Interview: Steven Savage From Fan to Pro

I recently conducted an interview with Steve Savage from Steven Savage is what he calls "Geek 2.0: The Professional Geek." He's a Project Manager in Silicon Valley who writes, blogs, and speaks on geeky jobs, careers, and trends. You can find out more about him at

How did Fan to Pro begin?
It all started with my other project, Seventh Sanctum (, a site that has tools to randomly generate ideas for stories, art, games, and so on. It has regular art contests, and because of those I see a constant stream of amazing artwork - often done by people for whom making fantastic art is a hobby. The art I saw catalyzed something in the minds of my friend Bonnie and myself - we saw so many people who could turn their hobbies into careers, who were so professional in potential, but weren't using those hobbies. Both of us, working geeks and otaku who loved our fields (myself in IT, her in publishing), wondered how we could help people turn their fandom into careers.

Of course then there's the idea of how we do this, and we tried different things. At first we thought online community - but weren't sure how to best found one. Then we tried a book based on interviews, but that just didn't seem to work. Finally, after some speaking on career events at cons, it struck us that the best way to do it was a blog - and was born. We should have thought of it much earlier . . . but live and learn!

What is the main focus of Fan to Pro?
Fan To Pro's focus is on what we call "Professional Geekery" - how do you turn what you love into a full career, and indeed, a full life. I proudly call myself "Geek 2.0 - The Professional Geek" and that embodies the focus of Fan To Pro, it's passion applied.

Encouraging this mindset means we do a few things:
* We do analysis of "Geeky" news each weekday, hitting all the top stories that apply to people's careers, and those in geek/fan/otaku areas (technology, anime, games, etc.) That way people get an idea of what they should pay attention to, our analysis, and a heads-up on important stories.
* We do columns and posts on a variety of subjects from several authors on appropriate subjects. I do a mix of career coaching, analysis of news, and advice on "Professional Geekery". Bonnie's specialty is in-depth analysis of trends. Tamara, who came on after the founding, mixes personal experiences as an entrepreneur with a mix of cultural analysis and humor. We're also adding a column from Scott, another contributor, on remake trends. We have many guest columnists, and are always looking for contributors - if you're interested go by the blog or contact me at
* We just started polls every Sunday to get people's opinions on various "Geekonomic" trends.
* Every Friday I let rip with "Frustration Friday," a cathartic rant on whatever career, geeky, or economic trend has happened to annoy me the most.
* Bonnie and I recently started a monthly trend newsletter on "Geekonomic" trends called the Geek Scanner at

We're planning to expand it more in the next few months, including a site redesign and a few other changes.

Fan to Pro also has led me to writing my own books, which are of course, on geeky careers - and I've been encouraging others to do their own writing, speaking, etc. to spread the word that you can do what you love. My books are:
* "Fan To Pro: Unlocking Career Insights With Your Hobbies": - A guide to using your hobbies on your career - and my first book.
"Convention Career Connection: Putting The Pro Into Your Con": - A book on how to do career events at a convention.
* "Progeek Rising", and "Inhuman Resources": - The Best of my columns at Fan To Pro, with additional commentary as I look back on them. These also come as very cheap e-books.

I'm hoping others follow suit!

I noticed that the site features both geek and worldwide news, is this to educate your readers or is this personal interest?
It's part of being responsible bloggers. Worldwide news, global economic news, political trends all affect us, and that means it affects our careers and ambitions. We have to cover this stuff because it's going to affect our audience - and frankly, I feel there's not enough attention paid to some of these issues.

For instance, when the Egyptian government shut down the internet (poorly) that created new awareness about internet censorship - which is vital now that we witness radically different approaches to the internet around the world. If you do business globally, you'll need to be aware of this.

Or the economic crisis in Greece may not seem to affect people in the U.S. - but it will affect the EU, which will affect us, and it reveals some of the sad realities of modern financial politics. If things continue to melt down we need to be prepared.

Consider the fact that Chinese company Perfect World just bought Cryptic, or several Korean and Japanese companies are investing in our buying American Game companies. That means changes in game distribution, audience, and the loci of control in gaming. Important trends for gaming geeks and future gaming professiona.s

International news is personal these days - and it is often very, very geeky!

What would you recommend to geeks/nerds/otaku that would like to apply their fandom to their careers?
First you need a vision of what you want to do. Your fandom and geekiness can usually provide a great vision if you take the time to appreciate what you know and what you're good at. They give you direct insight into what you can do, like to do, and want to achieve.

Next, you need to get educated on your vision. I always recommend people use RSS feeds, news sites, and research to find out about the jobs and industries they're interested in, and to find mentors and role models. Best of all if you're a geek, otaku, or fan you already know a lot of things - video game fans know where to get industry news online, fans of anime get insight into the japanese media economy, and so on.

After this you need to get connected. Join trade groups, LinkedIn groups (if you are not on LinkedIn, get on there now), clubs, and more. Of course your hobbies and fan groups provide all sorts of connections that can help you find the right groups.

Finally, you need to put that vision into action with a plan you follow. You don't need some hundred-item Gantt Chart (not that I, as Project Manager, am against those), but you need an outline and even a schedule so you can check off items and say "done, what's next."

Throughout all of this you have to remember your hobbies, your geekiness, your otaku lifestyle is one of the most powerful tools you have and you should apply it:
* You have connections that you can call on for wisdom, knowledge, and insight. You may even find someone who will let you move in with them in order to relocate for better opportunities.
* You can use your hobbies to build and acquire skills, create portfolios and bodies of work, and be promoted by your association with things like clubs and conventions.
* Your otaku, geeky, and fannish activities let you grow as a person, developing courage, people skills, the ability to get organized, good work habits, and so on. Your hobbies can be like a very fun boot camp - just look at the sheer amount of work people put into fanart, cosplay, fanfic, websites, and more.
* Your hobbies give you a chance to put more on a resume and show your abilities in interviews with employers, clients, or investors. When I look for work I give away copies of my books and mention my hobbies on my resume - they show industry, focus, and self-confidence.

The whole geek/nerd/otaku dream career goal can be summed up as this - Realize what you love gives you many strengths, and apply that in an organized plan.

You can also read the blog and buy my books (*wink*).

Where do you see Fan to Pro in 5 years?
I want to keep expanding it and build a community of Professional Geeks contributing to it and running it. I want a place that supports the Professional Geek lifestyle. I want a place to share wisdom. I want to make it bigger and better for the next year, five years, ten years or more. I want people who feel the same to join us.

I believe in Professional Geeks. I think the world needs them, passionate people who really know how things work and make that a lifestyle, creative and imaginative people who can solve problems or create wonders. So I'm going to be here to encourage them. Fan To Pro is going to be there as well.

Remember to check out the Fan To Pro: Unlocking Career Insights With Your Hobbies book and the other books Mr. Savage has written. These books are truly insightful and are worth picking up.

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blogger by Daniel Mercedes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Danny Choo

Sankaku Complex

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