Personal Branding 101 for IT Professionals - Part II

By Rajesh Setty

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In the first part of this article, we talked about the need for personal branding for technology professionals. In Part II, I will focus on the "how to."

A venture capitalist wants to listen to an elevator pitch before looking into a business plan. An elevator pitch works like a great filter for a VC hard pressed for time. When you go to a networking meeting remember that people you meet over there are similar to venture capitalists. VCs have money to invest. That’s their currency.

In a networking event, people have attention to invest. Both are in limited quantities and both parties will want to get the highest return for their investment. So, when you meet someone, if whatever you say in the first 45-60 seconds is not very compelling, your new found acquaintance may switch off and decide to invest his asset (attention) somewhere else where the return on investment (ROI) may be higher.

Think about it. What are one or two things that you want someone who meets you to remember about you?

When I meet someone and I ask them "What do you do?" or "Tell me about yourself" I get to hear things like "I am a project manager" or "I am a software engineer" with almost no passion.

How do you expect me to remember yet another "project manager" or another "software engineer" when there are so many of them out there? What could you do or say to stand out from the crowd in a short time?

In a nutshell: You are your biggest asset. It is worth spending your time on preparing an elevator pitch for yourself. It will pay back big time over a long time.

The Start

It is common to demonstrate your seniority by stating the number of years of experience. We are smart and we know that it’s not the number of years of experience that counts. What really counts is what you became because of those years of experience.

In our busy work, what we typically miss is to check whether we are leveraging all those years of experience in the present job. So, the first component in designing your personal brand is leveraging of all your experience so far in your life.

The next component in the design is the thought leadership you bring to your job or your company or your industry.

The combination of these two attributes should result in a compelling “who you are” statement that is unique enough to get more attention than what a person in the commodity crowd will get.

The Works

Execution is everything. Building a personal brand is a journey and not a destination. It is always a “work in progress.” As a technology professional, there are many areas where you can focus on to start this journey. Here are few for pointers:

Design. A personal brand needs to be designed. The first thing to remember is that your lifetime is the time horizon for this exercise.

Think how your past experience and your current strengths could be leveraged to build a powerful persona over the coming years. What could you be known for? How could each of your accomplishments in the next one year contribute to this personality?

Grow. You are either growing or shrinking. There is no middle ground. What could you do on a weekly basis to contribute towards your brand? What investments can you make to yourself so that you can see measurable progress in reasonable time?

Demonstrate. Personal brand building is not a solo sport, unfortunately. How can others see, touch and feel your brand? Could you publish articles in the relevant industry journals? Can you speak at conferences? Can you start a blog on your topic of expertise and draw attention? At which “exclusive clubs” can you play a prominent role to get your name out?

Leave behind a legacy. Two questions to ask here are “How do you want to be remembered long after you are gone?” and “Are you willing to give everything to make this vision a reality?”

The Catalyst

You are always communicating even when you are not talking. Think about it. Even if you are locked up in a room away from everyone that you know, you are still communicating that you don’t want to communicate with anyone.

If that is the case, it is best to focus on becoming extremely good at communication. Relevance plays a key role in making your communications powerful. If you strive to be relevant to the people that you are communicating with at every interaction, people are eager to continue to the conversations with you.

Relevance acts as a true catalyst. Once people are open to receive communication with you, it gets easier to build your personal brand!

Rajesh Setty is the chairman of CIGNEX Technologies, an open source consulting services and software solutions company, which he co-founded in late 2000. Setty’s latest book is "Beyond Code: Learn to Distinguish Yourself in 9 Simple Steps!" (Select Books - 2005). Setty speaks and writes frequently on topics that include entrepreneurship, leadership and open source.