Although marketing and branding was definitely a part of my professional game before coming to WebDevStudios, my primary skill (and passion) is writing. The starving artist mentality is alive and well, and something I strive to reject; the concept of “selling out” is wholly ridiculous and exists as a class barrier that romanticizes the suffering of the poor and stigmatizes working class artists. What better way is there than to make a living and fund your personal passions than applying your greatest strengths, however functionally useless they may seem on the surface, practically to your life?
As I’m such a staunch advocate of the writers and artists in my community utilizing their artistic strengths to their financial gain, I often find myself having the conversation about how to be capital-P Professional while also wielding their unique voice and attributes as a tool. This conversation isn’t just exclusive to the creative types; it’s a conversation I have had many times with prior marketing clients, too.
There’s a common misconception that professionalism requires being a whole different person than most of us actually are: flawed, funny, a little awkward, opinionated, shy. There’s an idea that professionalism is one part stuffy and one part hyper-obnoxious salesmanship; there’s an idea that selling your work, marketing yourself, and operating competently in a professional setting requires being more of an automaton than a human.
There are some corporate offices where this is true (trust me, as a former administrative assistant of a certain very popular hotel chain whose name may or may not rhyme with Spilton, I can promise you that), and of course there are folks who thrive in that environment. Arguably, though, that’s a minority, and most of us find greater satisfaction in spaces where we can can feel like we’re being authentic while also operating within the confines of professionalism. There is value in revealing our personal faces in the professional realm; telling your story is crucial to connection.
When I first started with WDS, Dre was headed to PressNomics for his presentation “An Interview with Dre,” which was hosted by Joshua Strebel (CEO of Page.ly). This interview delved into Dre’s history: how he got involved in tech and WordPress, how Sucuri came about, why he walked away from Sucuri and eventually joined us here at WebDevStudios.
More recently, Lisa delivered a similarly personal presentation at the most recent Prestige Conference, where she discussed how she switched careers entirely. Lisa went from being a Registered Nurse to a full-fledged WordPress entrepreneur–and WordPress was barely a year old at the time.
If you have met Dre or Lisa, you know that they are both extremely analytical, pragmatic people with a bevy of technical knowledge, and the presentations they give largely reflect that. They tend to focus on the practical and technical know-how because it’s clearly a major contributing factor to their continued success. These presentations, though, were different from what they had done before: Both explore the trajectory of their professional lives as told through the personal lens. Since this was so different for the both of them, I wanted to get their perspective on this balance between the personal and professional and share it with you.
Here’s what they had to say: