I am increasingly being asked by members of my team how they can further themselves within the company. As I discussed in Do You Really Want to be a Development Team Leader many people believe this means they have to move into a leadership role. While this is certainly an option – and a popular one – it is not the only track to follow. You could choose to become a technical specialist, an architect or even a technical salesperson. But whatever path you choose to follow your ability to achieve it will be dependent on how you develop your own personal brand – in other words the way you portray yourself to others will directly reflect the opportunities that are presented to you.
Understanding your brand is incredibly empowering. You realise that you are more in control of your future than you might otherwise have thought. You realise that a solid brand engenders trust and that trust is the first step to being given the opportunities to succeed and grow.
The Brand Within
Determining your own brand (and we all have one) is sometimes more difficult than you’d think. Primarily because your brand is determined by the way other people interpret your actions and behaviours. An individual’s internal brand, the way they see themselves, can often be quite different. For example, a developer may have an internal image of themselves as the god-coder who everyone should respect but is inadvertently portraying themselves as arrogant and unapproachable.
Perhaps the best way to understand the brand you have or want to attain is to think of those people around you and describe their personal brands. In this sense it makes most sense to examine positive brands.
When I think of those around me this is what I see in the most successful people.
The Rock – put this person in any situation and they’ll remain calm and collected. Nothing ruffles their feathers. They know that IT is hard, they don’t get frustrated when things go wrong (and something always does), they are the first one to be selected for the tough assignments. They typically have lots of experience to draw on, are good communicators and make great leaders.
The Go-To-Guru – this person has typically specialised in an area of technology and knows everything about it. They are the first person you think of when you need an answer to a tough problem. They are typically well known in the industry, have active blogs, present at conferences and user groups and their expertise is called upon beyond the company’s walls.
The All Rounder – this person is the one who seems to have an understanding of everything. There’s nothing they don’t have an opinion or haven’t worked with. This brand is an increasingly rare one with the ever increasing array of technologies in the industry. Also referred to as the "Jack of All Trades” this person is a great asset to any team and can sometimes move into a more architectural role. Their breadth of knowledge means they can choose the most appropriate technologies to solve any given problem. This can also mean they are good in front of clients or in pre-sales opportunities.
The Innovator – this person has their finger on the pulse of all that’s new and cool. They are great motivators amongst the team and love using ]cutting edge technology. This person is often business savvy and can be a great asset in drumming up new business or extending a business into new areas.
Sure and Steady – while they often lack the drive and ambition of others this person is incredibly reliable. Give them anything and they’ll get it done. They don’t complain, are good team players and getting on with everyone.
So start selling yourself through your brand and watch the doors opening up for you.