The Future of Work: The Hybrid Role-Fusing Technical and Soft Skills, Part 2

UC Berkeley Extension
26 min readAug 1, 2022


Jill Finlayson: Welcome to the Future of Work podcast with Berkeley Extension and the EDGE in Tech Initiative at the University of California focused on expanding diversity and gender equity in tech. EDGE in Tech is part of CITRIS, the Center for IT Research in the Interest of Society, and the Banatau Institute. We’re back with Vaneese Johnson, the Boldness Coach and brand strategist. Last time, we talked about the need for those essential soft, or rather, essential human skills to move forward in our career.

This month, we’re continuing to move boldly into the future of work with Vaneese, exploring more deeply how those essential skills are needed to build a personal brand and to become a leader. As mentioned last time, Vaneese Johnson is the Boldness Coach, helping people bring authenticity and values to their careers and helping companies enhance focus and strategic thinking to address 21st-century business challenges. Vaneese is a lead instructor for Professional Development program at UC Berkeley Extension. Previously she was founder of On the Move Staffing Services, which assisted temporary employees who were transitioning in their careers.

She has numerous certifications in leadership, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, entrepreneurship, and small business training. She has written a book on “boldism.” She joins us today to coach us in developing our leadership potential and creating a personal brand which is both Branded And Distinctive, or BAD.

Welcome, Vaneese. Let’s get right back into it. What are a couple of key boldisms for leaders? And how can we all become BAD at it?

Vaneese Johnson: [LAUGHS] I love it. I love it. So one of the boldisms that I really love for leaders is understand that your words are currency. You have to understand your words are currency. They buy something. They sell something. And when you understand that choosing the appropriate words for the appropriate situation can really inspire and excite your employees to want to step up to the next level and do their best, or they want to do their best with you as their leader. So that’s the top boldism that I would say that every leader really should pay attention to.

Jill Finlayson: Excellent. And then BAD, Branded And Distinctive, what does that mean for a leader? And why do we need a personal brand in the first place?

Vaneese Johnson: Yes. I absolutely love the conversation around personal branding and professional branding. And it’s important because we all have a reputation, Jill. And as I mentioned on the previous podcast, people either like to see you coming or they don’t like to see you coming.


And so it’s important. And really what professional branding is — I want to kind of break this down. It’s really the process of creating a mark around your name and your career. Typically, we’ve seen branding in the past as something that has to do with the product.

But here’s the reality. We are the product that we’re selling. So when we really look at thinking about and acting up and treating our careers like a brand, we stay out of the commodity zone. The commodity zone is when you look and sound like everybody else and when people don’t really see a distinguishing value in you.

They say, oh, well you look like ABC over there. So we can now negotiate between you and them, and just chip away at your value, and chip away at offering you the lowest possible value. So it’s important to really get clear and understand what your brand is.

Jill Finlayson: And when you want to develop a brand — let’s start with you. What is your personal brand? Give me an example.

Vaneese Johnson: [LAUGHS] So one of the things that you do in developing your brand is figure out who you are. So I mentioned before — and for those of you that are joining again — I am a talker. [LAUGHS] So I’m a talker. And my brand really is a communication strategist.

Now, the Boldness Coach is the hat that I do this under. But one of my brand attributes is a communication strategist. And I figured that out about myself just doing a self audit in terms of what brings me joy and what I’m really great at.

And then also, you got to determine what you want to be known for. So as I’m out there marketing myself as an entrepreneur, as a coach, and I’m seeking opportunities, I market myself in a way that allows me to either be a trainer, a coach, or a speaker because those all fall in alignment with how I see myself as a communication strategist. And then you got to define your audience.

Who are the people that really are interested in the brand that I offer? So that’s speakers. That could be people I do workforce development trainers. So that could be departments that want to have their teams trained to be HR departments. So it’s important to get clear as you are identifying your brand and fine tuning it and then putting it out there.

Jill Finlayson: Have you ever had to rebrand yourself?

