Successful Berklee Alumni #159: Tom Rockford

Tom Rockford


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 17 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2011 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  voice.


Position:  Associate Investment Banker at Barclay’s Investment Bank.  Barclay’s in a multinational financial services firm that provides banking services for both individuals and corporations, as well as wealth management and has over 80,000 employees worldwide.  Tom is working on the private side of investing, working on coverage–helping corporate clients line up financing for major deals and analyzing what assets are worth.  He’s on a  team focuses on the commercial real estate industry.  The pay and bonus are nice, but the hours are extremely long.


Overview:   Tom went to Berklee thinking he’d be a performer, but gradually found himself more interested in his music business classes.  After graduating from Berklee in August, 2011, Tom moved home to Long Island, New York.  He wanted to work in the music industry, and started his own (very) part time recording business, but needed to earn money.  Initially working as a cook at a golf club, when that closed for the winter he got a temporately, part-time job at Guitar Center as a greeter for the holidays.  Afterward, his persistence convinced the manager to give him a regular job there, where he made barely over minimum wage.  Meeting his now-wife was incentive for him to start doing better, and he voraciously read books on sales and self-improvement.  Soon, Tom was a top-seller and had more than doubled his pay.  Over the next couple of year he was promoted to Assistant Store Manager, then Sales Manager, then Sales Manager at their flagship store in Manhattan, then Store Manager.  By 2014, Tom was making a good pay and a future path up the corporate ladder beckoned, but he had become aware of investment banking and financial people whom Guitar Center worked with and he “wanted to be in the room.”  He started researching careers in investment banking and realized he would have to go to a top business school.

Initially not doing well enough on the GMAT, Tom redoubled his efforts and scored in the 700s, which got him into UNC, starting in the fall of 2016.  He moved down there with his wife and son, and that first semester was extremely intense, with him dividing his time between coursework and lining up/practicing for interviews in investment banking, as it was clear that if you didn’t get summer internship it would be almost impossible to break into the industry.  That winter break, he was offered a well-paying summer “internship” at Barclay’s in New York, where he worked with the real estate group.  Two weeks before that internship ended, he was offered a full-time job, starting shortly after he graduated the following year.


You can see Tom’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “I like really being part of the pulse of the economy. . You have to follow the news, track interest rates, you have to be a part of it all. It’s an adrenaline rush. I wanted to understand the world better and see what makes the economy grow. I’m at the hub of the economic machine–our transactions really change the landscape.”

“Mostly at the junior levels in investment banking, which is where I am, you’re spending the day reading financial reports and using that information to build build financial models in Excel.  The rest of the the time is mostly spent putting together presentations, usually for the clients.”

“I have a lot of strengths because  I’ve been exposed to such a wide range of personalities and creative people at Berklee. So many people in investment banking went to cookie-cutter schools and are very similar, and they’re not ready to think outside the box. You have to think creatively and at Berklee I got that and that really did set me up for success.”

“Berklee’s Music Business program was great!  You learn about record contracts and MB stuff, but you also get a solid business foundation.  You know economics, accounting, communications, etc.   You get a good understanding for how you should think as a businessperson.”

“There’s a cookie-cutter process to get into investment banking. They expect a few things on your resume: an MBA from a top-20 (maybe top-30) school, and experience working in a world a bit in business, getting promoted a few times.  Show you’re well-rounded too — I helped raise money for my friend’s non-profit which build schools in Africa. You don’t have a be a MB major, but you should take some financial accounting classes to show you’re interested. Make sure you do really well on the GMAT. Then be able to tell a really, really good story about yourself.  The first interview question is ‘Tell me about yourself.” and you need to be able to inspire someone and have them think you’re a go-getter and someone they want to work with.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee/BoCo Alumni #158: Lauren Nedelman

Lauren Nedelman


Listen to the interview (approx. 57 min.) or download it.


Graduated from BoCo in 2010 with a major in Musical Theater.


Position:  Entrepreneur/CEO of Super Marketers, a company which does live demos of organic food and beverage products in the New York City area.  Mostly in supermarkets, particularly Whole Foods, but they also do food shows.  Lauren mostly does administrative and sales work — finding new business, scheduling product demonstrations and partner locations and staffing them with her “brand ambassadors” (the people doing the demonstrations / passing out samples), etc.  But she also trains new brand ambassadors, and is prepared to step forward and work a shift if someone can’t make it.  Her brand ambassadors are all contractors, but several work almost-full time, and many others world part time as fits their schedule.


Overview:  Upon graduating, Lauren toured with a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” for a full year.  While on tour, she sent out headshots/resumes to line up an agent, or more work, but didn’t have any luck.  She moved to NYC when the tour ended, and did a variety of jobs to keep afloat financially:  taskrabbit, temping for a non-profit, working in a doctor’s office.  But she didn’t particularly like any of these.  Then one day in 2013 she was in Whole Foods and a woman was giving out samples for a (now-defunt) food company, Oatworks.  Lauren started chatting with her, and commented that that job looked like great fun and she’d love to do something like that.  It turned out that the woman was the hiring manager, and they had an opening!  Lauren got the (contract, part-time) job.  She worked there most of the year, then the owner moved out of the country and the company closed.

Deciding to pursue the profession more and make a career out of it, Lauren made business cards and went to a food trade show in the role of an independent contractor looking for brands to promote.  She connected with several companies, including one called “Back to the Roots” and worked as a “brand ambassador.”  By mid-2016 she set up her own independent LLC.  Later that year, Back to the Roots was having a problem with a company that had hired to do additional promotions of their product, so Lauren offered for her new company to take on that role, which meant hiring people and scheduling.  Her company got the job in November, 2016.  By February, 2017 she had a second client and half a dozen employees, and it has been up from there.


You can see Lauren’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “I love how I get to use what I learned in school. In musical theater what I did best is acting–in acting you learn what the objective is and the tactics you use to get it. I get to use that in demos. I’m going to talk to a woman with lulu lemon pants and 3 kids differently from a man in a business suit on his lunch break. I feel like I’m living this improvizational, on-my-toes lifestyle that I studied at school.”

“I like to hire artists because they have the training on what they need to do to sell product. We’re trained on what at the tactics, what we need, what’s our objective, how we’re going to get the audience   Also, I like that I’m giving back to the artist community.  Being a brand ambassador is a good-paying, flexible job where the person doing this is understanding of the employees’ needs.  I’m OK with people leaving for a while to do a show.”

“I’m definitely on LinkedIn posting articles about my industry, or a photo of one of my Brand Ambassadors doing a demo, which is a way of saying ‘Hey, I’m around.’  I also do trade shows a few times/year to connect with brands and follow up. But as long as there’s enough work for me and my team I’m not going crazy to pull in more work. Less is more, in that I want to give my brands undivided attention, so would rather stay boutique sized.”

“If you find something you enjoy, don’t let the fact that you didn’t study it in college scare you away. Maybe we’re meant to do many things.”

“If you want to get into t, even if just as your side hustle, you want to get known in the demo industry. There are Facebook groups. . If you see someone sampling, feel free to talk to them and see who they work for and are they hiring and are they treating their employees OK?   You can send me your headshot too–I’m always filling my roster and never know when new brands are coming on board and I need to hire more.”



Lauren with cast mates from the Fiddler on the Roof tour.  “When I went into musical theater, my family was a devil’s advocate and asked what I’d do with a theater degree. I proved them wrong by booking a tour, but I proved them even more wrong by starting my own company!”









See the full index of successful Berklee/BoCo alumni