Successful Berklee Alumni #38: Dawn-Marie Dunn

Dawn-Marie Dunn


Listen to the interview (approx. 50 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2012 with majors in Electronic Production & Design (EPD) and Professional Music.  Principal Instrument: violin.

Position:  Software QA (Quality Assurance) Engineer at Advanced Practice Strategies (a.k.a. Brightwork Health), which makes tools used by doctors and nurses to help them identify uncommon medical conditions.   Dawn-Marie makes sure that the software specifications are properly described and feasible.  She does both manual testing and writes “scripts” (small programs) to automate some testing to as to ensure that the software works properly under all circumstances.

Overview:  Dawn-Marie started Berklee in 1998 (14 years before graduating), but left in 2001, as she was unsure what she wanted to do afterward.  She worked a lot of retail jobs, then to move back to Boston she got a medical certificate and ultimately worked as an adminsitrative assistant in a hospital’s “quality office” where medical records are kept and sorted through.  Finding that without a Bachelor’s Degree her prospects for career advancement were dim, she returned to Berklee and completed her degree in five semesters.

During her last year, Dawn-Marie interned at Cakewalk, which makes music software.  Shortly after graduating, that internship turned into a full-time job doing QA.  5 months later, as she was not-yet-visibly pregnant with her now-toddler son, Dawn-Marie got laid off.  She realized she needed another job immediately  as no company would want to hire someone who obviously would be going on maternity leave right away; staying in music wasn’t a priority under the circumstances.  Fortunately, one day after she was laid off, her (now former) boss recommended her to a former colleague who had moved to Advanced Practice Strategies which needed a QA person.  Dawn-Marie got the job, in part because of her medical experience.


You can see Dawn-Marie’s LinkedIn profile here.  In addition, Dawn-Marie invites anyone seriously considering QA as a career to contact her at  dunn.dawnmarie [at] gmail dot com.


Choice quotes:    “As far as I know, QA isn’t taught in schools anywhere.  It’s a combination of being very detail-oriented and picking up the skills on the job.  It’s hard for businesses to find good QA professionals because they need someone who’s very tech savvy, but isn’t a software developer. Developers often want to code and aren’t as detail-oriented as needed. QA is paid maybe 20% less than being a developer–the education isn’t as specialized–but that’s still a very good salary.”

“My company helps doctors and nurses get medical details right, and we’ve heard from clinicians that it helped them saves lives. That means a lot to me and it’s an awesome feeling! ”

“I love learning new medical things and programming all the time and I get to use that knowledge to refine ideas and make a good product.  When I went to Berklee I was considering being a producer because I like to help people who have a great initial idea refine it into something amazing.   That’s essentially what I get to do now.”



See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.



Dawn-Marie with her husband.  What she says about her job may apply to other areas as well:  “Often we end up falling into a field we love accidentally.  Don’t be too rigid about your career path, esp. if you’re 22.  By the time you’re 30 you may be all about a new career that you’d been totally unaware of.”







spartan-sandbagDawn-Marie enjoys outdoor obstacle racing.  She has some advice for anyone considering software QA as a field:  “”Figure out if you really like being massively detail-oriented.  Reach out to recruiters in whatever city you’re in, and ask about opportunities and about the backgrounds of QA people.  Go online and learn a bit of programming (There are places suchas as Code Academy and Udacity where you can learn for free)–you’ll have to put in some hours on your own before you’re employable, but it’s not too bad.  Set up informational interviews with QA people.

“Most folks who do QA end up falling into it, often through someone they know.  Just keep in mind that QA is more software interaction.  If you prefer more people interaction consider project management instead”



dawn-marieDawn-Marie in Viking regalia.  She thought back to how a colleague whom she barely new ended up getting her her current job that roughly doubled her income, and has this bit of advice for others:  “Whatever you’re doing, do your best at your job and work well with coworkers.  You never know when a former colleague is going to recommend you for a job–maybe years later!”