A year ago I was faced with an awkward decision. What am I going to do with my LinkedIn page? It had all the normal stuff on it: my tenure as an associate at one firm, followed by a time at a second, then my career as a partner at the second. And I actually use LinkedIn to keep track of and find people. I didn’t particularly want to say “I’ve lost my job.” And trust me, I’d seen how that looks on LinkedIn. Someone goes from being “Assistant General Counsel at WidgetMax” to “Experienced Corporate Counsel” or the more blunt “Litigator in Search of New Challenges.” Since I had some actual work I would be doing, for actual clients, I figured I could pick a d/b/a and I thought of the various cheeky techie names I’d seen on everything for years. I thought “iOctopus.” Presto!
- It solved my LinkedIn angst;
- It had the little “i” associated with technology and information. I thought of the “e” of eDiscovery but “i” sounds better;
- The eight armed octopus resonates well with my specialty of electronic discovery and its bizarre and pervasive nature (the nature of eDiscovery, that is – the nature of an octopus is more winsome); and
- It fit my embattled and anxious state of mind.
About that state of mind…When I was in college there were diaries in several of the dormitory smoking lounges. In the days before listservs became common and social media as it is now was inconceivable my friends and I communicated by writing pseudonymous notes in the diaries. During exams and other times of struggle associated with college and being barely out of adolescence my life metaphor was a battle with an octopus. I was trapped in its numerous arms and constantly struggling. But as I finished my exams and projects, I would triumph. I accompanied my musings with little cartoons of myself (scruffy, wearing my motorcycle jacket) standing off with a giant cephalopod. Twenty years later, I found myself once more struggling, but as an older person I feel much more like the octopus, or at least in sympathy with its inquisitive mind and strange shape. So I was going to become the octopus: “iOctopus”.
Finally, there was a truly dreadful if possibly groundbreaking cartoon in the early 90s called “Gregory.” It starred a traumatized child in a straight jacket who mostly screamed or wailed “I GREGORY!” I found myself thinking “I GREGORY!” “I OCTOPUS!!” “I OCTOPUS I OCTOPUS!” I thought this especially when I started getting all the messages the month after I left my firm. I’d forgotten that changing ones LinkedIn designation doesn’t just passively change ones profile, it triggers an announcement and invitation to ones professional network to congratulate one on the new opportunity. (When I changed my designation to partner in January 2010 I got lots of congratulations.) So my well-wishers all over the country sent me cheerful messages. And I would shriek “I OCTOPUS/I GREGORY!!!” in my head.
As the months went by, and I practiced dirt therapy in my garden and applied for jobs, I found myself in the position of becoming a consultant without really quite intending to. I’ve always liked being part of a large organization and the complex ecology of an office. But when I had an opportunity I figured I’d give it a shot. It began to look as though I should take it seriously. So I “developed my brand.” I’d been thinking about a logo for some time when one fell from the sky (or came in the mail). My mother send some stuff out west that included a denim jacket that she had embroidered for my brother thirty-plus years ago.
My Mom has extraordinary embroidery skills. She made a patch for the back of my brother’s jacket that featured sea creatures: a Loch Ness monster, a beta fish and an octopus. I remember watching her make it when I was a kid (She also made me one with some gorgeous flowers). She did a lot of embroidery while supervising us in the bath. The octopus was bright yellow satin stitch with purple knots representing the suckers on its arms.
Not only am I fortunate to have a highly creative mother, I have creative friends. My friend Steve is a professional artist, who converted the blurry close up photo into a drawing. My friend Precious is a graphic designer who converted the drawing into a logo and a first cut at a business card. I moved around the pieces and I had a business card. I’m ridiculously pleased with it. I put my logo on my twitter feed and my professional website.
Now I just have to see if I build a brand, the clients will come.