Successful Berklee Alumni #150: Rob Castellano

Rob Castellano

 

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 19 min) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2014 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  guitar.

 

Position:  Technical Writer (officially “Technical Communications Consultant”) at U.S. Bank, a large national-level bank with over 3,000 branches, Rob being one of several hundred people working at their corporate headquarters in Minneapolis.  Working as part of the Retail Business Lines (mostly home mortgages) Team, Rob is in charge of Closings manual used company-wide.   All documents are updated regularly to stay in-line with federal requirements as well as company procedures and changes to the software.   Rob also reviews older documents to make sure the information all remains accurate and relevant.

Overview:  Rob’s initial plan for after graduating was to be a tour manager by day and play in a band in the off-hours.  But he quickly discovered that tour managers’ hours were long and variable, so he couldn’t do both.  He moved home to Minneapolis and looked for music-jobs, getting  a part-time job teaching guitar, and looked for a 9-5 job in the entertainment industry, later broadening his search in order to find something.  His now-fiancee knew someone at a technical staffing firm, which considered his music background a plus, and Rob worked there for just over 6 months before getting laid off.

Rob went to a temp. agency, which placed him in an entry-level position at Wells Fargo Bank as a “loan document specialist” dealing with loan paperwork after closings.  After 4 months he was hired full-time and transferred to a different team.  Finding himself without enough work to do, Rob asked his boss for another way he could be useful, and this boss suggested that he create some documents for newly hired employees that describe various processes.  He shadowed employees being trained, and started to sense that technical writing could be a good career path.  By early 2018 he was looking for the next step up, and got in touch with a recruiter, while also doing a part-time coding boot camp in his off hours.  The recruiter put him in touch with U.S. Bank, where his experience made him an extremely good fit for his current job.

 

You can see Rob’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice Quotes:   “I think the biggest thing I enjoy about my job is knowing the work I put in is helping people in real time. U.S. Bank has a great work culture in general and is very customer-focused. People always think about how thing affect customers. Even things that seem mundane have a meaning to them because it directly impacts customers and carries through that mission”

“Even a few years ago I wasn’t aware that this job was something I could do with my life.”

“One of the things I got from Berklee and have applied directly is scheduling and holding myself accountable.  When you’re performing, you either put in the work or you don’t, but that once/week when you see that professor you’ll deliver or you won’t. That skills set has served me well. Everything is deadline/project based.  Also, having a writing-intensive minor–I minored in History–if you can make that work i’d absolutely recommend it. Language skills are key in the real world. So many non-music jobs want effective communicators. Honing my writing and researching skills at Berklee was really key.”

“Persistence is key.  Recognize that cliché that there’s no such thing as an overnight success. There’s a log of really hard, unglamorous work that goes into a developing a career. Even if you’re not working in music, don’t get discouraged–it’s usually not a straight path, so just hang in there and keep at it.

“One nice thing about tech writing is you have people from different backgrounds and that’s considered a strength. If you’re interested, build that skill in a role you currently have–even do some sort of skill share, or work on classes to develop those skills. A lot of tech writing is communicating in a clear and succinct manner. Even in the music industry there are these roles.”

 

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

 

Successful Berklee Alumni #149: Angela Miller

Angela Miller

 

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 25 min.) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2011 with majors in Film Scoring and Composition.  Principal instrument:  piano.

 

Position:  Advertising Copywriter for Cineplex, Canada’s largest entertainment company with over 150 movie theaters, many of which feature video arcades, recreation rooms, and other forms of entertainment.  The company’s one full-time copywriter, Angela writes the words for its advertising as well as gives context for how those words are presented.  Most ads are about the services Cineplex offers that can make the experience better; for example, an option to buy a movie after seeing it, or promoting a VIP lounge and its new menu. She also writes the email newsletter to subscribers.

