Branding Your Identity

It's important to know that having an engaging community presence is far more beneficial than experience alone.

Think how the web has evolved. There are so many technologies that it is impossible to know everything.

Yet recruiting is largely based on experience, instead of the ability to learn something new quickly. Although the former is important, the latter should be taken into account especially if you consider how technologies keep changing at such a rapid rate.

There's no shortage of software developers. In 2013, TechRepublic estimated there to 18.5 million software developers in the world.

So if you want to stand out in this competing market, without having to know everything, then you can turn to marketing.

My failure

But let's face it. It's something most developers are bad at, and I know. I have tried and failed time and time again.

My attempts at blogging were so bad that in 10 years I had 4 blogs—that failed. In total I had about 20 posts.

  • I didn't stick to a schedule
  • Others were already writing about what I wanted to write about
  • Each post took long to write
  • My topics weren't focused so my posts were sort of random
  • I doubted myself too much

I declined opportunities to speak at events and conferences because:

  • I didn't feel qualified enough
  • I didn't know what to present or talk about
  • I didn't believe in myself
  • I have a phobia for public speaking

As I doubted myself so much, I'd panic during interviews and tests, and If I got the job, I'd have to build my reputation from the ground up as people didn't know who I was and what I was technically capable of.

My realization

With time I came to realize that having an engaging community presence is far more beneficial than experience alone. The more value you add to the community, the more exposure you get. This attracts opportunities.

But I was held back by fear which stemmed mainly from self doubt. This had to stop. If I wanted to make a name for myself in the community, I'd have to push past those fears.

My journey

So I adjusted my mindset. I started looking at marketing myself as more of a journey with small steps I could take to gradually build my reputation.

I officially started my journey in 2014 by attending meetups and engaging more with the community.

  • I'm now more active on Twitter
  • I'm writing an article for A List Apart
  • I'm consistent on my blog
  • And I presented my first talk at Jozi-JUG on 4 June 2016

Admittedly it's easier to get started if you have help. I started my blog by taking a course from John Sonmez and he personally guided and motivated me through this step. It's a free three week email course that I would encourage any software developer to take.

I contributed 18 posts to my blog in the first month. That's 2 posts shy from my decade of attempts.

The benefits

But there is more to marketing yourself than just your reputation. This is the crux of the reasoning behind why I started doing this.

You get exposure

You get exposed to other developers which gives you the opportunity to learn and grow from the greatest minds all over the world.

By being engaged with your local software community, people start acknowledging your skills. Eventually, you won't be starting at a company or team in your organization without a reputation.

You are challenged

By sharing what you learn, people offer you feedback. This keeps you challenged.

Embrace the positive feedback you get and look at the negative feedback objectively. You can extract learning points from both to improve.

If people offer you constructive criticism, they offer you the opportunity to improve.

When you put an idea out there, your idea could be countered with a different perspective. This opens new avenues of thinking.

You create living documentation

By being consistent, you create living documentation. This is more powerful and engaging than a CV.

It's also a great reference for later in life to see how you've grown; something I wish I had now. It's also a great personal reference for things you may have encountered in the past that you may now have forgotten.

Your confidence grows

Learning from the community is much faster than learning everything on your own.

By continuously interacting and engaging with the community, you are bound to see your confidence levels grow.

Anyone can start

Remember that technologies keep changing so you don't have to be an expert to start sharing what you learn.

Start writing about what you learn while you are learning it and share it with the community.

If you want to see a great example on how someone started without being an expert and how living documentation was created then check out Iris Classon's blog.

Platforms

When you are comfortable with your chosen platform and you are ready to branch out, then try other platforms:

  • Create a blog
  • Appear on a podcast / video interview
  • Create your own videos or podcasts
  • Write an article for your favorite website
  • Create a tutorial
  • Speak at an event/meetup

My final thoughts

I'm not saying this is going to be easy, in fact it's a lot of hard work with many ups and downs and it can be absolutely terrifying putting yourself out there.

But software development isn't just about your technical skills, so take it one step at a time.


Most of the content here formed part of my Ignite talk that I presented a Jozi-JUG on 4 June 2016. Although the slides are mainly images, you can still access them here{:target="_blank"}. I've compressed the images quite a bit so quality is lacking.

As I have such a phobia, I reached out to the community to figure out how I could cope with my fears of public speaking. This helped me prepare for the day of my delivery which went quite well.