professional transition, so I jumped at the opportunity. Squads are small, diverse groups of like-minded women at the same stage in their career who meet weekly via video chat to get the support and insight you’re looking for to get to the next stage of your career.
I was completely unsure of what to expect. I thought, “How does this work? We’re in different industries, so how could this work? Education, my industry is often unrepresented, so is this going to be relevant to my work?” Nevertheless, I trusted my gut, pushed past the discomfort, and allowed myself to step outside of my comfort zone.
Faced with the potential of being judged, opening up professionally to a group of strangers was not easy. However, the group’s generosity, support, and the judgment-free zone we created have all provided wonderful lessons that have sustained me — actually, catapulted me — and the group serves as an ongoing source of motivation.
My Squad works because we have all made the commitment to carve out the time each week. We respectfully listen, support and offer actionable suggestions for growth. I feel a level of responsibility and accountability to my squad. In fact, this article is a direct result of my “Hot Seat” moment. It’s rare, at least for me, to present my goals, ideas, and challenges and receive support. No one questioned the validity of my ideas or challenges. However, they did ask for clarity, and offered a host of resources to help me reach my stated goals.
One of those goals was to write more. I write a fair amount for my work, but I don’t often receive feedback, and it is a skill I would love to improve. So now that I have made this desire public, and my squad is holding me accountable, I’ve upped the ante and committed to writing once a week. Whether I choose to publish my “practice” is irrelevant, and so far it has been surprising and wonderful.
Being a part of my Squad has opened my eyes to the myriad ways it can extend to my industry. What are the benefits of squads in education? What can I learn that I can teach my students? How can I partner with other women within my profession so that they can benefit from the strength of each other? Being a mentor and working with (and for the benefit of) other women is important to me, but the squad has provided a mechanism for me to be better. I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Yetunde Daniels Rubinstein is the Associate Director of College Counseling at Brentwood School.
Originally published at www.ellevatenetwork.com.