Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 19 min.) or download it.
Graduated in 2008 from the Boston Conservatory, with a major in Musical Theater.
Position: Software Engineer at Google (New York office). Part of the Material Design team, Will’s “domain” is visual, text-based interfaces on apps. Google is, of course, a large, well-known company with over 80,000 employees, the majority of those software engineers.
Overview: Shortly after Will graduated, the Great Recession hit, and a lot of opportunities that had been there the year before were now gone. Will worked a bit in theater, but had been struggling with depression and developed anxiety about auditions, so that in 2009 he decided on a different career path, playing piano and doing odd jobs to make ends meet. In 2010 he was getting proper treatment for depression, and a friend asked Will to be a computer help technician as a short term job. Will found parts of the job interesting enough to merit exploring a career as a network administrator, and planned to do a program at NYU’s School of Professional Studies. It being the summer, no network administrator courses were offered, so he took a programming class (Intro. to C) and found he liked that even more! The programming education there was Windows-based, while Will sensed that IPhone apps were the next big thing, so he got an internship through friend, bought a book, and taught himself all about that programming language (C-shell) and the IOS operating system.
Two years of moving from job to job in search of learning more and lots of self-study since that first class, Will had established himself as a software engineer and was earning well into the 6-figures freelancing. He went to work for a startup, but the startup ran out of money in late 2015. Meanwhile, Will had just interviewed with Google, which had reached out to him, as a way to keep in practice, but the unexpected job offer from them was fortuitously timed. Will accepted the offer and started there, choosing to work on the Material Design team because he liked the people and found the subject matter really interesting.
You can see Will’s LinkedIn profile here. Will encouraged people who want to get into programming to reach out to him.
Choice Quotes: “We actors are capable, once we’ve learned how to manipulate our own human behavior, and to be smart and understand things on behalf of a character, to do that for ourselves. I see software engineering as a successful role I have taken on for the past seven years.”
A lot of teams at Google are smaller than you think they are. Google does that on purpose, to make everyone feel like they’re making a big impact. Rather than a giant machine you’re just a cog in, they make a tiny billion machines all working toward a common goal.”
“In the arts, you can work harder than everyone and get nowhere. And vice-versa–I know someone who got into a Broadway show because, with zero training, he auditioned on a dare. But in software the more hours I worked, the more pay I got, the more I could charge, the more interesting projects I can take on, the more choices I had on what to do.”
“Google is strict about 40-hour weeks. If you find yourself working more, your manager will meet with you. They consider us the best in the world and don’t want to lose anyone by having us to burn out from over-work. This is the first job I’ve really been happy at, not just knowing it’s good for me. A lot of that is not working 80-hour weeks like when I was working at start-ups.”
“There’s always a group of jobs that aren’t being filled fast enough. Search for that information online; ask recruiters what kinds of people they’re having trouble finding for good jobs. See if there’s a practical way into the field that doesn’t involve years of schooling.”
“Do not listen to people who tell you that you can’t be a software engineer unless you have a computer science degree. Musical theater at BoCo is a harder program than any computer science degree.”
See the full index of successful Berklee/BoCo alumni