Developing Your Elevator Pitch in the Zoom Era with Brandon Middleton (THU 09.17.20)
Business Development @ AWS
Lecturer @ d.School
Co-Founder @ Trillicon Valley
During my time at Xoogler School, I watched a presentation given by Brandon Middleton, a leader in technology education. Middleton has mentored underrepresented youth, challenged the status quo, and created safe spaces.
Middleton also lectures non-traditional curriculum at d.School, a spin-off of Stanford University, and teaches courses such as "POP-OUT: Designing Masculinity", "Community College: designing Black and Brown spaces" and, "POP-OUT: Controlling the Narrative: Building a legacy through film and business".
Originally from Chicago in the Midwest, Brandon now lives in the Bay Area working with cloud computing during the day and educating students at night in various timezones during this Zoom era. Branding oneself while working remotely requires thinking about your own experiences and background as well as how that all comes together to build your full image professionally.
He is also the Co-Founder of Trillicon Valley, a brand that celebrates Design & Fashion apparel and Science, Technology, and Engineering. Inspired by the new generation, Trillicon Valley is branded under the slogan, "The Youth Will Save Us" which speaks volumes of Brandon and Trillicon's mission to empower youth through technology and community. Brandon presented on the common salesman tactic of the modern era, the elevator pitch. This brief pitch, a 60-second synopsis of one's background and experience, is an indispensable skill in the challenging job market, networking, and overcoming impostor syndrome.
Bias in the Job Market
Brandon poignantly raised the question, "Who are you outside of what you study or [what do you] do for work?". This question is vital to crafting a narrative that embodies who you are, your experiences, and where that may take you on your journey. Your identity and skillset make you who you are. However, Brandon briefly touched on bias in the job market as he stated, "I will acknowledge a design flaw in our employment system here... This is a feature and not a bug ... it biases for certain outcomes and leaves the idea of true meritocracy wanting a bit... With this said, bias is a real thing and you'll need to navigate around it until we fix it". Opportunities can be limited by human bias in the job market. People can be selected for a position based on their merits, however, bias still exists in the recruiting sector and that must be taken into account.
Who are you and how do you define your goals?
Your pitch must be ...
- Uniquely You ( Be 100% of yourself)
Your pitch is a short way of expressing who you are, what you do, and what you want to do (if you're job hunting). Taglines and bios can exist as different versions of your elevator pitch that can be reworked to the company that you're interested in working for.
The New Normal
With Covid-19 and the new normal, "How do I adapt to this new normal and plan out my Career/Life"? The new workplace is now virtual rather than in-person meetings, free food, and watercooler talk. Commute and daily in-person activities are now a time of the past. Zoom, Google Meet, and Webex now dominate the environment in which we interact with friends, family, and coworkers. Nevertheless, despite changes in workplace and community functions, defining your identity and goals now can lend to how your work-life will be in the future.
How do I define my goals?
- My goal is to bring 100% of myself to work
- I want to use a combination of my business + technical skills daily
- I want to work with customers and directly help them solve their challenges using technology
- I want to parlay my skills to help non-profits, junior tech talent, and others succeed in the technology industry
Brandon listed his previous positions alongside his goals to exemplify how he used technology to solve problems and eventually transitioned into non-profit work and giving back to the community. Harmonizing your goal set through this method of listing your goals and what you want to accomplish can give you a better mind map for your current and future career and personal achievements. Much like Lego blocks, you can combine different goal blocks which will eventually result in a career path that you've built along the way. As an example, you can harness social and community volunteerism to propel your happiness and career goals.
"Educate. Enable. Expect."
Brandon chose three photos of Chadwick Boseman (RIP Black Panther), Jason C. Mayden (friend and Media Designer, d.Fellow), and LeBron James (professional basketball player for the LA Lakers).
How do these key figures correlate to the ideas of Educate, Enable, and Expect?
