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I Don't Worry about My Brand

And I guess the experts would say that I probably should. I know that the professional development presentations by Steve Jones (blog | twitter) and Andy Warren (blog | twitter) and the posts by Brent Ozar (blog | twitter) all say that I should. But I haven't. And I don't think I will actively worry about it. Maybe this goes against the spirit of the Un-SQL topic on Branding, but let me explain why I don't worry about branding.

Branding is about Marketing

And this is something I'm admittedly terrible at. Other people market me better than I market myself. I could improve on the self-marketing, but I think I've done better spending that time on developing my skills, making friends, and just doing what I do. This all indirectly develops my brand, and I realize that, and it does so at a pace which is acceptable to me. It comes to a time vs. reward type of decision. My time is already limited. I effectively have two full time jobs with no overlap between them. So spending additional time worrying about brand is not something that's important to me.

But you aren't me. And so you need to make the decision for yourself. I would highly suggest that you go and read what the others have to say about branding. For your personal goals, branding may be very important. And investing time in building your brand may have a better time vs. reward for you than it does for me. So what I'm saying here is do your own thinking on this one. How much do you invest in your brand? Only you can make that call.

I'm a Youth Pastor

Or I'm a children's pastor. Those have been the two strongest callings on my life. Not everyone believes as I do. That's fine, because it's what I believe. Don't get me wrong. I love SQL Server. I love Active Directory. I love IT security. I love Perl and I'm growing to love Powershell. But my strongest love will be working with children and youth and helping them grow into fine young men and women. When you ask me what my strongest identity is with respect to "work," it's going to ministry-related. I know that turns some people off. I can't apologize, because that wouldn't be sincere. So going back to that time vs. reward proposition, does it make sense for me to work on my IT brand when my biggest passion is children's and youth ministry? No. And I don't believe as a minister I have a right to work on my brand as a minister. Something just seems wrong about that one (and I have the Scripture to back it up). But when it comes to you, ask that all important question, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" That helps determine what to do with your brand.

But Brian, You Are Working on Your Brand!

Not really. I'm doing things that help build a brand. But my motivation behind them has nothing to do with branding. When I write, like when I decided to participate in the Un-SQL challenge, I do so because I feel compelled to write. I want to write. I love to write. So I write. When I present, it's because I love helping others. I love talking about things I'm passionate about. And I love learning. Those three things all go together into presenting. So I present. My presentations aren't calculated. I don't look to do X number because it might mean I become an INETA Community Champion. Back last year I set a goal of a number of presentations to give because I wanted to challenge myself to grow as a speaker. This year, growing as a speaker was pretty low on my priority list. So I didn't set goals around that. It's not that being a better speaker isn't important to me. It's that there were so many other things that were of higher priority, a lot of them ministry related.

If you are looking at building your brand, consider not only what works, but what you will enjoy working on. You're looking to try and do things that get check marks in both columns. Blogging builds brand. But if you hate blogging, skip it. Don't let your motivation solely be about your brand. You want to have passion to do something. You will do it better if you do.

The Bottom Line

Figure out what you want to be. Determine what it takes to get there. Consider the cost. If it's worth it to you, go for it. And that includes working on your brand.


K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.


Posted by Bobby D. on 19 November 2010

It seems to me that you (speaking in general, not KBK) have a brand whether you want one or not.  "Brand" has become the new buzzword for what I've been calling, "Perception Management".  How do my co-workers perceive me?  My peers?  My family?  Those from whom I will require assistance in some future endeavorer?  The one commonality in all of these scenarios -- the one thing that you have control over -- is you.  So why not weight the scale in your favor?

If what you are doing works for you, and includes you being perceived the way you wish -- do that!  For those of us who never quite developed the "right" social skills, or those of us who want to develop our career in a different direction, perception management (or "brand") can be very important.

That having been said, I completely agree with your bottom-line.  Your goals are you own -- as is how you achieve them.  Don't sell yourself (or sell yourself short) for a short-term gain that might have a low pay-off in the long term.  Do what you do because you enjoy it, because it is your passion, and because it makes waking up on a cold, wet, Monday morning worthwhile.

Posted by Jen McCown on 19 November 2010

Not only is this EXACTLY in the spirit of the Un-SQL event - remember, I said "however the subject strikes you" - it's also refreshing to hear from the anti-brand POV (or at least, the brand-neutral POV).

Adam Machanic's un-sql blog on branding is one of the very best I've read so far, and this struck me: "I do not believe that everyone should bother putting in the work required to get their name on the radar. For many people the reward is simply not worth the investment."  (sqlblog.com/.../un-sql-friday-don-t-be-a-port-in-the-storm.aspx)

Looks like you fall into this category.

I will say, however, that you've pointed to yet another spectrum of branding - the effort to sincerity spectrum.  Understand that Sean and I don't write, blog, video, and webcast primarily to build the MidnightDBA brand. It is something we consider, sure, but we do all of that because of the good it does us: self-education, helping others, and above all, fun.

Thanks for playing!


Posted by K. Brian Kelley on 19 November 2010


 I'm not anti or neutral brand so much as I just put it in the list of other things we have to prioritize. For me, the brand builds because of what I do because I love to do it (just like you and Sean). Brent actively works his brand (and Adam does, too). I love those guys and what they share. If you were to ask me who I've learned the most from in the last 5 years, it is Adam. They have very good reasons to build their brand. Adam isa consultant and that gets him the gig. Brent wanted to ensure he always had excellent options for a career path. So actively working their brand should have been and should be high on their priority list. :-)

Posted by Steve Jones on 19 November 2010

I think you are building a brand, and I think you are careful about it. It's who you are, and it shows in your writing, blogging, etc.

Building a career brand isn't necessarily about doing anything more than you do now, and it isn't about being popular. It's (to me) about presenting who you are, what you know, how you work/think, and what type of person you are.

Posted by mwalsh9815 on 19 November 2010

Thanks for the post, Brian. I wasn't going to contribute even though I had thoughts but you inspired me to post anyway, even if some thoughts are the same as yours and the rest are still only half developed. Just posted a rambling contribution :-)

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