Successful Berklee Alumni #85: Mike Skauge

Mike Skauge

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr. 15. min, thought the last 15 are us talking about this project as opposed to his career) or download it.

Graduated in 2010 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  piano.


Position:  Retail Store Manager.  Mike manages Filson’s one store in New York.  Filson makes “soft-luxury” outdoor wear and accessories.  The one salaried employee in the store, mike supervises employees, organizes events, attempts to grow the New York market, and interfaces with the corporate headquarters.


Overview:  Shortly after his arrival at Berklee in 2007, Mike realized he needed a side job.  He enjoyed the outdoors, so applied for and got a retail job at Hilton’s Tent City.  He worked there for the rest of his time at Berklee, gradually (and informally) taking on more of a managerial role.  Graduating during the terrible economy of 2010, he was unable to find a job in the music industry, so kept working at the store for another year.  However, it being a small, family-owned business his opportunity for advancement was very limited.

In 2011 a former coworker referred him to a job as a retail store manager with a European outdoor wear company which was expanding.  With excellent experience, Mike got the job.  However ultimately he felt that things were disorganized and he was underpaid, so he started putting out feelers for new opportunities.  He was familiar with the Filson brand and saw that they had recently opened up a store in a city other than their factory, so he cold-emailed their HR department saying, “If you ever want to open up a store in New York, I’m your guy!”  Several months later, in early 2014, they responded that indeed that was the plan, and several interviews later he got his current job.


You can see Mike’s Linkedin Profile here.


Choice Quotes:  ” I’ve always focused on making sure I believe in the products of the companies I work for. Filson started as an outfitter for the Klondike Gold Rush; we’ve been making products in our Seattle factory every since! Most brands don’t have that rich history. Helping people and being about to share that story is a real privilege. It’s great not working at a place where we don’t have to invent a story to sell a lousy product.”

“One thing I take the lead on is that we put on some sort of in-store event roughly once per week, to get new traffic. We’re looking for partners whose communities align well with out brand, whether food or drink or working artisans. One example of what we do is we had a guy come in and carve a mallet out of wood. We get up a table for him to work and live streamed it.”

“Musicians have to be cognizant of how to use their time–all the time to practice, juggling gigs, dealing with people. That has a very direct correlation with what I do. ”

“I may be the manager, but I’m not above doing any sort of job, whether it’s selling product, washing windows or sweeping the floor.  In general, if you want a career working for a retail-oriented business, it’s best to start off working on the retail floor. It’s a great experience everyone should have–you get a good perspective when it comes to deal with people–meeting and engaging with new people every day.”

“At that first retail job I wasn’t motivated all that much by the pay, but wanted to get the most out of it because good experiences would make me a lot of money down the road.”

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Successful Berklee Alumni #84: Jack Reedy

Jack Reedy

Listen to the interview (approx. 48 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2011 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  bass guitar.


Position:  Production Line Supervisor at Anheuser-Busch (Becks).  As a management trainee, Jack is rotating through different positions in the large brewery.  In his current role, Jack primarily supervises almost 40 people on the bottling line, but he also does quality checks, analyzes processes and does projects designed to increase efficiency.


Overview:  After graduation, Jack moved home to Chicago.  Unable to find a local job in music publishing, Jack got a commission-only job selling insurance.  He hoped it would lead to a job in finance, but the pay was low and it was clear that this was a dead end.  After a couple of years he got a somewhat better but still not-great job as a customer service rep. at a corporate benefits firm.  Meanwhile, Jack became romantically involved with a German woman and when she moved back to Bremen, Germany he decided some months later to follow her there.

Arriving in Germany in 2014, Jack wanted to get a Masters in Business, though his classes needed to be in English.  The closest thing he could find was Jacobs University’s Masters in International Logistics, Management and Engineering (The program has changed slightly since his time.). Tuition was very low, so he went there.  Breweries were major local employers, so Jack focused his academic work on breweries.  He got an internship program halfway through his masters program, and having done well at that had his current job lined up when he graduated in 2016.


You can see Jack’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes: “I enjoyed beer in college, then I met my German girlfriend I got back into drinking beer. I tried many craft beers, talked and learned about beer, and so forth. Then I moved to Germany, the Mecca of beer!”