Vanesse Johnson: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And it’s funny because if you all could see my face — [LAUGHS] yes. And thank you for asking this question because I don’t want anyone listening to feel like they are tied to a particular brand for the entire journey of their career. I think I’m on my fourth rebrand. [LAUGHS]

I used to own a temporary staffing agency. Then I used to be a re-invention coach. Then I used to be a transformation coach. [LAUGHS]

You evolve. Your career evolves. The skill sets evolve. And we mentioned before in the segment one about plateauing.

So I had gotten to a place in my career where those brand personas no longer served me well. And I also was feeling like I was in the commodity zone. There were a lot of people out there that were career reinvention coach, career transformation coach. And I really couldn’t differentiate myself in that space.

And I had to go and do the self audit And say, out of everything that I’ve been doing on my career, what’s the theme that’s always showing up? And talking, communication was that theme that was always showing up. And then I asked myself, now with communication being a theme, who am I? And what’s important, a character trait in me that I now can connect with? And being bold.

And a lot of people saw me that way. So asking people that I trust if they could describe me in one word, what would that word be? And a lot of people said I see you as bold. I see you as audacious. I see you as daring. And I’m like, oh, wow.

Jill Finlayson: So if you were to generalize your experience, if I’m not being recognized for things that I want to be known for, if I want to intentionally rebrand, how do I go about that?

Vaneese Johnson: It’s your responsibility, number one. So take ownership of you. Take ownership of your reputation. And don’t leave it in the hands of other people.

A lot of people leave their reputation in the hands of other people and expecting for people to recognize and see them the way that they want be seen. So treat your career like a business. That’s a writer downer. [LAUGHS] Treat your career like a business.

You are the product that you are selling. You are the product that you are representing. And so what would be important is to have an audit on your professional brand.

Once you get clear about your brand, you’re also back to looking at your vision and your mission for your career. So this works in concert. You don’t just say, ooh, I’ve got this brand and I’m just going to go out there and throw it to the wall and see what sticks. [LAUGHS] You’ve got to create a marketing strategy for your brand.

LinkedIn is a fantastic place to have a marketing strategy for your brand. But you also want to think about the components of your marketing brand. So if you were to take a look at my LinkedIn page, then you would see some of those components of my brand there.

And you also want to outline your strategy. What does it look like? Where does need to be seen? What should it be saying? So really putting together a game plan around your personal brand is going to be very important to help you to identify it, execute it, and then leverage it into the next opportunity.

Jill Finlayson: I like this idea of being able to be intentional, put a communication plan together so that other people see what you want to see. Like, at one point in my career, I’d come up through marketing.

And I’m like, I don’t want to be known for marketing anymore. I want to shift. I want to be more strategic. And so just changing the words that I use on my LinkedIn or on my resume and focusing in on elevating the skills that I do want to be known for was a really important part. So as you think about being intentional about setting your brand, how do you address not only your strengths, but maybe your weaknesses?

Vaneese Johnson: The reality is we all have weaknesses. The kiss of death in an interview is to say I don’t have any weaknesses. You can just say game over. [LAUGHS] We all have weaknesses. What you don’t do is you don’t highlight them.

If someone asked me, Vaneese, tell me an area that your weak in, I, number one, don’t always adopt other people’s words when I’m rephrasing or responding to a question. So my response would be an area that I am continually working on. [LAUGHS] I’m continually working on managing paperwork. And how I do that is I use project management tools like Asana.

So you can take an area that you’re not so strong in and rephrase it to continually enhance it. And perhaps you may be using tools to be able to support you enhancing that and making it work. What people don’t want to hear is that you have an area that you’re not so strong on, and you’re not doing anything about it. And they are fearful that they’re going to have to manage you, trying to manage that area that you’re not so strong in.

Jill Finlayson: That makes a lot of sense. And thinking about this sort of 360 brand assessment that you were talking about doing, you do want to know what’s not working and what’s not going well so you can improve. I often talk to a lot of startup founders. And they want people to their startup idea, right? They want to get positive feedback.