You need to be able to speak about other things that you believe or care about outside of your career path or role. All of these individuals are speaking publicly whether to young people or aspiring talent in the images that he provided; they are making an impact that is outside of their role whether as a media designer, actor, or athlete. You need to be able to speak even if it is outside your comfort zone or arena.
Script: Create a script that you can reference for the high points, but your delivery should still sound genuine. With Phone and Zoom interviews, take advantage of that modality, and don't be afraid to use a whiteboard or notes to reference during important meetings.
Focus: Who are the company's customers and how do your skills help deliver happiness to that customer? How do you contribute to that company's customer base?
Pick the Right Experience: Your experience and story should be catered to a specific opportunity.
Give Back: Try to mentor the next generation and help lift them up and make an impact.
Be Uniquely You: Your narrative is powerful and pictures and videos can capture your experiences and passions.
Be Curious and Respectful: Respect diversity and be interested in other cultures and their story. Learn the proper greeting and try to open your mind to new experiences.
Listen to other Storytellers/Communicators: Study people like Dave Chapelle and Steve Jobs are excellent storytellers and they know how to create a narrative. These speakers are memorable and to the point, so studying their speaking style can help you to be a more persuasive storyteller.
Practice, Practice, Practice: Deliver your speech to a friend or family member or record it, so that you can be sure that your message is clear.
How to put Brandon's learnings into practice?
The general basis of Brandon's teaching or at least what I take from it is that you must weave your personal story into your goal-set and then extend your talents to the outside of your social reach to benefit others and yourself as a whole. Does it make you happy when you help solve other people's problems? How can you solve the problems of a company's customer base? Of course, this would require prior research and an understanding of yourself and the journey it will take to accumulate those skills to get there. You have to create a map for yourself and visualize what you want and connect that back to what you want to do.
Continuing from Brandon's example,
Make a list of goals
- My goal is to bring 100% of myself to school/work.
- I want to use a combination of my organizational + technical skills daily
- I want to work with company x and directly help them solve their challenges using technology/skillset x (focus on growth areas/pain points)
- I want to parlay my skills to help mentor others and help them succeed in the technology industry
Write a career pathway
Customer Service Specialist > Software Engineer Intern > Software Engineer > Sr. Software Engineer OR Additional Education > Robotics Engineer
Of course, a career pathway is not an easy jump, you may need to connect with recruiters on LinkedIn, have colleagues add more endorsements on your LinkedIn, automate your job search process, build more projects, and think more about where your career interests may lead you? What is the next step or opportunity in that career path?
To illustrate this further, if I wanted to work at NASA JPL, I would search "What is the customer base of NASA" and it would give me relevant search results for their retention unit and a Twitter page including the words, "timely, accurate, high quality, cost-effective, and customer-focused support".
These customer needs must be communicated in your pitch
I can save your company time on project x in department y
Built schematic design x with x% success in behavior z and increase in quality z
I previously remodeled x to company specifications, saving $x
Action Verbs to Include
Make it personal
If you can't communicate your pitch through images and videos to make your presentation personal, you can tell a story.
Add a fun fact that relates to your skills/qualifications
Show your experience with a personal story through challenges/successes
Include your passions or motivations
Use the writing technique Point, Evidence, and Explain or other writing tactics to help you write your pitch.
How can you extend these benefits to others?
You can reach out through social media through presentations, talks, or posts to your community. Although it may seem daunting at first to publish content to the masses, it may prove beneficial as you grow more connections and learn from others.
Interested in Connecting with Brandon?
Interested in Connecting with the author?
I found it strange to include stuff mentioned in "These customer needs must be communicated in your pitch" section in your elevator pitch, I never thought that people included stuff like "I can save your company...".
It's just an example of what you could write. For example, you created a project; you could change it to say as a potential employee, "I acquired the necessary skills from project x, which can be applied to saving that company $. (whether it be efficiency or fewer resources used, faster or scaleable technologies, lessen the workload for others...") You can also create your script, or I might add scripts later for something to reference. How can you help that company improve its business or satisfy customer needs?