– NetKAL VIII Fellow, Andrew Pak‘s reflection on the 5th weekend

“Name?  Date of birth?  Social security number?”

Spouting back my DMV DNA is pretty easy, especially after going there for the third time just a couple weeks before NetKAL 8 officially started and my license expired on my birthday in February.  Transferring out-of-state from Hawaii to New York isn’t easy.

As I waited at the DMV to complete the transfer, I remembered my single days and throwing in my astrological sign, Chinese zodiac animal, international Rolodex of nightclubs, and other intriguing facts that made up my dating DNA.

Fast forward 4 months to the penultimate weekend of NetKAL 8 and look beyond the superficial.  With 4 weekends of intense MBA and Fortune 500 like training and coaching, it’s time to analyze my DNA more seriously.  What is my brand DNA?


Specifically, as Dr. Greg Patton of USC’s School of Social Work posed the question to NetKAL 8, “how do you see yourself?”  Or how do you want others to see you?

I was kind of stumped.  Even more surprising were the awkward responses, umm’s, errr’s, and rambling resume recitations I heard going around the room.  Perhaps too vague, simple, or just early in the morning, most of us struggled with either a painfully long “hmmm” or a flash of panic trying to squeeze our story within 30 seconds.

Grouped in pairs and guided by Dr. Patton’s expertise and stopwatch, we practiced our brand statements and refined our professional pitch.  “I want to be the Wolf of Wall Street” turned into “I want to be seen as a leading fixed-income specialist and go-to advisor trusted by my clients, as well as a passionate musician who champions healing arts therapy and outreach.”

Alright, I didn’t quite get my brand DNA up to that level during the session, but a clearer picture of my identity began to take shape.  And after a few iterations back and forth with our partners, individual brands became more coherent and started to crystalize the remarkable talents and leadership potential of each Fellow.  The live, interactive reactions from our peers was crucial in refining our professional brand statements and multiplying our intrinsic values so that we could be as IPO-ready as Dr. David Kim.

Now more confident in our executive brand position, we were well on the way to “Communicating and Leading Change,” the key theme of Weekend 5.  The next step was to connect with your audience.  Like Steve Jobs, “connect the dots,” and lead with persuasion and vision.  Be ready and prepare your presentations strategically.  Every interaction is an opportunity to rewrite the script by expanding on your personal brand with convincing stories and narratives that draw your listeners in.

Wait.  Sweaty palms, lump in your throat, hypertension, migraines, upset stomach, weak knees, irritable bowel syndrome?  Advil, a shot of whiskey, Midol, Imodium, and especially some PRCA will do the trick and alleviate any communication apprehension or anxiety. A.k.a. “Personal Report of Communication Assessment,” the enhanced awareness analysis measures an “Individual level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons.” (McCrosky; NetKAL).  We deconstructed and unpacked the layers that hold us back from delivering the message and packing the punch.  Just as we learned from G.I. Joe, knowing ourselves is half the battle.

However, we’re playing on the 21st century social media battlefield.  Are you ready to launch and broadcast your brand to potentially millions of people?  In a couple cases like Peter Kim’s and mine, it’s a failure to launch.  The rest of us have lifted off with respectable LinkedIn profiles but are lost in cyberspace.  Under Dr. Patton’s oversight, we passed around each Fellow’s profile, critiquing the executive summary, page layout, section format, skills, endorsements, competitive advantages, and accolades.  It was like starting your career search with resume and cover letter writing all over again.  In fact, building a snazzy LinkedIn profile is a crucial part of the executive evolution and NetKAL grooming process.

A strong LinkedIn profile is a powerful tool to be proactive in leveraging first, second, and third order connections.  It will bring you more interviews, grow your network, get your name out there, and build the intermediate steps to navigate your career or even switch industries.  You’ve created your own luck when your profile turns up in the next executive search algorithm or talent pool recruiting engine. Indeed, I’ve been inspired to retool my LinkedIn profile, but my relaunch is experiencing technical difficulties because I’m a dial-up Internet kind of guy who is in the process of merging my duplicate accounts.

