Debra Gail White
Listen to the interview (approx. 54 min.) or download it.
Graduated in 2007 with a major in Music Business. Principal instrument: piano.
Position: Technical Principal Consultant. Self-employed, Debra works as the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) at high-tech start-ups. Helping them build their team, clarify their product, and raise investment money. She’s paid in a combination of money and equity (but more money than regular employees at start ups).
Overview: Graduating Berklee already with some music industry experience under her belt (She’d spent a year working before finishing her last classes), and possessing both technical skills and business ambitions, Debra spent a couple of years working at advertising agencies, handling the music end of their websites and projects. Getting more and more into tech, by late 2008 she was moving away from music into tech, being the “new media girl” at place that made online videos, then working as a technical contractor. By 2010 she had moved to New York, then her positive experiences at Burning Man made her move to San Francisco “to where the people who put on that great party are.”
Quickly she found tech jobs. When her job with Viggle, managing their back-end system, and worked there until it relocated to New York in 2013.. Tired of corporate culture and wanting more freedom, Debra elected to be an independent consultant in 2013, which she has been enjoying since.
You can see Debra’s LinkedIn profile here.
Choice Quotes: “I like the control of being a consultant and have transparency and say/do what I want and that being of value to the company. No politics or bureaucracy–if you don’t like my work you can get rid of me the next day no problem. So we focus on getting things done efficiently and it lets me be more myself.”
“As an independent consultant, I do get equity, but I get paid a lot more than a regular employee.” “I learned that at Berklee: money now or money later? Money now!”
It’s a lot of work and nothing is harder than finals week! “You can’t cram for a recital.” Berklee was excellent training for self-discipline.
For fun, Debra likes to DJ and produce music. “I have a music background, but I’m fairly technical. People associate music and math, so they forgive me for being a musician. You reframe what you have done musically to sound good to employers: practicing, accomplishing goals.”
Debra on tour with the Bag Raiders. She’s very happy with her life, and tells new grads to “Pick your city. Find your people. Go there. If you have a burning question within you, go where others will help you answer it. Solving the geographic problem is the best step as that’ll determine the rest of your decisions. Live lots of places if need be to figure out where you fit in.”