Successful Berklee Alumni #163: Adam Williamson

Adam Williamson


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 16 min) or download it.


Graduated in 2009, with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  bass guitar.


Position:  Senior Data Scientist at Gartner, Inc., a large, multinational technology-focused research company whose clients are very large businesses.  Adam is on a team that services the rest of the company, answering tough questions others can not, and building tools to make others’ tasks more efficient.  Adam uses data to produce models, and builds both descriptive and predictive analytics.  Roughly 2/3 of his time is spent on tasks he has to do, while the last third he is able to work on anything he wants.

Overview:  After graduation, Adam did an internship in Austin, but had already decided that a career as a musician was not for him.  He had applied to be a Peace Corps volunteer and was accepted!   Thus, after a 3-month training, in February, 2010, he was on a plane to Zambia, where he lived in an village without electricity and helped administer rural education programs (“I was grossly under-qualified.”).  He also helped with a chicken vaccinatino program and, on his own initiative, helped st up a program to educate boys about gender equality.  Adam’s Peace Corps stint ended in the spring of 2012, and after a few months in Johannesburg, South Africa, returned to his home city of Houston, where an old family friend gave him a job as marketing director for a music school for children.  He worked there for 2.5 years, and during that time he grew progressively more interested in data analysis, which was a small component of his job.  In his spare time, Adam started using Kaggle to self-educate about data science.

Adam was making decent money, but it was clear that he’d have to go elsewhere for career growth.  A marketing consulting firm which this music school had worked with recruited him to be on their digital marketing team.  While a step up, Adam didn’t really enjoy having to do so much direct  client interaction, and he soon started working on his Masters in Data Analytics at Texas A&M University, as he felt that he was reaching the limits on what his self-education could do.  He decided to move to Austin and was hired by Gartner in October 2016, initially in marketing, but they promised that once he completed his masters he could transfer to data science.  These happened in the spring of 2018.


You can see Adam’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “One thing about the data world is it’s a meritocracy. You might have a middle school education, but if you can program a neural net in Python, you ‘ll have a job.. There’s folks on my team without a masters, others have a Ph.D.  But if you are self-educating, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who is doing it professionally and ask where to start.”

“Everyone thinks the data on the internet all talks to other data, but often it’s not clean at all and takes a lot of time to make it work. I spend a lot of time on Stack Overflow (“reddit” for programmers, and has minimal toxicity) The world of programming / data is so wide, so you’re researching ways to connect data sources, or find new statistical modeling techniques. You have to stay up to date,aware of what’s possible.”

“The Peace Corps was fantastic experience, and more folks should consider it.  A lot of Peace Corps volunteers are similar to Berklee kids: broad minded, liberal. And you get exposed to really cool music. And it takes off the pressure of having to start your career right away. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t had those years to think.”

“Be open minded to what you can do, and what you might enjoy. There’s a lot of negativity around the corporate world, but a lot of corporations provide a fantastic quality of life. I can work up to 4 weeks/year from anywhere, get 6 weeks vacation, can work from home if I need to do laundry.  Also, don’t think things are unattainable because you have a degree in music. My music degree helped me get into my Masters–the program was full of oil/gas people and they loved that i brought in diversity of background. ”

“I’d never discourage someone interested in music from going to Berklee, but Berklee students should be encouraged to explore other options. You never know where you career can do. I have a friend who is a regional directors for RedBull events, others who are gigging every night at a jazz club. It’s not a monolith. The world is better off getting more Berklee kids in there.”

“In Austin, everyone has a beat machine or a guitar.  I love that if folks decide to just bust out their instruments I can be part of that.  My dream in life, since I realized I wasn’t going to work in music, is one day to be the old hippie with a guitar. I couldn’t be happier. ”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.