At The Source, my brand new collaborative and co-creational platform for women in cyber, we’re known for saying,
“Be you in the workplace.”
But in order to do that, you need to understand and leverage off the power of you. That means getting clear on what you stand for, crafting a message, telling stories, and becoming known. In other words, actively building your personal brand. Now, this is one of my favourite topics, as it’s hugely important and especially for women and anyone leading. Here’s why.
When we look at women, becoming recognised and known (i.e. visible) incredible things happen. In fact, researchers say visibility is the single most important thing a woman can do to rapidly advance herself in her career. Unfortunately, as much as we’d all like to believe it, the workforce is not a meritocracy, and sadly women, and especially mothers are expected to prove their worth in ways that men are not. Just like other industries and professions, in cyber, women are still being judged on competence rather than potential, like men.
In cyber it takes longer for women to advance, whether into leadership roles or not, and gain pay parity. (ISC)2’s research in 2021, ’In Their Own Words: Women and People of Color Detail Experiences Working in Cybersecurity,’ highlights the division women and people of colour in cyber face, and I encourage you to read it if you’ve not done so already.
Outside of cyber, the non-profit leadership group, Catalyst, has researched the effects of visibility and found that women who are most proactive in making their achievements visible, advance further, are more satisfied with their careers, and have greater compensation growth than women who are less focused on calling attention to their successes.
So, to advance at the same speed as men (or faster), to eliminate the likelihood of having to negotiate your worth, and to reduce the risk of being unfairly paid, women must take charge of their personal brand and stop buying into the myth that studying, gaining more qualifications and certifications, or working harder will make it easier. They won’t.
Recruiters and hiring managers are online looking for information on you. They’re match making for companies and after “cultural fit”. They want to see proof of the values you hold, what you stand for and against, and importantly what market influence you have, as these things add tangible value to a company. In fact, many recruiters will use their perception of you to place you into a pay bracket, which can be nonsensical. That’s why so many initial conservations with them will be with you having to negotiate your value and worth.
Despite media claims of a skills shortage, and companies with a desire (and often targets) for more women, competition is actually fiercer than ever. So, to impress hiring managers internally and externally, you must de-commoditise yourself — in person, on paper, and online.
Moving into a new leadership role can be your opportunity to make a significant impact both in terms of your team’s performance and in the strength of your organisation’s security. However, assuming your title will be enough to enable this would be foolish. Your title, in today’s competitive cyber workforce offers you very little. The only way you’re going to make the impact you need is by creating and implementing effective strategic actions. And that means inspiring, empowering, managing, and equipping those you lead. It means creating psychological safety or what I call ‘high challenge-high support’ in your environment. It means attracting and pulling those you interact with naturally, rather than by a command and control approach.
Now, there are many ways you can do this, but in my experience the best way is by raising your profile and building an effective personal brand both online and offline. Investing in your personal brand displays who you and what you stand for as a leader. It attracts people to you who believe in your unique message and take on things. This is crucial when top talent is sought after. Having an effective, strategically designed personal brand also sends a very clear message to those you lead and want to lead, as well as to other stakeholders within your organisation, who you’ll need to engage with and obtain buy-in from at some point. It speeds things up.
If you don’t have a clearly defined personal brand, then your ability to lead successfully will be impacted. Your ability to attract new team members and move projects past obstacles will take longer. And all because those around you won’t quite know what to make of you, or why you’re doing what you’re doing, or why you’re asking them to do what you want them to do.
Your personal brand is like your signature or methodology. It’s your trust mark. It tells a story of who you are, how you operate, and is a living, evolving representation of you. It indicates the best you have to offer and what can be expected of you in terms of your achievements, contributions, and value – whether that’s to your next employer, new hire, event organiser, journalist, client and so on. It communicates your career reputation, commitment, and promise. And, in today’s hyper-connected world, it will always precede you.
Very basically, your personal brand is a combination of the way you represent yourself and the way you are represented in person, online, and in print. It’s about the message and content you put out across all online platforms and what’s produced about you, for example through interviews, online posts, podcasts, or word-of-mouth. And, whilst the way you build your personal brand and use it is entirely up to you, choosing not to invest in it is unwise.
You see, your personal brand is actually being built by others right now. Correctly or incorrectly, they’re deciding what your take on things is. So, being able to have a say in this – and to a certain extent influence it – is rather important!
“Your personal brand is powerful and works for you 24×7”
Having built a strong personal brand and having taught CISOs, entrepreneurs and women-only groups how to do this, I’ve personally seen the impact it can have on them and the people with whom they interact.
When I did a VIP day with Miles Hutchinson, the CISO at Jumio Corporation, just before he started his new role there, he told me I’d saved him about 6-months time. Years later, the methodologies I taught him are still working – not just for him but with his team who he shared them with. He dropped me a message the other day to tell me how well things are going for him. He said,
“I want to say thank you, as the work you helped me with is really paying dividends now. It’s helping me massively. I’m pleased to get an award this week (Top 50 CISO) but to be honest I’m more pleased that the people around me in my business are shouting about it. That first branding session we had came to life when our sales team used it without any prompting from me.”
Aside from Miles, there have been many more in cyber who’ve experienced incredible transformation from the work I’ve done with them on personal branding and executive presence. For example…
And of course leaders who’ve engaged me to train their teams, like…
I’ve seen what a difference it makes learning from someone who’s applied personal branding in cyber successfully themselves and is still doing it. I’ve seen how it grows existing cyber businesses. One new start-up told me how with just one method I taught him from my training course attracted £75,000 of new business from three different clients in a week. Imagine the longterm value of those clients and the return on the investment. Another told me how it helped her pivot to a new job and CIO role. Others have told me how it’s opened opportunities for them to share their thought leadership and story at conferences, on podcasts, blogs, books, or in magazines. Or, to foster new valuable relationships with other leaders, or have time to really think about what they want from life or their next career move.
The way I teach personal branding isn’t just a way for you to brag, create a name for yourself, win an award, get a book deal, accepted for a conference keynote, a speaking agent, a new role or eyes on your brand. I don’t enable you to create an asset just because of what you know either. I help you design a personal brand that becomes valuable because of how you know what you know, and how you share it. It’s your message. It’s your story. It’s your gift. It’s your superpower. It’s your asset, and when you invest in it, it will return you dividends.
Now I want you do this….
Run through this list and see what frustrates you about your current situation and whether you want to eliminate the guesswork.
If you want to eliminate the guesswork, and build a personal brand that delivers you a return, great! You’ve now got a few choices. You can either do that by reading books, blogs or watching videos on YouTube, which will take you months if not years. Or, you can speed the process up and work with me.
Whether you want to work with me privately, as a VIP, and get one-on-one guidance, come on a training course, self-study at your own pace, or engage me to train your team, just drop me message me or book a Discovery Call. I’m doing an end of summer sale and it’s a great time to buy. My summer offer closes on September 5, 2022, so don’t delay.
One final thing…the photo is by Brooke Lark on Unsplash