Why Even Successful Software Engineers Need Personal Branding

If you already have a successful career as a software engineer, you might think that there’s no real need for personal branding. Find out why it actually could make a big difference for you, and how to go about doing it! By Kave Bulambo.

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Many engineers believe that talking about themselves on professional networks is uncomfortable, sales-oriented and irrelevant to their career path. However, paying attention to your personal branding can open up unexpected opportunities like promotions or even entirely new careers.

Find out why branding yourself is important and how to use it to make a bigger name for yourself in your dev community.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What personal branding is.
  • Why it’s crucial for your career growth.
  • The steps you’ll take to begin this journey.

To start, you’ll take a look at some of the objections software developers often have to spending time on personal branding.

Making a Case for Personal Branding’s Importance

Taking time out of your busy life to build your personal brand isn’t easy. When you think about doing it, you might have one of the following reactions:

  • Why would anyone need to know about me? Doesn’t my code say enough?
  • I have too many bugs to fix and security features to maintain to spend time talking about myself.
  • I am happier seeing the result of my work than talking about it.
  • I already have a great job. Why would I bother branding myself?

However, when you start showing the desire to move up the ranks in your tech career, the conversations you begin to have with your manager and other executives change. The future of your career becomes about more than just code; instead, potential hirers or promoters want to know who you are and what additional values you bring to the table.

And guess where that insight comes from? Your personal brand.

Why Personal Branding Is Crucial for Career Growth and Development

“If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.” Zig Ziglar

In personal branding, this translates to: If people like you, they’ll hire you to join their team, but if they trust you, they will let you lead their teams.

As you begin to strategize your way into a leadership position, you’ll need more than just your expertise. The people around you need to really know who you are and why you care about the product you are building. Can you defend it or bring it out of difficult circumstances?

If you already communicate and share your views with the wider world, your values are easy to determine. By communicating your unique talents honestly and authentically, you’ll show the right opportunities how to locate you.

Many engineering teams prefer to hire Team Leaders internally because managers need to know the person pretty well, beyond code, before giving them that responsibility. In fact, many engineering leaders aren’t even coders by background; rather, they’re people who understand code and have a proven track record of valuable skills such as good communication, mentorship and interest in the industry.

Whenever you start to move toward leadership, your views about the world and your work become more important than daily tasks like coding. After all, you’re no longer simply doing your part; you’re now positioning yourself for influence. Leaders and executives need to trust you before they can hand over responsibilities to you.

To earn trust, you need to communicate who you are. Consistently.

Do you want to be sent to speak at a conference on behalf of your company? You need some proof that you’ve spoken at a meetup or that you lead team meetings. Do you want to step into team leadership? You need something that shows you’re a good mentor and handle difficult circumstances well.

Note: It’s fair to acknowledge that some organizations might not recognize your potential for many reasons. If your company refuses to acknowledge your potential despite making it as clear as you can, it might be time to look for opportunities outside your organization. At which point, your personal branding will be even more important.

So how do you go about building a personal brand as a software engineer?

Understanding Branding

Before you can start putting your personal brand to work for you, you need to understand what branding is. Branding is more traditionally used for marketing products.

Branding is a way of building a reputation for a product in the consumer’s mind. By building this brand, you “communicate the value a buyer will receive,” as Tom Peters, who is considered the father of branding, said. That is what stays at the top of your mind anytime you think about buying a particular product.

Think about the products you use and the companies you support. Apple, Toyota, Nike and other major companies use branding to create a narrative around the products they sell worldwide. They then communicate that narrative to their customers constantly, and sometimes in the most creative ways, until those customers buy in.

How Is Personal Branding Different?

Personal branding is very similar: It’s the art of creating a narrative around a person rather than a company. Unlike branding a product, personal branding does get very personal. It’s a way of making you stand out for who you are and what you stand for, as well as what you do in your profession.

Your brand comprises your mission, vision, values, and purpose. You can also go deep and add your strengths and weaknesses. This shows how unique you are — and how valuable.

Are your values known in the team or organization? For engineers, this may look like valuing clean code, ensuring an excellent testing process before launching new features, choosing to build certain software products and “paying it back” by contributing to tech communities.

These elements may seem like minor considerations in your job, but they are significant in helping people define who you are, what you stand for and, most importantly, the value you bring to the table.

At the core of personal branding is the belief that you are a unique individual who stands for specific values and ideas, and you want to bring that to the forefront of your work. You must make your skills, beliefs and values known to your team and your company if you plan to accelerate your career.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between your brand and the implementation of your brand messaging, which is what you see when people share on social media. A brand without a mission and vision will not survive; similarly, a person with great values and beliefs that no one knows about will not be top-of-mind when it comes to new opportunities.