Rewired and hungry, both intellectually and physically, this next generation of brand marketers enjoyed a special dinner with the evening’s Distinguished Speaker, Ms. Kyung Hee Choi.  We were all humbled and honored to hear from this trailblazer and pioneer of a woman.  Community leader, health activist, Wall Street Wonder Woman, Korean American beacon, a loving wife and mother of two.


Ms. Choi truly embodies the NetKAL philosophy and spirit, as she ultimately developed a brand strategy that serves and gives back to our community.  Most people would call it quits after 25 dedicated years to JP Morgan, transitioning from the back office to branch manager to senior investment banker to head of Firmwide counterparty risk management working in three different offices globally, Seoul, Singapore, and New York.  Her personal struggles, lessons learned, victories, and messages of hope struck a deep chord, particularly her poignant retelling of 9/11 and motivation for establishing the Korean Medical Program at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, NJ.  Imagine many of our first-generation parents, grandparents, friends, and relatives who are currently in or could require hospital care.  A warm bowl of rice, seaweed soup, and kimchi bring immediate smiles, comfort, and satisfaction.  And a sound body and mind may also lead to faster healing and recovery.

It is approximately 2:30pm, October 5, and you have just crash-landed in a seaplane on the east shore of Laura Lake in the subarctic region of the northern Quebec-Newfoundland border… NetKAL 8 is stranded in the Subarctic!  Divided into 3 separate teams enacting our own “Survivor” simulation, we need to decide what to do with a magnetic compass, a gallon can of maple syrup, water purification tablets, hand axe, flashlight, matches, snowshoes and a mix of 8 other items. More importantly, are we more likely to survive by packing up and trekking to the nearest town of Schefferville which is more than 50 miles away, or camping and persisting near the crash site in the hopes of being rescued?

NetKAL 8 is one creative and crafty class, showing that we have some MacGyver tricks up our sleeve.  Armed with a wind-up alarm clock transformed into a compass and a makeshift drone fueled by the maple syrup, we’ve got a shot at making it, especially if you happened to be on my community project team, who scored highest on the survival checklist rankings.  Please note that the judges will factor in and assess our survival skills when deliberating over our community team proposals.

Unfortunately, we were more like MacGruber than MacGyver in the arctic tundra.  The lone rangers who gunned it for Schefferville died first, but even the smarter teams who made a base and lasted a couple weeks die off eventually.  Somewhat depressing, but despite losing this struggle we realize the importance of working as a team.  Even though Lionel Messi won the 2014 World Cup Golden Ball, his team still came up short and lost the ultimate glory.  Germany played better as a team from the group stage en route to the final, and from start to the overtime finish against Argentina.

Dr. Patton broke it down and deconstructed the control mechanisms and inner workings of an effective team.  What makes good teams gel and click?  We recalled our best and worst team experiences, listed the qualities that characterized each, remembered important inflection points and how the group progressed over time.  What are the goals, and is each person’s commitment and role defined to implement them?

Interestingly, increasing buy-in and delivering better team results came back full circle to knowing and communicating your personal brand.  Identify strengths and understand proprietary assets to quantify the brand DNA.  When in doubt, use the LinkedIn profile as your calling card and distinguish yourself from the next Moneyball statistic.  Leveraging self-awareness and personal experiences of each member enhances the team’s chances to succeed and build a great offense and defense.

Just look at the all-star brands in NetKAL 8 for inspiration: the Justice League, National Security and Counterintelligence Unit, Media Maven, Crimestoppers, Education Innovator, Political Power Pundits, Wall Street Fat Cats, Law and Order, Artificial Intelligence, Iron Chef, Shark Tank, and the ultimate Dr. Lee.

As such, recognize and be proud of your brand DNA.  It is a unique strand that should be engraved on all your personal profiles, especially LinkedIn.  Then we can build and leverage our collective DNA by linking and forming a stronger NetKAL organically.  The more we love our individual nucleotides, the more we unlock and realize the team’s potential. Ready to modify the NetKAL DNA?

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