He joined the company an already accomplished developer. He had worked at an agency that was co-creating some social algorithms with Microsoft for some of their community platforms. From there, some guys who had previously been with Microsoft had spun out and created their own startup. He was invited to join them.
They were creating a .NET platform for blogging, media, wikis and communities. This was a decade ago – when there was no clear leader in the space. Additionally, their focus was the enterprise, and while eventually Jive would dominate that space like WordPress would dominate the non-enterprise, in those days Jive was still a young product looking for traction.
He was a developer, but more than that, he was an algorithm designer. After all, he'd built rule engines already. And he was doing it again.
He'd figured out how to “score” behavior in ways that would give you a social score (like your FICO credit score). This was gamification before it was called gamification. And he learned the lessons of how to “weigh” behavior correctly. All while making the code highly performant.
Ten years he worked for them. Doing amazing work. Innovating. Creating.
And then, one day, giving Tuesday, they let him and a few others go. Services no longer needed.
But this isn't a sob story about my younger brother, Jose Lema.
Sure it's his story. But it's also my story. And your story.
Because each of us has our heads down working on stuff. And the people around us may know what we can do. But that doesn't mean that anyone else knows.
And what happens when contexts shift and suddenly you realize that no one knows what you've done. What you can do.
This is why I've told you before: share all that you know, to all the folks you know, all the time.
Four Steps to Articulating your Value
1. Get clear (in your own head) about what you know that can help others
As I spent some time with my brother the other night, it was clear that he was struggling to get a handle on his unique value proposition. After all, telling people he created a wiki (these days) seems a bit silly.
But the more time we spent talking, the clearer it was that while he had lead product development, lead small teams, and written a lot of C# code, what stood out was different from all that.
My brother is an algorithm designer. He's the guy you go to when you want to know how to create a “formula” or “equation” – you know the secret sauce – for scoring people and their behavior. And unlike some people who might have an idea about the algorithm, he's got a decade of experience translating those ideas into code that doesn't make your CPU spin forever.
What about you? What's your thing?
Let me ask you it a different way. Who could you talk to, who could you spend time with, that could help you tease out what makes you unique?
Because you may need that.
2. Ignore the lie that keeps replaying in your own mind
While my brother and I spoke, it was clear that a voice I knew quite well was plaguing him. See, I suffer from the Impostor Syndrome. Recovering, actually. But it's been something I've had to deal with my whole life.
My brother doesn't suffer from it. He's confident about what he knows. But here he was, realizing he had no code on github, no blog posts.
That voice – the one of regret – was hitting him. Does it scream in your head?
I should have ….
As in, I should have kept blogging. I should have written some other code. I should have networked better. I should have …..this and that…
You have to ignore it.
3. Write stuff down, preferably in story format
Start a blog. Seriously. It's free. It's not hard. And all you do is write down what you know.
But I know – it's hard to get started. Especially if you're staring at a blank screen.
So let me help you.
Start your post with one of these prompts:
- One time, when working on a project, we hit a challenge….
- Maybe you've faced a choice like I did…..
- Most of the time, the regular way will work, but sometimes…
- He joined the company an already accomplished developer.
Ok, maybe not that last one. That's mine. 🙂
Tell your story. Start with the context of a challenge or problem and resolve it. People will benefit and appreciate it.
4. Share it and monitor the response
But telling your stories won't bring traffic. So share your posts. Get them out there. Help people.
Use any social network where your audience may hang out.
But what's more important than just sharing your posts, is listening. Collecting the feedback – in the form of additional questions, agreement or disagreement, or other perspectives.
This is the “conversation” people talk about. And you want to engage the responses – because they'll teach you, as well as give you ideas for further writing.
This is for everyone
I don't know if you're a freelancer. Or if you're a ten year veteran of the company.
But it doesn't matter. Getting your insights out into the world isn't just to demonstrate expertise.
It's about helping others. It's about sharing and being generous (in this case with your insights).
And it's about keeping your communication and your confidence in shape, so that if you ever need to look for a new role, you have something to point to.
It's all about articulating your value.
PS. If you want to hire Jose Lema (my brother) – the quieter and smarter of us Lemas – here's what you should know (until he starts blogging):
Jose Lema is a designer of algorithms, particularly in the area of behavioral scoring for social media, gaming, and community platforms. A creator of rule engines and high performing data mining techniques, his work has been at the core of sites like Microsoft's Channel 9, Xbox.com and The Hive, articulated in the book he co-authored on Community Server. From user profiles, to community and forum point systems, he's been coding gamification strategies into enterprise software for over a decade.