A close-up headshot of a blonde woman smiling. Here, she discusses the importance of a personal brand.
Image: Gráinne Bagnall

Why building your personal brand is essential in STEAM

5 Jul 2019

STEAM advocate Gráinne Bagnall discusses why it’s essential to have a personal brand and how you can build one.

Gráinne Bagnall is a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, maths and the arts) advocate, digital career coach and personal brand expert. She has hands-on expertise in creating and marketing STEAM education programmes, workshops and events.

Bagnall also founded her own business in 2012, Sense about Maths (SAM), which has since merged with STEAM Education UCC.

In 2017, Bagnall was named as Social Entrepreneur Ireland for her work in STEAM education in primary schools. “STEAM education helps and inspires children to make the choices that will always last a lifetime,” she said.

While there are plenty of great initiatives for young people, Bagnall said “its parents and educators that need as equal a focus to catch up on the speed of STEAM careers currently available”. She also said it would be amazing if the Government got behind STEAM education and rolled it out nationally.

Bagnall pointed out that the main struggle for the education system incorporating STEAM is that the primary school curriculum is already overloaded with everything from maths, English and Irish to geography, PE, music and art. “We cannot cover all of these areas properly and, if anything else is to be added, something has to give and priorities need to be isolated,” she said. “Decisions need to be made on a management level about the priorities in primary education as the world is today.”

Having a personal brand

As one of nine children, Bagnall discovered early on in her childhood that she needed to develop her own brand to stand out and be heard.

“Reflecting on my early school days, personal brand was easy, trust me. It was determined by the hand-me-downs from older sisters or indeed brothers. In secondary school, it was more of a challenge to stand out as we were all wearing uniforms,” she said. “In college, just coming from the countryside was enough to be different in those days.”

After college, Bagnall got her first job at Gateway Computers and remembers being the 33rd employee at the company. Within about 12 months, the company had more than 3,000 employees. “First signs of a tech boom in Ireland,” said Bagnall.

Today, Ireland is leading the way in sci-tech with many major pharma and tech companies, and has essentially “built its own brand in the world”. With this in mind, Bagnall believes it’s more important than ever to have a personal brand.

“It is true that the jobs market is booming again, and we are inundated with possibilities and opportunities. However, it is also true that students are more unsure than before [about] what they want to do, what company they want to join or what job they are looking for. College does not seem to prepare them to develop their own brand and how to stand out from the crowd.”

She added that endless opportunities can actually translate to endless uncertainties, and that even companies aren’t always sure about the right personal characteristics in newly created jobs.

‘Determine your personal brand by identifying the areas in which you excel’

This is why she says personal branding is so important. “It not only helps you to develop the value you can bring an organisation, but also identifies the type of roles or companies that are a good match for your talents, interests and values,” she explained.

“Determine your personal brand by identifying the areas in which you excel. How do you contribute to an organisation’s success? What comes natural to you that others must work hard at? Consider how your personal qualities equip you to deal with challenges. Think about how other people see you or look to you to solve problems.”

Bagnall added that once you’ve thought about the professional side of things, it’s important to consider how personal skills equip you for workplace challenges. “One of the most important attributes, underrated by candidates and very positively rated by employers, is the person’s attitude,” she said.

“Many people struggle to identify these elements of their personal brand, so don’t hesitate to consult peers, colleagues and friends to help you identify them.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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