Creating your professional persona will level up your personal brand. Here’s how to do it.

Learn how to build your own persona (and why you should) with a behind-the-scenes look at how our Developer Advocates manage their brands.

Hi, I’m Rease Rios, Director of Content at Qase. My role involves a lot of behind the scenes work including coaching and collaborating with our two Developer Advocates, Vitaly Sharovatov and Jenna Charlton.

Initially, I didn’t plan on being too present on the Qase blog — why would testers, QA engineers, and developers want to hear from a content marketing expert? However, I realized a lot of the guidance and knowledge I share with my Developer Advocates could be beneficial to others, particularly those who want to build a personal brand. 

A lot of the work I do with Jenna and Vitaly centers around building their personal brand, expanding their reach, and landing them speaking opportunities at conferences, on podcasts, and at meetups. If that sounds like something you’d like to work on, this series is for you!

For the first article in my content creator series, I’m going to take you through the exercise I designed to create Vitaly at Qase and Jenna at Qase personas. I’ll use Vitaly and Jenna’s answers to demonstrate, but this exercise will work for any industry. 

Why you need a persona

You might be thinking — can’t I just use the internet like I always do? The short answer is no. The long answer is, kind of, but you need to set some boundaries. 

The reality is, you are a person outside of work and you do not owe your professional network every part of you. Personas don’t just help you build a professional presence, they also help you maintain a good work/life balance. Your brand and your personality overlap, but they are not one in the same. 

Not every part of your life is relevant to the audience you’re trying to attract. Before you frame this as a negative, consider how you adapt to different friend groups. If you’re obsessed with board games you probably have a group of friends who love a good game night and won’t mind sitting through a 20 minute explanation of the rules. But if you brought that same game to a gathering with friends who aren’t into board games, you’d have a hard time keeping their attention. Your love of board games is still part of who you are, it’s just not something you need to bring into every situation. Your personal brand works the same way. 

Creating a persona enables you to determine what the overlap between your personality and brand contains. Doing so will give you more focus in your work and help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by limitless possibilities. Plus, establishing a persona allows your audience to set their expectations. Ideally, people will know what type of content to expect from you and recognize your work based on how you present it and yourself. 

Persona-building exercise

To help my Developer Advocates build their Qase personas, I designed a questionnaire that would help them communicate how they wanted to present themselves. Below I’ll walk you through some of the questions, explain the purpose of each one, and share how Vitaly and Jenna’s answers contributed to their personas. 

What do you want to be known for?

Consider what adjectives you would want others to use to describe you and your work. What areas of expertise do you want to be known for? How do you want to be perceived online?

The purpose of this question is to help you narrow in on what you consider your core personality traits. This is not how you think you are perceived but rather how you want to be perceived. 

For Vitaly, it’s important for him to be described as helpful and knowledgeable and to be seen as a quality assurance expert and community builder who isn’t afraid to challenge popular opinions. 

Meanwhile Jenna wants to be known as an inclusive, knowledgeable, and experimental tester who is fun, playful, and a little bit cheesy. 

What work and work-adjacent topics do you like to talk about?

Here we start getting into the professional facet of your brand. Think about what aspects of your industry you are passionate about and which discussions you’re excited to jump into.

Try to be specific with your answers — this exercise helps you find your niche in your industry. Don’t limit yourself to the trendiest or most popular topics in your sector. Use this exercise to figure out not just which conversations you like to participate in, but which types of conversations you want to start. 

Vitaly and Jenna are Developer Advocates with very different backgrounds, so this was an interesting exercise to see from both sides. Jenna, a software tester, loves to talk about exploratory testing, test strategy, research, and test leadership/mentorship. Vitaly, a software engineer, seeks conversations about Agile practices, sociology and psychology of work, people/team management, and building community connections. 

You might’ve noticed that both have some topics that don’t seem hyper relevant to software testing and quality assurance, but we’ve worked together to ensure that they can delve into their passions while representing Qase. Often, this takes the form of thought leadership or opinion-based articles and conversations on social media or in forums. 

