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.