14 June, 2009

The art of self-promotion

Let me start off by saying that I am not a black-belt in the art of self-promotion. In fact, I am a becoming a reluctant participant in said art. I would much rather be a part of a Utopian society, where everyone just does their "thing", whatever that is, and the "powers-that-be", whomever they may be, see these efforts for what they are, and evaluate accordingly.

But such is not the case. I could go on myriad tangents, talking about how a system will only be as fair or just as the most corrupt and unjust member of the system. And that may be true. But it does no good to belabor such points. There is no fruit to be had by lamenting this unfairness. And, I'm not sure if it's "ironic" or "obvious" that dwelling in the shortcomings of the system will almost certainly guarantee one's sinking to the bottom of said system.


I left academia because I felt that shameless self-promotion was unregulated and, much to my chagrin, incredibly effective. It was in graduate school that I came to realize that people will believe you are as good as you say you are. And the corollary to that is that people will think you're pretty mediocre, if you're modest. I thought that by going to the corporate world, there would be some sort of leveling of the playing field and that, in a place where products must actually ship (instead of academia, where information just sort of floats back and forth, and is all subject to interpretation), things would have to be based on hard facts, not hype.


Perhaps it depends on the organization, and perhaps it depends on the timing, and the economic climate. But, by and large, the same tricks that worked in academia work in industry.

Actually, to be honest, I don't know if they work or not. But it seems like the people who are running up and down the halls, doing jumping-jacks and hopscotch, seem to garner more attention than those who don't.

And I finally decided, I need to start doing the self-promotion, even if it's only in my own, Mick Feeble way. This, in a nutshell (did I already say nutshell, I can't remember), goes as follows:
  1. I will not hesitate to explicitly ask my manager to promote the good work that I do. Instead of just hoping that she will do so, I will make a specific request.
  2. I will not be afraid to initiate discussions with managers around work that I feel has had an impact, or progress that I have made over a breadth of project areas.
  3. I will not be afraid to publicize ideas or accomplishments in a group forum, either via email or in a presentation to the team.
  4. I will not miss any opportunity to share techniques that have worked well for me, especially if they constitute "training", because this is good for everyone, not just myself.
  5. I will not be afraid to call attention, during the review process, to the intangibles that I have delivered to the group, as well as my material accomplishments.
That's going to be the Mick Feeble approach. On the flip side, what I will not do includes, but is not limited to, the following:
  1. I will not send 3 emails a day to the entire team, with some inane observation about the company, our products, or the general tech community, and call that "visibility".
  2. I will not synthesize an unnecessary or ill-formed project idea out of thin air, apply a fancy slogan, and then sell it as the the greatest invention, only to abandon it a week later.
  3. I will not use Facebook as a means of telling you when I am working, how hard I am working, how much I love my job, or how great my company's products are.
  4. I will not try to involve myself, albeit marginally, in every good idea that someone else has, just so I can tout myself as having been "part of the project".
There has to be a way to promote oneself without completely selling out. Though, I suspect, in writing that, I am demonstrating just how little I understand about the art of self-promotion.

The bottom line is this:

We are ultimately responsible for our own successes and failures.

And if we keep that in mind, then no matter what happens, we can, at least, feel that we are in control, through accepting that responsibility.

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