‘Thought leadership’ has become a popular buzzword in recent years, often sprinkled around the technology industry like confetti; a phrase first coined in 1994 by the late Joel Kurtzman, the founding editor of Strategy+Business.
“A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate… they have distinctively original ideas, unique points of view and new insights.”Joel Kurtzman
For technologists, from software engineers to full stack developers, the term has now evolved, referring to an industry expert who shares their expertise with a wider audience in order to educate, improve, and add value to the industry as a whole.
From Lisa Seacat DeLuca at Wayfair to Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, technology thought leaders aren’t just experts on their own industry – they immerse themselves in all aspects of the businesses they work for; watching the cogs turn, soaking up every detail, and ensuring they know their audiences inside out.
Innovative and passionate, thought leaders are agents of change. Audiences seek them out for their insider knowledge, as they have the experience and expertise to weigh in on the latest developments in their field.
So why should technologists become thought leaders? Positioning yourself as a thought leader allows you to boost your presence within the industry, becoming a leading voice in the conversation surrounding all things development, while elevating your professional profile.
You won’t become a thought leader overnight, but with some planning and effort, you can develop a niche following that can expand over the years to an entire network.
Here are some ways you can get started on your journey to become a thought leader!
Know your stuff
Before you can engage your audience online, you need to give them a reason to care. They have to understand your expertise and why they should listen to you – what sets you apart from the other voices in the industry? It’s essential to clearly communicate your speciality tech stacks and skills from the start. You can begin by writing with an initial focus on your niche topic/stack, gearing your posts to your day-to-day work and projects, any problems you’ve faced and worked through, or any insider knowledge you might have on upcoming programming languages or frameworks.
Once your audience has a sense of your chosen subjects and expertise, they’ll follow and keep updated with your posts and commentary. Gaining your audiences’ trust helps center you as a thought leader, and soon your new followers will comment on other topics related to development.
Share and share alike
Share your expertise in development to help others, by offering advice on common industry problems and detailing issues you’ve experienced. Think back to any challenges you faced and how you managed to problem solve. Chances are audiences are searching for the answers and knowledge you’ve already obtained – so do a little research and pay attention to what your audiences are looking for. Be prepared to help and educate others by speaking at conferences and local networking events. Share stories with young talent in the software industry and work with other experts, mentors and educators in your community. You can make a positive impact on your local community by engaging in school, college and university open events, and getting involved in tech-related activities, from Hackathons, to game developer meet-ups.
Blogs help raise your profile through Google rankings, can be easily shared on social media, and offer the option for people to subscribe and follow your work in the long-term. In short, there’s no better way to start sharing your thoughts on all things software development than writing – or blogging – about it. From tutorials on Salesforce, to the latest technology news, a blog opens the doors to your wealth of knowledge, so your audience can walk right in. Successful thought leadership depends on you building a strong personal brand, so blogs are a great resource to get your thoughts out there. People can discover you, get to know your story and who you are, which then amplifies your voice in the technology community. WordPress, Medium and Squarespace are just some of the blogger platforms utilized by software engineers and developers, offering easy access to audiences worldwide.
You don’t have to restrict yourself to your own blog – find other technology blogs, websites and video channels where you can offer your knowledge and expertise. Research some like-minded websites and channels and reach out to the owners. By contributing to other sites, you’re widening your audience. Choose a prevalent topic, or a specific project you’re working on that might be of interest to other people. You can even contribute to Andela’s blog via our Writers Room. We’ll be sharing information about that in an upcoming blog post – so stay tuned!
Get to know your audience
Connecting with your audience on social media is a great way to develop your thought leadership skills. By setting up social media accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, StackOverflow and Instagram, and by posting insights into your work, you’ll soon develop a solid following. The feedback you receive from your audience can help you build your thought leadership strategy. Invite others to contribute to a project, or even just to post their own experiences in the public chat. Set up regular polls and surveys for innovative ways to engage with your audience and find out what you can offer them.
Meet other thought leaders
Learn from the best. Connecting with other thought leaders is a great way to hone your skills and deepen your expertise. By growing your network and meeting other peers, you can find mentors or even just get a second pair of eyes to look over your work. Once you’ve posted a blog, share it to all of your social media accounts, and perhaps consider sending it directly to any thought leaders you admire, along with a personal note explaining why you’d like them to read it. Technology thought leaders share your passion for tech – so it’s rarely an issue for you to establish a connection/conversation with your peers. As you build a relationship, you could share more of each other’s work and double your exposure. But please remember to return the favor!
To sum up
With opportunities ranging from book deals to speaking engagements, becoming a thought leader can add major value to your career prospects. Investing time and effort can help center you as a person to watch in the industry – and this can come in especially handy when you’re looking for a new job! At Andela, we’re always seeking to connect brilliance with opportunity. Join our Andela Talent Network to find your next adventure.
If you found this blog useful, check out our other blog posts for more essential insights!