Successful Berklee Alumni #119: Jacob Cohen

Jacob Cohen

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 27 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2010 with a major in Performance.  Principal instrument:  drums.


Position:  Real Estate Agent.  In Philadelphia he and his father co-run a group through Keller Williams Realty, where he specializes in selling land to investors/developers.  In New York he works through The Corcoran Group doing residential sales and luxury rentals.  He also has a side business with property management, helping his investors find tenants and taking care of their properties.  “I do it all. As a drummer I never wanted to limit myself to one genre. Similarly I don’t want to limit myself to one type of opportunity.”


Overview:  After graduation, Jacob moved to NYC with had bandmates, hoping to make it in music, but in the short term he needed money.  “I didn’t want to be a waiter, a bartender or a music teacher.  My father was a realtor, and encouraged me to get my license.”  A family friend was an executive in the Corcoran Group and that got Jacob an interview.  Jacob would arrive at the office super-early to get first dibs on walk-in clients, and would host other agents’ open houses in order to meet more buyers.   He also would observe the best agents in action, and ask them for tips, in order to learn as much as he could.  After about a year, he was invited to join an elite group within Corcoran, where handled the lower-end items (mostly rentals).

At the same time, he was aggressively pursuing a music career, gigging and rehearsing.  In late 2011 Jacob was turning 24 and decided to pursue his dreams.  He quit real estate despite the high pay.  He soon got a six-month Broadway theater gig, but that wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do.  After that ended, Jacob  spent another 15 months in music making little money and not getting a break, until in early 2014 he asked his old real estate team if he could come back.  He did so, and has prospered in Real Estate since.  Starting in 2017 he started doing very well getting New York investors to purchase land in Philadelphia, so he moved to Philadelphia, got his license there, and works primarily there in a team he and his father co-founded, though he still does business in New York as well.


You can see Jacob’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “To be a successful agent, you really have to LISTEN to people.  I love the whole process of weeding through what they tell me to being able to say ‘I found that’ when I get them exactly what they want.”

“Having Corcoran behind me in NYC was huge! I’d be told by clients that they like me but also like that I’m with Corcoran. You also have be a good realtor of course, but going in with a strong hand is much more important then the commission split. ”

“Senior year at Berklee I gave a speech in the David Friend Recital hall to incoming freshmen called ‘It’s all about the hang.’ — about how important it it to meet and connect with a large number of people.  It’s the same deal in real estate. In fact, going out and connecting with people is the most fun part of my job!”

“At Berklee you know you’re among the best and that pushes you to make sure you’re the best or even better than the best. I was constantly trying to learn and get better. That’s carried into my job. I could’ve walked in at 22 thinking I knew everything, but I was constantly listening to the best realtors to learn from them and improve myself.”

“Real estate is all about money, but there are other parts of our brains that need to be flexed and we need to take care of that. Being a musician, or other creative type, gives you an awareness of the world–like being fully awake. Often that attention we pay to the world gives us artists the upper hand, whatever we’re doing.”

“I’m an avid listener, searching out new stuff.  I also write and play music nearly every day and plan to put out an album later this year.  Music motivates me on days when other parts of the day aren’t going great.  Nobody can take away that love for music, whatever you’re doing as  career.”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #118: Jake Miller

Jake Miller

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 18 min) or download it.


Graduated in 2009 with a major in Performance.  Principal instrument:  drums.


Position:  Product Marketing Manager at Allego, a fast-growing software firm in Needham, MA that acts as a training-platform (“an internal-use YouTube”) for companies.  Allego hosts corporate training videos and allows for coaching/discussion to be packaged with the video.   One of around ten people on the marketing team, Jake is in charge of messaging, positioning of new products/features in the market, and competitive differentiation.  He’s also Allego’s primary creator of content, writing blog posts, white papers, business briefs, and case studies.  About a third of his time is spent studying the market.

Overview:  Jake was passionate about experimental jazz, but late in his Berklee career sensed that the market was minimal.  He moved to L.A. after graduation, hoping to get famous doing more popular music and acting, but his heart wasn’t really in it and after two years of bartending to make ends meet he moved back home (to Massachusetts).  He needed a job, and his mother sold furniture, so she knew someone at another store and he got a job selling mattresses.  Initially he didn’t make much money (low 30s), but then Jake saw selling as a skill he needed to develop.  He passionately studies the art of selling, reading books and asking questions, and within a year his income had almost doubled!  He also applied to the more-elite Jordan’s furniture, and by late 2012 got a job there and his income rose again by amost half.

However, Jake felt like ultimately he’d like to have his own company one day, and felt he’d benefit from business school.   He spent over a year studying for the GMAT, did well, and got a 3/4 scholarship to Babson’s MBA program, which he chose because of its focus on entrepreneurship, starting in the fall of 2015.  Almost as soon as school started he was looking for an summer internship; at some point the career center suggested he check out Allego.  He hit it off with the founders, who offered him a sales job.  Jake said he wanted to learn marketing, so started interning (unpaid) 30 hours/week in January 2016.  This became a paid position by the summer>  He stayed there after the summer, and the following January he was told that the Product Marketing Manager position was being created in March, so he started his current full-time job while finishing up his MBA.


