Atamjeet Singh Bawa works as a technologist in the Middle East currently and is a polymath with over 13 years of experience as a solution architect, problem solver and a design thinker. He is known as the ‘Guy with an Airline on his Glasses’. H enjoys making highly detailed 3D replicas (Paper Models) of Machines. Known as the ‘Paper Model Guru’ & ‘Paper Smith’, he delivers motivational talks to inspire young minds to pursue their hobby(ies) along with their professional lives. A speaker at TEDx and Josh Talks he also conducts paper modeling workshops, online tutorials, time-lapse videos and love to display paper models at global platforms like The Auto-Expo. Atamjeet is a strong believer that one must be known by their passion and then by their profession!
In the 29th edition of Intraskope‘s Personal Branding Series, Atamjeet Singh Bawa traces his journey as a personal brand and shares experiences that will benefit anyone wanting to get started by pursuing their own hobbies. Learn more in this interview.
Watch the YouTube video interview and read the complete interview below. Look up more such stories on my YouTube channel and on LinkedIn.
1. What according to you is personal branding?
Personal Branding according to me is not about you, it’s about how other people see you. It’s about storytelling by giving real life examples and “walk the talk” every day. It’s about how to use yourself to benefit others who follow you and get influenced by you.
2. Do you consider yourself a personal brand? If yes, how do you know it?
Yes, I certainly do. People who know me well know me for my passion, creativity and someone who is always enthusiastic about learning new things. I am a doer than a thinker. And my personal identity (that only I know what’s inside of me) matches with how I present myself to the world, there is authenticity to how I present myself to public. And when you are authentic, people connect with you emotionally and they trust you and get influenced by you. I am a bachelor’s in technology in Textile Chemistry and my passion for making life-like paper models of machines got me into Accenture. That is where my journey of Personal Branding started.
3. What does one do to go about building a personal brand?
First, you need to realize that people don’t really care about how much you know, until they know how much you care. You can become a personal brand only if there’s something interesting about what you do that matters to people, that addresses their problems, that makes their life a bit more comfortable living. You lead by example; you walk the talk and earn your trust in others. And your actions continue to resonate with how people see you as a person. That is when you earn your place to be a personal brand.
4. What are the attributes of a personal brand? And what do people associate your brand with?
Personal Brand is all about using yourself to be connecting with others and showing them that you care. People associate me with passion, creativity and ever energetic to do things. I am perceived as a doer of things rather than just talking about it. People associate my brand with passion, patience, persistence, practice, precision and perfection.
5. Based on your observations and learning who according to you is a personal brand? What characteristics do you admire about them?
1. Mr. Aashish Chopra (VP Content Marketing for Ixigo) – He is a storyteller, he tells his stories in form of amazing “mostly viral” videos to connect with his audience in a no-nonsense way. He identifies what matters to people and build his story-line around it and bam, he creates an impact with his viral videos every single time. personal branding is all about creating an impact that matters to people
2. Diljit Dosanjh (Singer, Actor, Comedian) – He is one down to earth celebrity who has topped all the charts in the World that too with Punjabi music and songs. This is unthinkable but he does that with grace and he says grounded. He doesn’t let success overpower him and that’s the best attribute about personal branding, be successful but stay humble.
6. What steps did you take to build your brand? How do you know it is working?
When I realized people associate me with passion and they told me that they wanted to imbibe this attribute in their own lives, I started to work towards building my brand around passion and doing things in my daily life that reflects my passion for things. Whatever I do, I do it with passion. That’s how I am as a person, if I do something, I’d rather do it passionately or not at all. I have been a district level gymnast, a state level skating player, a national level Table Tennis player and a national level Dragon Boat champion. I am the most followed paper modeler in the World with a social media following of over 45k and counting and along with all of that, I am a telecom solution architect in spite of having a bachelor’s in technology in Textile Chemistry. All of this shows that my personal brand around passion and perfection is indeed working.
7. What challenges did you face while building a personal brand? What techniques did you use?
I started off as a passionate person who loved making machines out of paper, it was my hobby. And with time the people who followed me, their expectations from my increased and they would keep asking me what’s next. Handling that sort of a pressure of expectations from my followers was a very challenging part, but I kept doing my stuff at my own pace. Creating a personal brand does not happen overnight, it needs you to be consistent in what message you are giving to the society because you must walk the talk. For me, creating my personal brand took more than a decade, it was a slow and steady process. There were times I used to wonder if what I was doing made sense, but I kept assuring myself that my hard work and honesty will reap benefits. I kept doing what was right, kept connecting with the right people and kept experimenting with things kept turning myself away from negativity. People connect to those who reflect authenticity and lead by example. And talking about social media, it is all about content, numbers, the frequency at which you can post your content and how relevant it is to the current situation. Moreover, all the artists of different genres are compared side by side on social media, it’s like apple to orange comparison but that’s something that I had to deal with. All of that is so difficult to manage but a personal brand without a healthy social media engagement is incomplete. I spent a lot of time in maintaining the momentum of my social media posts and my engagement with my audience.
