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mi-brand HQ – Personal Branding for Career Acceleration

Building your personal brand

Can you introduce yourself and tell me about your background?

I’m Leila Singh, I have a 25-year corporate career which started out in accountancy. After 6 years enjoying, learning and expanding my knowledge in the area of finance, I realised I wanted more. Part of the reason for this, was up until that point, I was very shy. I kept my head down, worked hard, but didn’t have much confidence. I thought if I worked hard, that would be sufficient to move up in my career.

One of my old bosses came up to me to give me some advice before he left. He said, “When we hired you, you talked about your career aspirations. You have been a great hire for the company. You have the capabilities to achieve those aspirations, but you’re going to struggle, because people don’t know who you are or what you’re about.”

That left me thinking that the advice was good, but I didn’t know what to do with it. About a year down the line, I knew I wanted to do more. I looked into what I had really enjoyed doing in the various jobs that I have had. I identified a couple of opportunities. I thought recruitment sounded really cool, because you get to talk to people all day (even though I was still incredibly shy).

I did my research and spoke to a couple of organisations, and decided I wanted to go for a smaller company. I joined a smaller recruitment firm in North London. They were prepared to take a risk on me, as I didn’t have any sales experience. It worked out really well. I spent 2 years in recruitment, which was the most pivotal point in my career. This was because it made me realise what I was capable of. I was the highest biller in the first year amongst a team of well-versed consultants. I think this was in part because it was financial recruitment and I had more meaningful conversations with the clients and candidates, because of my background.

Everyone is equal

That showed me that I had taken myself massively out of my comfort zone, you know what the role is, but the reality is very different. The other learning, I took from it, was that everyone is equal. The reason I say that, is prior to that I had an inferiority complex. I thought people were better than me, cleverer, smarter, prettier than me – all that stuff that we have in our inner dialogue. But I realised I have something to bring to the table. These people were listening to me. The clients, the candidates, I was placing people, and therefore I had value to bring. That really helped my confidence. We are all equal and we all have our own value.

Stretching myself like that, helped me so much, with confidence. I then began exploring other opportunities. Asking myself, do I want to stay in this company, or in recruitment? An opportunity came along, from what was then EDS, Electronic Data Systems. They were an IT outsourcing company, the second largest to IBM at the time. I had friends who had been through their company graduate programs, so I knew it was a good company to work for and I was really excited at the prospect.

The job required someone to instil change across a big part of the business. It was a completely new role, in corporate finance, something I had no experience of. They wanted someone with strength of character that can deal with effecting change. I know if I had gone for that 2 years earlier, I wouldn’t have even got to interview stage. It showed me that by trying new things, taking risks, stepping out of my comfort zone, just what I am capable of.

Wanting something more

That whole journey was a huge learning experience for me and helped me recognise what my strengths were. One was relationships and people. When talking to my director, he said I was really good at that, meeting people, building relationships – I said ‘no I’m shy’, he said ‘no, you’re not!’ I came to realise that that was my ‘old’ messaging and inner dialogue! The years spent at EDS were the most enjoyable part of my career on every level, and after six years, Hewlett Packard (HPE) took over the company, and I was offered an opportunity to join their Treasury function, again an entirely new set of skills and learnings for me, and I then spent almost ten years as a Sales Executive there.

About 7 years ago, I started reflecting on how I was spending my life. I wanted something more. I discovered Neuro Linguistic Programming, funded my training and qualified as a Master Practitioner in NLP. It blew my mind! I experienced massive breakthroughs myself, it helped me to overcome a number of fears, including that of public speaking.  I wanted to do something with what I had learned, and I wanted to show people what their capabilities and possibilities are. I was looking into how to utilise this and create a business.

Over the last few years, all my spare time has been spent upskilling and learning. I wrote a book, got accredited as a Coach, L&D Trainer and Professional Speaker Mentor. I did all this so when I was in a position to leave, I would be in a place to start my business. I was already delivering talks and workshops during the last few years of working at HPE, until I made the decision to leave. And now here I am!