You can see Jake’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:    “I went from avante-garde jazz drummer and trying to sell mattreses–a huge change! I’ll talk to old friends who are like ‘dude, how could you do it?’ The funny thing is it’s the SAME DAMN THING. When you put your passion into something you can do it in other things that seem different.”

“Don’t underestimate the power of minor adjustments. Often people get discouraged and want to totally redo everything and radically change their direction. But maybe it’s one small change that’s all that is needed. Maybe there’s an adjacent industry, or maybe a slightly different job or company. ”

“My experience as a musician gives me an edge that no one else ha.  Creativity is a skill, and I’m able to think creatively to a degree greater than most folks who just haven’t had the practice.”

“If you get an internship with a lot of boring tasks, definitely do those tasks, but keep your eyes peeled for something better. I showed the chief marketing officer that there was a .59 correlation between blog posts and website traffic, then offered to write most posts. As an intern I became the main writer at the company, and that led directly to my job.”

“If you want to work in marketing, Develop and appreciation for, and even a fascination with, markets. Too many folks think they’ll do it because they’re creative and can write. But at the core is economics and markets.   As a Berklee grad you’re good to go on the creativity. But dig deep into the economics and the concept of value that and you’ll be able to apply your creative fascination with music to this as well and you’ll have a lot of success.”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #117: Jared Trace

Jared Trace

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 24 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2009 with a major in Jazz Composition.  Principal instrument:  voice.


Position:  Staff Accountant at Le Tote, a 400+ employee startup company that’s like “DVD Netflix for women’s fashion.”  Subscribers receive a package with 3 articles of clothing and accessories to wear, then send them back (unwashed) to receive the next package.  One of four on the finance team, and the one accountant who works at the company, Jared tallies transactions, reconciles money owed (“accounts payable”), analyzes revenue and what transactions can be recognized as such.  He also values inventory, processes payroll and deals with any accounting-related issues that come up.  Jared’s background is not in fashion, but he finds the rental model an interesting challenge.


Overview:  While at Berklee, Jared took a semester off to earn money, and a temp agency placed him at a real estate firm, which moved him from the file room to accounts payable due to his being fast and accurate with a 10-key numeric keypad.  Jared worked there part-time for two years and expected to continue there after finishing Berklee, but he got laid off during the severe economic downturn in the spring of 2009.  Jared worked for two years as a barista, doing some, but not too much music with the busy-and-early work schedule.  Wanting a better job, he applied for other accounting-type jobs, and got a similar job, again via a temp agency in accounts payable, where he worked for a year and a half, hired on permanently and gradually taking on more responsibility as he figure out things on his own.

In early 2012, Jared had an existential crisis about not working in music, and he went, with a fellowship, to the Masters in Jazz Composition program at UMASS-Amherst.  However, he found he really did not like the program and left in the spring of 2013.  He got a bookkeeping job in Northampton, but the wages were low, and he and his fiancee elected to move to the San Francisco area where he’s from.  He did several accounting jobs while getting his Masters in Accounting from New England College, an 18-month online degree program for working accountants without an accounting background, in 2015.  In early 2016 a recruiter reached out to him about his current job–being Le Tote’s first staff accountant–which he ultimately got.


You can see Jared’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “At Berklee I took lots of arranging and theory classes. Accounting is like financial theory. You’re taking real money and putting it into ‘imaginary’ categories. A lot of it is making sure $ is in the right place in the way that a C-major 7 chord has to have notes in the right place. There’s a certain satisfaction from achieving ‘numerical harmony’ and being able to say I was able to make sense out of what my company did.”

“Everyone needs an accountant one way or another. Without financial data you can’t make good decisions whether you’re an individual, a small company, or a large company.  Because I understand accounting, I think about my own money in a different way now.”

“Though there are many possible career paths for an accountant. I like working directly for a company rather than being a public accountant because this way I’m not surrounded by accountants all the time. I appreciate the diversity. I also like getting to know a business intimately, and feel I can be more effective with that level of understanding.”

“The quickest way to up your title/salary is to go get a degree / certification. I spent around $24K on tuition to get that degree. 2 months after I finished the program I got a new job paying $20K/year more. I’m still making more money–the degree legitimized my knowledge.”

“Think what you’re good at in music–playing teaching, writing, making connections, singing, etc. Then apply that into the larger world–what jobs in the world interest you? Only liking music–that’s nuts–everyone has multiple interests, so don’t pigeonhole yourself.  At least think about what else would you be willing to do? Maybe you’ll fall in love with it after trying it–some things are more like bourbon–and acquired taste–than like vanilla ice cream.”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee/BoCo Alumni #116: Betsy Simpson

Betsy Simpson

Listen to the interview (approx. 52 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2009 from the Boston Conservatory, with a major in Voice Opera.


