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Today's best tech leaders typically have highly developed personal branding and emotional intelligence, or EQ, according to veteran technical trainer Jessica McPeake. Developing EQ training skills and a personal brand can improve tech pros' career opportunities and job satisfaction, as well as their software teams' productivity.
Last year, McPeake launched Akamai Technologies' global technical enablement team, which fosters onboarding, accreditation, certification and other education programs. She is senior director of technical enablement at Akamai, a content delivery network services provider based in Cambridge, Mass. Before taking her new position, she led Akamai commercial services to a five-time increase of services revenue in four years.
McPeake offered concrete advice on how tech pros can improve their personal brand and emotional intelligence in this article, based on a recent interview. Recently, McPeake spoke at the 2016 Lesbians Who Tech Summit in San Francisco. Her session was titled, "Career Growth Through Personal Brand, Emotional Intelligence and Metrics."
Deciphering the buzzwords
Dispelling people's confusion about the personal brand and emotional intelligence is the first step in McPeake's training on those topics.
- Personal branding isn't about presenting an image as celebrities do, or being a brand ambassador for a product. Instead, she said, it's a process for realizing goals by discovering one's authentic self.
- Emotional intelligence relates to understanding and reacting to yourself, while also having the capacity to understand and react to others.
Understanding and practicing both disciplines help people play to their strengths, understand customer needs and interact well with their project teams.
Personal branding equals career value
"Most people think of personal branding as how they are marketing themselves in LinkedIn profiles, resumes, Twitter and so on," McPeake said. She added that everyone acts as their own chief marketing officer. "That's just part of personal brand. That's the finish line."
A brand ambassador has to know a product line from top to bottom. Similar self-knowledge is needed before one publishes information about one's self. "Where a personal brand really starts is at realizing what drives you, what your strengths are and what you want to do with what you have," McPeake said. Once a person becomes self-aware, she knows how to play to her strengths.
Jessica McPeakeAkamai senior director of technical enablement
Asking questions is the first important action item in developing a personal brand. Get feedback from yourself and people you trust, McPeake advised. In this quest, seek answers to such questions as:
- What are your passions? How would you prioritize them?
- What are your strengths and positive personal traits? How and how well have you put them to use?
- What are others' impressions of you, or a specific aspect of you? What are yours?
- What are the traits of people you admire?
Uncovering her own personal brand has been a yearslong process for McPeake. The payoffs have been great, professionally and personally. In particular, she's come up with a question that helps her make difficult decisions: "Does it bring me joy?" Of course, she noted, "that also requires knowing what things bring me joy."
What is your EQ training level?
"Focusing on personal branding builds self-awareness, which increases your emotional intelligence," McPeake said.
In most cases, someone who has gone through EQ training comes out with improved empathy, self-awareness, relationship behavior and ability to manage emotions. "High emotional intelligence has become a highly valued quality in leaders, especially in technology," McPeake said.
Typically, leaders with high emotional intelligence collaborate well and remain calm under pressure. They include more considerations and viewpoints in decision-making processes, which usually results in decisions that are more often accepted by the organization.
Often, people who are not self-aware assess their EQ as higher than it is. So, McPeake starts training sessions with personal branding exercises, and then moves to the topic of emotional intelligence.
Fortunately, EQ training tests are now available. "Using metrics helps people understand where they are and how they need to invest in themselves," McPeake said. Unfortunately, there is much debate about the quality of many EQ tests. "This is still a new field, but I believe we'll soon be able to create and use metrics in valuable ways," McPeake said.
Companies whose leaders consider emotional intelligence an important employee trait will see the results in better decision making and cross-collaboration, McPeake said. "Even better, increasing emotional intelligence in adults today will trickle down to the next generation."
Want to know more about personal branding and emotional intelligence? Here are sources McPeake recommended: Brene Brown's TED talk on The power of vulnerability; Carla Harris' blog and book, Expect to Win; The complete guide to building your personal brand by Neil Patel and Aaron Agius; and Emotional intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.
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