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.