Successful Berklee Alumni #22: Owen Davies

Owen Davies


Listen to the interview (Approx. 1 hr. 13 min) or download it.

Graduated in 2008 with a major in Music Production & Engineering.  Principal Instrument: guitar.

Position:  Mechanical Engineer at Function Engineering, Inc.

Overview:  Owen finished his Berklee education by doing Berklee’s LA Internship program, which he recommends highly.  That led to four years working in various studios, as an assistant engineer, lead engineer, and assistant tech repairing equipment.  Owen liked the tech end, and didn’t like the late-and-erratic hours, so he decided to switch careers.  He got his Masters in Engineering from Boston University, though it’s LEAP program, which is designed for folks with non-engineering undergrad degrees.  Through his coursework, Owen discovered that he really liked product design, and he finished his degree in 2014.  It was a long job search, but ultimately he moved to San Francisco, built a website that showcases his portfolio, and directly reached out to product design companies in that area, which landed him a 3-month paid internship at Function Engineering.  Owen was offered his current job at the end of the internship.

You can see Owen’s LinkedIn profile here.

Choice Quotes:  “”I loved doing MP&E becuase I’m very creative, but also very technical.  Being able to combine the two is my dream job, regardless of what it is.  Today I’m virtually doing the same thing–the technical side of being creative.”

“It was intimidating at first to have my music background when everyone else at Function Engineering went to Stanford or MIT, but then I realized that everyone thinks my background is really cool and they were intimidated by me!”

“”You’re not going to know if you like something until you try it.”  Getting a feel for whether something is good and you could do it for the rest of your life.”


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Successful Berklee Alumni #21: Kayla Lee

Kayla Lee


Listen to the Interview (approximately 1 hr 10 min) or download it.

Graduated in 2011 with a major in Music Business.  Principal Instrument:  Voice

Position:  Director of Business Development (Marketing) at Coshx Labs.

Overview:  Post-Berklee, Kayla worked first at a music theater box off, then got an unpaid internship at a studio while working part-time at the Apple Store at the “Genius Bar.”  Kayla’s internship turned into work as an assistant engineer, which turned into being the person engineering assistant for singer Claude Kelly.  However, after a couple of years in music “I’m noticing that my favorite part of the job–and what I’m strong at–is relationships–getting to know people and helping people communicate.  Not plugging in microphones and other technical stuff. And I’m thinking what does this mean for me careerwise.”  Some online research and tests later Kayla decided she’d be good in sales.  Many applications and a craigslist ad later, she landed a job wish Glopak, selling glass vials.  She started part-time to make sure it was a good fit, then success + pressure to to pay her student loans made her go full-time.  In under a year, she was promoted twice (!)  to sales manager, then to marketing director for the parent holding-company.  One of the sub-companies was in high tech, which Kayla decided interested her.  She used online resources to find start-ups which could use her services, getting two part-time jobs (top get experience while she was working her old job), then found her current position in late 2015.

You can see Kayla’s LinkedIn profile here.

Choice Quotes:  “I’m much more creative than business development peers.  I took a lot of songwriting classes–we were taught how to brainstorm, and to respect our creative thoughts and not to reject ‘crazy, off-the-wall’ ideas out-of-hand. ”  Often my ideas worked.”

“I love what I do, so I’ve probably worked 16-hours days without noticing it.  I’ll just be there thinking of stuff.”

“Network!  Be able to say “Hey, I majored in music, and that’s why this is GREAT for you.”

“Make sure your network is ‘open’ — get to know people in many different fields who know people in many different fields.”


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Successful Berklee Alumni #20: Ama Atobrah

Ama Atobrah


Listen to the interview (approximately 53 min), or download it.

Graduated in 2010 with a major in Electronic Production & Design (EPD).  Principal Instrument:  Voice

Position:  Front Desk Coordinator at Appian Corporation.  Ama answers the phones, greets people as they enter, helps mail packages, helps at trade shows, and keeps the company kitchen well-stocked.

Overview:  Ama spent her first two years after graduating in a band and gigging.  Eventually the band broke up and she felt the need to make more money.  She started as a waitress in various places, but found that she preferred to be the hostess who greets people as they enter.  Some months later, a friend who works as a hair stylist at a PR Partners Hair Salon in Oakton, VA suggested that Ama would be a good fit for the receptionist, as there was a job opening.  The money and hours were better, so Ama took the job.  After a while, Ama resumed her job search for something better, primarily by using Indeed.  Many, many applications and interviews, and nearly a year later (during which time she went back to restaurant hostessing), Ama got the job at Appian Corportation.