Can you tell us about your Coaching and training practice?

I have established my Coaching Practice and Personal Brand Consultancy, and I’ve been coaching and training for 6+ years, full time for the last 2.5 years. I looked at what I brought to the table that people want, what they valued and are prepared to invest in. I identified what I loved doing, which was broadly around the coaching, speaking and building relationships. And explored the areas of my skills and expertise which I wanted to focus on sharing with my clients; this for me is ‘personal branding’. Most of what is talked about around personal branding is all about digital and social presence. What I’m addressing is human potential, the  in-person version of you – showing up as your best self.

I’ve created a framework, identifying 6 pillars that I believe are the most critical to creating a strong personal brand. This is drawn from my experience and based on what I did in my career. The first is Clarity. Who you are and what you stand for. The second is Mindset, so confidence and attitude forms a big part of that. This is so important to be successful. Your mindset is the biggest thing that can hold you back from moving forward.

The 6 C’s

There are 6 C’s. Clarity and Confidence, then we have Captivate – which is all about presence, non-verbal communication. How you carry yourself, how you show up, both online and in-person. Next is Communication, so public speaking, delivering engaging presentations and essentially verbal communication. This is followed by Connection – Relationships. How do you build that circle of trust around you, or supporters, advocates and sponsors? Finally we have Cultivate, looking at your personal leadership. Not a job title, but how you show up in person. How you are as a leader.

The framework is delivered through ‘mentoring’, training and workshops. I combine this with Coaching where I simply ask intuitive, powerful questions to open people’s minds to possibilities, new concepts, philosophies and finding the answers within. My niche client base is typically career professionals in the technology industry.

“I have done this, and I am no-one special, which means you can do this too.”

When I joined EDS, I thought I wanted to retire there. Even though I loved my job, I later realised that I wanted more. I took a risk. I thought I would lose my identity leaving, but later realised that’s only down to ego. The first few months after I left, I was a bit lost, but now I have established my brand and business. That’s taken 12-15 months.

I always ask myself, who am I to do this? Why should someone work with me? I can answer that. My career journey and accomplishments support all that I do now. Overcoming a lack of confidence, getting clear on my brand identity, developing my presence and public speaking skills, cultivating a phenomenal network around me, are all key areas to master and develop, for anyone wanting a more successful career.

I have done this, and I am no-one special, which means you can do this too.

In my TEDx Talk I talk about possibilities. Open up your eyes to the possibilities. You have got to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. The possibilities are endless. You don’t know where you could end up. It’s important to show up, step up and speak up!

Can you tell us about your podcast?

I love my podcast! I launched it in November. It was an idea I had when I was in HPE. I met people who excel, they’re accomplished, they have got something to say. And I thought it would be so cool to interview people, but it was one of those things I never did. I hadn’t thought about podcasts as a format for doing this. Last year when lockdown hit, I listened to a lot more podcasts. I thought that’s a good way to do it. And because of lockdown I could do them via zoom – I thought that would be easier than in person. Although it’s not! It’s a hell of a lot of work!

I read up the best way to do podcasts, and knew I needed a VA. I started the interviews in June and built up a bank of them. Once my VA settled in, we launched it. It’s called mi-brand HQ. Its “All-things personal branding for career acceleration!” In the main, my guests are leaders in the tech industry. Not all board level. Even young people who have achieved, and have something to say.  It is a diverse mix of men and women from around the globe. I look at their story, what they have done. I have a guest in the gaming industry who is really interesting! I spoke to a guest about strategic alliances and partnerships and the importance of that in business.

Every single interview I got emotional over! Because they have invested time in preparing for it, they have taken time to understand what I’m all about and researched what I do in the same way I have researched them. I can sit here and preach all day about personal branding, but in every interview, someone will speak about one of those aspects in my framework. They align with what I’m talking about and are all great examples of a Personal Brand; they are also very accomplished, they have insightful career journey, challenges overcome. Its great to listen to each and every guest and hear their story! I have material from some interviews I have done as a guest in the past, so I’m publishing some of those as well on the podcast if I feel it brings value to my audience.

