Just how did I get here? That was my reaction when others asked me how I became one of 50 most influential women in the technology sector in the United Kingdom, according to Computer Weekly, the leading industry publication. I had to think back and reflect on my career before I could answer this question.
While I had a very successful career in terms of personal fulfilment and advancement, for many years, not many people knew me in the industry. I had what I today refer to as a “binary reputation”: In the office everyone knew me but outside no one did, except a handful of corporate partners and suppliers. I had influence in the office but wasn’t ranking as an influential woman in the industry as a whole.
The picture is completely different today. As a technology industry analyst for Everest Group, I influence IT buying decisions, service offerings and even software product features. This is partly because it is my job to assess technology products and services, compare providers side by side and write reports about them for buyers. It is also partly, and in a much bigger way, due to me building a personal brand, as any woman should do if she wants to become one of the influential women in her field. I did not plan any of this but did what made sense to me at the time.
It all started by me blogging about technology topics outside of my work. This led to me getting shortlisted for blog awards and noticed by the IT industry media more than I did as an analyst. Following other influential women, I then joined Twitter and used it to promote my blogs, thoughts and ideas on technology and the market. A year or so into tweeting, I was named by Information Management magazine as one of 17 technology women to follow on Twitter. This boosted the number of my followers, further increasing my influence.
I had also always wanted to give something back to society and so a few years ago I joined BCSwomen, the women specialist group at BCS, the British Institute for IT. Ever since, I have helped run campaigns to increase the number of women in IT. We run networking and training events as well as mentoring and inspirational talks by successful women. We also help companies build more female friendly recruitment campaigns. Working with BCSWomen has been a hugely rewarding experience. I was able to build a large network of contacts, raising my profile and boosting my influence.
My advice to others:
- Build a personal brand: Build and enhance your personal brand using social media e.g., via blogs, tweets and posts on LinkedIn
- Write with quality in mind: Keep to professional topics and only post quality content. Ideally this is your own writing but if you post links to other articles, make sure they provide good insights.
- Network: I have three tips for networking
- Network with your peers and widely influential women (and men!) with a purpose other than just building a network. I recommend networking for good causes, e.g., helping more women with careers in IT with BCSWomen. I spotted this article on Primewomen by Linda Fanaras on Board Service: Making the Most of You. In her post, Linda recommends the same approach.
- Join a network that helps you develop your skills through seminars and workshops.
- Do not be a passive networker. Do not just attend events, get on the committee and start helping out by organizing and running events. You will be respected for your work and energy while building much longer lasting relationships with your peers.
- Take work for granted: Do not assume that your job will last forever. The gig-economy is already a reality for many people. Your personal brand and reputation matters more than ever for securing work in the future.
- Build a “binary reputation”: remember there is a world outside the office that has never heard of you.
- Get left behind in skills: It really matters that you keep your skills up to date. This would keep you professionally in demand, enable you to write better blogs and help you become an informed industry commentator or speaker.