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.”

Mike doing something he loves–hiking!  To other Berklee folks, he mentions that, “Its easy to say ‘just find what you love.’   But the trick is to approach it from a different angle. I always liked camping and fishing as a kid, so the question what kind of industries help support that lifestyle, both from a product perspective and a service perspective?   What do you do for fun that could support a career?”








See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.