Be yourself – everyone else is already taken – Oscar Wilde
It’s time to work on your most important marketing project: Brand YOU.
Your personal brand is more important today than ever before because we’re all acting on a global stage. We – what we say, what we do, what we think and what we want – are more visible now than even just 10 years ago.
Building a strong personal brand is critical for extending your professional network and ensuring the right opportunities are within your reach.
Last week I gave a talk about this topic at the Tableau Fringe Festival – APAC, and this week I’d like to share my tips with all of you, so here are the five steps I recommend for building your personal brand in the Tableau world.
1. Be yourself
Above all, be authentic, be who you are. There is no point in pretending to be someone you’re not. It’s not something you can maintain in the long-term and it isn’t genuine, so people will see through it quickly.
What that doesn’t mean, though, is that you cannot change who you are or what you do.
Be the best version of yourself. This applies to the Tableau world and to life in general. If you’re a kind and positive person who people like having around, you will soon find your network expanding.
Your personal brand is essentially what people say about you after you’ve left the room. What is it you want them to say? Work on that and be genuine about it.
The Tableau community is a big network of people from different cultures and countries, with different interests, educational backgrounds and ideas. They all come together because of a shared passion for telling better data stories, bringing data to the surface and driving change through their work.
There is room for many more. There is room for you.
You are unique and the community greatly benefits from having this uniqueness in every node of its network. Don’t be afraid to show us who you are.
How? Well, start by telling us a bit more about yourself.
- Create a profile on Tableau Public and publish your data visualisations
This gives people a better idea of your work, your skills and your interests. You can viz about your hobbies, create something with the public datasets hosted on Tableau Public or join projects like Makeover Monday where you’ll get a fresh dataset every week to play with.
Create your portfolio and let it tell a story about you. It will show your professional network what you can do with data and will become more important than your CV when the time comes for finding a new professional challenge.
- Write a blog
Starting a blog can be a fun new hobby and a way to share what you know. Blogs are a platform to talk about your experiences with Tableau and data visualisation and to connect with like-minded people. A personal blog/website is a good platform for creating content that can be shared. A blog helps you carve out a bit of a niche for yourself.
When building your brand you want to consider what unique skills and talents you have, that will bring people, opportunities and challenges your way. A blog can help showcase that.
If you prefer to stay out of the limelight yet still want to build your brand around your expertise, then I suggest you seek out the platforms that promote such content. This can be on Tableau’s website in the forums, or on other websites like GitHub where content can be shared effectively and with a stronger focus on the technical aspects. Find platforms that match your style and become a regular contributor.
Perhaps you really like talking to people and enjoy a crowd. Why not find a Tableau User Group in your area and offer to speak? Speaking is a great way to meet new people, share your expertise and learn something new.
Not quite ready to speak? Start by joining as an attendee, listen to the talks and chat with people afterwards over some food and drinks. Networking is much easier when the topic is something you’re all interested in because you can easily start a conversation with a stranger.
2. Help others and expect nothing in return
In my experience, the most important part of giving is to give unconditionally. Give without expecting anything in return.
Give, share you knowledge and help others because you want to, not for any other reason. This goes back to being genuine. Do it because you really want to do it.
At first it might feel a bit odd. Heck you may even feel like an imposter. I certainly know the feeling. There a brilliant people out there, doing mind-boggling things with data and Tableau and you might feel like you have nothing else of value to add.
You’re wrong! You are you and no one else is like you; you can still bring plenty of value to the community.
Maybe you are particularly good at explaining how filters work in Tableau, or you have a real eye for dashboard design. Whatever it is, show it and share it.
When I first started blogging I didn’t really know what direction to take my blog. It was a random mix of Tableau related posts, travel entries and stories about triathlons.
My blog is still like that, it’s become my style. Every now and then, I write life and career advice articles for my blog. While I’m no life or career coach, those honest and direct articles strike a chord with my audience and they get the most views, comments and shares.
That’s why I write. Not for the comments, the likes and sharing. I write for the value it adds for people. When someone tells me that my blog helped them stop procrastinating and take action with regard to their career, health or something else, that makes me happy.
So I guess I do get something in return. But I don’t expect it. I write about this stuff because I care and I am passionate about it, I don’t expect someone to change their life because of what I write. When I receive positive feedback, it reinforces my desire to write more, to share more and to help more because clearly it is helping someone.
And that’s what keeps me going.
What should you do?
How you help and share your knowledge is up to you. Let me assure you that helping others get better at Tableau, in whatever shape or form, is a surefire way to build a positive brand for yourself.
In addition to some of my earlier suggestions, here is what you can do:
- Participate in projects like VizforSocialGood, MakeoverMonday, WorkoutWednesday, Tableau’s beta testing program, join the forums and the conversations on Twitter, in LinkedIn Groups, etc. Contribute by answering technical questions, offering your (constructive) feedback, helping others create the dataviz they have in their mind, or reviewing other people’s work.
- Create your own. You may want to do something that doesn’t exist yet. Make it exist. Create it, start it, collaborate with someone if you can’t do it on your own. The world is your oyster and there’s nothing stopping you from coming up with your own dataviz project, community initiative, data challenge, blogging meetup, whatever you want to cook up. Heck, speaking of cooking, why not setup a data dinner to combine datafun and the indulgence of some delicious foods… Make it happen.
- Offer your help proactively. As I get more and more tied up in various exciting projects and challenges at work and in the community, I often think that maybe I have bitten off a bit more than I can chew (Not maybe. I have.). Sometimes there are people that don’t wait for me to ask for help. People instead offer their help before I even realise I need it. Those moments are incredibly refreshing and it’s such a relief to be able to share the workload with someone. You will find that there are many people in the community who could use a bit of support. They may not realise it yet or they may just not know how or who to ask for help. Why not put the offer out there and people can approach you, knowing you’re ready to lend a hand?