You can see her LinkedIn profile here.

ama2Choice Quotes:  “I feel like the office wife. I  try to know everybody. I feel like everyone’s best friend.  If they need to book a conference room or ship something, I help them.  If they want to vent, I keep secrets.”

“I do well by being myself and being really excited about what Appian is about and wanting to learn more.”


“Base your next career move off of something you did well.  Ask yourself, ‘What’s close to something that I do?’  Are you a charismatic performer?  Businesspeople are just a different kind of audience.”



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Successful Berklee Alumni #19: Jack Goodall

Jack Goodall

Jack-Goodall 1

Listen to the interview (Approximately 1 hour) or download it.

Graduated in 2009 with a major in Music Business.  Principal Instrument:  drums.

Position:  Marketing Manager at Starr Hill Brewery, a craft brewery located in Virginia.  Jack has sole responsibility for events, branding, website, promotional videos, packaging, and the like.

Overview:  A fan of craft beer since his days working at the Sunset Bar in Alston while at Berklee, Jack went straight from Berklee into Suffolk University to get his MBA through the accelerated MBA program Suffolk has with Berklee.  After graduating in 2010, Jack moved to Chicago to be with his now-wife, who was in medical school.  Jack got a marketing job at Wavemachine Labs, a tiny music software company, but after a year decided to leave and broaden his job search because of low pay and limited opportunity for advancement.  He got a marketing job with the Chicago YMCA, working for several years and being promoted to marketing manager.  In 2014, his then-fiancee finished medical school and got a job in Virginia, so he again moved.  He found a communications job at the University of Virginia, but found it had too few opportunities to be creative or innovative, so started looking for a new job (while working).  While planning a fun visit to the Starr Hill brewery, his wife noticed that they were looking for a marketing director!  Jack applied and got the job.

You can see Jack’s LinkedIn profile here.

Choice Quotes:   “One thing I learned is to be a lot more upfront with what I wanted with a position rather than just taking what I could get.  It’s great (to have a job) immediately, but down the road wha does that mean? (You’re going to be unhappy and a bad fit for your position.)  People are often afraid to ask those questions, not wanting to seem too abrasive, but there are ways to do it…  Speaking as someone who has hired people, it’s in the company’s best interest for a prospective employee to be up for what’s coming if they take the job.”

“You have to find what YOU do really well.  You need to be able to verbalize what you have to offer to a company.  For me it was project management experience and a hodgepodge of marketing roles.”

“The brewery had strategic partnerships with many bands and events, and it gets us tickets.  Since moving to Charlottesville I haven’t had to pay to see live music.”


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Successful Berklee Alumni #18: Jesse Reese

Jesse Reese

Jesse Reese 1

Listen to the interview (in two parts.  Total 55 minutes) or download part 1 and download part 2.

Graduated in 2008 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  guitar.

Position:  Senior Software Engineer at TVGla.  Jesse is a “full stack” developer, handling both “front end” (what the customer sees) and “back end” (the engine underneath) web programming.

Overview:  After graduation, Jesse did an unpaid internship with a label in Nashville where he tweaked and built websites.  He started picking up freelance jobs building websites, for fairly little money but he learned a lot.  He decided that he wanted to pursue a career in programmers.  Starting at the bottom (“Geek Squad”) computer repair, Jesse read many books to teach himself how to program.  Finally in 2012 he moved to L.A. for more opportunities and over the course of one year and a few jobs his annual salary went from the low 30s to the mid 90s!  Jesse career has continued to progress, with him not staying at any one place very long.  “With software engineering, 2 years is pretty much the max you’re in one place.  After that, stuff is built and you’re just spinning your wheels–there’s nothing else to learn.  If you don’t learn new stuff constantly, you get left behind.”

You can see Jesse’s LinkedIn Profile here.

Choice Quotes:  “It blew my mind how much software engineers are needed, and how easy it is to get a job, once you hit a certain level of experience.  There are a lot of opportunities, and recruiters contact you.  It’s like they’re a car salesperson and you’re the car.”

“Don’t get complacent–stay hungry and keep pushing!…I became senior-level through knowledge, not years.”

“Whatever it is you want to do–set your ego aside and go learn it and do it!  I decided that I’d do nothing that didn’t get me toward my ultimate career goal (being a software engineer)–I didn’t go work retail or whatever. ”


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