How to Become a Thought Leader in Software

There’s been a lot of buzz around the phrase “thought leadership” in the past couple years, but what exactly does it mean? Denise Brosseau, author of “Ready to be a Thought Leader,” defines the group as “informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise.” People turn to thought leaders for their takes on what’s going on in their industry and care about what they have to say. Their opinions matter because they’ve distinguished themselves as insightful and experienced leaders who have the knowledge and expertise to weigh in on the latest developments in their field.

You probably already know of or follow some of the top thought leaders in development and technology, including SalesForce founder Marc Benioff, our own Joel Spolsky, Girl Develop It Founder Sara Chipps, and many more.

If you’re interested in becoming a leading voice in the conversation surrounding all things development while elevating your professional profile, there are a number of ways you can get started today. Here are a couple actions you can take to start positioning yourself as a thought leader.

Focus on Your Speciality

Before people start following your blog or social media, they’ll want to know why they should care about what you have to say. That’s why it’s important to clearly communicate your expertise and speciality from the get-go. A good way to do this is to start writing with an initial focus on your niche.

Try to gear your posts to what you do day-to-day, what problems you’ve worked through, or any new commentary on one type of programming language or framework versus another. Soon people will have a sense for what you’re an expert in and can start to turn to you for your takes on that subject. From there, after gaining a following, you’ll have the trust of your followers to comment on other topics related to development. At that point, you’ll have a foundation of thought leadership in what you know best and your followers will trust you to comment on matters that are less related when they arise.

Actively Blog

There’s no better way to start sharing your thoughts on the latest news in development than blogging about it. Developers may choose to start a blog for a couple of reasons, such as working through or reflecting on various coding problems, standing out to hiring managers when looking for a new job, and, finally, as a way to help them build a personal brand. Thought leadership depends on a strong personal brand so blogging is a great way to help developers get there. Blogging is important because it helps people get to know your story and who you are, which helps establish you in and contribute your voice to the larger developer community.

Maintaining a blog is also important for building thought leadership because it offers a place for readers to find you online. It’s possible that you have active social media accounts with a substantial following, but unless you’re linking to expanded writing, it’s harder to really dive into any particular topic on development. Once you’ve caught your peers’ attention and your blog has gained some traction, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a thought leader.

Connect with Top Thought Leaders

It’s great to use a blog to talk about your opinions on different topics related to development, but unless you have readers, it won’t make much of an impact. One way to get eyes on your work is to grow your network and connect with other thought leaders and peers. Once you’ve posted on your topic, share it on your social media accounts, and consider sending it to others you admire along with a personal note of what made you think about them. Trying to start a conversation with established thought leaders or your peers rarely hurts if it’s truly about a shared passion, and as you build a relationship, you might get into the habit of sharing more of each other’s work and share exposure. Just remember to return the favor! Generosity begets generosity here.


Becoming a thought leader can be a long process, taking many years to capture the attention and trust of your peers in your industry. Once you get there, the door will be open to career-building opportunities like speaking engagements, book deals, and much more. While you won’t become a thought leader overnight, these steps can help you get started.

Being a thought leader is a major value-add to any resume and can come in especially handy when you’re looking for a new job. If you’re on the hunt for a new position in development right now, Stack Overflow Jobs is here to help. Check out thousands of companies looking for developers like you today.

Author

Jon Chan
Developer

Jon is a developer on the Developer Affinity and Growth team at Stack Overflow. He’s also the founder of [Bento](https://www.bento.io/), a tech education site for self-taught developers. He frequently speaks on product development, tech education, and diversity.

Related Articles

Comments

  • nice stuff. As in this modern technology every software development company hire a technical consultant for their each services.

  • Radu Toev

    Imho the thought leader thing is a consequence of one’s interests and actions. You write blog posts because you like writting, you connect with people becuase it’s something that enriches your experience. Thinking of everything just as checkboxes on the roadmap towards a “thought leader” is just sad