 

Overview:  Finishing Berklee in the summer of 2011 after nine straight semesters, Angela was feeling burned out.  She moved in with her father in Toronto, figuring at least she’d get free health care, and started networking and looking for film scoring work.  She got plenty of offers to work for free, and not much else.  After a couple of months she broadened her job search to arts/culture in general, applied, and got a job as a receptionist/administrative assistant at a communications firm.  Feeling creatively stifled, Angela started writing memos in verse and soon their copywriter unofficially took her under his wing, and she found the work very enjoyable.  By the summer of 2013 she was offered a promotion to a higher level administrative position, but Angela chose instead to enroll in a one-year Certificate in Advertising Copywriting Program at Humber College in Toronto and phased out her work with this company.

Angela did well in school, being part of a team that won an advertising competition, but finding a job afterward was a struggle–she spent the next year doing two low-paid internships at small agencies followed by a 7-month job and another layoff, followed by another job which ended up being more community relations than copywriting.  Angela also realized after a year that she was being paid considerably less than her colleagues and she started to reach out to recruiters in search of new opportunities.  One of them connected her with Cineplex, which was looking to hire its first full-time copywriter.  Angela got her current job in August, 2017.

 

You can see Angela’s LinkedIn profile here.   Also, she has a professional website, girlforthejob.com.

 

Choice Quotes:  “My job is not just being a writer. It’s everything from brainstorming to big-picture thinking. I’ll art direct when words have nothing to do with it. What’s cool about working for Cineplex is there are so many different branches and products that it feels like being an agency.”

“I just really love to get to play with words–that’s my job. I’ve always been a writer–deviated into writing music a bit. I love being able to try to find way to say things in a new, fresh way, and to try to create an emotional response in people. I also love the independence in my job.”

“A lot of our work goes to the top and Cineplex is a large, publicly-traded company. We have to treat our clients like ‘real’ clients, even though we all work for the same company.  Only sending one option to a client is a worst-case scenario. If it’s something really important I’ll sent up to ten.”

“At my Opening Day at Berklee, President Roger Brown asked folks who was there to network, then when hands went up he said that that was the wrong answer–you’re there to make friends, not just ‘network’. Friends are the people you can call and ask a favor of.  I don’t know what other school would’ve taught networking so well. You also just meet people at Berklee and end up chatting or working with them.  Those skills really helped me with my career.”

“The worst thing you can do is get stuck in a career you’re not that passionate about. Listen to your heart.  Also, know your value and don’t settle.  Make sure you’re getting paid what you deserve and check in with colleagues. Don’t tolerate a boss that isn’t good to you. You have to live your life and you don’t owe a bad workplace anything.”

 

 

 

Angela during her Berklee days.  “Writing is writing. My Composition and Film Scoring classes really pushed us. John Meyer said to us at a clinic, ‘You have to write a lot of crap to write something good.’ and that holds true in advertising.  At Berklee I learned to push, fight, dig, keep going until you have the gem.”

 

Angela’s current job sometimes still involves recording.  Here she’s in a studio to direct a commercial she wrote.   “Berklee costs a lot of money, but don’t think that just because you poured so much into it that music is what you have to do for the rest of your life. You can do something else and still be successful, rewarded, and happy.  You’re still using your Berklee degree, finding ways you never realized that it can serve you.”

 

 

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #148: Julian Lenz

Julian Lenz

 

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 13 min.) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2016 with a major in Electronic Production & Design.  Principal instrument:  cello.

 

Position:  Account Manager at Booking.com, a multinational company whose website is used by people to book hotel rooms.   Julian’s spends close to half his time on the road, meeting with managers of hotels in his territory to keep the business partnerships functioning well and ideally expanding.  The rest of his time is spent doing “spreadsheet stuff” — analyzing data, planning, preparing, and reporting; with some meetings, management, and assisting other offices.

 

Overview:  Julian planned to go to L.A. after graduation to do music, but spent the summer in the D.C. area where his girlfriend had an internship.  Then his girlfriend’s internship turned into a job and at the same time he got the letter that his student loans were coming due, and he was skeptical that he could earn enough money to cover that while doing music.  Julian elected to stay in the DC area and looked for a job, getting one in January 2017 in real estate, doing apartment rentals.

