5 ways software product managers can develop their personal brand

We as software product managers spend a lot of time figuring out positioning statements for our products to ensure that the product brand will stick. But how about our own personal brand? Have you ever thought about your own state? After all are you not a product? – what about your own personal brand? How are you promoting it? Let us face it – vast majority of us are not going to be working for the same company for the full length of our careers – so we need to make sure we spend some time building our own personal brand.

Here are five ways you can start building your brand.

1) LinkedIn:

Are you on LinkedIn? If not, get there right now and sign up. LinkedIn is one of the premier business networking sites and you have no reason not to be there. I have used it so effectively in my last two job searches.

Now if you are on LinkedIn,

  • Is your profile up to date? Does it reflect who you are, your key accomplishments and experience that prospective employers might be looking for?
  • Do you have recommendations from people who you have worked with in the past. I like to get recommendations from different constituents that I have worked with – my bosses, my peers, development managers, QA engineers, customers etc. Your recommendations should give a 360 degree view of what you have done as a product manager. However, do not ask for recommendations from everyone you have worked with, get the bare minimum you need. More connected and more reputed these folks are on LinkedIn, more weight their recommendations carry. For example, it is very unlikely that your Marketing VP or your past CEO is going to dole out recommendations by a dozen, so a recommendation from him/her will carry more weight than from say an individual contributor. I would also stay away from recommendations that are “if you scratch my back, I will scratch yours”.
  • Look out for questions that are posted on LinkedIn to which you can provide valuable answers based on your knowledge.

2) Have a personal blog related to product management

Content used to be the king, now “fresh” content is the king and the juice that drives Google (more about that in the next bullet). Having a blog where you talk about product management related topics makes your employer convinced that you do indeed know what you are talking about. Plus the blog is testament that you can write and communicate well. Then promote your blog. But remember blogging takes commitment and time – it is easy to start a blog and then lose interest. If you are not passionate about it, don’t do it. Last thing you want to have is a dead blog.

3) Speak at conferences or meetings

Speak at user group conferences, product management conferences or product management association meetings. This will not only help you improve your presentation skills, but also help you meet other software product managers and also get your name out. You never know, hiring managers may be in the audience. You get to speak on a topic that is dear to your heart, what is more cooler than that? Please don’t leave right after you are done speaking, mingle with the audience and make new connections.

4) What does Google think about you?

If someone does a search on Google on your name, what comes up? If it is some old posting that you made on some niche discussion forum five years back, it is hurting your brand. This is where your blog (more fresh content you have, more Google loves you) and speaking engagements can help. Events publish their agenda online and these get indexed by Google.

Your profile on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites also gets indexed by Google.

5) How well connected are you?

Just being on LinkedIn does not help you. You need to start making connections. As they say, don’t wait to dig the well until you are thirsty – don’t wait to make connections until you are embarking on your job search. Here are the many ways you can start making connections:

  1. LinkedIn – colleagues, friends, acquaintances.
  2. Local product management associations
  3. Local communities
  4. Social networking – I use twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

Share, share, share – Give a whole lot without expecting anything in return. If you do this, more people will be ready to help you when you need something – whether that is an introduction to a hiring manager or a decision maker for your product.

I am sure you have other great ideas to improve one’s personal brand. I would love to hear them, let me know via comments.

Image courtesy of TalentBuzz

5 thoughts on “5 ways software product managers can develop their personal brand”

  1. Thierry – Yes, it it true that some VPs are not comfortable writing LinkedIn recommendations – the primary reason I have heard is that they get so many requests. Given a choice between a LinkedIn invite and over the phone recommendation, I would definitely prefer the latter because it carries a lot more weight than a short paragraph written about you.

  2. Great post Gopal and terrific Blog as well. Very impressive. One thing I have noticed over the past few months is that VP levels are not willing to give public linkedin recommendations but add in the same breath that they will recomend you privately when requested.

  3. Gopal, You are spot on based on my experience. I talk to more people all the time who use LinkedIn as their resume. The old adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” is taking on a whole new meaning with social networking.

    Back in 1997, Fast Company (issue 10) published an articled titled The Brand Called You, written by Tom Peters. I read the article when it first came out; it was my first introduction to the fact that we can actually develop a personal brand. Though I used some of the article’s ideas and began to “brand” myself along the way, it wasn’t until I started doing the things you discuss in this post that I saw significant progress. It requires extra time and effort, but the work pays off. -Michael

  4. I agree with all of this. More and more I think it’s important for folks to have an online profile that is current and relevant, especially in this economy when you never know when you might be making a move.

  5. Great advice Gopal!

    I’ll chime in and concur with all of it, and folks can consider mine to be another anecdotal “it works” story. Especially when working as a consultant, which sometimes feels like a perpetual job interview.

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