Dear Gib: Do you need to develop a personal brand in order to be a successful product person / get the jobs you want?
Short Answer: No. Long Answer: Twitter may hurt your career. Longer answer: If personal brand means you have a unique focus & expertise that you are passionate about, that's a good thing.
By personal brand, I suspect you mean someone well-known within the product community? A product leader with more than 10K followers on Twitter and Medium?
If this is your definition, recognize building a personal brand takes lots of time— a big investment in writing and giving talks. I know this because I gained 10K followers on Twitter and Medium _after_ I stopped working full-time. It’s tough to write and give talks while working full-time.
Because of this, I am wary about fully-employed product leaders with a large following. How is their day job going? How do they find the time to do great work AND Tweet?
Another perspective: having a personal brand means you have a specific focus and expertise. Typically it’s something you are passionate about and really good at. In my product leader career, this was identifying consumer tech startups with a proof of concept and helping them to scale. I was good at choosing promising startups and had the hiring, consumer science, marketing, management, strategy, and leadership skills required to help these startups grow.
I didn’t need the whole world to understand this via thousands of tweets. I relied on my network and a personal board of directors who helped me identify and evaluate best-fit opportunities. (At the time, I had zero followers on Twitter.)
Today, my personal brand is focused on helping product leaders navigate product careers more efficiently than I did. My goal is for folks to avoid my many mistakes and make your own mistakes — that’s how you learn. Later, I hope that you will pass on your learning to others, too.
Thanks for asking, and I hope you found this helpful.
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