Jen McCown challenged us to UnSQL Friday. Here goes!
"Aren't I Always Going To Be Me?"
So much of my life can be described using quotes from Forrest Gump. I don't know why but it is undeniable. When Forrest is asked by Jenny "Who do you want to be?" he responds "Aren't I always going to be me?" I feel like that.
At the PASS Summit 2010 a few people asked me if I was ready for my presentation on SSIS Design Patterns. I answered them all the same: "I'm nervous and worried." A surprising number of them responded saying something akin to "But you're Andy Leonard." I told them, "That doesn't help me. I've been trapped in here with me for 47 years and I'm not impressed."
My mother is responsible for my style. My father contributed to my style as well (a predisposition to mathematics, for one), but Mom influenced me way more. Mom emphasized our individual strengths. She differentiated her four sons based on our strengths. That did a couple things: first, we felt good about each other; second, we did not feel threatened by each other. Now that's something, especially with teenaged boys with a little blood mixed in with the testosterone coursing through our veins. We were scrappy, and she motivated us to cooperate by communicating our unique strengths publicly.
One of Mom's quotes was "Be you. God made you the way you are and God knows what He's doing." Transparency is easy. It doesn't mean I share every single detail of my life publicly, but I share more than most. Being transparent means there's only one Andy. There's no public Andy and another private Andy. What you see is what you get. I'm not faking an accent. I really have five children and chickens and guineas and an old Jeep pickup and live in Farmville Virginia.
Why hide any of that? Is any of that "unprofessional"? If you think like that, we're not going to be able to relate professionally. Why would I want to hide? Especially from someone that thinks of me in that light and judges me thus?
I don't have to remember where I am or who I'm supposed to be.
Jorge Segarra (Blog | @SQLChicken) reminded me to participate in UnSQL Friday. Jorge is a friend I trust and respect - personally and technically. So I asked his opinion about my brand. He mentioned SSIS - and I love working with SSIS! But he also mentioned approach-ability. Gosh I hope I remain approach-able. I like helping folks when I can. My motto is I Am Here To Help™.
I'm that way because I love to learn. Sharing what I've learned is a way to pass that feeling (and the knowledge) to someone else. I don't like the words "guru" and "expert"; I prefer the word "experienced" instead. I learn stuff every day, and I (try to) credit the people who teach me.
I try to remember everyone has a style and it may conflict with mine. Everyone is entitled to a bad day every now and then - maybe they're posting a response to an article or blog post on their bad day. When responding, I try to remember it costs me nothing to be nice. I don't always succeed in this, but it is always my goal.
Finally, lots of folks think I'm self-deprecating. I disagree. I take Romans 12:3a seriously. Paul writes:
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think...
My advice to anyone seeking to build a brand is simple: Be who you are, do what you are.