And I said, don’t ask for that. You don’t need that. What you need is where are the problems? Where are the things that need to improve? So how do you go about as a leader getting people to provide that kind of feedback — give them permission to give that kind of feedback when they don’t want to speak truth to power?

Vaneese Johnson: Right. One of the things I love using words and phrases is, where’s the opportunity? Where’s the invitation for you to rise to the next level? And assessment tools are really important. And people have an opportunity to give you feedback from an anonymous contribution because people don’t always want to tell you face to face. But they do think it’s important for you to know because it may have a direct impact on the work relationship. So as a leader, or even as an emerging leader, make that request to your higher ups that you would like an opportunity, at a particular time, to have a 360 assessment done for you so that people that you will be leading or people that you are leading have an opportunity to help you to become the best leader possible not only for them, but for yourself in that role.

Jill Finlayson: Yeah. So as a leader, if you’re successful in collecting this feedback, how do you receive critical feedback and not shut down? How do you receive that information? And how do you act upon the information?

Vaneese Johnson: Yeah. One of the things that I do when I work with leaders is, number one, is being a coach because I think it’s important to have a third party where that person is really there to support you. Because you might need to have an outlet where you can say, ouch, this was painful. It was uncomfortable to read this.

And then there’s an opportunity to work with that coach through really peeling the layers back to interpret exactly what is it that you’re reading. What is it that people are saying? And how has it shown up? And sometimes when you’re working with that coach, you have an opportunity to, again, have that person that’s there for you to help you to see this information through different lens and to help you to look at ways to process it so that you then can be able to move forward.

Jill Finlayson: And to your point, any sort of gap is, in fact, an opportunity, right? It’s an opportunity for improvement. It’s an opportunity to fix problems and be proactive. So as a leader, you’ve got to feel good about that and embrace that perspective. But it can feel very difficult. And I think one of the good things about having a 360 would be that it would create more empathy in the leader for what their staff go through when they get evaluations.

Vaneese Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s a way — emotional intelligence. [LAUGHS] It’s a way to be empathetic and to be able to say, I understand how you might be feeling about this because I, too, have to go through an annual review. But I, too, go through a 360 from time to time because I want to know where the opportunity is for me at the next level. And I want to celebrate the successes that I am having. So it’s not just always to say that there’s an opportunity to be better. Sometimes there’s an opportunity to really celebrate what’s working well and to keep doing and building on what’s working well.

Jill Finlayson: Yeah, I think that’s often a skipped step with leadership there. So they forget to take that moment to celebrate and think about the experience and that people had worked really hard to get to that point. You bring up a really important point, though, which is this idea of trust and safety. And as a leader, how do you build that kind of trust?

And I’m referring in my mind to this study from Google, where they were trying to understand what made for effective teams. And one of the things that made for effective teams was shared vision. But the key thing was psychological security, psychological safety, where people felt they could point out when things were wrong without fear of being made fun of or retaliated against for pointing out a problem. And that was really essential. So how, as a leader, do you build trust and psychological safety?

Vaneese Johnson: This is really a good point of conversation on that because it’s important to build that trust. And I’m going to go back to a person that we all have read and watched, Brene Brown. It’s important to bring vulnerability to your leadership role. Being able to say sometimes and acknowledge when you don’t always get it right.

We look at leaders a lot of times, and we expect leaders — and sometimes the standard is set for leaders to always be right and to always have the answers. But when you don’t have the answers, it’s OK to say, I don’t have that answer. I will do my best to try and find what I can find out and come back and share it. But I don’t have the answer.

Or to be able to say, I got it wrong. And for that, I want to apologize. Being able to apologize to your team is important because people just want to know that you are human just like they are. They want to know you go through similar experiences that they go through.

