I came across Mark Beckford a few months ago, as he is a client of one of my partners, Deb Dib. Mark immediately struck me as very nice, very ambitious, very successful, and very unemployed. I watched as he started his blog, Disruptive Leadership, and remember his first post wasn’t even the awkward “I’m here, blogging, now what do I say” post. He jumped right into it, with an analytical, opinionated view on current events that he had professional passion about.
Very nice start, I just wondered if he would be able to keep up the momentum.
Well, he has kept up the momentum, and he stays true to his name Disruptive Leadership. Very impressive. Just about everything he has on his blog is impressive… I love the name, colors, look-and-feel, etc. He is fearless in what he blogs about, has a great style, knows when to write a lot and when to write a little… he has an excellent blog.
And that’s all I’m going to say about why his blog rocks. If you want more substance into what makes a great professional personal branding blog, you can sift through the last 2 years of award winners. For now, let’s shift gears a little and move from technique to RESULTS. Because RESULTS is what this is all about. Mark gets the customary 6 months of JibberJobber premium (transferrable), the highly sought-after link to his blog in my blogroll, a cyber-high-five, and a Blog Marketing 201 – 501 webinar… not too shabby for Mr. Disruptive.
Now let’s get down to RESULTS. I’m going to let Mark share, in his own words, the results he got. This is kind of long, but it’s a great read. This is exactly the type of story I look for to quantify the value of having a strong personal branding strategy. Mark, take it away!
After 11 years with Intel and a 3-year assignment in Shanghai starting up a new business group and turning around a few businesses, I found myself unsatisfied. Being in China with Intel was a great experience, but a combination of things, including a dearth of entrepreneurial opportunities, led me to take a year off. So I pulled the plug on Intel and China and returned to my home in California to spend time with my family (not much opportunity to do that as an expat or Intel executive), dabble in some hobbies (drawing, blogging, and cycling), and do some self-exploration.
I have read more books on various topics in the last 9 months than I have in 20 years. Some of the standouts tended toward common themes:
- Networking: Never Eat Alone; The Go-Giver; How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Social Networking: Groundswell
- Career Development: I’m on LinkedIn, Now What? Career Distinction; Ask the Headhunter; Now Discover your Strengths; Uniting the Virtual Workplace
- Global Perspectives: The World is Flat; Post-American World; One Billion Customers (how to do business in China)
- Social Capitalism: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Creating a World without Poverty
As I started thinking about getting back into the job hunt, I realized that for the first time I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I have always been very goal oriented, knowing what I wanted to do or be in 5 years, yet here I was, unsure of what I should do next. Join a startup? Go back to a big company? Do consulting? Go international again? And what type of function (biz dev, general management, etc.)? It was an uncomfortable place to be.
I joined a six-week teleseminar in March on career management for execs which I found on Blue Steps, led by Louise Kursmark. Deb Dib presented at the first session and gave an update on personal branding—my first intro to it. Louise recommended Jason Alba’s book on LinkedIn, and suggested I use VisualCV because my career had strong visual elements.
I agreed with Deb’s approach ideas about branding, but I was daunted at the thought of doing it by myself. I knew that at work I was at my most creative when I was bouncing ideas off people. In 2006, I had hired a resume writer, Gloria Gordon, to update my resume for the first time in 10 years (never updated it after business school… just got promoted within Intel and never really needed it.) Gloria did a great job both on the resume and the cover letter—from scratch—for about $600. They got me interviews and a job offer, but it wasn’t about branding.
I looked at several brand experts and went with Deb Dib (the most expensive, but I believe that you get what you pay for). In April, I then began the branding process which started with self discovery and included doing things that were very uncomfortable but rewarding. For example, I didn’t like sending Reach’s 360 out to my friends/colleagues.
Bottom line: it helped me realize I had an entrepreneurial passion for growing for-profit tech businesses in emerging markets, creating a wildly successful business while doing good by helping people in need. The interesting thing is that once I discovered this, I found that there is a huge movement out there to bring business principles to do social good, mixing the dynamics of creating sustainability and growth through capitalistic principles while promoting a social mission. It is called a “double bottom line” business (i.e. using both profitable and social measurements for success).