Julian did not particularly enjoy that job and by the late summer was actively looking for something else, but without success.  Then one day in the fall of 2017 he rented an apartment to a women who was very impressed by his demeanor and helpful attitude.  She told him that she was moving to the area to manage the local office of Booking.com and offered him his current job.

 

 

You can see Julian’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice Quotes:  “I enjoy the travel–everyone my age says they want to travel.  I also appreciate the company culture–the mutual support, but also it’s a multi-billion $ company that still acts like a startup: super colorful, open office environment, people always joking with each other, an annual big party in Amsterdam.  Booking.com puts real effort into making it fun and inviting to people of all races, ages, etc. That makes a big difference to me.”

“Every meeting is different. Each person is a different character. I might meet with a hotel revenue manager in a suit and tie who spends 7 hours/day looking at spreadsheets and it’s all about the data and we have a short meeting. I have a few suggestions, they have a few questions, we look over it together and we’re done. We also work with people at smaller hotels who are manager, revenue manager, and front desk all in one. Those are more relationship-driven and we might spend 25 minutes on small chat then talk about a couple of action ideas. Before I meet people I audit the property for a couple of hours: how has the property been doing recently, how will it be doing in the near future, and how do they stack up to their local competitors.”

“At Berklee I mastered the concept of breaking things into sub-components and preparation in general. Berklee works you hard, but teaches you the arts of prioritizing and preparing. Whether that”s breaking a difficult passage into a series of scales and patters, or a difficult recording project where you spend 3 days knowing how every microphone and ever piece of equipment will fit into the one-hour recording. That stayed with me. I see the process of preparing a meeting with a partner, or a meeting witha hospitality group, or a presentation. I’m able to do those with the same mindset that I did my projects at Berklee.”

“One of those decisions that made me do this was my student debt. November 2016 I was $32,000 in debt. I’ve been paying it off with my bonuses and commissions and it will be entirely gone in January or February of 2019!  Student debt sucks, but if you’re financially resourceful, you can get out quickly.”

“Always try to be the best person you can be, because you never know when opportunity is going to strike. I really didn’t like the (apartment rental) job I was in, but as you know if you feel that way it’s so easy to convey that to other people and to seem disgruntled or negative. If I’d carried that weight while I was with (my now-boss) she would’ve picked up on that and ironically I’d still be there renting apartments.”

 

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #147: Criss Burki

Criss Burki

 

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

 

Graduated in 2014 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  voice.

 

Position:  Social Media and Content Strategies (Community Relations Manager) at Pocket Gems, a gaming company which creates multiple app-based games and has roughly 300 employees.  Criss’s domain is the fantasy player-vs.-player wargame War Dragons.   She wears many hats:  moderating the forum on the website, answering player questions, creating “announcement assets” such as photos of new dragons, and announcing new content and news on various media channels.  Criss also works with the events and development teams, hosts  live chats several times each week, does a bit of play testing, and writes all blog posts.

 

Overview:  Criss was an avid video gamer growing up, and as a student was the director of the Berklee Video Game Choir.  She also did several internships, including one as a public relations manager for a small video game developer.  In her last semester, someone she knew from the Video Game Choir connected Criss with Harmonix, a Cambridge-based company that does music-based video games.  She got an internship as a community relations manager, which turned into a full-time job after graduating in December of 2014.

Criss worked at Harmonix for two and a half years, then got laid off and moved to San Francisco with her partner who got a job there.   Chriss started looking for video-game related jobs.  A friend who worked at twitch.tv helped her get a temporary job setting up their gaming convention Twitchcon 2017, while she interviewed and was hired by Pocket Gems right after the convention happened.  Initially hired to be the community relations manager for a game which had not yet been put out, Criss was shifted over to the popular War Dragons game after a month when the previous person left.

 

You can see Criss’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice Quotes:  “Being a gamer, I am so passionate just about seeing other gamers have the best success they can with the game and truly enjoy it. I love being part of this community.   Also, I’m an extrovert. I enjoy meeting people and talking to people and learning about people. That really helps in a community relations position.”