And once you can demonstrate that and be vulnerable with it, in it’s appropriate way and time, then people will start to develop trust with you. Also, it’s important for a leader to not be judgmental, like you mentioned, creating that safe space. I want to know and feel like when I come in and speak to you and talk to you that you really hear me, and you’re not judging me and/or prejudging the conversation before I sit down. Be present with me.

Jill Finlayson: Yeah. I think that that is something that a lot of leaders would like advice and tips on is, just what do those conversations look like? I heard a story of this leader who had someone come to them and point out that they felt there was a racial bias incident in the workplace. And there’s sort of a knee-jerk reaction, a defensiveness. There’s sort of this feeling that comes up.

But they were able to check themselves — coming back to your emotional intelligence — and say, this person trusts me enough to come to me with this problem. They trust me enough to raise this very sensitive issue. And that being a starting point reframes the interaction. And so as you think about being a leader, and somebody is sharing with you a problem or you have a disconnect, the wording that you use to understand what did they need to move forward rather than assuming what they need to move forward, maybe you can say a little bit more about that. Like, how do you avoid dictating an answer and really open that channel of communication?

Vaneese Johnson: You definitely want to choose the appropriate language to respond to that. Sometimes that could be role play, where you might role play with your coach on that. Or it could be writing out a specific response. It could be role playing with a peer to be able to help you to get ready for that conversation.

And then the other part is ask open-ended questions. And also that vulnerability — I apologize if that was the experience that you were having. That was not my intention. Would you mind sharing with me what your experience was like?

And as a person shares that experience with you, that eye-to-eye contact, the head nod, the leaning in, the body language says a lot. Like, hmm, yeah, I see how you could have had that experience. How can I support you? What would support look like for you going forward?

Jill Finlayson: And it’s one thing to be doing this in person, where you can make that eye contact. It’s another thing when information is traveling asynchronously. It’s traveling through email. Can you say a little bit about how tone might be lost in an email or how people might be reading between the lines or telling themself a story that you didn’t intend?

Vaneese Johnson: You know what’s really interesting about how communication and how using these tools are so great when they’re efficient. But we also need to develop the skill to be able to say when we see a turn happening, or when we foresee a possible turn could be happening, is to stop the communication online and take it to a conversation. Too many times we are so caught up in checking off our list and getting things done and “addressing — “ I’m going to put that in air quotes, “addressing — “ a topic that we can forget that there’s a human on the other side of this topic.

So there are opportunities, as leaders, that we can say, I want to continue this conversation with you. And I think that it’s important enough. Or what I’m sensing or experiencing that this has a high level of importance to you. And I want to make sure that I am available and I hear and that something doesn’t fall through the cracks. Would you be open to jumping on the phone for 10 minutes right now?

So it’s OK to redirect the conversation from online to offline, especially when the stakes are high. There’s a book called Crucial Conversations. And I’m actually a Crucial Conversations facilitator. And that book is based on when the stakes are high. When you are having a conversation and those stakes are high, then immediately that should trigger you that it needs to be taken in a different route.

Jill Finlayson: And kind of building on that, one of the most critical communication moments for a leader and their employee is the evaluations, the performance evaluations. Can you talk a little bit about how to make those a good experience, what that means in terms of global companies with cultural differences and unconscious bias? How do we make these performance evaluations constructive not destructive?

Vaneese Johnson: You know what’s really interesting? Those are good words. [LAUGHS] Because I think every time someone hears performance evaluation, destructive always comes up. [LAUGHS] I don’t think people say, oh, it’s going to be constructive. Let’s hear it.

What some companies are doing now — and I encourage all companies to do this — is it’s important to really look at the ways that you want to help support optimal performance with your employees, and not only from the company side, but also from the side of the employee. How do you want to make this a collaborative effort so that it’s a win-win or as close as win-win for everyone that’s possible? The other thing that’s new now about performance managements is a lot of companies are doing coaching as it happens, performance coaching.

So they’re not waiting until the end of the year to evaluate you. So performance coaching is an ongoing conversation that happens from the time of performance planning. And so performance planning is something that is important to do upfront. And you can do that quarterly. That ultimately culminates to the annual time.

