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

 

Successful Berklee Alumni #157: Remy Felsch

Remy Felsch

 

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

 

Graduated in 2016 with a major in Songwriting.  Principal instrument:  drums.

 

Position:  Graphic Designer at Reside Real Estate, a tech-based real estate startup which provides marketing and support services to experience real estate agents looking to go independent of conventional agencies and establish their own brands.  Remy is on a small creative team.  “We’re working with each agent to create everything visual that represents the agent’s brand–digital, email, flyers, brochures, logos. Anything visual that represents that agents brand we come up with it.”  Remy manages two contractors who work remotely, and also does specialty design projects that lack templates.

 

Overview:  Remy learned Photoshop at age 10, and made a bit of money at Berklee designing album artwork and posters.  He also got a work-study job with the Songwriting department, much of which involved laying out flyers.  After finishing Berklee in August, he moved to Nashville, thinking about being a professional songwriting, but didn’t find success and felt he would do better as a professional drummer.  He gigged a bit while working food delivery and other side jobs, but didn’t like the grind and moved home to San Francisco that December, pondering his next career move.

Remy decided to go into graphic design, since he liked it and had years of experience, and aggressively applied to jobs.  He got a highly-paying internship with a similar but smaller real estate firm, which turned into a contract job.  He was offered a real job there, but didn’t like the way the company was run so left in August, 2017 for a 6-month temp-to-permanent graphic design job in Raleigh, North Carolina, but got laid off after 4 months.  Unable to find even side jobs there, Remy moved back to San Francisco at the end of the year, and again searched for a full-time job.  Within a few weeks he was hired into his current position.

 

 

You can see Remy’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice Quotes:  “The creatively of designing a brand is super-fun to do. It’s cool coming up with a new business name and designing a logo. The most rewarding part is seeing the agent so satisfied with what we’ve come up with — people testifying that the brand helped bring them new clientele / team members.”

“That’s the thing with start ups. They just give you stuff even if you don’t think you have the qualifications. I’d never managed people, but they gave me two remote people to manage right away. It turned out to be fun and rewarding; I like the people I work with a lot.”

“Berklee is a wonderful institution to learn about music, but you can apply a lot of that to other industries.  You know you love music and it’s your passion. What else do you love?  Always have that plan B–that’s the best you can do for yourself. A small percentage of us really make it in music..”

“I’ve seen a lot of Berklee students who just do the graphic design for their band and are really good at it. If you’re doing it for fun and are that good at it, consider it as a career. It pays pretty well. You could do it for a music label if you want to be in the music industry.”

“In a way I’m living my dream. Not the music career dream, but I’m making a good living, working at a cool company in Silicon Valley, and am still doing music on the side. That’s what I wanted–stability, but to be able to do music on the side as well.”

 

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #156: Andrew Lee

Andrew Lee

 

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 28 min.) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2013 with a major in Electronic Production & Design.  Principal instrument:  voice.

 

Position:  Associate Product Manager at NBC Digital.  Andrew manages the NBC app for OTT (Over the Top) devices, such as Roku and Playstation video games, which can be used to stream NBC television content.  Andrew works with designers, engineers, and somtimes the marketing team to make sure the new versions of the app come out with the desired features.  He’ll write product specifications, manage the agile-development “scrum” meetings in which features will be planned, triage reported bugs to determine which need to be fixed right away, and helps Quality Assurance make sure the product is working correctly.

Andrew also is starting a side business as a career coach.

 

Overview:  Andrew moved home to San Jose, California, after graduation, but planned to make it in LA.  He went down to L.A. and stayed for most of a year, doing a couple of media-based internships and some side jobs, but struggled to make money and moved back home.  In August, 2014 he got a contract job in L.A.  as a mobile Quality Assurance tester at Disney Interactive, which was excellent experience but very low pay.  A friend got him a better-paying job with the Far East Broadcasting Company, a small Christian media firm, where Andrew ultimately ended up producing their video and audio podcasts.  However, he grew disenchanted with the work, and in the spring of 2015 left voluntarily in order to search for a job he would enjoy more.  He moved back to San Jose, and soon a recruiter reached out to him for a contract media/data position at Apple, curating metadata for Siri.

Andrew networked and applied for many jobs at Apple, hoping to turn this contract position into a career..  He also started learning to code, but wasn’t feeling it.  While he was unsuccessful in finding a position at Apple, a manager for a position he applied for offered to meet and talk, and he told Andrew that based on Andrew’s experience and interests he should consider going into product management.  Andrew researched what that career entailed “For the first time, I had a clear vision as to where I wanted my career to go. I vowed to become a product manager by the end of the year.”  He did an 8 week “boot camp” Product Manager program at Product School in L.A., then applied to many jobs over the next two months.    Right as he was about to move back home, he got two job offers is rapid succession, the later one for his current position.