“If you’re passionate about video games like I am, there are so many aspects of video game development you can go into.  You can be a designer, an artist, a sound engineer, a QA lead, a marketer. All these contribute to the same product. There’s probably something within those that could work for you. As you work in it, you can figure out what does and does not work for you.”

“If you want a public/community relations job, definitely understand how you approach people. The conversations you have and the relationships you make are crucial to the PR role.  Definitely evaluate how you communicate with strangers. You want them to be engaged in what you’re doing and what you’re providing. Not in a slimy way, but it really is about forging relationships. Will people feel more inclined to do what you ultimately want them to do, or will they decide it wasn’t a good experience? You only get that one shot to make a good impression.”

 

 

Criss at Harmonix.  “It felt a little weird for music not be part of my full time career, but when it came down to what I was doing at Harmonix, only a little part of that was music and my main job was social media and community work. At the end of the day, my transferable skills were more applicable to other games than to other areas of music.

 

 

Criss’s business card.  “The Music Business major definitely helped me in my career, especially understanding a brand, and understanding how to market yourself.  At Berklee it’s as a musician, but it applies more broadly. Understanding your strengths and being able to articulate those for potential employers.”

 

 

Criss in a reflective moment.  “It’s hard–you’re so fresh out of the gate after college. But trust yourself and understand that if something feels good and you want to pursue it more, go for it! Try things out and see what you like and pursue that. Or at least you’ll figure out what you don’t like and will want to steer away from. ”

 

 

 

 

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #146: Kevin Orlando

Kevin Orlando

 

Listen to the interview (approx. 49 min.) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2014 with majors in Music Production & Engineering and Music Business.  Principal instrument:  guitar.

 

Position:  Software Engineer (official rank:  “Associate Software Engineer” — essentially the middle level) at Red Ventures, marketing firm which builds interactive websites for other companies, mainly very large ones.  Kevin is one of 200-300 engineers at this 2,000-person firm, and is one of a half-dozen engineers on the 20-person “Product Team.”  He mostly does back end programming, building databases and APIs.

 

Overview:  After graduation, Kevin moved home to Charlotte, NC.  His initial plan was a get a masters degree and he took classes at a community college that fall, but by the end of 2014 decided he’d rather work.  He scoured Indeed, applied and got a job with Mood Media (formerly “Muzak”):  initially an administrative-type job, but in the spring of 2016 he was promoted to design engineer, designing speaker layouts, wiring diagrams, etc.  The job was good, but it was a 90-minute commute each way, which grew tiresome.

Meanwhile, in early 2015 Kevin decided on a whim to learn coding, taking free online courses at Codecademy, Udacity, etc.  “I don’t know why I started it. It just sort of happened. Someone told me about it and showed me what they did and I just started doing it and never stopped.”  Spending nearly all of his spare time developing his coding skills, by the middle of 2016 Kevin felt ready to look for a job.  It took a while, but in December, 2016 he was hired by his current company as a Quality Assurance (“QA”) engineer.   In February, 2018 Kevin was promoted into his current role.

 

You can see Kevin’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice Quotes:  “I don’t want to say I replaced music with programming, but it has that same kind of feeling to me. It’s easy to get lost–code for 3-4 hours and not really care about anything else.  Also, like guitar, you can always get better–there’s always something to learn.”

“I have a logical, problem-solving mind, and there’s always that problem to solve or way to make something better. That’s just kind of natural for me.”

“It wasn’t easy to move into full engineering from QA. I made friends with a lot of engineers and worked my butt off and kept taking online classes. At least I’d see them and know what I needed to know.”

“Berklee was a tough school in general, and with two majors I was always busy. It turned me into a really good worker and a really good learner. I used those entrepreneurial skills to better myself. and got really into just learning.”

“In your career path, don’t be afraid to say no. Pick things that you want to do and really excel and don’t just do a bunch of things that you won’t do well.  Also, don’t pick a career because you think it’s going to make you a lot of money. Pick something you’re good at and have an advantage and can enjoy doing.”

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.