But leaders really look at ways to create performance planning programs or processes or systems so that you can break it down quarterly. Also, extend the invitation to the employee and make this a collaborative effort. When people feel like that they matter in the performance planning process, when people feel like their skills, their genius, their bigness can be acknowledged and implemented in some way, then people will start to see as a trusted leader that they then can develop rapport with.

So it’s important to look at the evaluation process that a company has. And if it’s a dinosaur, get it out the window. And get the appropriate people to the table to help fine tune it, including feedback from your employees.

Jill Finlayson: So speaking of elephants or dinosaurs in the room, I have to ask the question, when it comes to performance evaluations, we know that women tend to get less constructive feedback, that there are certain stereotypes that maybe come in where people get personality feedback not constructive feedback. We see different challenges that different populations face when they’re getting their evaluations. How do we avoid that as leaders? And how, if you’re the recipient of that kind of feedback, how do you address it?

Vaneese Johnson: I have a saying. And I picked this up from some place. Rocks are hard. Water is wet. And what that means is sticking to facts. That’s really important, is in the evaluation process, to base the feedback on facts. There has to be something to justify and support what you’re saying. So an output of that is really important.

And the other side of that from the employee side, who’s participating in that — so hopefully it’s participatory, where it’s a two-way street and it’s not just one way, where the leader is just telling me all of these things, good, bad, or indifferent. But as the employee, be bold. Stand in it and ask the open-ended question.

Open-ended questions could be, would you mind giving me an example where you saw this? Would you mind sharing with me the facts or the data that you have as it relates to the statement that you’re making? So do not be afraid, employee, to stand in your boldness and to ask for examples so that you can see that.

And leader, it’s important to be fair. When you are fair, you are sticking to the facts. Feelings and emotions don’t belong in that conversation. That is another conversation. But they don’t belong in a conversation or in a meeting where documentation is important because to me, that means that something else is at play here.

Jill Finlayson: Sometimes people are well-intentioned, but it comes across differently, depending on the person. So I think about at universities, we need to write letters of recommendation for students. And you might say one student is hard working, which is a great thing to be. And you might tell another student that they’re strategic. And those are going to land differently when the person is reading the information. So how as a leader can you be aware if you are choosing the right words to reflect the contributions that each employee is making?

Vaneese Johnson: It’s interesting about when you say choosing the right words because one of the things that I do as a leader — and I’ll tell you how I help other leaders too — is I keep a thesaurus and dictionary handy. [LAUGHS] I’m old school that way because I want to look at the words I’m using. And that’s another way of being fair with the language I’m using.

But it’s also a way of acknowledging individuality. So I think it’s important to acknowledge individuality when you are doing performance evaluations. Also I think it’s important to have rating scales where you can acknowledge individuality versus kind of setting the environment where one person sets the standard for everybody. Because it’s really not fair because we’re all individuals in that.

And how I help leaders — and I do this in workshops — is I actually bring them a list of verbs. I have a list of 396 verbs. And a lot of the leaders are like, oh, my goodness, this is gold right here. And the reason I do that is because for the opportunity to identify the best words.

And again look at the fairness of it. I think it’s important that we can give tools — as many tools as possible to leaders. But it’s going to be important to you, from a leadership perspective, to make sure that you’re bringing those human skills to the conversation. It’s going to be important that you’re bringing those emotional intelligence skills to the words that you are communicating.

It’s going to be important that you’re also bringing those essential skills. You are looking to build a team. You’re looking to build camaraderie. You’re looking to develop connection, rapport.

Jill Finlayson: Absolutely. And I like what you’re saying there. There’s been a lot of conversation around making job descriptions better, making the words and the requirements and the minimum requirements better. But I hadn’t heard about people doing basically a Textio or a review for the evaluations to get people to say, is this what you really mean here? Or this is how this sounds to the person reading it and giving them feedback on how to do that better. I think that’s a really interesting step in the right direction.