3. Stay engaged – find what works for you
What if none of the previously mentioned suggestions really get you excited? Well, you have to find what you enjoy. If you’ve been using Tableau for a little while you have probably developed a lot of visualizations and found an approach, technique and style you like. Maybe specific chart types are your specialty or you get a kick out of anything related to Tableau Server.
Find your ‘thing’ and build your brand around it.
It’s important to stay engaged. This means doing something regularly, whether it’s blogging, participating in the forum discussions, going to Tableau User Groups, etc. Stay engaged with the topic and the community. Stay relevant by learning constantly and being hungry for knowledge and new skills.
Go broad across various topics or narrow and deep into a specialty area. It’s up to you.
Nurture your network. It does require effort, for sure. You’re not just labouring over a dashboard for hours, you’re investing into your brand, your professional career, your networks and relationships. This effort will serve you for many years to come and will set you up for the long-term.
All your hard work will turn into momentum. You may not see it at the beginning, yet over time your brand will gain ‘speed’ and things will fall into place ever more quickly. At some point the ‘machine’ will be running smoothly and you just top it up regularly as your brand will become who you are and you have become your brand. This is when opportunities will come to you, not you to them.
4. Seek out new challenges
When it comes to work-life balance, we are frequently told to say ‘No’ more often. I want to encourage you to say YES. Say YES to opportunities that come your way.
Is it scary? Hell yeah! Is it worth it? Absolutely!
Whether you are at the beginning of your Tableau journey or a seasoned data viz veteran, at some point someone will approach you with an idea, a project, a request, a presentation they want you to do, a group they want you to lead, or some other sort of challenge.
If it is related to the work you’re doing and it’s something that lets you learn, say YES! If it’s something you’re passionate about or at least interested in, say YES!
If it feels one size too big for you, daunting, intimidating and like a big step up and your heart is racing with excitement at the thought of getting your teeth into it, say YES!
When someone comes to you with an idea or a project, they have probably thought about it first. If they come to you, there’s a good chance it’s because they know you can do it or want to give you a chance to prove yourself. Say YES!
Listen to your inuition. The answer is either ‘hell no’ or ‘hell yeah’. Then go for it and give it your best shot.
For me, a big turning point for my personal brand in the Tableau world was December 23rd when I received a message from Andy asking me whether I’d be interested in being his MakeoverMonday partner from 2017.
That was one of those ‘hell yeah’ moments. I said yes without thinking about it. It turned out to be much more work than I ever expected and also so rewarding and much more fun than I thought was possible to have with data.
I was able to introduce a number of new ideas, like the weekly recap blogs, the webinars and live viz reviews. We also decided to take MakeoverMonday on Tour and have held live events in Sydney, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, London, Frankfurt, Hamburg and are going to Dublin and Milan later this year before the big show in Las Vegas at TC17.
I never thought it would turn out to be such an awesome project and I also didn’t know we’d work so well as a team. Saying YES to MakeoverMonday suddenly catapulted me into the limelight of that part of the Tableau community. Sure, at first it was certainly as Andy’s sidekick. Since then, I’ve noticed the tide change and people seeing me more and more as a valuable community member in my own right.
And of course I’ve benefited from the exposure Andy already has and that he built over many years through hard work and consistent contributions to the community. Putting a different spin on how we run Makeover Monday, however, has let me stamp out my own little territory in this community.
All it took was saying YES!
It didn’t require wrestling for position or trying to steal the attention from anyone else. I picked the things I wanted to do and did them. That’s what contributes to my personal brand in this community.
When that next big challenge comes your way, don’t chicken out. Say YES and give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen? (hint: if you’re not going to die, it’s not that big of a risk)
5. Strive to find an organisation that let’s you thrive
The final recommendation for building your brand is probably one of the most important ones for many of you who are looking for that perfect Tableau job and who want a fulfilling career in the data world.
Finding an organisation that lets you thrive is key for the long-term, because being fulfilled by the work you do everyday is an important factor in your overall happiness.
Maybe your current job is fine, a bit boring, a bit repetitive and doesn’t have much scope for growth, but it pays the bills and gives you a chance to play with Tableau.
If you’re bored that’s a good sign that you have some spare time during the work day. Use that time to work on your brand, your skills and knowledge and your professional network. Landing your dream job requires preparation and homework.
You don’t ‘get’ your dream job. You create it.
I am lucky to say that I have found my dream job. The role I started in one year ago is very different to the role I have today. Most importantly, it’s still a job that makes me very, very happy and that has me excited every day to come to work and knock it out of the park.
It took 10 years since I started my first professional role (while still at university) to get to where I am today.
10 years seems like a long time and I’m glad I didn’t know back then how much hard work it would be. Throughout those 10 years I had great jobs. I really genuinely liked each one of them and they all built on each other.
I can confidently say that I made the most out of my time, whether as an admin assistant, a management consultant, business analyst, Tableau consultant or now as Head of BI and Tableau Evangelist.
It worked for me because I put all my skills and talents into each job. I took away personal and professional growth and a solid network. Make a valuable contribution through your work and let your work make a valuable contribution to your life.
Your passion is your ticket
There will be days when you doubt yourself. There will be days when you don’t feel motivated. There will be days when you feel like you’re on a dead-end road with nowhere to turn. Use those moments to work on your passions. Your passion is your way out.
When the time is right, find that next challenge and join an organisation that recognises your potential and values who you are. Find a place that lets you thrive and bring all your talents, passion, drive and motivation.
Who knows…it may just turn out to be the dream job you’ve always wanted.
At the centre of your being you have the answer: you know who you are and you know what you want. – Lao Tzu