Successful Berklee Alumni #89: Alexander Bercow

Alexander Bercow

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


Graduated in 2016 with a major in Electronic Production & Design.  Principal Instrument:  guitar.


Position:  “Customer Operations Adviser’ (Customer Service/Support) at SquareSpace, a company with over 500 employees (roughly half in customer operations!) which serves as a do-it-yourself website and blogging platform.  “We handle everything from billing issues to helping people design their websites.”  Alexander helps people via live chat and email, but during parts of the day he’s also learning to code.


Overview:  Two years into Berklee Alex left for a year to do music full-time in New York, but decided he wanted to get more into the business end and got involved with Berklee’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (ICE).  For two years he and a partner worked on starting a new tech-based music business, hiring people to write code.  However, after graduation Alexander wanted to move to New York to be with his girlfriend, and the prospects for the start-up were tenuous, so they wrapped it up.

A couple of weeks after graduation, Alexander was at a party in New York, and he bumped into an engineer who had done a project for his startup the year before.  The engineer was working at SquareSpace, and suggested that Alexander work there as well, in the entry-level position of customer operations.  Alexander applied, and four interviews (one with a robot!) later, got his current job.


You can see Alexander’s LinkedIn profile here.   Alex also invites folks to email him at Alexander [at] bercow [dot] com.


Choice Quotes:   “I’m on a wonderful team with great people. Like with a band, everyone does their thing. It’s also fun to chat and connect with people, help them out. What drove me into tech, other than being from Silicon Valley, is I love innovation and progress. I always appreciated innovative music and that love carries over to what Squarespace does.”

“Customer service is a good entry-level thing that can lead to something else.  I have a lot of ambitions in tech besides just customer service, which is why I’m learning to code. One great thing about my company is there’s a lot of opportunity to grow and develop professionally–I didn’t want to leave music unless my job offered a really good career path.”

“One thing I didn’t like about music was the instability. It’s nice to get a paycheck every couple of weeks.  My job has good pay for a first job out of college, and the benefits are excellent, including flexible paid time off and a company lounge with free alcohol after 6!”

“Berklee taught me is learning how to be collaborative. Being in a band you have to learn to work together and be a team player–that and being able to communicate in a team–how to take criticism and guide others productively. ”

Actions really do speak louder than words.  You want to work with people who act on stuff—and be that person!  I didn’t know if my start-up would work out–and it didn’t–but it led to great stuff. A friend recently said he really wanted to make candles, and I was like, ‘Do it! Make a candle.  You’ll learn things, and maybe it’ll ultimately turn into something that can support you.'”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #88: Josh Nachbar

Josh Nachbar

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 7 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2014 with a major in Music Business.  Principal Instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Technical Consultant at The Amaral Group.  The Amaral Group, a high-tech consulting firm based in Boston, sends Josh and others to businesses (and occasionally schools or governments) to deal with their computer needs, from setting up new systems to fixing things when they break.  Josh spends half his time onsite with customers and most of the rest at home researching technical solutions to problems.


Overview:  Josh always loved technology, from being an amateur hacker in high school to spending lots of time in studios while a Berklee student.  (Josh had wanted to study MP&E at Berklee, but that’s another story.)  After graduation he worked at Guitar center, teaching guitar, Pro-Tools, and putting together a program on being a DJ, but within months he realized he wanted to work in tech, so he bought books and spent time self-educating on web development, IT infrastructure, database administration, etc.  Late in 2014 friends of his band mates who worked at InMusic put in the good word and he got a job there doing Quality Assurance.  Sadly, there wasn’t much opportunity to advance his knowledge, and it ended in early 2016 when the company moved its entire development to another state.

Unemployed for several months, Josh continued to study computers while making some money with freelance web development and some music gigs.  One of these was working as audio tech for the album recording by local band Unstraight, featuring Katie Amaral.  Katie was very impressed with Josh’s work, and when she learned that he was looking for a tech job, referred him to her father, president of the Amaral Group.  Josh was hired in June 2016 as a part-time employee.  As his skills and competencies grew so did his hours until, by the spring 2017, it had turned into a full-time job.


