Successful Berklee Alumni #3: Michael Wright

Third in a biweekly series of interviews with Berklee graduates who have successful careers not involving music.

Michael Wright

Michael Wright

 

Listen to the interview (approx. 56 min.) or download it.

 

*UPDATE* March 2018:  In late 2016 Michael was hired as a regional sales manager for Kainos, a large digital tech firm.  In 2017 Michael started an online MBA program at the University of Liverpool; he expects to graduate in 2019.

 

Graduated in 2008 with a major in Music Business (Management track).  Principal instrument: drums.

PositionSalesperson, working for Micro Focus, (a.k.a. Borland Software) a large multinational corporation that provides many computer software products used by businesses.

Overview:  Michael has had a varied career, working as an audio/visual “technical supervisor” (a.k.a. “the sound guy”) at a Marriott hotel, being a counselor at both camps and a college, touring with the Christian rock band while handling their merch.  After marrying a woman from Northern Ireland and moving there, he founded his own music school, Stateside Drum Studios, where he still works on weekends.   Michael applied to his current position via an agency and went to a high-pressure 3-day “camp,” where he was among the 6 out of 45 “campers” who was offered a job.  Another three months of (paid) intensive training and his software sales career with Microfocus started.

You can view his LinkedIn profile here.  Michael asks that if anyone wants to connect with him that they mention me and Berklee in the “connect” message, as he doesn’t like to just connect with random people.  (In general, introducing yourself to someone who doesn’t know you is good form.)

 

Choice quotes:  “As a musician at Berklee, you’re surrounded by and have to work with a very diverse group of people.  You listen to and approach things differently, such as when you’re in an ensemble and are hearing the other musicians and are able to pick up whether we’re going to repeat a section or whether we’re going to drop the dynamics.  You take that same sort of understanding and ‘unspoken language’ into the business world.”

“I found I can be just as much myself in the corporate world as I was in the music world, and still be able to have the fun I had in the music world, and just blend the two together.”

 

 

 

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Successful Berklee Alumni #2: Prayre Finley

Prayre Finley

 

Prayre Current Headshot

Listen to the interview (approx 1 hr, 7 min) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2013 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  voice.

Positions:  Co-runs the family business, ELF’s Cakery, substitute teacher in local high schools, private academic tutor (mostly math) and music instructor (voice & piano).  Prayre also does freelance design work (resumes, websites), and still gigs with corporate/wedding bands and does original music.

Overview:  Prayre moved home (Atlanta, GA) after graduation.  While at Berklee, all of her business-related projects used her family business, and were implemented.  She works there part time.  For over six months she worked at a bank, but didn’t like it.  She had wanted to teach, but was rejected when she applied to work as a substitute teacher in the summer of 2013.  One year later a regular customer of ELF’s Cakery who worked as a substitute teacher gave her advice on how to apply and make herself a desirable candidate (what her resume should look like, etc.) and put in the good  word for her.  She was accepted, and started substitute teaching in the fall of 2014.  Substitute teaching doesn’t pay great, but the hours are flexible, and substitute teaching gets her many (well-paying) private students.  She hopes to open her own school one day!

 

You can view her LinkedIn profile here.

Choice quotes:  “The business part of the (Berklee) degree has helped me be a better performer, because I understand more about the business so I know how to approach situations.  I know how to keep up with people.  I know the importance of building that brand and how to market yourself and your image.”

“It will be tough, but there are things out there that you can find to do that will still fulfill your financial obligations while  allowing you to pursue your passion in music as well.  Don’t have unrealistic expectations.  Give yourself time and it’s OK to stay at home until you figure it out.  Had I tried to just completely go out on my own from the beginning, I might have had to stay at the bank and been completely unhappy.”

 

 

 

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Successful Berklee Alumni #1: Casey Kidd

Casey Kidd

Casey Kidd Professional Photo

Listen to the interview (approx. 26 minutes) or download it.

Graduated in 2012 with a major in CWP (Contemporary Writing & Production).

PositionData Analyst at The Retail Coach.  Casey uses statistics to predict which business will succeed in a given municipality.

Update August 2016 (1 year after the interview):  Casey left his job at The Retail Coach to start his own company in the same field, NaviRetail.

Update April 2020:  Casey and I had a second conversation, in  which he recounted how he started and built NaviRetail, now a very successful business with 9 employees, as well as how it works to run his own business.  A must-listen for any aspiring entrepreneur!

Listen to the 2020 interview or download it.

Choice Quotes from the new interview:

“One thing I realized early on is the one thing you can’t change is people spending money.  They’re going to get the goods they desire.  The one thing you can change is where they get them.  If  people buy outside of a city, that tax revenue is gone.  We hope to fill a revenue void and be able to locate businesses for a town.”

“At the end of the day, I am who I am.  When you’re really passionate and driven, people see that.  I guess it justifies my employees taking orders from someone half their age.   It’s the same with our clients.”

“Don’t be too prideful, whether in music or not.  What keeps you successful is being able to swallow that pride and do things you weren’t planning on doing.  In my case, driving for Uber for the first year of the business until we got our first paycheck.  It wasn’t my idea of fun, but it got us to where we are today. ”

“My phone, email, and office are always open for people looking to start a business.  I’d love to be the sounding board I wish I’d had.”

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Overview:  Casey enjoyed computers both before and during Berklee.  He got particularly good experience while in a work-study job at Berklee (laying out Fusion Magazine), learning software that helped him get a position at his company soon after graduating.  He did not know anyone at this relatively small company near where he was living, but saw their newspaper ad, applied, and got the job.

You can see his LinkedIn profile here.

Choice quote:  “Too many people (graduates from both Berklee and other colleges) have no idea how a business works.  Everyone at Berklee should have to take a couple of business classes.”

See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.

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