Thursday, March 29, 2007

Blogging & Boundaries in the Professional Sphere

Karyn Romeis' recent post echoed stuff that's been rolling around in my mind about blogging, professionalism, sharing, confidentiality, roles, boundaries, etc. etc.

So first -- why have I started blogging about e-Learning with, not a vengence, but at least with some passion? Why am I blogging about e-Learning, and not about my kids or gardening?

  • To share thoughts, to learn, to grow: professional development (for free!)
  • To belong to a community -- to network -- to connect.
  • To create credibility and market value for myself -- on a professional level as an active member of the e-Learning industry. I want to stay relevant.
  • Because other people who's thoughts and ideas I admire are doing it. And I want to be just like all of you.
  • To work out my thoughts and ideas (hey, I'm an extrovert -- I need to talk about what's going on in my head in order to process it and take it to the next level).
  • Some amount of distraction, I'll admit. (I'm a new blogger -- not fully evolved). See Tom Haskins for a whole slew of posts on blog categorizations.

I am blogging as an individual. Out here, I represent me. But I also represent the company for which I work. By default. Can we really separate these spheres when blogging on a professional level? This brings up issues of confidentiality: not wanting to give away our secrets; not wanting to lose competitive advantage. By association, I should create more credibility for my company. At least, I would hope that's what I'm doing.

From the perspective of my company, I need to be honest about why I am blogging:
  • Create credibility for my company by association
  • To learn about industry trends as I help my organization determine our future direction and approach to the products and services we deliver
  • To stay current so I can innovate for my clients
  • All of the above so I can ensure that my company survives and thrives (and that I get to keep my job and do well)

Karyn wrote about her conference experience,
So I stopped being just me and started being a representative of my employer.

Ideally, we'd all be in the position to believe in the companies for which we work so that there won't be a huge disconnect. The reality is, this ain't always so. Plenty of people just do their jobs and tow the party line so they can get their paycheck.

In a comment to Karyn, Harold Jarche writes,
[C]onsider your employer as your primary client[...]Then ask yourself how you could best serve your client, while maintaining your own professionalism and market value. I would see no difficulty in sharing ideas with your contact, while maintaining client confidentiality.

This is great advice. I'll try to keep it in mind.

I will be attending the upcoming eLearning Guild Annual Event in a couple of weeks. I'm trembling with excitement (perhaps naively so), having never had the opportunity to attend an industry-related trade show. I'm excited to meet people whose blogs I have been reading. I'm excited to learn from all these thought leaders. I'm excited to ask questions in order to Be an Insanely Great Conference Attendee per Tony Karrer. I'm excited to be a part of this community, to become a better designer, to learn more about the new technologies.

But I'm also going to be working my booth. I want feedback on our product offerings. I want to learn what we should be doing differently in order to be the solution that companies want to buy. And I want people to want what we offer. I want us to get some new clients. I want us to look good.

Does that mean I have to stop being me?

It's a fuzzy line.

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