Position:  “Human Resources Business Partner” at Gartner, a large research/consulting firm specializing in performing and aggregating technology and other research for their business clients.  Betsy works with their roughly 800 people on sales teams.  She deals with day to day issues including problems, but also plays a major role in determining people’s compensation and how teams are structured.  She also spends a lot of time coaching new managers on how to do their jobs most effectively.


Overview:  Betsy moved back to Connecticut after graduation, and spent the summer waiting tables and doing community theater.  A woman in the chorus of the community theater production mentioned that her employer, the large hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, had an open receptionist position that Betsy would be a good fit for.   Betsy aced the interview and was offered the position, which the took, as the money was good and she figured it would be temporary.

By the end of the year she was taken on permanently.  After another year she was asked to apply for an Administrative Assistant position on the technology team, which she got, and continued to work extremely hard.  Two more promotions and she had a HR-position on the same team.  Eventually, Betsy felt like her career had plateaued and she was looking for the next step up.  A friend who worked at Gartner suggested she look at the company and an informational interview and real interview later, she was hired into her current position in June of 2016.


You can see Betsy’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “Every day is different. I’m never sitting at my desk feeling bored with nothing to do. In HR, you get to partner with someone and if you do a good job they rely on you. I really get a lot out of that partnership, like when you have a great musical relationship and the music is all that much more beautiful.”

Too many people want to do HR because they ‘want to help people,’ but your’e on the wrong job if that’s your attitude–the first time you fire someone you’ll realize you’re not helping them. You’ll have a lot more of these difficult conversations than ones you feel you’re helping an individual.  HR is a tough job–you have to be emotionally stable. Like an ER room nurse, you can’t get too attached.

“As a musician we focus on building & breaking down of music–musical phrases, the meaning behind each passage, etc. We also try to get to know a character so we can better emote. In the business world I take the same tactic in my job. I try to figure out the person I’m working with–who are they, how do they thing, so I can learn what to expect and be ahead of the curve there. That level of empathy you have to learn and build and in HR that’s what we do.”

“We musicians see an obstacle and rather than avoid it we’re determined to decimate the obstacle and overcome it. You don’t just do the job, but everyone in the corporate environment notices and realizes that you’re the person who will do what it takes.  That attitude is more valuable than skills–skills can always be taught, but grit can’t be.”

“By working a day job and being active in community theater, I’ve played more dream roles in the musical theater canon than if I’d stayed in music theater profesionally. I’ve played Maria in the Sound of Music, Mary the Librarian in teh Music Man, and all these other incredible (unpaid) roles!  Sometimes we’re performing in a glorified back yard, but I’ve performed at some really great venues too.”



See the full index of successful Berklee/BoCo alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #115: Rose Seyfried

Rose Seyfried

Listen to the interview (approx. 53 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2010 with a major in Electronic Production & Design (EPD).  Principal instrument:  voice.


Position:  Senior Project Manager at Eko, an internet-based company specializing in interactive video stories.  (Think “Choose your own adventure.) “My job is to facilitate the production process for original content. I do a lot of talking to UI / UX designers, video editors, producers. I’m working with amazing creators and helping them achieve their vision.”


Overview:  Rose finished Berklee a semester early in late 2010, feeling a bit burned out and not sure she wanted a career in music.  She spent most of a year in seattle interning (unpaid) at a film post-production house while working an assortment of odd jobs for money before deciding to move to NYC.  In New York, she worked part-time doing sound engineering for audio books and some freelance sound design, but “None of that was making me happy enough being poor.” and in late 2012 she put the word out to friends that she was looking for something new.

A friend put her in tough with a small creative fashion agency looking for someone who handle all the administrative work.  After a very challenging year, Rose applied for and got a job with another fashion agency that put on shows.   Doing a variety of roles in that small office, Rose found she liked the project manager role best, so she applied to various project manager positions.  Spotting an opening for a project manager at Eko, Rose spent the weekend putting together an interactive video cover letter, and in November, 2015 she got the job!  She earned a promotion to Senior Project Manager after a bit under 2 years.


You can see Rose’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “Project management is a funny concept. It’s just being organized and professional for money. It’s not this one skill you have. It’s being open to being flexible and jumping from one thing to another. I like the challenge or turning on a dime and doing something new every day. Bonus that I’m doing it at a company that is doing something I’m interested in.”

“My job is production, but it’s also consultation. We’ll sit down together, go through the concepts, map out an outline. I’m managing the creative director schedule, helping with scoping of script, making sure this is going to be on-budget.”

“It’s cool that I’m doing something that is creative, though my primary job description isn’t creative. I really like that mix.  I love that we’re pushing the boundaries of technology. I have the best coworkers– straightforward and laid back but straightforward but also they work very hard–they’re my favorite part of the job.”

“Part of my job is dealing with creative people and trying to speak their language. Just being around creative people at Berklee and seeing what they do and don’t like makes me better at communicating in my current job. Plus a lot of my coworkers are former musicians!”

“Be kind to yourself. There’s this weird stigma about a Berklee grad who feels like this isn’t it for me. Don’t beat yourself up about that–the world is hard enough as is.   Just take experiences and there are so many different routes to where you want to go. Often you’ll take a rout and realize you want to go somewhere else.”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.