Successful Berklee Alumni #61: Tom Boates

Tom Boates


Listen to the interview (approx 1 hr, 17 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2006 with a degree in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  trombone.


Position:  Product Design Consultant.  Thomas works independently designing “anything involving a screen” from websites, to apps to displays on sports equipment.  This includes limited coding, as well as working with others, and his own customer-research app Brilliant.

Overview:  While at Berklee, a person from Nimbit spoke at one of of Tom’s classes.  Tom enquired about opportunities, which led to a part-time graphic design internship after graduation, which in turn led to a full-time job offer.  A bit over a year later there were layoffs and Tom resigned, hoping to start his own company, but didn’t feel ready, so took an offer from a former boss to had moved on to another  company, first as a contractor, then a salaried employee, but the company closed when the economy tanked in late 2008.  1-2 months later, Tom was contacted by the CEO of Runkeeper, then a small start-up, as the CEO had heard good things about Tom’s work from several different people in a week.

Tom was with Runkeeper for almost six years, The Runkeeper job started part-time, and Tom worked elsewhere too, but as the company grew the job became full time as lead designer, then later as manager of the design department.   Eventually he felt as though he wasn’t doing what he wanted to do, so he resigned, and days later a contact offered him a contract position.  Tom figured he’d hate working as a independent consultant/contractor and that it was just a temporary way to make money, but discovered that he loved it, and has been happily and prosperously doing this for the past two years-and-counting.


You can see Tom’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “Product design is a science, not an art.  It’s not a personal extension of your inner vision:  if the person you are working for doesn’t like it, you create something else.”

“Contracting isn’t for everybody.  You’re basically just there to do the work, and it’s always the other person’s call.  It’s hard to emotionally invest when you don’t have a say.  And of course the work comes in waves, there’s the occasional dry month (Plan on only spending half your income!), and nobody pays you to go on vacation. But if you’re OK with that then the money is great.”

I never really had to apply for a job.  The lesson for me was do good work, work your butt off, show integrity, be a good person, and the rest will follow.”


Tom (right) as a Berklee student, at a Halloween party.  “I achieve a state of FLOW in two ways–recording music, and designing things.”  At Berklee he focused on music, but his first job after college rekindled his love for design.







Tom with Coolio, whom he opened for.  He keeps active with music, for his own enjoyment, mainly as a DJ.  He likes to create music maships, and is active with Bootie Mashup Boston.  Looking at his career trajectory, where he gets to do what he loves professionally and still enjoy music on the side, Tom says,   “I attribute my success to good fortune, but also to my ability to say yes to new things. Try things–you might never know how much you enjoy something until you do it.”


See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.