Monday, September 22, 2008

When To Retire Your Brand

Building a brand takes a lot of effort, but I think the payoff justifies the investment. Having a strong brand definitely helped me find a fun and very well paying job. So now that I have a dream job (@ DRW Trading), what should I do with my brand?

I have to confess, I didn't start writing because I wanted share information. I started writing because I wanted to build a big brand, find a great job, and enjoy life. Somewhere along the way I began to enjoy writing and the positive results that came from knowledge sharing. Someone once said to me "I write better tests because of your blog". Obviously I was happy to hear that kind of feedback. At the same time it wasn't the reason I got started down this path.

I love to program. I also love to be in shape (which I'm not) and learn other languages (which I haven't been doing lately).

Now that I have my dream job, I've been spending more time doing the other things I love. Unfortunately, I found that between learning an interesting domain, going to the gym, and learning Italian, there's not much time left for blogging. I also find that since I'm doing all the things I love, I don't really like to be away presenting at conferences.

I thought it might be time to declare success on the brand building project, and move on to new pursuits... But, I was wrong.

The largest reason I can't quit writing and presenting is that I enjoy giving back to the community. Seeing a blog entry get 8,000 hits in one day causes an amazing feeling. Giving a presentation and getting feedback that says "Probably the best presentation at the conference" definitely makes you feel good about what you are doing. Seeing an idea become committed as the way to do something will definitely make you smile. I truly enjoy spreading ideas (or at least attempting to spread ideas) that help the community evolve.

Blogging and presenting also help me personally improve. The easiest way to get feedback on something is to put it out there. I considered several of my testing ideas to be "the right way" for far too long. Putting them down as blog entries resulted in further evolution of the ideas as well as a greater understanding of how context determines the correct approach. Simply writing about my ideas improves them. One thing we aren't short of is people to tell you you're wrong.

Your brand is also valuable to your employer. Employing people with name recognition improves your organization's ability to recruit talented new hires. This also directly benefits you, since you'll be given the opportunity to work with more talented teammates. At the moment, DRW is looking to hire the absolute best people in the industry. I wish I had an even stronger brand, so I could help attract the top talent.

Ultimately I came to the conclusion that building a brand is a career long activity. You can stop at any time, but getting that free time back comes at cost to your profession.
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