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.