By Ronald Hedley

In 2001, when Dana Gerenda was a senior at Easter Illinois College, she won the Phi Sigma Honor Society Research Award for her genetic research project entitled “Microsatellite Primers Tested for Variation in A”

She recalled her research project experience. “I did a lot of testing of DNA using electrophoresis gels to understand the mating patterns of flies and gnats. I showed how a female could mate with a male and save, per se, multiple male sperm.” In her groundbreaking research, Gerenda discovered that the female gnat (or fly) “selected” the sperm that would fertilize her eggs.

Gerenda had no idea that her professor had submitted her research project for the Phi Sigma award, and she was shocked when she was named the winner.

Young Gerenda may not have known it at the time, but her work with gnats and flies was the inoculation in the petri dish of life that would be the catalyst for the growth and development of her personal brand.

You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.

Jeff Bezos

Almost 20 years later, Dana Gerenda is now Dana Small. Her name has changed, but her belief in hard work and humility remains. She credits her Midwest upbringing for her values. “To me, a ‘Midwest value’ is honest integrity. You don’t need to brag. You need to put your nose to the grindstone and put in a hard day’s work. This is very Midwest. You don’t need to go around telling everyone how great you are,” she explained.

Small believes that your work is the essence of your personal brand. “You don’t need to say, ‘I’m the master of the universe.’ If you are, people will know that you are the master of the universe. Your work will speak for you,” she stated.

Small is currently the Senior Manager in Global Strategic Sourcing, supporting the Commercial Organization. She believes that the sourcing function offers her a great opportunity to help others. She explained, “As a sourcing function, you’re there to help the business. You act as a third-party consultant to say, ‘Hey, here are your menu of options. Choose what you want, but this is what you get with each of them.’ I try to nudge my colleagues in the right direction.”

And, according to Small, this helping is not limited to procurement. “We’re a support function, so we have to want to help people. If someone asks me a question that has nothing to do with procurement, I will still try to help them figure it out. To me, helping others is part of my personal brand,” Small explained.

Her work does not end at BioMarin. Small also writes a blog entitled Ms Category Management. Her blog’s primary focus is to create and implement category strategy into all of the global commercial organizations. She explained the blog’s essence, “To me, it’s just who I am as a business person, who I am in the scheme of the entire business. This is where my place is. This is how I fit in. This is how my blog can help other people.”

Small then explained how her blog reflects her core beliefs, “When you look at how I portray myself, it is about being very truthful and transparent. It’s about having integrity and doing the right thing in business. I think that is just who I am. It has become a part of my brand.”

If you can’t find your own center and love for yourself, nothing else works.

Chris Brogan

Location, location, location. Not only is this mantra essential in real estate, but it also matters when it comes to your personal brand. For example, if you love where you are working, then your personal brand will flourish. Similarly, if you hate your current job, then the agar will dry and crack in your metaphorical, personal brand petri dish.

Small explained how she learned the importance of location the hard way, “I went outside of pharmaceuticals and worked for a brief time at an unnamed retail music company. They were piping in Led Zeppelin in the bathrooms, and the staff meetings were held in an old warehouse.” Because of her “mistake”, Small realized the importance of being in her own element with caring, scientific people who are all on the same proverbial page.

She described her personal epiphany, “Some people live and die by music. It’s central to who they are. That’s not me. I took that dive and found that I never wanted to make the same mistake again. It was a different set of people and a different set of values. When you’re in pharmaceuticals, you’re all about helping other people and being patient-centric.”

Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.

Eckart Tolle

Since that time, Small has had more epiphanies. For example, she realized that she likes implementing new technology, and she prefers working with younger sourcing companies. It’s part of her brand. She explained, “The newer companies and the technologies they promote are more willing to put what you need into perspective. You know that your feedback is valued and that they’re happy to have you as a customer.”

Small also prefers the adaptability and flexibility of the smaller companies she works with. She explained, “When I was at Gilead and working with early adopters of RightSpend, it was nice to have people say, ‘Okay, I’ve heard your feedback and we’re going to make some changes. That’s what nice about tealbook. I worked with them when they were in the early phases. They were willing to take my feedback, listen to it, and they became better because of it.”

Listening to feedback is one of Small’s strengths as well. This skill has impacted the content of her blog. One example is how she has become keenly aware of the workforce issues that women face today. She explained how her blog reflects her concerns and her ever-evolving personal brand, “There are women that I have met who are wonderful about supporting other women and promoting them. I feel I’m not as good at doing this as some, but I try to be. I make sure that I write women supporting women blogs.”

She then added this blogging irony, “I put myself out there, assuming no one will ever read my blog. I just do it for me.” Small then offered some prescient advice for women who are trying to create a brand for themselves, “When you’re trying to think, ‘How do I develop my brand?’ just be who you are. Don’t try to be something you’re not. And so, having that genuineness, integrity, and honesty, that’s the way to go.”

Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.

Albert Einstein