But along those same lines, there are these archetypes of what leaders are. And the data shows they’re disproportionately tall, disproportionately male, disproportionately white. And there are these challenges of what we picture as a leader, which can affect people’s advancement opportunities. So when you think about shifting that and addressing things like the barriers for women, advancing the double glass ceiling for Asian women, the not getting past the first promotion for Black women — there are all these challenges. How do we shift what is defined as leadership so that we can focus more on these essential and human skills?

Vaneese Johnson: Well, this is a good topic. I mean, Jill, you and I could hang out all day, every day — [LAUGHING] — and just record our conversations. The first thing that I’m going to say that’s important for every single company to do — any company that is a company on this planet — is to really audit the organization and tell the truth. Identify where the disparities really are and tell the truth and acknowledge that.

I think what happens sometimes is companies don’t want to acknowledge it because of the fear, the fear of what the truth is or the fear of how other people might feel and react. So they don’t want the panic to cause any stress or drama, so we’re just not going to say anything. And when you don’t say anything, you talk even louder when you don’t say anything.

Companies need to audit where they are from a representation standpoint. Is this organization and the people that make up this organization, as well as the leadership that makes up this organization, how does it reflect with the people that we are leading? I think another question is, how does it reflect the communities that we serve? Because that’s what’s happening a lot is that these leaders are making decisions about people that they’re serving, communities and users of their products or services. But they don’t relate to them or connect with them on any level.

So it’s important to really be truthful in the organization and look at where the opportunities are. The other area that’s important is to broaden the communication. Be vulnerable enough to say, we messed this up. We need to do better with our leadership and not only do better, but you can walk the walk and talk the talk.

And communicate that to the teams that you’re leading, that this is what we are doing. Not we’re going to do better. We’re looking into it. This is what we’re going to do. And here is the strategic plan for what change will look like.

Jill Finlayson: I like that. What is the strategic plan for what change will look like?

Vaneese Johnson: What would change look like? We need quantitative and qualitative content in that strategic plan. What are you going to do, by when, with whom? And what is it going to look like that we know that you have achieved it?

The other area is to work with the human resources to make sure that people have the support they need while this transition is happening, whatever that support looks like. The support could be — you and I were talking about job descriptions. The support could be for HR to work with recruiters to update the job descriptions to be more reflective of the culture that we now live in.

We live in a global culture. So the language cannot be singularly or myopically focused just from an American standpoint of view. We’re not in that world anymore.

Jill Finlayson: Well, this is a great time to just dive into this issue of a global workplace. So I absolutely agree with you that we need to have these really, as you said earlier crucial conversations around a lot of these social issues. But globally there’s a lot of cross-cultural differences. And just getting down to very simple things, how do we disagree? How we do that in different countries is very different. Can you say a little bit about building these global teams and team dynamics?

Vaneese Johnson: Intercultural, cross-cultural training is so important. Every company really does need to invest in having cross-cultural and intercultural classes and continuation of that, not just a workshop one time. They may need to invest in having an intercultural coach on staff.

So I encourage companies to really put that as mandatory for everyone onboarding in the company, but also for everyone that’s working in the company so that we all have the opportunity to get the same information. And when I talk about — I travel a lot globally. I speak a lot and do trainings a lot internationally. When we look at intercultural, we’re talking about within that culture. There is still an opportunity within that culture for us to learn more about each other.

Jill Finlayson: And just as a specific example, this idea of disagreement, how is disagreement expressed, can you explain why that might be different in different countries and why it’s important to understand that?

Vaneese Johnson: Well, here’s the reality as humans, we are all never going to agree on the same thing at the same time. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that disagreements are part of intercultural connectivity. Cross-cultural connectivity is to be open to the feedback, to be open to the exchange, and to look for an agreeable point in the exchange.

And what does a agreeability look like? Because sometimes people don’t want to let go of a “belief system — “ and I put that in air quotes — because they’ve made it a reality. And the fact of the matter is we all interact with different cultures. So understanding, as much as we can, how the cultural aspect impacts in the work environment.

