Deb Hagen-Lukens is an advocate for entrepreneurs and the environment. I met her on Twitter recently when Deb followed me. Deb's profile had a reference to the University of Washington where she teaches entrepreneurial marketing as a part-time lecturer at the school of business. And having once lived in Seattle I thought it would be great to reach out to Deb to learn more about what she teaches at UW, and her work in consulting.
Deb moved to Seattle in the late 90's, when she worked for large communications and public relations agencies, working on technology accounts. By the mid-part of the last decade she wanted a change of scene and started her own consultancy, Clarity Communications, as well as teaching entrepreneurial marketing to undergraduates and MBA students at UW.
Her students are mostly generation Y and a few generation X, I asked Deb what the biggest cultural differences where teaching these generations, Deb thought the biggest differences between the two groups come from the people who are already in the work place.
Later this fall she will be handing off the MBA class to teach a new course, UW's Environmental Innovation Practicum, where there will be a mix of undergraduate and graduate students from schools across UW including business, engineering and environmental studies. The new class combines Deb's passion for teaching and environmental entrepreneurship and aligns even more closely with her consulting business' focus on environmental nonprofits and companies.
When enrolled in Deb’s classes, students get the chance to learn directly from business people, as Deb invites speakers into her classes on a regular basis. Plus, her students work all quarter long with one of two local businesses to create marketing plans as their final project. Students get to work directly with entrepreneurs, and both the business people and students learn a lot form the experience.
Students enjoy the practical application of marketing, to the extent that visits from business people were consistently highly ranked by students in class reviews. Deb teaches a practical course, how to do entrepreneurial marketing in today's world. It's difficult to find good books that teach this today, not because what's been written isn't good, but rather the changing nature of business means that often business books date rapidly, so Deb gives a short list of books, but a long list of blogs, articles and up-to-date sources. However, she still uses Geoffrey Moore's book ‘Crossing the Chasm’ where she teaches the two chapters on the technology life cycle and market segmentation.
Initially when Deb started her business, she worked with a lot of technology companies, but in the last few years she decided to take some time out to rebrand her business, and now focuses on eco-businesses. Deb told me she decided to focus on these areas partly because that was how she was raised, but moving to Seattle increased her conviction to focus on the environment. Seattle is such a beautiful place to live, the environment is really part of the way of living, you can see the Olympic Mountains easily from the city, and walking down any street you get the occasional peep at Mt. Rainer, one of Washington State’s enigmatic volcanoes. Those daily experiences increased her conviction to work with companies that support the environment.
Deb has been involved with the GoGirl Academy for about a year now; this company helps women be more successful through empowering them. Deb told me the Academy’s curriculum focuses on “three groups of women, those just starting their careers, those ready to make a big move ahead (like pursuing a promotion) and those ready to do a little reinvention by transitioning to a new field, starting their own business or reentering the workforce. It's not just for young women.” Deb is a member of the organization's Leadership Council and teaches its personal branding class. Deb really believes it’s important to think careful about what associations individuals have with companies and organizations, as those associations influence your reputation.
Deb's work with personal branding reminded me of the critique of the term last year by a few of my colleagues in social media land, especially in the context of a post about Scott Monty written by Josh Hyatt on money.cnn.com.
Josh’s article has caused a lot of controversy because Scott Monty, head of social media at Ford, was featured in the piece. To some, the post appears to paint Scott Monty as an egotist, and because a lot of fans of Monty have so much respect for him many people criticized Josh's article. I had written about the post, and thought the critics were incorrect, and the error was just a matter of readability on the article. But the reason I bring up this post is that so many people thought the term personal branding was bad to use because it may imply to some people that you are self promotional.
In chatting with Deb about personal branding, I thought we were in agreement that the term is an effort on the part of an individual to think carefully about what your own relationships say about you to the world, rather than an attempt at ego-building. Deb thought that entrepreneurs can benefit when it comes to personal branding, and that it’s “particularly important for entrepreneurs who don't have any other brand to leverage for credibility than their own and those they can bring into the business like Board of Advisor members or high-profile partners from whom where the start-up can borrow some of that brand credibility.”
One aspect of becoming a freelance that shows Deb's humility was the advice she gives to people who are starting their own freelance business, to anyone thinking of forming their own business who is now working at a large company, Deb said. “Make sure you know how to solve your own technology issues. Don't rely on the IT department so much!”
Deb recently started writing her own blog, and is focusing her content on her thoughts about what’s happening in marketing, communications, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs. Take some time to read some of Deb’s posts, comment, and give her your feedback!