Presentation #4a: Berklee Grads: What Berklee Did Well & Advice

This presentation, similar to #3a, is being given in the spring of 2018 to multiple sections of the Career Development Seminar (LHUM-400).  It features many direct quotes about what Berklee is doing well to prepare folks for careers outside of music, as well as advice which these folks have for current students.  The presentation also summarizes data about careers and career paths.

Download the presentation.

Data from everyone class of 2005 or later interviewed in 2015 – Dec. 2017 was tabulated and used; interviews #1 – 110, except for #7.

Successful Berklee Alumni #110: James Giannoni

James Giannoni

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


Graduated in 2016 with a major in Performance.  Principal instrument:  bass.


Position:  IT (Information Technology) Recruiter at Pinnacle Group, Inc.  Pinnacle Group is a multinational staffing firm, which places candidates in higher-end jobs in IT, banking, and executive level positions.  James scours the internet to find and reach out to qualified candidates for the available positions.   When someone is interested he explains the position, polishes up their resume if needed, and passes it along.   Functionally this works like a sales job, where he is paid a combination of salary and commission (James earns money when someone he reached out to takes a position.), while working to meet a quota.  He averages several people placed in jobs each month.

Overview:  Finishing his degree in the summer of 2016, James wanted to stay in Boston, and he applied to “tons of jobs,” getting a job with a catering company as waitstaff.  However, by late 2016 he wasn’t enjoying it, nor was he getting ahead financially, so he moved home to Dallas, Texas, where he would be able to save money.   He arrived home and started applying for waitstaff jobs.

However, his sister’s husband was a manager at Pinnacle Group, and suggested that James try his hand at recruiting.  James gave it a shot.  The first two months were rough, and he was nervous he wouldn’t hit the required minimum quota to remain employed after month three, but then a work buddy took him aside and trained him better, and he made his 3-month quota in the last five weeks.  James continues to do well there and hopes to be promoted to the next level of recruiter later this year.


You can see James’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “Now that I’m in it, I enjoy the depth of technology, specifically development–you’re building a world! If you can understand it in a deeper sense you can find better candidates in my job, but the whole world is moving that way and it opens a lot of opportunities.

“I was hesitant to take 9-5 job at first, as that would mean means I won’t be able to gig as much. But the more I thought about it, I realized that I was considering 2 waitstaff jobs which would’ve give me much free time anyway, and at minimum at Pinnacle Group I’d be learning something new.”

Get your hands in everything and really get after whatever you get in. Give it 100% If you’re in catering, be the best one on the team. I’m still friends with my boss and you’ll never know where these connections will get you.”

“As a recruiter, it’s tempting to look at a positions and think of all the competition from other companies and recruiters and it seems hopeless that you’ll be the one to find someone. Don’t think about that!   Review the requirements, then look look and look. I’ve had times where I was about to pack up and leave, then looked for 30 more minutes and found the perfect person for the job.”


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Successful Berklee Alumni #109: Chantale Sterling

Chantale Sterling

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 20 min) or download it.


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


Position:  “Partnerships Associate” (Online Advertising)  at Initiative, a large marketing agency that’s part of the IPG Group.   One of about 25 people doing this sort of role, Chantale oversees roughly $75,000,000 per year of digital advertising spending on behalf of various clients, mostly in the pharmaceutical industry.  Chantale formulates campaigns, estimates costs and effectiveness, and negotiates payment rates with online providers.


Overview:  After graduation, Chantale spent the summer working food-service jobs, then moved to New York City, unsure what she wanted to do–wanting to work in media/communications but not necessarily in music.  She applied to jobs and got an unpaid internship at a fashion company and a paying job at a fashion boutique to pay the bills.  She then got a succession of contract-jobs, with progressively more responsibility through a staffing agency:  working on CRM databases for a luxury goods company, as an admin. assistant for several hedge funds, and a marketing job at Macys, a billing coordinator with HUGE, an online marketing agency, then finally her current job in October 2016, which started out as another contract job but she was taken on permanently after just over 6 months.


You can see Chantale’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “Digital buying is advertising through different networks, and targeting the adversiting to reach your ideal customers.”

“I enjoy the strategic part of online advertising the most. I’d interact with applications like Instagram and the online news and see types of brand messaging for things I liked–I didn’t know a digital buyer and strategist were crafting the experience for me based on my online profile. I love partnering with vendors & publishers and learning about the cool things technology is letting brands do and take advantage of.”

“Learning and education, and discipline are what’s going to get you where you need to go. Read an article each day, interact with someone in your network each week–whatever that goal, set it and fulfill it. Never think that because something isn’t in music that it may not be worth learning about. It might open you to an industry you didn’t know existed such as how I discovered digital advertising.”

“Berklee taught me to move quickly along the learning curve–recognize what I don’t know, and figure out what tools do I need and how I get these tools.  This helps me in my career, which is all about understanding fundamentals and asking the necessary questions to figure out budget allocation, etc. ”

“It’s good to have a career in the digital space.  Digital is growing and it’s not going to stop growing.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #108: Zach Miller

Zach Miller


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 6 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2008 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Freelance Photographer.  Zach’s professional website shows many examples of his work.  As a freelancer, Zach works on a large variety of projects, but most of his work comes from business, particularly events and commercial real estate.  In addition to shooting photos, Zach does his own marketing as well as post-production.


