Tag Archives: job

Job titles are irrelevant – what is your brand?

Increasingly, I’m convinced that corporate job titles are obsolete. Let’s face it – in many cases an individual can label themselves with any title, and it may or may not have any meaning either within the context of the organisation, or in comparison to similar companies. The head of a major corporation can be described as CEO, but Joe Normal can be CEO of his own one or two-man band company too. It’s perfectly valid. Many organisations have champions, evangelists… job titles are morphing (conversation architect? social media marketer?)

I’m frequently asked what I do, as if a title can cover and explain my role in a couple of words. The first answer is that I work for IBM. OK, but that’s a very wide field, if you know anything about the company – it could be something in hardware, software, consulting services, research, management. So I was then able to narrow it down by using the word “Consultant” – one of those titles so broad that it covers all kinds of activities. So then I’d say I’m a software consultant working with WebSphere Integration products for IBM in the UK. But, of course, that wasn’t everything I did, if you factored in my social software and virtual worlds “hats” and additional interests. Recently my formal job title has become even less useful in describing what I do to people outside the organisation.

IBM also has a formal professional development careers path linked to The Open Group and British Computer Society – in that, I’ve moved from being a Senior to a Consulting IT Specialist. Unless you know the structure of the profession, you may not know the difference between Senior and Consulting levels, or what an IT Specialist does in comparison to an IT Architect or Software Engineer or whatever else. “Consulting IT Specialist” is a reasonably useful label, but still doesn’t go far enough.

So if job titles are dead – what now? I’m finding that my personal brand as social bridgebuilder | photographer | techie is as useful a label or as a starting point for a discussion as anything. I recently updated my About page and moved my technical background further down the bio. As organisational structures shift and morph to new models (you should take a look at Gary Hamel’s excellent book The Future of Management to read more on this) it is becoming more important to maintain a personal brand – linked to a corporate identity – and to be able to explain what you do and can offer in a concise manner.

Storytelling. Visual CVs. Skills. The rise of the real-world avatar. Non-traditional ways of presenting oneself through tag clouds and visualisations. All of these things are replacing the job title. Don’t tell me your corporate title. Tell me who you are, and what you do.

Side thought: as I write this, and some of my other recent entries on paper, I ponder – am I a “writer”? a blogger, a writer of prose, an architect of ideas, or what?

Update #1: I realised, thanks to Paul’s rather brilliant point in the comments about context, that I should probably explain where this post came from. A couple of inspirations, really. Firstly, a couple of months ago I was talking to a colleague at work and he said “so what is it you do all day, social bridgebuilder or something?” and I had to explain that no, my day job is something specific and related to WebSphere software. Secondly, last week I was introduced on a conference call as having a “really cool job title” and again, I noted that it was James Governor who gave me the label / reputation as social bridgebuilder as a result of what I do, rather than it being a formal title.

Update #2: I’m interested in a couple of the related posts links that WordPress has put in for me. The first, Your Personal Brand IS NOT a Job Title, kind of makes the same point… I suppose… I suppose it is saying that job titles still have a relevance within the context of an organisation. The second, A Rose By Any Other Name, also has relevance here – I particularly liked the line When your staff are asked, outside work, what they do how easily can they simply quote their job title? which is something I’ve struggled with in the past. Nice work on the automatic links I think!

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Time to make a change

It’s time to move on. Maybe there’s something in the air, since Roo left recently, and Dale has just written about his switch to new things.

A seven-year itch?

Almost exactly seven years ago, I was offered my current job with IBM. I left what used to be the Post Office IT Services, took a month off (during which I was supposed to visit New York and Washington… never happened, sadly), and then started consulting on WebSphere for what used to be IBM Software Group’s London Solutions Practice. When I joined the group I was young, single, and figured I could “do the consulting thing”. Looking back, I was a good techie but fairly green as a consultant… I think I’ve matured and improved! 🙂

I’m still in the same role today. Working in IBM Software Services for WebSphere (ISSW) has been an absolute blast. I’ve had the opportunity to develop my industry experience across a whole range of sectors: finance, media, manufacturing, retail, public sector; deepened and broadened my technical skills; mentored newcomers to our team; and watched the group – and indeed, IBM’s WebSphere brand and Software Group – develop and grow.

I’ve also had the pleasure and privilege of working with the most talented individuals I’ve ever come across. IBM Software Services is a truly great group. Some of the ideas that my colleagues have come up with have been completely mind-blowing (hint: the simple ones are always the best), and influence software architectures I’m seeing everywhere today. Maybe it isn’t all rocket science, but several people in my team actually could be rocket scientists, and in my opinion are simply geniuses. Thank you, everyone – it’s been an honour.

I’ve spent a total of eight or nine years learning IBM’s messaging products (particularly WebSphere MQ and Message Broker) in detail and they really are fantastic pieces of technology. I’m not going to be leaving those alone any time soon.

If you follow my blog or other online presences at all you’ll know that my interests go way beyond WebSphere, connectivity, transactions, integration and messaging systems – essentially, I’m into that stuff, but my passion extends out to the bleeding edge of technology, the frontiers of the enterprise and more fundamentally, how those in the real world – users – want to use and interact with technology and new concepts.

What’s next?

So, to borrow a phrase from Roo, what’s next? Well, I have a new role – still at IBM, and starting full-time next month.

I’ve built up a lot of experience in how our products are used, and I now have the opportunity to take that back to our Development labs. I’ll be providing a direct link between product development and customers… feeding back what is out there, what our customers want, and influencing future products. Refining product usability based on real experiences, and acting as a “customer champion”. It’s a role with worldwide scope, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it.

One thing I don’t expect to change is my wider interests – Web 2.0, virtual worlds, and communities. I’ll still be engaging with folks in all kinds of places – part of what I do as a “social bridgebuilder” (props yet again to James Governor for that description). It’s in my online DNA, I guess.

I’m not going far from my roots, but this is a significant change for me.