8. During the process of building your own brand, what did you gain in the process? What did you lose?
I gained self-confidence, self-assurance, I made friends with people who genuinely loved me and trusted me. My social network has grown with time and I think having a healthy and trustworthy network is one of the priceless possessions I have been able to accumulate. And in the process of building my personal brand, I stopped doubting my capabilities and stopped being scared to do experimentation. I lost the will to prove myself to the World, rather promised myself to keep doing what I did and grew my personal brand very patiently.
9. How can someone starting from scratch build a personal brand? What is the first step he or she must take?
First and foremost, is the realization that personal branding is not about you. It’s about what you do, does it matter to others? Does it connect to others and can you solve at least one real life problem of the masses? The way I balance my hobbies with my full time job gives hope to my audience that yes, it is possible to have a healthy work life balance. It assures them that having a hobby is such an effective stress buster. So, to become a personal brand, your act must connect with your audience and it must shout out the message very clear that “If I can do it, so can you”.
10. If you had the opportunity to change something about the way you built your personal brand, what would that be?
I think I have wasted a significant amount of time procrastinating about the things I had to do and being a lazy bum bum. I started making paper models in 2003 and till 2013, I didn’t even exhibit my models even once on a bigger platform. And just 3 years back (in 2017), I had a realization to create a unique physical identity of mine so that people who see me immediately recognize me. Hence I started to wear a tiny paper airplane on the edge of my glasses and become to be known as “Guy With Airplane On His Glasses”. I wish I had come up with this thought 17 years back. If I had access to a time machine, I would go back in time, kick myself in the butt and tell myself to get up and work on my to do list, work on my personal identity and grow my network by connecting with new people and collaborating with other artists.
11. What is your recipe for personal branding success?
Authenticity, honesty, reflecting on one-self and doing things with grace.
12. Who according to you are personal brands whom others can follow and learn from?
I follow many people, to name a few, Mr. Ratan Tata, Mr. Elon Musk, Ms. Indira Nooyi, Mr. Alok Rodinhood Kejriwal, Mr. Aashish Chopra etc.
13. With COVID19 and other crises what steps can personal brands take?
The moment a personal branding enthusiast realizes that this pandemic has given us a once in a lifetime opportunity where we have so much more time at our disposal, whoever utilized that time has seen a tremendous personal growth. This is a lifetime opportunity that is a blessing in disguise, and it must be leveraged to speed up the process of building one’s personal brand
14. What’s your advice for youngsters (Gen Z and others) who want to consider their personal brands?
You need to realize why would someone want to see your content, why would someone want to see you as an influencer, what is it that you are offering to your followers that makes you unique and worth it to be spending time and energy on. You need to answer the “Why” instead of “How”. If you could answer the “Why”, you’ll automatically be able to figure out the “How” in the process.
Liked this interview? Please do share your feedback and comments.
Keen to get ahead with your personal brand? Here are some resources:
- Take this course – Personal Branding 101: Unlock Your Potential and Stay Ahead
- Take a FREE assessment on personal branding.
- Refer to the 3C model on Personal Branding
- Sign up for a 60-minute personalized chat on personal branding
- Personal branding for corporate communicators
Missed the earlier episodes? Read the interviews with Muqbil Ahmar, Tinu Cherian Abraham, Joseph Fernandez, Christina Daniels,Karthik Srinivasan,Gautam Ghosh, Alexander Michael Gittens, Mubeen Azeez, Itzik Amiel, Mangal D Karnad, Abhijit Bhaduri, Sandeep K Krishnan PhD, Scott Shirai, Sunil Robert, Latha Vijaybaskar PhD, Abha Maryada Banerjee, Dr. Amit Nagpal, Sukanti Ghosh, Amith Prabhu, Dave Carroll, Prof. Deva Rangarajan, Ramesh Thomas, K V Dipu, Chip Helm, Suresh Ramdas, Karthik Nagendra PhD, Jeppe Hansgaard and Raja Karthikeyaonline and share your thoughts.
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