Joe Colantonio is Taking Personal Branding to the Next Level
Joe Colantonio is one of those guys who really gets personal branding and niching down.
I've coached a lot of different developers about building out their brand, but unfortunately a majority of people still don't really do anything.
Not Joe, Joe took action.
It's been amazing to watch Joe expand his brand through his blog, his podcasting and most recently his transformation and rebranding of his entire site.
Joe is a great example of how successfully marketing yourself and building your brand online can greatly change your life.
I did a video interview with Joe, you can check out here, in addition to the interview below.
Q. How did you get your start as a test automation engineer?
Before I got involved with computers I actually wanted to be a professional musician. I attended Berklee College of Music and toured the East coast with my band, The Rub. But I soon found out that the rock and roll lifestyle was not for me.
I had a roommate at the time who was raking in the cash as a computer programmer, to the point where he was leaving stacks of uncashed checks laying around, and I began thinking he might be on to something. Since I was already looking for a change, I asked him if he could help me out. I knew next to nothing about computers back then, but he coached me up and got me a phone interview with his company. I somehow landed the job, and ended up doing tech support for Microsoft Visual Basic for a couple of years, after which I followed that same friend to a startup company and a position I had never heard of called QA.
While I was working as a QA engineer — being the lazy person I am – I was always looking for a quicker way to perform tests, which led me to discover some test automation and performance test tools. From that point on I was hooked.
I soon realized that the things I loved most about playing an instrument – the constant learning curve and need for creativity and improvisation, combined with my gift/curse for breaking everything I touched – were skills that could also apply to a career in technology, and BAM!! — a software test automation engineer was born.
Q. Why did you start blogging?
About five years ago, I realized I was approaching the age at which some claim to begin encountering ageism when looking for a new job. Since I’m paranoid by nature, I always think I’m about to get laid off or fired, and am always thinking of way to give myself an edge. I eventually hit upon blogging as a way to not only enhance my personal branding, but to help keep my skills sharp.
I think in this day and age that if you aren’t the first result that comes up when someone Googles your name, you are automatically at a competitive disadvantage. You need to own the information that is returned for your name. I would bet that Googling someone’s name is one of the first things an HR department does when reviewing a resume. How much better would it be for someone to Google you and find an active blog where you have been consistently producing content over a long stretch of time?
The best way to accomplish that is to create a platform that you own, which you can then use to persuade others and be seen as a leader in your field.
Q. When do you find time to blog?
I work full time as a test automation engineer, and having a blog has really helped me stay fresh and keep my skills up to date. Any time I need to do something for work I treat it as a blog post and document everything. I then release it in-house and on my website.
That’s one of my secrets for being able to work full time and still have time for blogging. Luckily the two are related, so everything I learn at work is fair game to also be featured on my blog.
It’s a win/win for my company and for me because I’m growing as an employee with all the self learning that I’m doing, and I’m also building my individual brand at the same time.
Q. What made you also want to start a podcast?
As I mentioned earlier, I originally wanted to be a musician and have my own recording studio. Podcasting gave me a legitimate excuse to buy some really cool recording equipment.
Also, I noticed that there weren’t any podcasts dedicated to test automation. There were some that dealt with QA and performance testing, but nothing along the lines of what I was looking for. I also noticed that the testing-related podcasts that were available were not released on a consistent schedule.
So, I wanted create a podcast to fill a need I thought needed filling.
I’m glad I did, because it has really opened some doors for me in terms of introducing me to some of the top thought leaders in the testing and development area, and has also helped to grow my platform.
Furthermore, since I’m really quite introverted, I’m always looking for ways to hone my communication skills, and podcasting is definitely helping me to do that.
Q. Why did you recently rebrand your site?
I’m starting to make enough income from my blog to afford to reinvest money into it. One of the things I thought my blog was lacking before the rebrand was a professional feel. It felt a little amateurish to me.
I also had a feeling that many people were logging on to the site and then leaving because there was no clear value statement; no “what’s in it for me” factor.
I redid my logo on 99design, making it a little more automation- related. I also got a professional photo shoot done and incorporated these elements into my site with an emphasis on making it absolutely what the site is all about. I also created a quick lead magnet for people who subscribe to my Email list.
These changes may seem minor, but I believe that since I’m looking to take my blog and podcast to the next level, I needed to have a better- looking site. The initial results from the rebranding have been significant. So far my bounce rate has dropped almost 10%, and my Email subscription rate has increased by almost 40%.
I’d like to give a quick shout-out to Michael Hyatt’s Platform University. Michael has a bunch of makeover videos that he does for members, critiquing their current sites and giving them suggestions to make them better. I went through all those videos and applied many of his suggestions to my site.
Q. Any advice you would give someone who is just starting off blogging?
I’d say there are three main things. Model success, be consistent and treat your blog like a business from day one.
I’m a big believer in modeling success — maybe it stems from my being a musician, since guitar players tend to “borrow” licks from one another and make them their own.
I think there are core principles that lead to success, and simply repeating the actions of others who are already successful at what you are trying to do can significantly increase your chances of success.
Lastly, I would recommend treating your blog as a business right from the start — even if you aren’t planning to make it a business. Start gathering Email addresses as soon as possible. Decide on a content release schedule and stick to it. You’d be surprised how a simple thing like consistency can set you apart from other bloggers in your same niche.
Q. Any book or resource you recommend to get started?
I started five years ago, and in technology that’s a pretty long time! I wish I’d had a resource like John’s Soft Skills – The software developer’s life manual when I started. I would recommend it to anyone, even people like myself who have been doing this for some time. It’s a great resource.
Even though he may come across as cheesy sometimes, I also like Brendon Burchard’s The Millionaire Messenger, which focuses on how to profit from sharing your message with the world.
Q. Before we go, can you tell us a little more about what your blog and podcast are all about?
With more and more companies shifting left with their software life cycle, as well as the rise of DevOps and continuous integration and deployment, the need for reliable automation is critical.
My mission is to help testers, developers and technical managers succeed with all their test automation efforts. This is something I call automation awesomeness, and it’s what I blog about on joecolantonio.com.