“I once  saw graffiti at Berklee that read “Keep your chin up.’ and it’s so true!  There will be tough times where you’re not sure where you’re going, but just keep going and believe that at some point things will get better they will be. Keep applying for better things–you might face rejection or go down false paths, but eventually it’ll work out.”

“I’m happy that I studied logistics. Logistics is more than just transportation–supply chains are extremely important and applicable to many different businesses.”

“At Berklee, I liked playing jazz, and the general atmosphere of Berklee taught me to improvise well. Taking those improvisational  skills into life has helped me think on my feet and adapt to change.”


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Successful Berklee Alumni #83: John Branch IV

John Branch IV

Listen to the interview (approx. 46 min.) or download it.


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


Positions: Main Job:  Customer Operations Team Lead at SquareSpace., company with over 500 employees (roughly half in customer support!) which serves as a do-it-yourself website and blogging platform.  Having worked his way up from Customer Support Representative, John now supervises a team of ten, making sure his team members are performing well as helping them advance their own careers.

Side Job:  Wedding Photograher at John Branch Photography, his own business in which he performs all roles:  marketing, planning, photography, photo editing, etc.  John did six weddings in 2016 and expects to do ten in 2017.  Each wedding is a good 40-50 hours of work on his end.


Overview:  Team lead:  John started at Berklee in 2003, but ran out of money partway through and spent a couple of years at home in North Carolina before returning as a part-time student and completing his degree.  During that interim time, John got a job at the Apple store, first in sales and later doing one-on-one trainings with customers, which he enjoyed.  He continued to work  for Apple while at Berklee as well as afterward in NYC where for four years he also worked in a studio as “the coffee boy.”  Frustrated with what felt like dead-end jobs, he left both.  Then a former coworker from the Apple Store in New York reached out to him, saying they were working at Squarespace and he should work there too.  On their recommendation and some interviews he got the job.  After a year or so he was promoted to shift lead–a combination of customer support and supervisory role, and after another year, in mid-2015, Squarespace created these Team Lead positions and he was promoted into it.

Photography:  In 2013 his first child was born and, with his wife staying at home taking care of the baby, he felt the need to supplement their income.  He enjoyed photography, and his wife encouraged him to start his own business.  Business has been gradually increasing as experience gives him both more word-or-mouth recommendations and a larger portfolio.


You can see his LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “I’ve always been into customer service. I like helping people and teaching people. During my hiatus from Berklee, just for fun, I’d make YouTube tutorials on Ableton Live. Now I’m directly coaching my advisers. ‘I’ve been in your role. I can give you ideas on how to better do it.'”

“Don’t just find what you love, but find the ABOUT what you love. For example, I like the creative process and bringing it to fruition. That’s my ABOUT. I can do that in music, but also in other fields. So I don’t feel bad about not doing music.”

“Squarespace is really big on one-on-ones between managers and team members. I meet with each person on my team at least every other week, and a majority of my time is spent in those meetings or prepping for them. . There’s also manager meetings regarding overall how customer operations is going, anything that should change, new directives, etc. What time is left we fill with our own projects.”

“Wedding photography is mainly customer service & people skills, and the photography part is what you do the least of. During the wedding day you try to capture as much as possible while adhering to the timeline. You’re also right there with the couple, so if things go badly you get to keep people calm and happy.”

“I get paid around $2,500 to do a wedding, but a typical wedding is 8 hours that I’m there, plus a hour or more travel time each way, 5 hours communication about details and up 30 hours for photo editing. So that one wedding becomes almost 50 hours of work.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #82: Luis Augusto

Luis Augusto

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


Graduated in 2014 with a major in Music Production and Engineering (MP&E).  Principle instrument:  bass guitar.


Position:  Front-End Web Developer at HDMZ, an online marketing/communications agency the builds websites and does online marketing for health and biotech firms.  August’s job is to build the websites for clients, working on an 8-person technical team.


Overview:  Shortly after starting Berklee Luis got heavily involved with the BIRN.  His second year, the BIRN’s web person had graduated, so Luis offered to be their web developer as a work-study position, which he did for two years.  His time was split between building/upgrading the website and learning online how to do so.  During his final year Luis was station manager, so didn’t so much with the web.