(Sadly, Josh does not have a LinkedIn page at the moment, but he still does music on the side.  Here’s his DJ page.)


Choice Quotes:  “Part of the consulting game: like a good chess player, think 5 steps ahead and put things in a way that it won’t break later. Also document what you do well and don’t ‘create fires’ of your own.”

“It’s crazy–we techies all deserve multiple titles–I’m a go-to network engineer, security consultant, CISCO firewall pro, windows infrastructure, LINUX system admin.  We at the Amaral Group each have our areas of expertise, but everyone has a foot in at least two places and we all cross-train. When it’s a slow week it’s expected that you’re learning new things and growing in another direction so that you can take on new projects should someone get overbooked.”

“People ask how I went from music to technical problem solving. I reply that I haven’t really changed at all–it’s just a different medium and it’s one day at a time.  The draw for me is finding a creative solution to a technical issue, which is what’s done in a recording studio, and is exactly what we do here! We’re coming in right at the intersection of creative problem solving with technical skills at companies that all rely on machines.”

“Don’t limit your opportunities just because you feel you should be in music.  The world is full of really interesting problems to solve. Regardless of your education, if you want to get out there and be part of solving them–really within any industry–it’s well within reach.”

“Early on in my job I’d go too far and try to solve problems I saw, but the golden rule of consulting is ‘If you touch it you own it.’ If I’d try to fix something and now stuff didn’t work guess whose fault it is…and guess who gets to spend as many hours as it takes–unpaid –fixing it!”

“If you want to be a technical consultant,  prepare to lose sleep. Prepare for someone to set you down and go ‘OK there’s a certification in network engineering. It takes most folks 3-5 years. You have 6 months. On, and here are a few more certifications to get as well. And during this time you’ll be working with clients and there’s no HR bubble between then and you, so keep smiling.”   You’ll only make it if you really want it and you think it’s cool, so embrace your inner nerd as hard as you can!”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #87: Chris Franzen

Chris Franzen

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 12 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2008 with a major in Songwriting.  Principal instrument:  drums.


Position:  Account executive at Spot Hero.  Spot Hero is an app like Fandango or hotels dot com, except it works with parking garages–with the app, consumers can pre-purchase parking as well as find good deals and accurate directions.  While Spot Hero is based on Chicago; Chris is currently the one person representing the company in the San Francisco Bay area.  Chris’s job is “70% account management (keeping things working smoothly with current clients), 20% new sales, and 10% other administrative tasks.”


Overview:  While at Berklee, Chris worked restaurant jobs for extra money, and had a band.  Graduating, in the spring of 2008, Chris was tired of restaurant jobs, so that when a Berklee friend and roommate who worked for Zipcar as a “brand ambassador” suggested that Chris work the same job at Zipcar, Chris took advantage of the opportunity, as it offered better pay and a more pleasant work atmosphere.   Chris stayed with Zipcar nearly 8 years, working his way up to marketing coordinator, then account manager, and finally account executive (a similar position to what he has now).  This included a move from Boston to San Francisco in early 2015 where he was able to do the same work–by now the band had fizzled out and Chris wanted a change.

In the spring of 2016, Spothero was looking for someone to be based in the Bay Area full-time, while Chris was feeling like his career at Zipcar had hit a plateau andready for new challenges.  When Spothero’s head of sales reached out to him about the opportunity he responded positively.  Several interviews later to make sure it was a good fit for everyone, Chris took his current job.


You can see Chris’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “It’s a very unique position that I have. ‘ Tech is very new to the parking industry, so there’s a lot of relationship building, a lot of trust. Parking lot operators are nervous that we’ll be like Uber to the taxi industry, so there’s a lot of hanging out, drinking beers, making sure we’re on the same page.”

