Successful Berklee Alumni #171: William Wetzel

William Wetzel
Listen to the interview (approx. 55 min or download it.

Graduated in 2012 with a major in Music Production & Engineering (MP&E). Principal instrument: voice.

Position: Data Scientist (software engineer) at Spreetail, an e-commerce company with around 750 employees that purchases goods from manufacturers and then sells them to consumers online on Amazon and other online platforms. Williams is on a 2-person (plus sometimes an intern) Machine Learning team. He builds online tools used internally to model sales, such as how many of an item they expect to sell at a given price.

Overview: After graduation, William moved to L.A. looking to work in music studios. He got a job at the well-known studio The Village, first as a runner, promoted to assistant engineer 1.5 years later. Over the next year he worked with big-name acts, but one day he heard the studio owner say that “If it ever stops being cool to work in music with famous people, then this job is not for you.” and he realized that that’s how he felt. He put in notice and left, initially planning to work part-time and work in music as a freelancer. William searched for part-time work, and got a part-time job with Star Education, teaching computer classes to children after school, while also doing some freelance music gigs. After 3 months, William was offered, and accepted, a full-time position at Star Education: developing, administering, and teaching coding & robotics classes.

That went well, but by 2016 William realized he really wanted a well-paying career where he had in-demand skills, and that meant going back to school. Being from Nebraska, he got to pay in-state tuition there, so in the fall of 2016 he entered the program for a Masters in Management Information Systems at the University of Nebraska, graduating in the spring of 2018. While there he did a couple of well-paying internships, the second of which turned into a full-time job after graduation at this tech consulting firm. After most of a year, Will felt that he wanted to work at a corporation rather than a consulting firm so that he could focus on projects longer term, so he looked for more opportunities. He found and was hired into his current position in February, 2019.

You can see William’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes: “I like solving problems in code, getting to write code, and see what I’ve conceptualized come to life and add value to a business. It’s like creating little soldiers who once you create them just go off on their own and work producing value, like magic.”

“I do about 50 hour/week in the office, but I’m also dedicated to being in software & data science. I spend every Saturday and Sunday in the library learning. I’m currently doing a machine learning Coursera course. I’m a big learner, and with machine learning, but it feels like there’s an enormous number of things still to learn. ”

At Berklee I learned how to package a deliverable in a way that’s pleasing to people. With music you’re making a product for people to enjoy, and have to keep that in mind, and similarly I try to make the product I’m making now enjoyable to use.”

If your’e 21 and haven’t had a full-time job you just got to go out and figure stuff out by trying different things. In music I saw people around me where it was clear they loved it and were in the right place, and they were better than me. I realized that I wasn’t in the right place, so I tried something else. “

“If you want to work in software, what you need most is the experience of working at a company. The real world problems you face are so different than in the educational setting. Whatever you can do to get a couple years of experience is worth it. Also, just like in music, having a robust portfolio helps. There will be a couple years of just grinding and not being sure what you’re doing and you just have to get through that.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #170: Arielle Guitar

Arielle Guitar
Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 3 min.) or download it.

Graduated in 2010 with a major in Performance. Principal instrument: voice.

Position: Event Coordinator (Project Manager) at David Stark Design and Production, an event production company in New York City with close to 100 employees. They put of events ranging from large weddings and celebrations to nonprofit galas and corporate parties and store openings. As the event coordinator, Arielle works on a team of 6 or 7 and handles all of the team’s administrative details: finding and lining up vendors such as furniture rentals, caterers, audio-visual services, etc. Also communicating with the graphic designers to make sure they have everything they need, and maintaining the budget for every project. On actual event days, she’ll work 18+ hours, coordinating the set up and take down and making sure everything goes smoothly.

Overview: Arielle finished Berklee in 3 years and moved home to L.A., feeling burned out on music. She quickly found a job at a restaurant working as a hostess and helping with events, staying for two and a half years because was very comfortable. Finally, she was ready to work in music, and through a referral got a job at CAA (Creative Artists Agency), where she assisted an agent who booked famous musicians for private parties/events. Arielle worked there for two years, but knew it wouldn’t be her long-term career, as she didn’t want to be an agent and wanted to live in New York City. So in 2015 she left her job and got a sublet in New York.

