Building Your Brand Right

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I was interviewed yesterday by Stephen Wynkoop (twitter) for the upcoming SSWUG Virtual Conference on May 23rd. One of the questions was about how to keep management engaged on continued security efforts and countermeasures. The point of the question was simple: once an organization listens to its security folks and puts in the countermeasures and no breaches happen, how do security folks continue to get funding and project approval? My response back was it security’s continued success centers about trust and building the proper relationships.

When we build our own personal brands, whether intentionally or not, we establish what people think of us. Ultimately it boils down to trust and relationships. There’s a right way to build a brand and there are plenty of wrong ways. I like what Goldie Chan wrote in 10 Golden Rules of Personal Branding. Several of her rules are tied to the idea of trust. For instance: #2 Be Genuine, #6 Create a Positive Impact, and #8 Live Your Brand.

If you’re in IT, at some point you’re going to reach a point in your career where getting things done requires more than just excellent technical skills. Many of us are already there. You have to have solid “soft” or interpersonal skills. We can point to plenty of examples were shady people were able to advance, but at some point they get exposed. They key is to have a brand that people around you trust. If you aren’t doing at least those 3 golden rules of the 10 Ms. Chan listed, it’s going to be hard to gain that required trust.

Brand is about more than getting Microsoft to recognize you as an MVP. It’s about more than getting accepted as a speaker or being the “smartest person in the room.” Brand is also what people think of you. When you think of your personal brand, ask the question, “What do people around me actually think of me?” I can guarantee you that if you do this often enough, you’ll see the areas which you need to improve in. And here’s the thing about brand: if folks see you are striving to get better, especially in interpersonal skills, you will get the benefit of the doubt from a good number. They’ll give you some time to show that you can live up to their expectations and are worthy of their trust. That will eventually lead to another golden rule listed in the article: #9 Let Other People Tell Your Story.

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