When I was preparing to speak at a Girls for Girls panel discussion last week on personal branding, I kept thinking of the beautiful audience of women I would be talking to and who just like me, have decided to take a leap and begin a journey to create or maintain a personal brand. In this first of a three part series  I will start with you on this journey of Personal branding. to bring the best version of yourself to everything you do. It is a personal journey that has nothing to do with sending the craziest tweets or having the most glamorous pictures on Instagram. It is more about defining yourself and the value you bring to the world.

Recently a friend of mine, Dr Shikoh Gitau, wrote an interesting article recently titled “The Product of Me”. Ever wondered who you are as a product?.

My first thought to myself was; every week I spend my time coming up with creatively designed products and make sure they are governed by certain “business rules”. I take so much time trying to ensure that all the rules that could possibly be associated with this product have been covered. The colors must be just right, the product must be easy to use and navigate. It is important to get the design right to ensure that customers like it and download to use it, otherwise product uptake takes a nosedive. This is my product design process!

Have you ever thought of yourself as a product? Do you have a clear picture of yourself and who you are?

To be able to define “Product me” you must be able to strip yourself and be real with yourself and start answering the hard questions like Who am I? What are my skills – technical or soft?  strengths? weaknesses? What unique set of qualities do I bring to the table that set me apart from everyone else? Who is in my room? What do I consider success?

To begin the journey of personal branding you must commit to understanding your superpower, what your values are and have an intimate knowledge of the things that you are passionate about. You must be honest with yourself and do a 360- degree evaluation often.  I hope you have had an opportunity during this lockdown to self-reflect and write down the things you have discovered about yourself in a private journal. I enjoy journaling and I have kept journals from as far back as when I could write and I have written some of my biggest and scariest dreams I have ever had.

In addition, remember that “product me” does not function well alone. You need to have a good village around you that will support product version 2.0. This means it is important to identify who will support your journey emotionally, mentor you, encourage you and give you honest feedback. Take your time to ask your family and friends what they think of you; Ask them what is the one thing they can rely on you to do well? and what is the one thing they cannot rely on you to do? This will give you insights on what you need to work on. Feedback at every iteration of “product me” is very important so keep an open mind to both the positive and negative feedback.

Secondly, Have a statement or a mantra for yourself that is positive and that you will live by for that year or even more.  You can pick one from a part of your character or values that you would like to accentuate, work on or something that you are already good at. Examples of powerful personal vision statements are available to act as a guide. Your personal branding statement answers the question: How do I want the world to see me?

Creating a personal branding statement is extremely important, it acts as your compass and helps you focus on the most important things in your life. This statement is best written in first person and can also be used on social profiles like LinkedIn. See some examples here and here.

Lastly, after having a good understanding of yourself and building your personal branding statement it is time to understand what your motivation for personal branding is. We all aim for different life goals for example to make money, the will to make the world a better place, the professional skill to make a contribution, the need to show the world that you are good at something or the thrill of it. The popular book, Start With Why, by Simon Sinek has an interesting title which has since become a popular phrase; and today I will ask the same of you “Find your Why” and once you understand your why, then the personal branding journey can begin.

In the interesting world of product development we stop and check if the product is working as it should, if our customers like it and if there are bugs. When we find bugs we go back to the drawing board and find a solution and build new code. Our creativity also drives us to find new features to add to “product me” and with every “software development sprint” we will have new features and bug free code to add and a new version is born.

With that I will go ahead and ask you one last question; after a 360 degree self-evaluation, and a long hard look in the journal or mirror, (or even the ceiling) – what new features will you be adding to “Product Me, v2.0” and what bugs will you be correcting as you prepare to relaunch yourself? Just remember it is not a single day’s journey and all you have to do is start.