We hope you are enjoying our series, Netflix and UpLevel, and that it's helped you become a better software engineer. For our third article, we will learn some great lessons on personal branding from a show so iconic that it took home five golden trophies at Emmy's in 2014.
In case you've missed our first two articles, here they are—article 1 and article 2.
Breaking Bad’s story is incredibly unique and addicting, and Bryan Cranston does a remarkable job evolving Walter's tragic character over five grueling seasons into an international drug kingpin.
Also, Breaking Bad takes personal branding to heights like no other. Allow yourself the pleasure of admiring Walter White's branding expertise with these three lessons.
Here's what this article will cover:
But before we begin, what is branding anyway?
Branding is the use of phrases, names, designs, or symbols to distinguish a product, service, organization, or person from others. Now, we are not suggesting that you should change your name on your business card to something unique or get a logo designed for yourself. Rather, what we suggest is that you make a decision on what you want to be known as. What do you think makes you stand out from other software engineers?
Let's break it down for you.
1. Be recognizable
What is the most important part of building a brand? It is about having a unique image through which people recognize you. Bryan Cranston, aka Walter White, used very specific methods and ingredients for producing meth with a blue tint, called "Blue." It was the only meth on the market as such. This is how he differentiated his product. Walter then focused on building his brand, establishing a personal image and persona. He identified himself as “Heisenberg,” shaved his head (from his cancer treatments), adorned a pork pie hat, and grew a recognizable goatee. The combination of product and personal branding is what made him instantly recognizable throughout the series.
What does this mean for you?
- Start with identifying your unique attributes
According to Daxx.com, there were 26.4 million software developers in the globe in 2020. And that number is only rising. So what makes you unique from other software engineers? Identifying your unique qualities will help you build your brand identity. These qualities should not only be true but also relevant to the current needs of the companies you’d like to work for. To identify your unique attributes, ask yourself questions, such as:
- What are my strengths?
- What am I known for around in the office?
- Am I a great collaborator?
- Am I an innovator?
- Am I every project’s master planner?
- Do I have any distinct specialties?
You can also ask your peers what comes to their mind when they think of you.
- Next, move beyond the role of a “software engineer”
It’s not enough to build your brand identity on paper. You must show recruiters that you have a unique ability or a distinctive outlook. Recruiters want to hire effective software engineers. Remember, there are hundreds of software engineers out there applying to the same jobs as you are. Recruiters need to know how impactful you have been in your previous company, which critical projects you have managed, and how effectively you have done your job.
For example, when trying to position yourself on LinkedIn, only including your job title on your profile doesn’t show you’re a genius in product development and understanding customers’ needs. Instead, the way you executed your projects, your interests, the skills you have developed through those projects, and the outcomes you’ve produced are what recruiters and hiring managers look for. You can start building your experience with those skills so that you can make your brand more appropriate for the targeted audience.
Pro-tip: Several profiles that we see state, "Software engineer with x years of experience" or "XYZ was the core responsibility that I had." A good rule of thumb here is to say that if this statement can be copy-pasted to any other profile, it will probably not sell you very effectively. It's not helping you stand out and will make you look like everyone else.
Also read: Leverage LinkedIn To Unlock FAANG Interviews
2. Be consistent
Walter White built his reputation by consistently delivering his clients a unique value proposition, which produced a strong brand. As a chemist, he exactly understood the manufacturing process and produced the highest quality meth on the market. Also, unlike his competition, he never cut corners and sacrificed quality, even in the light of incredible "peer" pressure to do so.
What does this mean for you?
- When writing a summary or bio for yourself, ensure that they are consistent across all channels.
- Use the same display picture so that your audience can connect with you seamlessly.
- Build a personal website. This is a great way to let people know about your technical skills, the projects you have undertaken, build your brand messaging through your layout and features, and more. Also, cross-link all your social profiles from your website and vice versa.
- Google yourself and ensure that all the results that come up help establish your brand, not hurt it.
- Focus on quality whether you’re making a tweet, posting something on social media, or writing a blog.
3. Be everywhere
In order to stay ahead of the competition and control the flow of his product, Walter slowly transitioned from producing meth to distributing it. He also found partners who distributed his meth overseas. Walter was always at the forefront, interacting with people to build a loyal customer base and establish his brand. He understood that building a recognizable brand with a consistent value proposition is useless if you cannot deliver.
What does this mean for you?
- Networking is one of the most fundamental and effective tools for building your brand. Look for opportunities to attend and speak at industry events or coding interview prep webinars where you can meet like-minded people and form relationships in real-time. Additionally, you can leverage social media to build connections. There are several forums where software engineers share ideas and ask questions online. Find one that best suits your needs.
- Consider starting a blog to share your thoughts on your field. You can also reach out to third-party websites that already have a following and pitch them a few ideas for a guest post.
- Attending hackathons is another great way to build your brand. You will have endless opportunities to get to know people on a professional level, be it during team-matching sessions, food breaks, or going for coffee together. And it could start already beforehand if a hackathon offers closed groups/messaging platforms to connect.
There you have it - branding tips from a character as twisted and complicated as Walter White. However, just remember that regardless of how you build your brand or what others think of you, always stay true to yourself.
Now go out there and build an amazing brand for yourself. Good luck! :)
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