It took her under two weeks to find a job, as someone she’s known as CAA helped her get hired at an agency that hires musical acts for events. It was a good job, except that it was located in Westchester County, with a 2-hour commute each way! After 8 months, Arielle was ready for something new. Again through someone she’d known at CAA she got a job at an event production company, but it was freelance and after the busy season things started to slow down. A colleague referred her to a private club to be an event coordinator there, putting on parties, trips, etc, which she did for over two years, until a chance meeting with a family friend led to a referral to David Stark. They met and discussed her career prospects, and Arielle took her current job as the company has a top reputation and a position involving more creativity and the potential for growth.

You can see Arielle’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes: “The biggest part of my job is being very organized and staying on top of all the details until the event happens. We’re constantly revising our pitch decks, from graphic designers having to tweak things, Communicating with the venue, scheduling site visits, making sure graphics are up to date. Sorting through products and noting our inventory. It’s a lot to keep track of, and no two days are the same, but that makes it fun.” “Beyond the variety, there’s nothing better than being part of a team that plans these evenings. Start from nothing and build and exciting even for people. It’s a lot of work and hours, but it’s really rewarding to see these events come to life.”

“It’s totally OK to not have that music job or that ‘perfect’ first job. It’ll inevitably lead to other experience and learning other stuff. If yo’re willing to break away and learn new things you can do well in a new field.”

“If you’re considering this as a career, an internship is really helpful. It’ll give you that experience and also help you figure out if it’s really what you want to do, including if you can deal with the occasional extremely long day. You have to get the bug for it. I find it very fulfilling–you’ll quickly figure out if it’s for you.”

“The biggest skills in my job are being organized and detail-focused. Graduating early made me good at time management and figuring out all the details on what I needed to get done. That felt similar.”

“I rent rehearsal space and still take voice lessons. That is my time to focus on music and practicing and stay connected to that part of my life.”

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #169: Joe Granata

Listen to the interview (approx. 56 min.) or download it

Graduated in 2010 with a major in Music Business. Principal instrument: guitar.

Position: Strategic Account Manager (officially Account Manager 2) at Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer. Joe works in the advertising operation, on the search side. So he works with large clients including Microsoft and Google to ensure that they are meeting their targets when people search for their relevant products on the Amazon website. His job consists of corresponding with his clients by email and phone, the occasional visit to deliver a presentation, keeping up with new developments at his company, and analyzing the data from his clients’ advertising activities.

Overview: While at Berklee, Joe learned how to do websites with HTML in a class, and made a bit of side money building / maintaining websites for local businesses. The year after graduation, he stayed in Boston and continued on with that, did some music, and applied without success to music industry and other professional jobs (2010 was a tough year to graduate). After a year, a friend got him a job co-managing a menswear store in New York City, and he moved. He enjoyed that job, and still did websites on the side, but after a few years grew weary of the work schedule (long hours often involving weekends and evenings) and the mediocre pay, so he searched in Indeed for new opportunities and applied. Joe’s experience doing websites and working in clothing got him hired at a subsidiary of Amazon, now called Shopbop, which did flash online sales, arranging the display of the products on the screen.

Amazon encourages people to follow their preferred career path within the company. After two years Joe switched into account management advertising, helping clients put ads on Amazon. He was promoted from level 1 to level 2 in December 2017, then in early 2018 he decided that he was ready for a change of setting, so he moved to Seattle, transferring to a similar job at Amazon’s corporate headquarters.

You can see Joe’s LinkedIn profile here.

Choice Quotes: “I love working face to face with clients to help them achieve their goals. I used to help auto-industry clients, and it was fun to see cool projects. Also, Amazon is a great place to work, with brilliant people ready to help and an entrepreneurial spirit where everyone is listened to.”

I can’t emphasize enough the value of networking. Go meet a diverse set of people across many industries. That’s helped bridge the gap and got my foot in the door. These large companies get hundreds of thousands of resumes, so you need something on top of that.

If you want to work in account management, start from the basics. Get good with the Microsoft Office suite, especially Excel. Also familiarize yourself with the advertising world and be aware of the new trends.

Joe with his guitar. “I’ve kept up my chops. Seattle is such a music city. So many different styles of music happening all over the place. My goal for 2019 is to find a band to play with.”
Joe in front of Mt. Rainier ” “My experience at Berklee was extremely challenging but the first time in my life I felt like I’d really achieved sometime to graduate. Without my Berklee experience I’m not sure if I”d have developed the level of discipline needed to succeed in these other roles.”

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.