FYI: The first part of this post is just me talking about myself (unlike all my other posts… coughcough), where and who I am, and how all that can be fed into creating a personal brand. Skip to the end for the outcomes, if you like. 🙂
One of the many things I decided after TestBash is that I want to be a cool testy person who helps, advises and mentors others. Obviously for that I need to become a cool testy person with advice and knowledge to help others with, but pfshh!
In the meantime, one thing I can do is build my presence so people know I’m attempting to one day be that cool testy person who knows lots of stuff. I’ve had this blog site for a while now (a year, I know because I had the bill this month) and it’s slowly becoming a more outward-facing beast rather than the just-for-me documentation it was born to be. In light of that, I’ve been assessing myself and the site to make sure that it’s a true reflection of my personality and goals.
Building a personal brand vision
It all started (or this iteration of it did) when my line manager sent me an article on creating your Personal Brand Vision. I’ve only done the first section, since it took a while for feedback, and at first I was a bit sceptical. I’m not totally convinced by the usefulness of flowery introspective exercises, but they’re fun – and I love thinking, talking and writing about myself, so I got into it pretty quickly.
According to the article, the first step in creating your brand vision (ooh, fancy) is to define who you are. You start by building your own definition – what are your values, passions and ideal traits?
This was easy enough. I quickly scribbled some answers, keen to speed through the exercise. I value friends, community, tolerance and self-improvement. BISH! I am passionate about testing, development and mentorship professionally, and digital art, fanfiction and fantasy worlds in the personal realm. BASH! My ideal traits are open-mindedness, charisma and moral courage. BOSH! Moving on.
And then you do something truly awful and terrifying, a task so unbelievably difficult and emotionally trying that it makes you shiver… You ask other people what they think your values and passions are.
So I did it. I asked three groups: colleagues who I’ve worked with for the last year; friends who I’ve known closely for three or more years; and acquaintences I met this year. I didn’t feel at all pretentious asking (and even tweeted the question) until answers started coming in and I realised people were saying nice things I wanted to hear, which was mortifying.
Now that I had a bunch of paragraphs or bullet-pointed lists (thank you, listers) I just needed to sort through them to see which values came up most often and then see if those match up to how I perceive myself, and want to be perceived by others.
I love me a rubbish spreadsheet, so I made a matrix of the values and traits that were noted by two or more people. There were many more that people brought up that I think strongly match the way I see myself, but if only one person said it then it didn’t get into the sheet.
I ended up getting more answers for traits than values, but I’ve tried to join them together into groups – eg anything around being a show-off who enjoys entertaining and being a smiley and energetic person went into “Performance”, and anything that involved being myself, honesty or following through on promises went into “Authenticity”.
What I found really interesting is that although some traits were shared across groups, such as empathy, creativity and authenticity – others were quite different between friends and colleagues. Every single long-time friend answered that my strength of will and determinedness (or “bloody-mindedness“) were a core tenet of my identity, but this was only mentioned in passing by two in the colleagues group. At the same time, two thirds of my colleagues said I was a big performer, while all of my friends better know me better as a lifeless lump of rock who would rather sit in the corner reading a book than actually interact with another human being.
The next exercise was simply to compare my view against that of others. Do I present the version of me I think I do, or do people get a totally different vibe?
They matched up pretty well, although I hadn’t thought of authenticity at all. In retrospect, it is something that I value a lot and maybe I rushed through the exercise too quickly or I’d have thought of it earlier. As for my ideal traits, it seems that other people don’t see me as the beacon of justice and righteousness, protector of the light just yet. I guess I need to work on ‘moral courage’ a bit more, but then I work in both advertising and gambling so maybe I don’t have a moral compass any more. I’d also have liked that my passion for learning would have been higher, so that’s something I can work on projecting more. As it is though, I’m fairly happy with Creativity, authenticity and determination being my key ‘brand’ traits because I don’t want to push something less me.
Building a practical brand vision
Ok ok so look at that, wow I did a bunch of intro/extrospection and isn’t that all lovely, how great for me that I now know what other people think of me – but what actual use is it?
Well it’s as much use as you put it to, I guess. I took those three main characteristics, and have evaluated my site and design choices (within the scope of what I can do using wordpress templates) to see how well they match up. Would someone visiting the site for the first time think I’m those things? Would they know what I care about and value as an individual?
I decided the answer was “sort of”. The bright colours and consistent use of red text and outlines show energy, creativity and a bit of humour. Every time I draw myself, I use the colours of my hair at the time of drawing so it changes often, but that’s balanced by the consistency of the glasses and cheeky/clueless tongue-sticking-out. So far as authenticity goes, that’s as honest a picture of me as could possibly be given.
On the other hand, the plain red outline header I put in as a placeholder didn’t match with the rest of the site, especially since it includes an outdated list of things I thought I was going to be learning when I first started the blog. So I decided a new header image was in order.
Anyone who follows me on twitter probably saw the rounds of voting that went on for this, since I thought it’d be fun for the people who read my blog to decide which was most suited for it. I really love how happily the testing community jumps on this kinda thing, as so many people gave great insight at this stage. I feel lucky once again that I got the MoT scholarship to go to TestBash Brighton so I could meet such amazing people.
After a really close battle between 2 and 3 (in which only one person agreed with me that 1 is the best) – the former being more fun, the latter more techie-looking, the cheeky number 2 juuust won out. I’m quite happy with this, as it shows my core identity a bit better – it’s creative and honest, although I suppose it doesn’t show determination well.
I then went about looking at which other parts of the site are outdated. Actual people were never supposed to come here, so it didn’t really matter before. I found that the non-blog pages are a bit dull and outdated, and I talk about myself in the third person for some inexplicable reason. This is going to be my next focus, since the About Bruce page especially should be the one that best displays what I stand for. My current plan for this is to create a comic strip with updated information about myself, my goals and the site in general. I’ll add a fun story-like description as alt text for screenreading folk, too.
I’d also like to pull in some of my other passions to make this site a better reflection of my personality and goals so I’ve been thinking for a while about what kind of side project I’d like to do. Maybe interviews or an art project. I’ve drawn mindmaps, made plans, thought out the potential challenges and benefits of each – but on a whim I went ahead and created the Dungeons and Testing page instead. Plans are made to be thrown in the bin and burnt to ash, right? Right.
The page shows an intro and character sheet for analysing your level at different testing-related skills in a Dungeons and Dragons style, but it’s very much a work in progress.
I guess my main focus at the moment is in ensuring that the site and its content are as representative of me as possible. That means over-the-top levels of creative energy, passion for what I’m trying to achieve and as much honesty about it as I can put in one place – the highs of achievement, the lows of failure and the middling bits of quiet slogging along.
Here’s to another year of UndevelopedBruce, I guess!
4 thoughts on “Building a personal brand”
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Your approach to personal branding was very different to mine. You thought about who you are, and then reached out to different groups of people to get their opinions.
I just decided that pirates are cool, did lots of amazing things, and I want to emulate them.
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Yeah but pirates ARE cool. They are very cool. My dad swears that we’re related to Barti Ddu, which I suppose could be true because a lot of my distant relatives on his side claim the same xD