My friend Jen McCown of MidnightDBA fame issued a challenge last week called “Un-SQL Friday”. The inaugural topic is on branding. Although I've written a little about personal branding over the years, I don't pretend to be an expert, but I have learned a thing or two that works for me. As I mentioned in a comment on Brent Ozar's blog post on this topic, I believe that branding is a highly individual process and must be tailored for the person, their goals, and the environment they are in.
Again, since I'm not an expert on this topic, take the following with a grain of salt. And before you read the following, be assured that I’m a strong proponent for effective personal branding for the upwardly mobile technical professional. However, I’m to play devil's advocate here and tell you why you shouldn’t bother with branding.
Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this…
Personal Branding: The Counterexample
I have an acquaintance who also works in IT, in a different segment of the market. He's been working as a technical professional for a number of years, longer than I have, so he knows his way around and has build up a considerable amount of knowledge specific to his role. From what I've learned about his work ethic, he's reasonably dependable and honest. He's a highly analytical person with adequate communication skills.
And when it comes to personal branding, my advice to him would be simple: don't bother.
You see, this person is one of "those" IT people, the stereotypical basement geeks who can't stand to deal with
users people in general. What little writing he does is rarely technical; rather, it usually involves a rant against end users, software vendors, company management, or society in general. In person and in writing, he sends a clear don't-bother-me message. Further, despite his strong technical aptitude, he’s resistant to learning new technologies. His negative attitude, not his natural ability or experience, is the overwhelming theme of his professional self.
Personal branding is not about creating a new virtual persona to make yourself appear to be something other than you are. Rather, it's a megaphone through which you can project further the message you're already sending. If you're ambitious, capable, and positive, then by all means, broadcast it! If, on the other hand, you're like the former colleague I described above, any honest personal branding is more of a detriment than an asset.
Tongue in Cheek?
A bit. It's probably true that most people of the professional caliber described above don’t spent a lot of time reading blogs for personal edification (particularly not this measly corner of the intertoobz), so this message may fall on deaf ears. Still, the point remains: although most professionals can yield some benefit from personal branding, there are a few who simply shouldn’t bother.