Blogger & Web Moderator
Kevin Nguyen '09 English & IPE Majors
CES: Congratulations to The Bygone Bureau for winning the 2009 South by Southwest Interactive Web Award for best blog. What was that experience like?
KN: It's kind of funny. The only reason my co-editor Nick Martens '09 and I even nominated ourselves was that it guaranteed the cheapest rate on a South by Southwest badge. We never dreamed that we would be nominated, and we were even more surprised when we won. Nick and I didn't even have an acceptance speech prepared — and it definitely showed when we got on stage. (For the record, never put nerds in front of a large audience.)
CES: Where do you keep the trophy?
KN: The trophy is a laser-engraved piece of plexiglass, which is handsome but practically invisible. It was sitting on a shelf in my living room, but no one could even see it. I almost forgot to pack it when I moved to Seattle.
CES: The Bygone Bureau appears to be a labor of love. How has creating your own blog helped you in your job search?
KN: I know a lot of people who want to start websites or blogs because they think there's money in it — and I suppose there is, if you're really lucky. But it takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort. The overnight success stories are far and few between.
I keep getting asked when I'm going to "monetize" The Bygone Bureau. That probably won't happen for a while, because I'm not interested in making money. The site started out as an exercise to force us to write and have a system for feedback. I don't think Nick or I ever meant for The Bygone Bureau to attract an audience greater than our parents. But I think the reason the site has succeeded in capturing an audience is just a matter of discipline. We edit everything twice before it goes up and stick to a thrice-weekly publishing schedule. No exceptions. And the only reason we've been able to keep up is because we really love doing it. I know that sounds kind of sentimental, but it's the truth.
For employers, I think a project like The Bygone Bureau means more than just the articles we write (though they like those too). It's evidence that we're passionate about something and willing to commit to it. A handful of our writers have told us that the Bureau on their resume helped them get work, and personally, I've gotten a couple jobs from it. So our hard work has been paid back in an indirect way — one that's probably more valuable than what we would've made from advertising.
CES:What do you wish you had known before you started your entrepreneurial venture?
KN: One thing I do wish I had known when we started the site over two years ago is how valuable meeting people is. I think we kind of assume that once we hit "publish," it's out there for everyone to see. But the chances of someone finding it are pretty slim unless someone with an established audience links it. We got a lot of traffic once we started emailing our work to bloggers we liked. If they think you're doing good work, they'll link you back. I've also been trying to have coffee with my favorite writers whenever I'm in their area. It's not really about networking, but making real, non-virtual friends. Adding someone on Facebook or following them on Twitter doesn't really cut it.
CES: You mentioned that you found an internship on the CES job board last summer (yay, job board!) ...what was the internship? How did that experience contribute to your career path?
KN: I've heard people complain that CES doesn't have enough opportunities or that the job board is a waste of time. From my experience, I've found that to be entirely untrue. Last summer, I landed an internship in the Corporate Communications Department at Alaska Airlines, which I found on the CES job board. Like everyone else who doesn't have connections anywhere, I just applied, got an interview, and was hired.
It was an extraordinary experience, even if it wasn't exactly the field I wanted to be in. I was mainly in charge of writing internal news stories for the company, which ranged from articles about quarterly earnings to advancements in airplane safety technology to missing cats. The job was also very generous — full-time pay and a handful of free flights. I flew to Chicago for a weekend to see Lollapalooza.
CES: And now you’re working for I Can Has Cheezbuger?!What is your title/role?
KN: My title is Moderator, which isn't really a good description for the job. Primarily, I manage the content on three of the network sites — PunditKitchen, GraphJam, and Once Upon a Win. I'm also involved in formatting posts for the rest of the sites, including I Can Has Cheezburger? and Fail Blog. Then I spend a large chunk of my day maintaining the social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, which is probably the only tedious thing I have to do.
CES: As your first full-time job post-graduation, how is this experience meeting or not meeting your expectations?
KN: They actually gave me a lot more responsibility than I was expecting. Of course, that's great, but it made me nervous knowing that each post I was working on would be seen by hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of people. There are a lot of people who think I Can Has Cheezburger? and its sister sites are silly and lowbrow, which is kind of true, but it's clearly an important piece of internet culture. It's very exciting to be here.
CES: As a believer in “polished prose” how do you feel about lolspeak?
KN: It's definitely been the biggest hurdle for me at work — I'm not particularly fluent in it yet. I'm always asking my boss how a cat might say things, and she usually recommends that I take out the Cs and add some Xs. If I have one complaint about Puget Sound it's that they didn't offer a class on lolspeak.
CES: Your journey from college to career has already been quite interesting…How did your Puget Sound education prepare you for your career path? What do you wish someone had told you about entering the workforce?
KN: I was expecting the job market to be a desolate wasteland, but actually, I didn't have much trouble finding a job. Neither did most of the people I know from Puget Sound. I think part of it is being in the Seattle area, where the recession hasn't really hurt jobs for college grads, and also that the liberal arts education makes you very qualified for a lot of different occupations.
CES: What is your next career goal?
KN: I haven't really thought ahead further than a few months. I'm very happy with what I'm doing now, but I feel like I could do a hundred other things, too. I've got a handful of projects and ideas that I've been thinking about starting, and I'm having trouble figuring out which one I want to do first. Maybe the downside of an interdisciplinary education is that you fall in love with too many different things.
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