I was recently contacted by a blogger with some questions about what advice I would give to women entering the tech field. We had a great exchange and I was able to provide a quick list of several things that I felt were important. In the days since that interview I have been thinking that I might have left out an important piece of advice: Your brand is important.
There are moments that stand out in your life. Moments where an idea solidifies, where you realize something - where it all comes together. The kind of moment that in a movie there might suddenly be a montage flashback that shows all of the pieces of your past experiences that add up to that moment. I had one of those moments with a friend of mine about six months ago.
We were at a conference and she made a really smart and funny observation and my immediate response was "you should tweet that!" I expected her response to be a laugh while picking up her phone to send this thought out into the universe, but instead - she stopped cold, turned to me and said "That's not my brand."
Now I am not in marketing, and my twitter experience up to that point had been what I thought of as a natural extension of my personality - but It made me pause. A personal brand. What does it mean? what is it for? how does it work?
One of the images in my movie-like montage that sprang to mind was a conversation I had with my leadership team when I moved from working in an office to working remotely. "Perception is everything, especially when your co-workers do not see you everyday. You need to be more present, more available, responding to questions and getting things done. We know your work ethic, and we see it -- but when that office presence is gone you need to make sure everyone sees it." This was my mandate as I moved cross-country and began my time as a remote employee.
The more I thought about it, I realized that I do have a brand, and that it started long before I ever showed up in twitter. There is a way in which one can become paralyzed by the concept of perception ie. "What will people think of me?" or liberated by it "I am going to share how I want people to think of me." The truth is - everyone has their own brand.
Thinking about personal brand and shaping it may be one of the most pivotal things that I have done with my career in the past 8 years. So what is the "Max Brand"?
- I am never afraid of learning something new.
- I am honest about what I know and what I don't.
- I love solving problems and figuring out puzzles.
- I have a passion about healthcare.
- I am even more passionate about patient care .
- I enjoy collaborative problem solving and working with groups.
- I become more informed, more aware and a better community member by being engaged in my communities: at work, on twitter & in the women's community.
There are a lot of things about me that are not a part of my "professional brand," but they are are still a strong part of who I am
- I am a Colts football fan.
- I am a parent to two incredibly smart and at times challenging young people.
- I enjoy locally sourced food and craft beers and slow cooked food.
- I have strong feelings about political and social issues.
- I am a storyteller - and my default is to use really long examples and narratives to make a point.
- Sometimes I eat pizza for breakfast and work in my pajamas.
It has taken a good bit of reflection and bravery to be able to articulate what my brand is and to draw a line around what my brand is not. This exercise has helped me to articulate myself not just on twitter but among my coworkers, clients and colleagues in a way that presents both my authentic self and my true self. It has also meant allowing myself to hear feedback and reflect on in a different way.
The great thing about a personal brand, is that it is yours. Your brand may look very different than mine - but being aware of your brand and being able to articulate it, will help the people around you be able to share the story of who you are and what you do. I am interested in your thoughts...
- Have you thought about your personal brand?
- What steps did you go through to articulate your brand?
- Does the process feel empowering?
- What kinds of feedback are helpful/not helpful in the process?