LinkedIn Live

I hosted a panel interview for International Women’s Day for my LinkedIn Live, I deliver a LinkedIn Live every Thursday at 12:30pm – mi-brandTV.  Some of the topics I will put on the podcast as well. I recognise the importance of your social media branding. Many people in my generation aren’t so savvy with it. The podcast is a platform for them to have something on social media to position themselves. I’m really enjoying doing the interviews. It’s focused on careers in the tech industry and promotes the opportunities and possibilities. It’s not purely ‘techy’. It is looking at people who have accomplished so much. As an industry, it is really exciting and dynamic. And it continues to grow and evolve. Since lockdown everything has gone online. What’s your expertise? You can excel in that in the tech industry.

For the first six months of the podcast, we published weekly, however with my focus on so many things currently, an episode is now published every other Thursday. I was so excited when we hit the Top 10 in the UK on Apple Podcasts and reached 2000 downloads!

What are the main areas people who work in tech, need coaching on?

Confidence. Men and women, In different ways. As an example, networking. I was that shy person, I thought networking wasn’t for me. But it was a mindset. I like getting to know people – that’s networking. I was in a leadership training before I left HPE, they put up a slide about networking and people groaned! Its just conversation, that’s all it is! You can see it as hard work, or you can see it as fun. You just talk to people. Networking is more important now since the pandemic. This is the best time, as its so much easier. People are accessible, people are at home. I’m constantly reaching out to people. I would never have done this as much before the pandemic, it is so easy. I think people need to be aware of that.

Imposter syndrome comes up more for women, as in the terminology. Men don’t really use that terminology, but some experience similar challenges to those that fall under the banner of ‘imposter syndrome’.

Clarity is for people who are established in their career. They feel fed up or frustrated, don’t know where they are heading, or feel lost. People question their career and ask themselves are they happy to continue doing what they are doing? Or what should they do next?

Impact. Because you’re not in the office, and people can’t see you – how can you still be visible? Be at the top of people’s minds? Its important to maintain visibility. These are the main challenges people are experiencing right now.


What are some of the frequent questions you get from tech professionals?

Its frequent to be asked ‘how can I  be heard?’ or ‘how do I  show up in a male dominated environment?’. Often times, people think they are being ignored. A common ask is ‘How do I grow my network?’, ‘how do I grow my confidence?’ and ‘What do I do when I feel ‘stuck’ in my job?’

What challenges are facing the tech community at the moment?

I can only speak to that from people I’m in conversation with. Networking is frustrating for people. It’s hard for people. Office banter can make the day go by quicker, some people feel isolated at home. On the other hand, other people love it because they can manage their home life better between work.

Now you have to have intentional conversations with someone, which means booking time in, which means asking, which people may not want to do!

If you would like help with getting promoted, maximising your earnings potential, or simply advancing your career, you can contact Leila via LinkedIn to book a call – and why not join her here on Thursdays at 12:30 UK for her LIVE chats?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/leila-singh/

Grab your FREE copy of the Personal Brand Playbook here –

www.leilasingh.com/go/playbook

Watch Leilas insightful TEDx talk here, which focuses on the question, ‘Are you just another number in your organisation?’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YO5PO_YK58E

And remember to tune into Leila’s podcast – “mi-brand HQ – Personal Branding for Career Acceleration!”

https://anchor.fm/leila-singh

Need help with your next career move?

You can contact us here at Menlo Park for help finding your next perfect role. Are you looking for a new role? Thinking about a move and don’t know what roles are out there? We will help and guid you through the whole process and help you to find the perfect role, for you. Our service is free of charge, all you have to do is contact us!

You can contact us via our contact page here. Or call us on 0113 468 9230, or email [email protected]

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