Whenever I meet people in conferences or meetups, I experiment with how I introduce myself. Every time I talk about myself and what I do, I make subtle changes and notice what reaction the other person gave.
This isn’t something I did in the initial stages of my career. When I started (as a programmer) I just told I am a software engineer or programmer in a startup. And I noticed that people will just start saying “Oh, OK. Cool. What does the startup do?” Then the conversation ends up being about the startup and I just missed the opportunity to make an impact on a stranger.
After my failed startup, I started consulting for other companies. And this was a stage when I used to attend a lot of meetups every weekend. And this is also the time when I began experimenting with my introductions.
Initially, I was saying “Hi I am Srini, I am a freelancer” or some variation of that. That was the most horrible thing I could say about myself. People kept saying “Uh? Ok. So you write code and stuff uh? What kind of code?”
Programmers doing Freelancing has this weird association with a code monkey who doesn’t know how to think. I kept hearing people who have this small task that they want help with and they were confused when I started asking deep probing questions about their product.
I didn’t communicate well enough that I am more of a product guy and I can help them end-to-end in researching, prototyping, building, and launching their product. Not just write a particular module and get paid.
I started saying that I am a Consultant and this was slightly better. People began asking me help with different parts of their software and how I could help them. I was no longer a freelancer. However, there were still a few people who didn’t know what consulting was and their first question was “so consultant, like a freelancer?”
I had to resist the urge to not facepalm and reply back with how I was a bit different than just a coder they could hire on Elance.
I used to say that I work with startups and program stuff. But so does every other fresh programmer out of college. How was I different?
This was the stage when I promoted myself to be a Solutions/Software Architect (hey I was my own boss). This sounded cool and people started noticing me. Mostly because I spoke with confidence and authority, but partly because I called myself as an Architect.
Even this was missing something. I realised that nobody cared about the title. Yes, it did sound cool, but only before the kids. They see someone older claiming to be an architect, they will listen to every word you say.
My target audience were people higher up in startups. Guys who take the decision whether to hire me or not. For them, it doesn’t matter what I called myself. All they care about is how I am going to solve their problem.
Solve a problem
My introductions became something like this “I am Srini, I am a software/solutions consultant/architect and I help startups build products”. This clearly explains what I do and how I can immediately solve a problem for startups (my target audience). The responses were totally different.
Whenever I used this introduction, people used to start asking “Hmm, interesting. What kind of products do you build?” and “What startups have you worked with before?”.
I stopped being that code monkey or some weirdo who calls himself funkier titles. I began to be that person who can provide a solution to their tech product. And the conversation started and eventually, I would become their trusted advisor when it comes to building their product.
Even now, after becoming a full-time employee, I always test out my introductions. I explain what I do and what I have done in the company and so on. And since I am representing the company in such conferences and meetups, I test a lot of variants introducing the company too. In tomorrow’s post, I will explain how to explain what your company does.
I want to know how you introduce yourself. Please leave them in the comments below.