After Fours Years, I Get Around To Branding

Four years ago this month I turned my back on returning to the corporate world. In March of 2014 I was laid-off. I spent a few months actively looking for another program or project manager position but in August of that year, I decided to go back into IT consulting. For the most part I haven’t looked back. About the only thing I miss from a corporate environment is daily interaction with former coworkers. Well… at least some of my former coworkers… but that’s another story.

In the ensuing four years I’ve been blessed to have a semi-steady stream of projects from referrals and friend of a friend introductions. I knew I should get around to marketing and establish a web site in support of that effort. I knew I should be writing more, maybe even doing a speaking engagement or two like I did in years gone by. I knew my current efforts lacked a brand, a theme, a rallying cry to… 

Well, in other words, I did exactly what so many in my position do. I neglected ‘me’ because I was so focused on completing projects, satisfying clients, spending time with my son and staying on top of technology and hobbies.

But earlier this year I set a few goals for myself. One of those goals was to better balance my time allocation to support a focused branding effort.

I started out by simply setting aside two hours a week to reach out to people who were not related to me but knew me well. I just wanted to get an understanding of how they perceived me. What they saw as my strengths, my weaknesses and solicit any suggestions they had on how I could best leverage them.

One recurring trait mentioned about me among those I reached out to was ‘pragmatic.’ You might see where this is going but honestly, it took a while for it to sink into my head. See, I didn’t see that trait as a strength nor an advantage. Everyone in the technology world wants to be thought of as cutting edge, endlessly innovative and cool. You have to admit, pragmatic just does not elicit that kind of reaction.

I seriously thought about retirement options.

Then a chance encounter with a neighbor realigned my thought process on this even though we didn’t discuss my strengths, weaknesses or even the idea of branding at all. In fact, the entire conversation was about him, where he was in his career, where he wanted to be and the steps he was actively taking to reach his goal. The comment he made that started realigning my thinking was when he said he was tired of being on the cutting edge. As an engineer he wanted to design products that just worked and had lasting value.

The next day I was back to thinking about my goals and realized making ‘things’ that work and have lasting value is what I want to do, it’s what I am doing, it’s what I have been doing for over 30 years! In that instant I gained just a glimpse of why so many people referred to me as pragmatic or as a pragmatist.

I started thinking, how could I embrace that? What if I built a brand around that concept? But I needed a name…

Earlier this week I called a client I’ve worked with off and on for about three years now. We were discussing some upcoming changes to a web application I built for them. When we finished, I mentioned I was finally working on a brand and asked if he had any suggestions, comments or ideas based on our interactions. He said, “We call you our IT Pragmatist. We have no shortage of pie in the sky ideas but you seem to be the one who always remains grounded and figures out what we really need and how to do it.”

God definitely has a keen sense of humor.

I’ve decided to build a brand around ‘pragmatic’ and see where it goes. I’m kicking around a few site names and researching domain names. I expect to settle on one and start the process of building out the site in the next few days. I’ll probably document at least some of the process here as the site takes shape.

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