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Dr. des. Natalia Wiechowski is the Middle East’s leading Edutainer. Learning new things without laughing and having fun? – A nightmare for Dr. Natalia! That is why she always makes sure that she combines her knowledge and diverse experiences with a big portion of humor in her keynotes and in her role as a Personal Branding Strategist.
The German Doctor of Philosophy empowers individuals to portray themselves and their careers as brands, in order to stand out from the grey crowd – online and offline. She guides them in presenting themselves in an impressive way and in building an authentic, professional (online) image. In short: She fast-tracks their success – from the inside out.
With a social media following of over 136,000 individuals worldwide, the award-winning speaker walks the talk – not only in the world wide web but also on public stages, e.g. at the Global WIL Economic Forum, Hult International Business School and Middlesex University.
What is your story growing up? Did you know you were always going to go into personal branding?
I always felt different and as if I didn’t fit in. Thinking back it was maybe because I was born, raised and educated in Germany but my parents were from Poland. Or maybe I felt that way because I grew up in a family of ambitious athletes.
My mother used to be a competitive athlete (speed skating), my father worked as a skiing teacher in his early days. As a kid, I participated in swimming competitions, as a teenager I danced on international stages. Whenever I did not win any medal or trophy,
I was so upset that I trained harder for the next season until I won. It was only in 2014, when I radically changed my life & career after a self-imposed sabbatical to follow my passion (helping others to shine) that I realized it was okay to be weird and different.
I stumbled into personal branding by chance and didn’t realize that the content I was publishing and that the speeches I was giving on LinkedIn, Instagram, Social Media all shaped the concept of personal branding.
One day, a client said I needed to read this book on “Impression Management” and I realized that this was defining and explaining personal branding.
From Germany to Dubai, that must’ve been an interesting journey- how did you end up in Dubai? What was your biggest (top 1-3) lessons that you learned in Dubai.
People told me that if I wanted to excel in my career and create a name for myself that I would need to work abroad/internationally for a few months. At that time I was competing in dance shows and would vigorously practice while also completing my Masters.
Once I completed my studies I decided my first job would be abroad and my former best friend suggested that there was a vacancy in the UAE. The rest is history.
The top 3 lessons I learned were:
- Reality and social norms differ from nations, countries and societies. Having an intuitive understanding of cultures really allowed me to easily adapt and understand social behaviour and mannerisms of people.
- It’s never too late to change (whather you went through a divorce, transitioning from a career or recovering from trauma) – you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself.
- I understood the power of Marketing and PR from Dubai and how they would effectively utilize it to encapsulate and target tourists to visit the city.
Was it a big culture shock for you to adjust to a city like Dubai ? How were you able to integrate yourself into society and was it difficult forging relationships with the locals over there?
It was easy for me to adapt because I’ve been raised bi-cultural and my background is in Social Sciences so I had a great grasp of understanding people and cultures. In addition, the UAE is home to over 200 nationalities, which made it easier to adapt, learn and adjust.
On the topic of networking, I attended heaps of networking events/get-togethers and would ask people questions about social norms to further understand them and people were very helpful.
What is a memorable/funny moment that you encountered while living in Dubai? What did that teach you?
I started working in a smaller city called Al Ain. It was a project for the Government of Abu Dhabi and we were setting up a vocational education and training institute for Emirati students from scratch at that time.
As the Library Manager, I was expecting that there was going to be two libraries (as the institute was solely for Emirati students, men and women needed to have different facilities).
However when I arrived there was only one room and the library had two different entrances (one for males and a separate for females). The solution? Separate library opening hours. So male students would always try to use great, creative excuses to enter the library during female opening hours like “I would like to return a book or I think I forgot my wallet” (although they never borrowed a book before).
I had to explain the rules and potential consequences for the male students and myself for months until they accepted it.
“I think I forgot my wallet.” turned into an insider joke for me and my friends.
Tell us 1 thing that no one knows about you.
Even though I am extroverted, I have an introverted side to me also where on the weekends I like to cook, relax and just have time to myself. People tend to think that since I am always on stage and speaking that I am always extroverted but like any other person I like to unwind.
Have you dealt with tough clients? If so how did you handle them?
In the beginning I was accepting almost everyone as a client so I could make mistakes and learn from them early on.
Nowadays, I choose my clients wisely. How? I listen to my intuition, I have longer initial calls or meetings AND I make people go through an agreement that clarifies expectations and deliverables from both sides.
So I only take people that are coachable, aka that are willing to put in the time and work.
If you were to die tomorrow, what 3 lessons would you share with the world?
- Dying with regrets was one of the biggest fears I had at 23 years old, as I had the feeling that I merely existed. Today, I finally live. What about you? Do you truly live?
- You have everything it takes to make a difference and create a movement. Don’t wait- just start somewhere!
- Nobody will talk about your LinkedIn profile, the number of followers or how many times your post went viral during your funeral. They will talk about the lives you impacted.
Final question: how can someone that is going through a career change build their personal brand?
Realize that you made a decision and embrace the change. Be self-confident and proud about it. Next, find mentors and/or people that are in a similar situation or who have experienced what you’re going through and can advise you accordingly. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
Learn from experts, experiment and see what works for you. In addition, documenting that transformation (e.g. in the form of a blog, podcast) and taking people through that journey will serve as a cornerstone for your online community and for other individuals who experience the same situation (think Karma).
You can follow Natalia on LinkedIn, Instagram: @ThinkNatalia and visit her website: www.thinknatalia.com