So originally, the idea was to take a year of—the first half of the year to hang out with my family, and the second half to do the job search. I originally figured it would take a few months to find a job. I had already gotten offers before I left Intel, and headhunters were calling me here and there. But by June, the phone was no longer ringing, and I realized that this was going to take awhile. Then things got ugly as the economy ground to a halt and all the companies went on hiring freezes (great for JibberJobber). The home equity loan I had planned to tap into in case my nest egg for the year got dented decreased due to the decrease in the value of our house. My wife and I started letting go of all the “help” (gardner, housecleaner, pool man). I watched my 401K get whacked 20 percent in one week. Anyway, the financial crisis train was on its way and it was the worst time in 20 years to be looking for a job, especially an executive level job.
The one light for me in all of this was that I now knew exactly what I wanted to be now … CEO of a startup selling computing devices to underserved populations in emerging markets. The intermediate step given my finances was to work for a startup (preferably) doing this, or a big tech company like Adobe, Google, Facebook that was already doing it (more likely scenario).
But as you know, looking for a job completely SUCKS. It is demoralizing and boring to boot.
I had become fascinated with web 2.0 and online social networking. I joined a bazillion social networking sites, but found zero value in 90 percent of them. The exceptions have been LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I finally decided to do a blog, with Deb’s urging, and it has been the most enjoyable thing I’ve done this year. It has allowed me to express myself and create something that people are actually interested in. It took a long time to come up with the name, Disruptive Leadership, that fit my “brand”. I fell into it as I started googling names like Disruptive Marketing, etc. So 22 posts later, it’s growing and I’m meeting new and interesting people. It has gotten me noticed by well-established sites in my space such as http://www.nextbillion.net where I’ve been brought on as one of a handful of staff writers. One measure of how it has impacted my online brand is that if you google my name in quotes “Mark Beckford” my blog is the second result after my LinkedIn page.
I have been invited to moderate two panels on the role of computers for development. One was at a conference two weeks ago called “Social Capital Markets 2008” which brought together investors, nonprofits, and social entrepreneurs for which I wrote an article titled Pathological Collaboration about how necessity is forcing two previous “enemies” together: capitalists and nonprofits. The second panel will be at the Net Impact conference (a global network of leaders trying to change the world through business) in Philadelphia next month on the role low cost computing in development in emerging markets.
I am now working on creating a professional network to complement my blog that will bring together like-minded professionals and executives in the technology business who are growing their businesses in emerging markets and looking to use their products to promote development. Something like Technology for Development or something sexier. Nothing out there combines technology, for-profit business principles and emerging markets. I’m taking a slow approach on this as I think social networks are a tougher nut to crack than blogging. For example, how do you create an active and vibrant community? What’s the value proposition? The technology is easy (Ning.com).
And finally, I just received a job offer with a startup called NComputing that sells low-cost computers to schools and other sectors in emerging markets. I believe they offer a true “disruptive innovation” to the PC world and I am tremendously excited to make their vision a success.
So, in summary, I would say my “success” in creating my brand, online and otherwise, was due to my:
- Risk-taking – willing to quit my job which was draining me even though I was working in one of the most dynamic countries in the world.
- Introspection – willing to peel back the onion to see what makes me tick.
- Willingness to seek help – hiring an executive CEO coach to help me do that introspection (and taking the risk that the BIG investment would be pay later).
- Passion for networking – reaching out to people in my area of interest which has lead to great things.
- Being bold, brash and edgy – abandoning the first name I suggested to Deb Dib for my blog (“Digital Opportunity”) and accepting her criticism of it (“boooorrrrrinnnng!!!”) which led me to come up with “Disruptive Leadership” and pushed me to be edgy in my writings that convey more powerful things that create interest.
- Giving more to your network then you receive – Volunteering for a ton of things and looking for ways to give back to my network vs. only take, which isn’t easy when you are looking for a job, but I’ve seen how this pays off.
The result is I am better grounded in who I am, have built a solid online presence, have found the perfect job, and hopefully become a thought leader in this space.
Excellent! Inspiring! Great job Mark! And congrats on being the Oct 2008 Winner of the Month!