Successful Berklee Alumni #134: Chris Carlson

Chris Carlson


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 2 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2009 with a major in Professional Music.  Principal instrument:  drums.


Position:  Contract Web Developer at Microsoft  (Official title:  Software Engineer 2).  Officially he is an employee of Robert Half Technology, a tech staffing agency that places developers where needed, but for over a year he has been working at the same position at Microsoft, helping with the website related to their Azure product — Microsoft’s cloud platform.  His position used the Kanban Model, meaning he and the other developers on his team work on many small items.


Overview:   After graduation Chris moved home to Seattle, and started teaching drums at a drumming school for money while gigging a lot with many different bands and genres, and continued to do this until 2015 (with two years in the middle spent in Nashville working at Guitar Center and gigging).  By 2015, Chris started to question whether he truly wanted to keep doing the same thing “I didn’t want to be playing $150 gigs when I was 50.” and saw a musician friend of his go to a coding “boot camp” and get a good job, so he figured he’d explore coding.  While still teaching drums and gigging, his his spare time Chris taught himself to code, started with free tutorials at Codecademy and soon started taking more advanced tutorials as the still-cheap Code School (a.k.a. Pluralsight).  After a few months of this, Chris felt ready to do the boot camp.  He stopped teaching, almost stopped gigging, and did the intensive 12-week web development program at General Assembly.

Graduating at the end of 2015, it took Chris 5 months to find a job–not unusual for someone with no technical background, but eventually a recruiter hooked him up with a job at a small web development firm, where he worked for about 8 months before getting laid off.  However, “Now that I had experience, the second job search was so much easier!” Within two months he had two job offers, and took his current position.


You can see Chris’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “”I really enjoy coding. There are a lot of similarities to playing an instrument. It’s very challenging and technical, but also very creative and there are people who make beautiful works of art with their code.”

“I’m lucky to have a good work-life balance and I still gig once or twice a week. I have some really good relationships with local musicians, some of whom I’ve played with since 2010.”

“You also have to prepare yourself for technical interviews because they’ll ask you how to solve these coding problems on a white board. I memorized certain coding algorithms which are popular, and bought a little whiteboard to practice on my own.”

“At Berklee you’re with people from all over the world and different cultures and you learn to work together in a positive way with such different people.  Coding is exactly like that — you get that team mentality that we’re in this together and everyone’s trying to give their best.”

I had a very set mindset on what my life would look like and never thought I’d end up as a developer at Microsoft! But what helped me along the way was being open to new possibilities.  I didn’t worry that something would get in the way of my drumming. I just initially thought I liked coding and I’d go with it and see what happens.



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.