When Luis graduated, he moved to San Francisco and wanted to work in sound in the video game industry.  For the next two years, he got a number of temporary contract jobs doing that, initially via networking at a video game developers conference.  However, he grew weary of the highly-variable income and uncertainties associated with contracting, and wanted to steadier job, with being in music no longer a priority.  A friend referred him to a recruiter, who helped him find and land his current job.


You can seen Luis’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “Web development is a very flexible field. I could move anywhere and still do it. It’s also a very easy field to find a job in.”

“When a client signs up with us, we have a designer, a front end developer, and a back end developer work together to build their site.  I’m the front-end developer.”


You definitely have to have the dedication and motivation to learn web development successfully. It can be a rough start at the beginning, much like learning to play the violin. You may not understand why you’re doing certain things, but later on it’ll make sense.  A good way to learn this stuff is to sue online resources.   Code Academy is good; Lynda and Udacity are great too.”


Luis as a Berklee student, at the console.  “I like web development. I enjoy building stuff, That’s why I got into sound design at Berklee–getting into the nitty-gritty, and seeing something I envisioned come into existence.”

Luis remains involved in music production though doing sound for Clockwork 5 Productions, a film and video company he and several friends started together.



Luis playing with a band.  While music remains part of his life, he cautions, “If you enjoy doing something else besides music, don’t lock yourself into doing music just because you have a music degree. It could turn out a lot better if you go with something else you enjoy rather than struggle while looking for that perfect music job.”





Luis’s parting thoughts:  “Good luck to the new grads out there–I hope everything works out for you!”










See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.



Successful Berklee Alumni #81: Braydon Nelson

Braydon Nelson

Listen to the interview (approx. 55 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2007 with a major in Professional Music.  Principal Instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Director of User Experience (“UX”) at StackCommerce. a company that partners with major websites to provide them with online stores and things to sell.  Braydon designs the pages, features, and enhancements that make these stores simple and enjoyable to use, which the development team then builds.

Overview:  For a number of years after graduation, Braydon did music professionally.  First making an album and touring with a Dutch band, then with a band in San Fransicso with had been signed to a major label.  However, being with a signed band felt creatively stifling and by 2012 he was ready to do something new.  Braydon and his brother designed an IPhone App which, while not a commercial success, was great experience–Braydon credits it with getting him that first 7-month contract job.  When his band broke up in the summer of 2012, Braydon moved to L.A., planning to get into composing as a profession, but also planning to do some sort of design as a “day job.”  Quickly he found himself really enjoying the freelance design gigs and within a couple of months had decided to pursue a career in design.

Lacking in connections, relevant experience, and a specialized degree, Branton spent over six very stressful months and over a hundred applications pursuing that first design job.  However, during that time he focused intensely on building his portfolio, doing challenging project after project in many area across design to raise his skills and show what he could do, and the bigger his portfolio the more interest employers showed.  Finally he got a 7-month contract job.  As that was ending, a much easier job search (4 applications, 4 interviews, 2 job offers) he took a much better paying job at a company, which he stayed at for a year and a half until it was clear that company was failing financially. He applied for other jobs, getting his current one at StackCommerce.


You can see Braydon’s LinkedIn profile here.   Braydon encourages folks interested in the design field to reach out to him.  ” I have a folder with great sites/tutorials and when someone asks for advice I send them that folder.  Reach out and I’ll send it to you.”


Choice Quotes:  “I taught myself product design using google, youtube, and other free resources that exist.   When I started getting interested in user-centered design, I researched everything I could, figuring out best practices. When I got my first job I peppered the engineers with questions, and eventually got to know what I was doing.”

“I come up with the features, and my team of developers builds them. It’s very different from music, but it involves a lot of similar improvisational skills.'”

“I never thought I’d be here. I feel really grateful and blessed that I’ve been able to find two passions and do both of them for a living. A lot of folks don’t find any passions. I spend a lot of time trying to help other folks find their passion–talking about what they’re interested in.

“At Berklee, surrounded by so many brilliant musicians and given such great challenges, I had to figure out how to make things happen and rise to the level of what was expected of me, to learn as much as I could as fast as I could.  I’ve learned to apply that pretty much everywhere else in my life.”

“In tech, just get your foot in the door! If you’re in the industry at all, it just helps so much when you want to do the job you really want.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.