Jenna loves research and is currently in a graduate program working on a Masters of Fine Arts in Experience Design. After learning about autoethnographic research in school, they realized the methodology could be applied to testing. The resulting article, Autoethnographic research made me look at testing from a new angle, was a hit right away and got picked up in some software testing industry newsletters. Autoethnographic research might fall more in the “work-adjacent” than “work” category on the surface, but it was right in line with what Jenna’s audience loves.

Vitaly’s interest in sociology, psychology, and team management give him a unique perspective to quality assurance work. Combining those interests with his desire to be known as someone who challenges common beliefs leads to articles like Stop doing code reviews and try these alternatives. Vitaly has the necessary industry knowledge to take strong stances like this and we’ve worked together to make sure that he always adds in the “helpful and knowledgeable” portion by offering alternatives to whatever practice or theory he challenges.

What aspects of your work and community are you passionate about?

You chose this industry for specific reasons. What is it about working in this industry that gets you excited to show up and not only talk about it, but also work with others to improve it? 

Use this question to explore how you want to contribute to your industry and community. You could be a professional without a recognizable brand, but you are motivated to be more present and active in your work. Dig into those motivations. 

Vitaly and Jenna had a lot of crossover for this question. Both love coaching and helping people, but they approach coaching in different ways. Jenna strives to help juniors or anyone looking grow their career in testing and quality assurance. They also like to encourage people to build their personal community of peers. You can see this side of Jenna through articles like Software testing training: which option is best for you? in which they give honest advice about various training options and provide guidance for selecting the right fit. 

Vitaly uses a more direct tactic by maintaining a small group of mentees that he works with during his free time and through work projects. He combines his passion for rescuing animals and coaching people through a project hosted on Qase’s Github, ShelterPaws: A win-win for quality assurance and quality of life. Vitaly was already doing a lot of work with animals and his mentees before we built his persona, so I worked with him to fold these passions into his Qase work. Now, he dedicates a small portion of his work week to coaching a team of junior mentees who can build portfolio-worthy work that also helps animal shelters around the world. 

What does your ideal online interaction look like?

Think about what type of interaction you’d be thrilled to get. Do you want people to reshare your posts? Would you like to have a heated debate in the comment section? Are you hoping to get shoutouts from industry peers?

It’s crucial to know what you want to get out of your contributions. If you’re not sure what type of engagement you want, zoom out a bit more and consider what your goals are. For example, if you want to build up a subscriber list for your newsletter, an ideal interaction might be someone shouting out your newsletter on social media, forwarding an issue to a friend, or connecting with you on Linkedin. If your goal is to get more speaking engagements at conferences, starting a lively conversation in the comments section of your YouTube video could be a great way to show off your ability to give an engaging talk. 

Vitaly loves a debate or insightful discussion, so he spends a lot of time on Linkedin — writing articles, starting conversations, and (respectfully) disagreeing with lots of people. (I’ll share more about how we got the respectful part down in a later article about designing your persona’s voice and tone.)

One such interaction not only got Vitaly a new friend, it also earned him a guest spot on the Agile on the Mind podcast. 

Screenshots of Linkedin interaction between Daniel Susser and Vitaly Sharovatov

Jenna loves when people reshare their content or give them shoutouts, so they dedicate a lot of energy to promoting and celebrating the work of their peers. One way Jenna embraces this is through their Sketch Note series. Each Sketch Note is a visual representation of a talk Jenna attended, paired with a written guide. Creating the Sketch Notes is a way for Jenna to process their ideas and opinions while also amplifying a peer’s work. 

Building your persona helps you merge who you are and where you want to go in your career

Going through this persona-building exercise will give you a solid start to building a personal brand that projects professionalism and authenticity along with your unique personality and skill set. 

Remember, creating a persona is not about hiding parts of yourself. It’s about finding direction and being more intentional with how you present yourself as a professional and connect with your target audience. 

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