Building your personal brand

How do you want to be known when someone hears your name?

That’s the question Kim Rogoff ’94 posed to those attending the second annual Women in Business conference Wednesday (March 30) at Iacocca Hall.

“You have a personal brand, whether or not you deliberately focus on it,” said Rogoff, senior vice president for global corporate financial planning and analysis at Coach Inc. “It’s the impact you make on others. It’s part of your legacy, and it’s worth cultivating, because only you can own it.”

Rogoff was the keynote speaker at the conference, which was hosted by the Lehigh student group Women in Business. Titled “Building your Personal Brand,” the conference aimed to inspire students as they prepare to launch their careers and to promote awareness of important issues that leaders face.

Panel discussions focused on the power of networking and entrepreneurship, with successful Lehigh alums sharing their work experiences and providing career advice.

Led by Steven L. Savino, who holds the John C. Swartley Jr. ’24 Professorship in the department of marketing at Lehigh, the networking panel featured Ellen Stone ’87, executive vice president of marketing for Bravo and Oxygen Media; and David Highhill ’06 ’08G, director of club business development for the National Football League.

The session on “Starting from Scratch: An Entrepreneurship Panel” featured four entrepreneurs who are also Lehigh grads: Alita Friedman ’87, CEO of Alita’s Brand Bar; Susan Yee ’82, CEO of Active Data; and Amy Mazius ’13 and Randi Tutelman ’12 ’13G, co-founders of the jewelry brand Eleanor Kalle LLC. The panel was moderated by Lisa Getzler, co-executive director of the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation.

Rogoff, who has held four distinct high-level roles in her 13 years with Coach, said her personal brand remains a work in progress.

She said she wants to be seen as a person who is hard-working and dedicated, one who is able to admit when she doesn’t know an answer, and one who loves to develop talent. She said she had polled her colleagues to assess whether their views were consistent with hers, and they see her as authoritative and capable of getting things done. “On the whole,” she said, “they get me.”

Rogoff said that aspects of her personal brand, such as her strong work ethic, reflect values and ethics instilled in her by her parents and formed during her childhood. As her life evolved, she said, so did her brand. “It became more complex, perhaps more well-rounded, certainly more nuanced,” she said.

Ten years ago, Rogoff said, she had no work/life balance. Her work defined her. When she became pregnant with the first of her three children, she said she wondered, now what? Once she became a mother, she said, she was no longer only defined by her work, and she had to quickly figure out how to prioritize her responsibilities. At her company, she became a mentor for women in finance who were returning from maternity leave.

“Personal brands evolve over time, taking on additional attributes, shaped and polished by life and work experience,” she said.

She told the audience, “Your brand, and what you do with it, needs to develop in tandem with where you are in your life.”

The power of networking

In the networking session, Stone and Highhill drew from personal experiences and spoke about the importance of networking in landing a job.

They advised students to make connections face-to-face or over the phone and to nurture relationships by keeping in regular contact with mentors. They also said students should ask for information, perhaps about the industry they have their sights on, rather than ask outright for a job from a potential contact. That way, they said, it opens a dialogue.

To kick-start networking, the panelists urged students to take advantage of Lehigh’s vast alumni network, to state the connection, to utilize the online networking tool LinkedIn, and not to shy away from asking their parents and relatives to help make introductions.

While social media can be a great marketing tool for a company, Stone said, “Texting me is not networking with me.” 

Starting from scratch

In “Starting from Scratch,” Getzler opened the session by posing the question: “What is the definition of entrepreneurship?” At Baker, she said, an entrepreneur is seen as “someone who recognizes a problem as an opportunity to create a solution that will provide value in the marketplace, whatever that is.”

In telling their stories, the panelists talked about how they got their start, their first steps in establishing their businesses, the problems they were able to solve and how they built their teams. They also talked about the importance of timing in starting an organization or launching a product.

“Here’s one of my favorite sayings,” said Getzler, drawing on an old cowboy quote. “Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance….If you’re a rainmaker and you’re doing a rain dance, and there hasn’t been any possibility of rain in six months because you’re in the middle of a drought,” it’s unlikely your dance will be successful.

“Timing can be one of the more important things that you think about as an entrepreneur—or in life,” Getzler told the students, adding that experience, and gut instincts, can figure into deciding when to make a move.

“The truth is, timing is very, very important.”

Photos by John Kish IV

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