Interview with Award-winning Personal Branding Strategist; Dr. des. Natalia Wiechowski

Interviewer: Mahmoud Mansi

“Every one of us has an own unique gift (or talent), unique interests, a unique way of working and unique goals in life. So in the end, we are not really competing with each other…”

Dr. des. Natalia Wiechowski

Award-winning Personal Branding Strategist

Dr. des. Natalia Wiechowski is the Middle East’s leading Edutainer. Learning new things without laughing and having fun? – A nightmare for Dr. Natalia! That is why she always makes sure that she combines her knowledge and diverse experiences with a big portion of humor in her keynotes and in her role as a Personal Branding Strategist. The German Doctor of Philosophy empowers individuals to portray themselves and their careers as brands, in order to stand out from the grey crowd – online and offline. She guides them in presenting themselves in an impressive way and in building an authentic, professional (online) image. In short: She fast-tracks their success – from the inside out. With a social media following of over 146,000 individuals worldwide, the award-winning speaker walks the talk – not only in the world wide web but also on public stages, e.g. at the Global WIL Economic Forum, Hult International Business School and Digital Takeover HR.

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1- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Natalia, through your profiles it shows the various interesting careers you have been through. We are curious what was the first job you ever had, how old were you at that time, and what did you learn most from this job?

Natalia Wiechowski: I started as a swimming instructor for kids at the age of 14 (my mother is a studied trainer and former competitive athlete). The biggest lesson learned: Kids are great but I prefer working with adults.

2- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: After you have attained your MA degree in Social Science, you started working in Abu Dhabi as a Library Manager – which is quite the place to start a bright future! You have actually built the library from scratch (readers, books and interaction). Can you share with us the challenges you faced and how you overcame them?

Natalia Wiechowski: My top two challenges were:

  1. Managing the library on my own. I understood quickly that I needed a supportive internal and external social network if I wanted to succeed. So I networked and spent time with those people that could help me: I listened to their stories, solved their problems, then asked for a favor in return.

  2. Slow (procurement) processes and bureaucracy. The institute’s library needed other procurement processes than the rest of the vocational education and training institute. The top management team of the institute unfortunately could not help me. They had bigger challenges on their agenda, which they needed to focus on. In the end, a conversation with a higher representative from the Abu Dhabi Education Council solved this issue.

3- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Is the concept of personal branding perceived differently from one professional to the other? How does Natalia perceive personal branding?

Natalia Wiechowski: Yes, it is. I think that personal branding is a fantastic (self-)marketing and communications tool, that has the potential to attract countless outstanding opportunities into our lives -and businesses – if applied properly.

4- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: If you were an HR Director, how would you apply the concepts of personal branding on your own employees? And how would this impact the organization?

Natalia Wiechowski: I would invest in an employee advocacy program and a personal branding coach who would teach my staff how to use personal branding and social media in a professional way. The benefits?

Firstly, this concept would empower my employees and help them proving their professional credibility, polish their expert status and open doors to great new collaborations, business leads and more. Secondly, this strategy would have a positive impact on the image of my company – more talent might apply for vacancies, people would be more aware of our services and USP, etc.

5- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You are growing with a very successful pace, and now you coach and mentor others on how they can also grow inside out. Do you believe each person is given an equal opportunity to grow and brand him/herself?

Natalia Wiechowski: We tend to forget that we have choice. If you feel that you are not given the opportunity to grow and work on your personal brand, you have two options: A) Ask for it. B) Create it for yourself. Everything else – like nagging, blaming others, feeling sorry for yourself – will not change anything.

6- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Your methods are quite unique. You are singular in implementing them. How did you self-mentor yourself to this level?

Natalia Wiechowski: I read a lot. I experimented with various life philosophies and success strategies. And I developed a clear idea of how I want to live my life. I reminded myself of this “dream” – and my old, mediocre, boring life – whenever I had doubts. Not only that, I asked for help when I felt stuck. Working with other coaches and mentors was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

7- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Branding through social media is one of your pillar utilities. Let us assume you have lived in another era, maybe a 1000 years ago. How would you have applied personal branding?

Natalia Wiechowski: When it comes to the “offline world”, the rules back then and now to build and grow an influential personal brand are surprisingly similar. That is at least the impression I get when I watch movies and read books about that era:

Learn to speak and write eloquently, visit important events and develop a powerful social network, become part of a prestigious association or club, help others and make sure that people know and speak about it, dress impressively, find a way how to stand out, develop a great story around your journey, etc.

8- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a keynote speaker and a public speaking coach, you have sure attended lots of conferences as an attendee; an observer. What kind of positive criticism you can provide to many speakers out there, wither representing an idea or their companies?

Natalia Wiechowski: Don’t take yourself and your job so seriously. By being more human (approachable, kind, authentic), people will very likely connect deeper with you, ask you more questions and ask you for a follow-up meeting.

9- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Let us assume everyone started applying personal branding to a great and unique extent, would this become a threat in the future, creating an unusual competing environment, and furthermore would make it difficult for the client to make a choice? How can one regain a competitive advantage if that happened?

Natalia Wiechowski: Every one of us has an own unique gift (or talent), unique interests, a unique way of working and unique goals in life. So in the end, we are not really competing with each other. Let me explain that with the help of a metaphor:

Let’s assume we are all desserts. Some of us are pancakes, some are cookies, some are brownies, ice-creams, fruit salads, etc. Now, in a modern capitalist market, the consumer chooses what (s)he wants. One day it might be a fruit salad, the other day (s)he might feel like ice-cream. The purchase decision depends on various factors like the consumer’s mood, needs and the marketing messages (s)he was exposed to.

We could argue now “But all ice-creams are competing against each other, aren’t they?” The answer is no, as there is a niche for chocolate ice-cream, banana ice-cream, vanilla ice-cream, etc. And even within these niches there are numerous ways how each flavor could stand out, be unique and meet a specific need or requirement: Organic ingredients, ice-cream with gummy bears, non-dairy ice-cream, etc.

10- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: At what age should people start focusing on personal branding?

Natalia Wiechowski: Once they understood and accepted that nobody will come to save them. When they are ready to take ownership of their life.

11- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: We have noticed that you dedicate a great portion of your time into volunteering work like Toastmasters, Startup Weekend and Happy UAE. Why do you believe so much in volunteering work although the same time you can spend on doing profitable work?

Natalia Wiechowski: I did a lot of volunteering work after my sabbatical, when I wanted to find out what my passion is, how and with whom I want to work, what I am great at. Volunteering organizations were a fantastic ground to experiment, to meet likeminded people and to sharpen my newly acquired skills.

Today, I focus on doing profitable work. Why? Firstly, I want to grow my business to the next level. Secondly, I found my own way of giving back. I see my daily social media posts (in which I share business hacks, my failures, lessons learned), my free personal branding workshops and live streams as my volunteering work.

– HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Dr. des. Natalia Wiechowski, on behalf of all the readers I sincerely thank you for this valuable and inspiring interview, and for your efforts into developing the society.