“I love how we’re talking an industry and making it more efficient, seamless, moders. Now people won’t have to cruise around looking for parking, which will reduce traffic and pollution. I love that our product gives consumer confidence that they’ have a spot and are getting the price and location they want–like when buying something on Amazon. I enjoy the relationship with our operations. A lot of them are really appreciative the way we’re modernizing the industry and making it just a bit cooler.A lot of these people are my friends now.”

“Spot Hero’s corporate team/culture is incredible–driven, intelligent, kind. Ther’es not one person I wouldn’t go to war with–or have a beer with! All those relationsihp and support make me really enjoy the job. Though I do look forward to getting another person on my team and hopefully not having to work 60 hours/week.”

“Having Berklee on my resume was very impressive to Zipcar’s marketing team. They knew I was a hard worker due to all that practice, but also that I was creative, laid back, and a good teammate from all the working with bands which we all do.”

“I became more optimistic about my music after becoming financially stable.   With a good day job, I had the $ to buy the gear i wanted, and to go into a professional studio if I wanted to. That job opened up more opportunities, and it also reduced anxiety, which can get in the way of the creative process.”

“I got to where I am professionally by starting at ground zero as a brand ambassador at Zipcar.  That introduced me to corporate clients and my knowledge of the consumer sector was great preparation. By starting at the bottom I really knew all about the company and felt really empowered–better than 95% of acct. executives because I really knew the company & product.


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #86: Nicole Olver

Nicole Olver

Listen to the interview (approx. 38 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2013 with a major in Professional Music.  Principal instrument:  voice.


Position:  Head of People Operations (Human Resources) at Contently, a tech-based marketing firm that helps companies tell their stories on various online media platforms.  Nicole’s job involves career guidance, problem solving, and ensuring fair treatment of her fellow employees as well as more administrative tasks.

Update, 2018:  A few months after speaking in mid-2017, Nicole got a new, somewhat similar position, as V.P. of People at another tech firm, Conductor.


Overview:  Nicole got a 2-year performance degree in Australia (where she’s from), then spent a number of years working in music as well as in a number of different jobs, including working retail, some business-type positions, and working for an international development organization educating people about poverty-related issues.  In 2010 Nicole and her husband moved to Boston to continue their educations, with Nicole going to Berklee.  She graduated with two music industry job offers, taking one as a campaign manager at PledgeMusic.  Nicole worked there for two and a half years, gradually “falling into” a more Human-Resources type role, as at the time nobody else was doing it.

Eventually Nicole felt that her career had gone as far as it would go at that company.  With good HR skills and a desire to be better paid, she went to the Uncubed conference in New York, a large, tech-based hiring fair.  She met with Contently there and followed up repeatedly telling them, “I’m your person!”  It took half a year from that first meeting until Nicole was hired in early 2016, but she has been there ever since.

You can see Nicole’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice quotes:  “There has been a major shift in HR (Human Resources). It used to be mainly hiring, firing, and performance reviews. Now we’re more ‘people operations’ — working as a strategic partner, and that makes HR a very complex role and a lot more interesting. We do staff engagement.  Once someone’s there we see how they are treated, oriented, and how their career develops. Plus we help ensure a smooth ending if they leave.”

“I wake up excited to go to work. It’s rare and special. As a musician you genuinely want to connect. HR for me is similar–many HR people I know are musicians–we get to connect with people. I get to advocate for staff; my focus is that people enjoy what they’re doing and have a place to do it in.”

“Creativity is at the forefront of tech, whether it’s in problem solving or how we look at the world.   At Berklee we had to really analyze our creativity, and perfect it, and that definitely made me better at my job.”

“When you start your career, don’t be above the starting point–y first jobs in college I worked at a bar and was a file clerk.  You can’t get to the top without the lower-level experience; you can’t lead people unless you know what they’re doing. Be OK and open with those early roles and be excited about it and learn from it. Then as you work your way up highlight how the skills led to the different roles.”

“If you want a career in HR, get really good at problem solving. Take psychology / organizational design classes if at all possible.  Learn different work styles, and how people think–t work well with people you have to understand what motivates & demotivates people.   Once you know, stuff there are a lot of meetups and training organizations & events. Go to those and meet people.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.