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I’ve been following Gwynne Monahan (@econwriter5) for so long now its hard to remember how we “met” online.  My recollection is that it was one of those crazy, fortuitous moments, because we were both sort of hanging out in the same circles.  I don’t know too many people that are more interactive on Twitter.  She tweets a LOT.  But she is absolutely not a self promoter.  She uses Twitter much more as a conversation tool – almost a substitute for some instant messaging tool.  I admire that approach (and try to emulate it as much as I can).  I’m grateful to have met her, and think you will be too!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a consumer of knowledge, also known as a voracious reader. I live with my folks in the northern suburbs of Chicago, due to circumstances beyond my control, and while it’s not what I had in mind at this point in life, it has been fun. One of my older brothers and his young family live 10 minutes away, so I spend a fair amount of time with my nephews and niece, ages 5, 3 and 1. They always make me smile.

Where can we find you online?

Where can’t I be found online? ;) Twitter, LinkedIN, Facebook if you really look, my personal blog and my travel blog. And then there’s JDSupra, MHConnected and Lawyer Connection.

When and how did you get involved in Twitter?

I got involved with Twitter during my last semester of graduate school. It was this new website people were talking about, complaining more like, as you were limited to 140 characters. Struck me as a challenge. Is it possible for me to communicate in 140 characters or less? Didn’t quite click until I tweeted “Legal arguments should be like Twitter. Make your point in 140 characters or less and move on” which got retweeted a bit. Twitter didn’t really sink in until ABA #techshow 2009, which my sheer volume of tweets made a name for my Twitter handle and myself. That year, I also landed my first two clients through Twitter, and at least two clients since along with a more permanent position.

What is your discipline or profession?

My discipline or profession…I don’t fit into such a neat little box. I’ve developed a unique skill set that isn’t so neatly compartmentalized, but is easily adapted and applied to a variety of disciplines or professions.

How did you get into that area of expertise?

By getting laid off in April 2008, oddly enough.

I’ve held a variety of jobs, and since being laid off it has become clear that each job has enhanced my skill set without compartmentalizing it. While that is not what companies want to hear since they are looking for specific skill sets to fill specific positions and not ones that can be adapted in a variety of ways, it has been beneficial as a consultant/new business owner/community manager. No client is exactly the same, and each has a different criteria by which they hire and want work done. That creates some variety in terms of challenge and ideas. Whether it is content writing, content migration, technical communication, strategy development, community development or something else entirely, my skill set has been adaptable and grown a little bit more in the end.

What was the best job you’ve ever had (and why)?

The best job I’ve ever had and why…tempted to say my current position as Community Manager with Clio, which, so far, has been better than any job I could’ve invented myself. I’ve found myself thinking an awful lot about my first job out of college though, and comparing all previous jobs to it.

My first job out of college was in the Export Documentation department for an international shipping company called Evergreen America, part of Evergreen Marine, the parent company based in Taiwan. The work wasn’t hard, but the experience was enlightening on many levels. Working with agents around the world, handling customer issues, dealing with numerous changes in export laws in many different countries, the use or lack of use of technology, the weather. There are numerous factors that have a ripple effect on how goods move around the globe, which made the work really interesting.

As for the company, there were a number of things I liked about it. It’s health care plan still remains unrivaled, and being part of its migration to a Web-based platform was fascinating. That was my first real exposure to technology use in business, and the growing pains of moving between systems.

I liked that challenge, and I had a really good manager which is something that apparently is rare. I didn’t realize that until well after the fact. There are a number of things from that job I didn’t realize until after the fact, which have played important roles in both my consulting/new business owner role, and my role as Community Manager for Clio. Those factors also played important roles in my decision to accept those roles as well.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?  Who gave it to you?

To be honest, I don’t know what the best business advice is that I’ve ever received. I’ve read quite a few business books, both about businesses, like Disney War, and books on how to start/run a business, like The E-Myth. In thinking about the accumulation of knowledge, the phrase “rising to your level of incompetence” comes to mind. So the best advice might be to stop just before you get there.

What one piece of advice would you like to pass on to the next gen that does what you do?

Don’t sell yourself short. Just because you don’t fit neatly into a specific job description compartment  doesn’t mean you can’t do the job, and it doesn’t mean you should give up.

If not for your current position, what job would you most like to perform?

My current position is still rather new, so a job I would most like to perform does not spring readily to mind.

Which Twitter connection would you suggest we follow & why?

There are many, depending on what you’re interests are, but if I have to choose one, I’d suggest @cloudflare. In the interest of full disclosure, one of the co-founders, Matthew Prince, was a law professor of mine. However, the company is doing something cool and beneficial to anyone who runs a website. And I mean anyone, individual, small business owner or large corporation. It’ll help make your website load faster, which means people like myself will be more inclined to click around instead of closing the browser tab, and it’ll help with the heavy lifting that is website security without breaking the bank. That’s big for small businesses and consultants like myself.

Whom do you consider your “on-line hero” and why?

This is a hard question to answer as there is more than one. As Mike pointed out last week, without Tim Berners-Lee, there’d be no Internet. However, after some thought, Shawn Fanning, founder of Napster, keeps coming to mind. If it weren’t for Napster, I wouldn’t have discovered so much cool music in college, I wouldn’t have become so interested in copyright and then privacy and thus wouldn’t have taken a path that seems to suit me well.

How did you come to live in the Chicago area?

I was born and raised in Chicago. Technically the nothern suburbs. My parents are both South-Siders though, and I lived in the Lakeview area after college until I got laid off.

What’s your favorite thing(s) about living in the Chicago area?

I have two favorite things about living in the Chicago area:

  • Lake front – It is absolutely gorgeous, regardless of time of year. When I lived in Lakeview and commuted to Oak Brook, my favorite part of my morning commute was driving down Lake Shore Drive just as the sun was peaking above the horizon. And my favorite spot is down by the Shedd. Sitting on the lawn there, looking back across the city as the sun sets, its raise slowly receding from the water…just gorgeous and calming.
  • Attitude – Chicago has its own attitude, a mix of city grit and Midwestern charm.
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Sean McGinnis

Director, Digital Marketing at Sears Parts Direct
Sean McGinnis is Director, Digital Marketing at Sears Parts Direct. He is also a (digital strategist, blogger, consultant ) and public speaker. You can find Sean on