Shannon Downey

Shannon Downey calls herself a “Doer of Things.” She is CEO of Pivotal Production, Star Trek: TNG enthusiast, and needle wielder at Badass Cross Stitch. Additionally, Shannon runs the excellent interview blog, Seriously Badass Women.


BS: What do you do for a living?
SD: The things I get paid for include (but are not limited to):
Running a marketing company that specializes in big strategies
Teaching at DePaul University
Fiber art

BS: Why is creativity important to your work?
SD: “Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and in some way valuable is created,” according to Wikipedia. I am in the business of creating valuable new somethings, so without creativity, I have no work. That said, I would argue that creativity transcends my work and is vital to my existence. I want to create something new and valuable every day.

BS: What are the risks you take with your work?
SD: Risk is something I’m really comfortable with. With Pivotal, it’s more about asking my clients to trust me enough to take the risk with me. Everything with marketing is a risk. To stand out in all the noise, you have to be willing to push limits or you just waste resources and drown out.

My art feels far more like a personal risk. It requires putting me to put myself out there and be vulnerable in a way that is often uncomfortable for me. (Which for me, means it’s even more important that I push through that discomfort and just do it.)

I can’t ask my clients to take leaps with me if I’m not willing to model that spirit + behavior, you know?

BS: How do you change perspective?
SD: Go somewhere different, learn something new, talk to strangers, take a day off, play, read a book, dance, watch a movie, start a side project just for fun, and travel. Travel is one of the biggest ones. If I need a real perspective shift, I know I have to hit the road.

BS: Who are your co-conspirators and collaborators, and how do they make you better?
SD: That list would run on and on for days! I think everything is better with collaborators.

Today’s collaborators included the Grant for Good team (check it out it’s awesome); yesterday’s included four elders with mad weaving skills helping me dominate a loom. Who knows who tomorrow’s co-conspirators will be? I’m pretty good at getting people fired up to play with me.

captain 2BS: As seen in your photo, Star Trek’s Captain Picard is a major figure in your life. Tell me about that.
SD: I’m a big ole geek and have been my whole life. Star Trek was my gateway drug into geek land. I grew up watching Star Trek TNG with my dad every week. My first convention was a Star Trek convention. Captain Picard was my hero. A leader. An adventurer. A Risk Taker. An Anthropologist. A Renaissance man. He was cultured, complex, interesting, respectful, and thoughtful. He represented so many qualities that I one day hoped to possess. (He and Indiana Jones…can’t leave Indy out). I think every geek has their primary fandom, and it’s usually the one that brought them into the fold.

In college, a friend gave me a Captain Picard action figure for my birthday. Years later, after a night of celebrating (yes, whiskey was involved), The Captain was taken out of his box (sacrilege, I know) and became the subject of a photo shoot. That turned into a Facebook page which turned into hundreds of people wanting the captain to entertain them.

It became this totally weird really entertaining side project for me that made me smile and connected me with my fellow geeks on a massive scale. The Captain has done amazing things! He met Patrick Stewart. Shatner once tried to drown him, but Scott Bakula gave him CPR + saved his life (video). He was on the Discovery Channel for going to space thanks to one of his fans (video). He’s currently hoping to get to be in the background of Big Bang Theory😉

It’s taken on a life of it’s own, and I just follow along. Trust that he is always in my purse ready to perform his next epic feat.

Most recently, we got to go to the Star Trek TNG reunion with the Chicago Tribune. They wrote a really long story about it. So good.

I’m all about letting your freak flag fly.

Now I am serving my geek community as the head of the advisory council forGeek Bar Chicago. The Captain can often be found hanging out there with me.

Check out the Facebook page, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (action figure).
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