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Building A Personal Brand In The Geospatial Industry

Joe is the Vice President of Commercial Products at Umbra, a satellite and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) start up. We have been on the hunt for some time for someone to discuss the concept of personal branding with. Delightfully, the previous chat turned to this topic, and Joe is exactly the type of person to have it with.

What is a Personal Brand?

A personal brand can be many things to many people. It can be at the scale of celebrity, and becoming a household name, or it can be walking into your corner pub and everyone knowing your name. Everyone will have different levels of comfort with this. Some people have no desire to find the spotlight, while others make it their mission from an early age. In GIS, it has yet to be achieved to make even the industry itself a household word, so carving out a name for yourself in the industry may seem impossible. In fact, the relative obscurity of the industry may make it even easier to accomplish. There are fewer fish in a pond than in the ocean, and consequently, they are probably more likely to know each other (funny enough, fish recognize each other most commonly by their sense of smell).

The brand you put out is created and curated over years, it is built by, and becomes your reputation. The brand is a living thing, and subscribes to the “you are what you eat” expression.  For this reason, your personal brand is just that; it is personal. You put yourself into your work, and allow that to become your public image. An important prerequisite to this is being sure of yourself: What is your message? Who is your desired audience? What do you want them to take away from it all?

Most teenagers with an iPhone can create a personal brand. Some of them are even quite successful at it. If you want to create a personal brand, you can pretty easily follow their formula, make videos, use hashtags, be attractive, don’t be unattractive, all that. The brand you create, however, will be in no way representative of yourself, it will be as fake as an influencer’s tan and unsustainable over any term. Most importantly, however, you will fail to reach a meaningful audience, and to create a community.

Building a Successful Personal Brand

Social media and the internet have made it easier than ever to get your name out there, but not all publicity is good publicity. The key is not just consistently creating content, it is in creating quality content that attracts a consistent community.

The keystone element in personal branding is building your voice. Your voice can be your written voice, your literal voice, your art, your maps, it is however you communicate what you are intending to say. This voice is your lifeline to your audience, so it is vital to make sure it is strong enough to keep you connected. Remember, your personal brand is you. It is important to be comfortable in the you that you plan to communicate. Take time to experiment with your voice, make sure you have something to say, and that you are willing to continue the conversation if someone dares to respond.

The best content creators are also the best editors, and the key to editing is humility. Realistically, not everything you do is gold. If this is your first time hearing this- I’m sorry, and you’re welcome. You walk before you learn to run, and before you learn to walk, you learn to catch yourself when you fall. Learning something new is hard. In fact, it is so hard that many people never graduate from the “learning” to the “learned” stage, and this is perfectly fine. There is a lot to learn, but you should always be honest about what you know.

Honesty is incredibly refreshing to many. We exist in a world that continues to normalize the filtering of real life in such a way that we cannot really tell what was normal to begin with. Taking off the rose-colored glasses yourself allows you to bring others into the light, and begin a conversation about what you actually see. Not everything you see will be pretty, and that is awesome. Find the things that are broken, or breaking, or stagnant, and make some noise about it. Conflict and disagreement is where discourse breaks new ground, allowing future growth to take root.

Overcoming Obscurity

There are a few things we are a broken record about at Mapscaping, and two of those things are of immense importance to building a personal brand. One is keeping our promises, showing up every week and committing to the listener. The other is evangelizing the importance of community, which… is often disguised as advocacy for networking.

The greatest honor your personal brand can encounter is creating a community. At this stage, others have identified with your personal brand enough that they are willing to associate it with their own. They stumbled across whatever you have created, and saw the potential in it, they want in. Congratulations, another person knows who you are, and you are incrementally less obscure. That is the goal, to be less obscure than you were before. It is unlikely that you will be headlining a TED Talk at Radio City Music Hall anytime soon, but you have sunk your claws a little deeper into your slice of a niche.

In terms of consistency, it is important to do work, be creative, and contribute to your goal everyday. This is how habits, good or bad, are formed. Building habits, however, does not mean becoming complacent. A routine is valuable for a dozen reasons, but variety is the spice of life. If you are not nervous, or anxious about the outcome of your project, skill, pursuit – whatever – you are not challenging yourself.

No one ever became a legend by being predictable, you become a legend by being outstanding. Find your niche of a niche, add your voice to it, and become the best at it. Fame, fortune, and opportunity will scale accordingly (Disclaimer: Mapscaping does not guarantee fame, or fortune. Pursue these at your own risk, but do credit us if you succeed).

About the Author
I'm Daniel O'Donohue, the voice and creator behind The MapScaping Podcast ( A podcast for the geospatial community ). With a professional background as a geospatial specialist, I've spent years harnessing the power of spatial to unravel the complexities of our world, one layer at a time.

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