It’s not like we’re trying to learn and go and duplicate the culture or to fully assimilate in the culture. That may not be appropriate. However, it may be appropriate to understand, how does components of that culture impact the work environment and the way the work is done?

Jill Finlayson: I think we’re getting close to the end here. And I want to reflect on the fact that we’re living in such different times after post-COVID, a lot of social justice challenges. We’re seeing a lot of remote and hybrid and distributed teams. There’s all of this going on. And it’s led to a great migration, or a great movement in people’s careers. So when we think about, as leaders, how does your personal brand help you to attract and retain employees, how do you create an environment as a leader that people want to stay, that they’ll feel that sense of purpose that they’re looking for today?

Vaneese Johnson: Mm-hmm. This may sound simple, but it’s so important. And I think this is the catalyst that every company needs to hear. It is really people first. Bottom line, it’s people first. When we make sure that people know they matter, then, and only then, can we look at the opportunity to build collaborative teams and to really serve the population as a whole.

And mattering means that you understand, that you’re open to. Because sometimes understanding is a journey, but that you’re open to understanding and that you’re actually listening, and you are responding in a positive, impactful way to the request and the needs, when and where appropriate, to support people so that they can show up to do their best. Because this whole notion of — even if you’re working remotely, working from home, and this whole notion that you have to be stuck at your computer for 8:00 to 5:00.

Employers really do need to listen to the needs of their employees. And some companies are actually doing that, Jill. Some companies are giving their employees the flexibility for hybrid work models. As long as they’re getting the work done, they’re like, what does your day need to look like in order for you to get the work? So I think it’s important people first, and then everything else will fall into place with intention and strategy behind it.

Jill Finlayson: People first for your personal brand. But people first for the corporate brand as well.

Vaneese Johnson: Yes. And the leadership brand — people first for the leadership brand. Because if I feel that my leader is very supportive of me, and I’ve developed a rapport and a level of trust with that leader, I know they’re going to work with me, not against me, to be able to bridge the gap between what will work for the organization and what will work for me.

Jill Finlayson: And any final words for building your own BAD brand?

Vaneese Johnson: Yes! Yes! So here’s what I will say, for building your brand. So really get clear about who you are at this point in your career journey. What are you really great at, that you find joy in and that you can look back on your previous journey in your career to see where you’ve been shining and excelling at? And really look at the vision and the possibility of what your career could look like going forward with your brand.

And once you get clear about who you are, what you shine with, and the vision of where you want it to go, then I want you to put together a personal brand strategy because you’ve got to get it out there. [LAUGHS] How you get it out there could be different. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to leverage your brand. You may decide to have your own personal website, whatever your name is dot com. If it’s taken, do the middle initial dot com, do a surname, however you want to do that.

But get it out there so that you can start to separate yourself and get out of the commodity zone. And once you’ve get your brand out there, engage your brand with other professional brands. Networking, we talked about that in the last podcast. Get out there and network. So those are the tips that I would say to leverage your brand and to stand in being bold, big, and bad with no permission needed. You’re going to feel better at the end of the day.

Jill Finlayson: Thank you, Vaneese, for shining with us and for helping us get out of the commodity zone. We really appreciate you joining us for this wonderful two-part series. And with that, I hope you enjoyed this latest in a long series of podcasts that we’ll be sending your way every month.

Please share with friends and colleagues who may be interested in taking this Future of Work journey with us. And make sure to head over to and search for Vaneese’s August career bootcamp on getting your next job. And to see what’s coming up next at EDGE in Tech, go ahead and visit

Thanks so much for listening. I’ll be back next month to talk about the democracy of data. As we look at the future of work, every role at every level of an organization will need data literacy skills. Let’s discuss the impact and importance of data to your career. Until next time.



UC Berkeley Extension

UC Berkeley Extension is the continuing education branch of the University of California, Berkeley. We empower learners to meet educational and career goals.