Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Branding Myself

I'm thinking that I need to brand myself. When companies brand a product or service, they consider how to quickly convey, in the most impactful and concise way, what their product or service is and how it can benefit the "end user" (customer, client, whatever).

So if I were to brand myself professionally (we'll deal with personal branding later!), how would I do that? Does "Program Manager/Producer/Educator/Designer" (from my resume) do the trick? Probably not. I need something more impactful, something that speaks to both a customer's needs and my expertise -- maybe something more like "I am a dedicated educator, an accomplished program manager, and a creative producer of interactive media and consumer products, with extensive experience managing people, processes and products." That's descriptive of my skills, but does it give an idea of how I can meet a client's needs?

Or am I even to that point yet? Should I back waaaaay up, to the point of exploring what it is that fulfills me? Probably.

My kids think I should be a high school teacher, and I'd seriously consider it if I didn't have to cut my salary in half or more and if I didn't have to go back to school to get a credential. I have a masters in education, but in many school systems that won't cut it.

I'd love to write for teens, preferably health education materials, and I even had an opportunity to do that last year, but turned it down because the content I'd be writing -- an abstinence only sex ed text -- went completely against my beliefs. But if I could find something where I'd really reach teens about topics that matter, I'd take it on in no time flat!

I'd love to manage the production of educational media products -- video, software, print, games (even table-top... maybe even preferably table-top!), whatever. The medium isn't as important to me as the content and the audience. Project management and media production tends to follow the same process, no matter what the medium -- conception of an idea, formulation of a team, refinement of content, assignment of resources, production, peripherals, marketing, launch. Love that stuff.

I'd like to run a hands-on program for youth. Seattle has some amazing nonprofits, like Powerful Voices and Reel Grrls, and some of the groups that we profiled in FUEL are just amazing, like The Body Positive, The Edible Schoolyard, People's Grocery, and About Face. Working with those organizations was more than a job, more than just part of producing a video series; meeting the people who put their hearts and souls into positive youth activism every day transformed my thinking and my attitudes, and nothing I've done since feels as important or as fulfilling.

Maybe that part of my "problem." Since producing FUEL and CHILL, I've worked at Microsoft and with the Gates Foundation, both in education and both in efforts to create something of value that will ultimately benefit kids and education. But none of the efforts I've contributed since FUEL and CHILL have been as raw, as direct, as poignant, and as absolutely life-altering (for me, but hopefully also for some kids somewhere) as those production were, and now I feel almost as if I'm wasting my time if I don't work on something that directly impact kids. Not through slick marketing and not through "hierarchical product channels," but directly and boldly.

So how do I take what I love -- youth, media, nonprofits and writing -- and turn it into something that matters? And how do I avoid getting mired in what I don't love -- corporate politics and technology-for-its-own-sake (instead of as a useful tool)? And oh yeah -- how do I find something that I not only love and do well, but that pays the bills and will help us pay that first of many TRIPLE tuition bills in September, 2008 when Peter, Aleks and Kat all start at the university at the same time?!

OK, so I've done anything BUT brand myself. (Branding is about answers, not about questions!) But hey, it's a start.

And now I'm off to the gym because I'm determined to make some changes in more than just my career.

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