We sat down with Amy Slater to talk Personal Branding, and we're bringing you her insight-rich interview here to the blog in a three part series. Amy Slater is the Vice President of Inside Sales for cybersecurity company, Palo Alto Networks, a published author, and a frequent speaker at major conferences around the topic of leadership. She has over 25 years of leadership and global sales experience, with a passion for empowering people to get extraordinary results and ultimately grow revenue. She also has a fascination with personal branding. We spoke with Amy and her take on branding yourself in the age of technology and social media.
MAC: Tell me about the story and that moment where you realized that you were just really fascinated with personal branding.
SLATER: So, I was at Cisco about 12 years ago, and I had this mentor. I approached him, and I said, "I don't understand. "Why is it that I am not getting promoted? "I've done everything right. "I'm exceeding my sales numbers. "People like me. "My customers like me." I couldn't understand why somebody wasn't just tapping me on the shoulder and wanting to promote me. he said, "Well, they're not going just to tap you on the shoulder." He said, "You have to build your own brand. You have to let people know about you." That was this ‘aha’ moment, and it changed the trajectory of my career.
MAC: What was it about the personal brand that you found to be so important in your experience? Is it true for everyone, regardless of your professional status?
SLATER: No matter what you do, your brand matters. Your brand is what people say about you when you aren't in the room. What do you want people to say about you? Whether you're a waitress, whether you're a garbage person, whatever it is that you do, I think we all care about our brand. A brand isn't what we think it is. A brand is what everybody else thinks it is. So that's critical no matter what, no matter what job you're doing.
MAC: Where do you see people most frequently get tripped up? What tips do you have on building your personal brand?
SLATER: I think where they get tripped up is that they think the brand is something outside of themselves like it's it. It's over there, and I'm over here. I think where they get tripped up is that they try to create a brand that really isn't authentic. They try to emulate somebody else because they see success in that other person. Certainly, it's great to have role models, so don't get me wrong on that. That's critical. But if it isn't authentically you, then people can see right through it. It's about being sincere with who you are and finding your passion and your purpose. If you're making a brand because you think that's whom they want you to be, it's never going to work.
MAC: What’s your advice to the folks that have been in the same role or with the same company forever? Are the challenges around their brand and how to continue to improve it differently, and how does that align?
SLATER: In some respects, it's a little bit different, in the approach because as you grow and evolve, your brand has to evolve with you. If you have different desires or maybe you get pigeonholed into a particular role because someone thinks that you are a certain way. So, if you make mistakes, which we all do, and I encourage people to make mistakes, often they can be misperceived. Whether you're new to a company or whether you've been there a long time, it’s important to continue to evolve your brand.
What I'm learning being back in corporate America, it's not just the brand of an individual. It's also the brand of a team or an organization. If you come in as a leader and you come to a team, it already has a brand. If it's not necessarily a good brand, you have to transform it, and so brand takes on a lot of different shapes and sizes. In terms of your own personal brand, it must evolve as you grow and change.
MAC: For the leaders out there, if they come in and inherit a sales team, the brand of that sales team may be their performance reputation. Maybe they've underperformed. Perhaps they haven't hit their number. How does a leader in that situation go about taking the things that make a personal brand successful and rebranding a team in a light they want the brand to be moving forward?
SLATER: What I think happens with individuals and with teams is the brand, and the numbers are one and the same. If it’s a low-performing team, and that becomes somebody's brand or a team's brand. Yet, there are so many things that go into that that don't get highlighted. As a leader, the first thing you need to do is you need to raise the awareness of all of the good things that are going on. Sometimes, there are what I call best-kept secrets, which you don't hear about the good because people are so focused on the results, but maybe there are a lot of excellent things that are going on. The first thing that you come in to do is establish trust, trust with your team, trust with your organization, and then you start to raise the awareness of the good. Because good is what drives productivity. Negativity is going to continue to push the numbers down. If you're not pulling out the good, you may as well kiss that goodbye because productivity will not improve in a negative environment.
MAC: For the person out there that may be transitioning careers, that may be uncertain of what their brand is, they're not necessarily a top performer, but they're trying to create a narrative in a brand that shows that they're interested. Is there a situation or a story where you've hired someone based on a narrative and their trajectory of their personal brand, moreover than just what they've done on paper or the skills or the resume package in the traditional sense?
SLATER: Yes, and it's not just been me but other leaders that I know. We had a big conversation about that here in my company a couple of weeks ago, where we were looking at a couple of different resumes of people that already worked there. We were turning back the clock and said, "How can we make sure that we're hiring people that have different backgrounds, different points of view?" There are folks on our team that are highly successful, but they have zero background in cybersecurity. In fact, I have several people that came from education, that came from retail, and that they started in inside sales as business development reps, and they are now very top-performing salespeople.
Their brand of who they are is what was so appealing. The more and more I get on in my career, I realize it's about who you are, not so much what you've done. What you've done in the situation, that's table stakes. You have to show that you have a good work ethic and all of that, but it's who you are. The right types of leaders are starting to look beyond the numbers and in seeing what success looks like concerning somebody's brand.
MAC: What are some tools and resources and ways that job seekers could research the existing team and maybe frame their brand, their application, their cover letter in a way that really makes that part stand out to you?
SLATER: Be creative, use social-selling. There’s so much out there that people can do to research, to research a company, to research the culture. There are so many tools that there's no excuse. It's fascinating, especially for people that are early in their careers. Early in career, you have an opportunity to write your story. It doesn't matter, especially if you're coming straight out of college. Nobody has any experience. It's the things that you've done to promote yourself in your life to show leadership. Be creative. We had one person send a resume the other day straight to our president for an inside sales role. "Hi, I just want to let you know I just applied." They sent it to our president of a $3-billion company. I'm not recommending it, but it was creative.
In Part Two of our Amy Slater Personal Branding interview, she shares how you can use her M.A.G.I.C. formula to create, grow, and enhance your brand to get more of what you want out of your career.