Overview:  Zach enjoyed photography as a hobby while at Berklee.  After graduation, he was unable to find a job in the music industry, so he moved back to the DC area, and worked an administrative-job for his father’s construction company for money while he played drums with a local band.  By 2011, the band was tapering off, and a bandmate suggested he study photography since he liked it.  Zach went to the Art Institute of Washington (DC) and in one year of study earned a Diploma in Commercial Photography.

He continued to work that office-job while building his photography business on the side, getting a lot of work through Thumbtack, where clients post desired services and professionals bid to provide them.  He also built up his portfolio and started a photography blog. It took years, but in January 2017 Zach had enough business that he left the office job to be a full-time professional photographer.  He also plays drums for a new band, where he has fun gigging around the DC area, for for all of them it’s a side-thing.


You can see Zach’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “The camera has pushed me to step out being quiet and nervous. I’ve photographed celebrities, and as a photographer to me they’re just people. It’s fun to bring everyone down to earth.  I have to think about it, be creative, make someone comfortable–which has led to beautiful friendships & connections.”

“As a professional photographer, I spend very little time behind the camera. Most of my time is spent doing paperwork, putting in hours to send photos around, editing files, the whole 9 yards.”

“When I first shot photos I was like ‘I’m going to just shoot models!’ and yeah that sounds glamorous, but now I’m shooting commercial real estate and that’s bringing in a lot of money. You can’t let your head get into the way and have to listen to what is coming your way. Accept what’s working for you and keep pushing for that rather than what’s not.”

“I saw this at Berklee too: Everything is cool when it’s a hobby, but once there’s financial pressure applied, it brings some different thoughts– do I really want to do this? Anyone can shoot a photo and feel good about it. What happens when there are deadlines, when people don’t like a photo? Not everyone is going to like that. Test it out, see what your limits are. If you’re OK with the negatives, see where you can go.”

“Networking is so key; you can apply it to nearly every industry–especially the freelance world!  I got good at that in Berklee, where to be in a band or jam it was all about hanging out and getting to know people.”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #107: Parker Ferguson

Parker Ferguson

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 11 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2008 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  guitar.


Position:  VP of Technology & Product (a.k.a. Chief Technology Officer or CTO) at Coindesk, an online media site focused on blockchain and crypto-currency technology (e.g. bitcoin).  Parker’s task is to build out the technology team; he currently supervises close to ten employees.  His tasks involve a lot of cross-functional collaborative work, such speaking with the CEO about where to put attention and resources, helping the development team implement features, and reviewing code.

Overview:  In high school, Parker did some coding for fun, and at Berklee he’d be the go-to person for tech-related issues.  He graduated and hoped to get a career in musical composition, but when months later the economy tanked he started doing low-level restaurant work for cash.  Meanwhile, he took over a friend’s lease and found himself living in a building of art-school dropouts who were all attempting to start careers in technology.  Over the next couple of years he started working as a freelance tech consultant, but saw it as a way to pay bills while he focused on music.  But by 2010 a musical partnership went sour and he had met and fallen in love and figured technology would be a better, surer path financially sustaining his future family.  Parker spent roughly 6 months working the minimum he could while teaching himself programming, using a wide variety of resourses such as Code Academy, Open courses at MIT, and relevant books, while he did projects.

By 2011 he was feeling competent, and first sought technical employment in the music industry “where my Berklee background would be a plus.” after a few years working as a web developer or product manager, Parker reached out to a recruiter to see what was out there, particularly in the field of crowd-funded investments.  That led to a job at Ace Portal, where he started as a developer and, due to expansion, was promoted to CTO only months later.  Sadly, that company failed financially, but he quickly got another job as V.P. of Engineering at Artfinder, then moved on to his current job in August, 2017.


You can see Parker’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “The challenges as CTO are really dynamic and vary between the strategic direction and tactical on how it’s done. I like collaborating with the team. How you navigate market conditions, structure business deals, collaborating with my team, learn from past decisions that weren’t as good, shift to new capabilities on a technical level, hire and keep talent. I like both figuring out what to build and collaborating to build it brick by brick. It’s great, creative work where you can get your fingerprints on a lot and you get to use your whole brain.”

“The Chief Technology Officer of a company totally needs to have come up through the ranks. Without that knowledge, the team wouldn’t respect you, and at worst you’d make all sorts of bad calls that would ruin the business. It’s extremely detail oriented and you need to know how things work.”

“A lot of folks I collaborate with in tech are from art school or former musicians. There’s a lot of overlap in the skill sets. You’re dealing with symbolic systems and you have to practice your instrument and get better and learn. On a human element, you listen to people, figure out how to harmonize, have a sense of play and curiosity. As an artist, you have a comparative advantage so long as the fundamentals are there.”

“Berklee’s motto is ‘To Be, not to Seem.’  Tech is like that.  You can’t fake it–be prepared to spent a lot of time just to get to where you have an opportunity to succeed. What differentiated me was I focused on software, and I focused on hacking the marketplace to figure out where I needed to be.”

“If you want to go into management, you have to have your soft skills nailed just as much as your hard skills. The lead developer isn’t always the best coder on the team. Figure out that role first, and that’ll open up other leadership opportunities.”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.