 

You can see Andrew’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice Quotes:  “It’s a myth that product managers in tech have to be technical.  Knowing to be tech-savvy helps, as does understanding foundational concepts. But the product manager’s main role is communication, so you have to be able to speak the languages of the engineers, the marketing people, everyone on the team.”

“Product managers have to understand where people are coming from. People see the product from their own role as a developer, etc. I’m the person with the most 360-view of the product, and have to make decisions and prioritize features accordingly. Individuals may disagree, but I have to bring all perspectives and be able to explain better.”

“I like that every day is different there are things I do every day, but mostly it’s a very dynamic, intellectually stimulating role. I knew I wanted to be in tech, but didn’t know the role. I wanted to be able to be both creative and logical and where every day could be different. I’m grateful to be in this role.”

“There’s a difference between passion and desire.  Growing up, I was good at music and was told that, which led to me going to Berklee. Berklee is so prestigious, that was a sort of affirmation.  But desire is fleeting and it you face a real challenge you withdraw or run away, which is how I felt with both music and later coding.   But passion is something that when you’re challenged you have the perseverance to tackle that challenge, as I did with product management.  It’s important to know the difference.”

 

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #155: Kenny Rosenberg

Kenny Rosenberg

Listen to the interview (approx 40 min.) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2012 with a major in Electronic Production & Design.  Principal instrument:  piano.

 

Position:  Software Engineer (officially “Consultant”) at Macedon Technologies, a software firm that helps companies build internal tools to manage customer interactions and store data.  Most of the 100+ employees are in Kenny’s role, where they not only build the software, but plan and test it, and interact directly with clients to make sure they are getting what they want.

Overview:  Kenny’s father worked in IT, and got Kenny into coding as a kid.  Kenny came to Berklee, but got heavily into the technology end of the EPD major.  He moved to L.A. after graduation, hoping to be a sound designer in Hollywood.   To pay bills, got a job at a company that rented out audio/visual equipment to reality TV shows.  But the job was underchallenging,  and Kenny discovered that it would be a multi-decade process to get established as a sound designer.

Meanwhile, Kenny’s mother had started a job at the University of Delaware, which meant he would be able to attend school for free.  After about a year and a half in L.A. he moved home and entered the University of Delaware’s Computer Science program, which he felt had better career prospects.  It took him 3 years to get this second Bachelors degree.  Toward the end of the program, a school friend was hired by Macedon Technologies, and recommended Kenny for a similar job, so he had his current job lined up for when he graduated in the summer of 2017.

 

You can see Kenny’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice Quotes:  “I really enjoy the problem solving parts of my job.  My company has a great work-life balance, and since folks are young and socially-oriented engineers, people have a lot of common interests. Many of my colleagues have become friends.”

“My last project 80% of my time was spent in meetings; this project is about 90% writing code. It’s nice to get that variation.”

It’s OK to work that placeholder job as long as it doesn’t keep you from what you ultimately want. That said, if it’s hard to take the time to actively search for what you really want because you’re working so much, you should work less, dedicate time, etc, to make sure you push for what you really want.    But there’s also no shame in taking a turn and doing something else if that’s right for you.”

“I’m currently on a 9-person team at work.  Being on a team in tech is like being in a band–you’re picking up on social cues from clients and coworkers. Berklee enhanced my ability to do that.”

 

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #154: Wellington Netto

Wellington Netto

 

 

 

Listen to the interview (approx. 43 min.) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2011 with a major in Songwriting.  Principal instrument:  bass guitar.

 

Position:  Desktop Support Specialist at FS Investments, an investment firm with over 300 employees, mostly in Philadelphia.  Wellington is part of of a small IT department which supports the other employees at the business and makes sure all the technology is running smoothly.  In addition to troubleshooting problems that arise across the systems, Wellington sets up  new computers for employees.  He specializes in Macs, but does a large variety of tasks beyond that.

 

Overview:  Wellington’s father familiarized him with computers before he came to Berklee.  At Berklee, he informally helped folks on his dorm floor with computer issues that arose, then did classroom tech support as his work-study job at Berklee for his last two years.  Wellington liked Boston, and was determined not to move back home to rural New York, so he needed a job right away.  He applied broadly for jobs and got one at a large shoe store on Newbury Street, staying there close to 3 years while working his way up to shipping manager (and, informally, IT support).  He heard from a friend that Berklee was hiring for CTMI (faculty support/training) Lab Monitor, and applied.  Wellington’s combination of IT skills, direct management experience, and Berklee degree made him a good fit, and he got the job in March, 2014.

However, there was no real way to move up at Berklee, so by late 2015 Wellington was applying to other jobs.  He got Desktop (computer) Support Administrator positions at Wellesley College, then Boston University.  In the summer of 2018, his fiancee completed law school and got a clerkship in Philadelphia, so Wellington applied for IT jobs in Philadelphia, lining up his current position before they moved.

 

You can see Wellington’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice Quotes:  “I generally enjoy this line of work, mainly because I like helping people use their computers more effectively in ways that make them happy. It’s gratifying and a good feeling when you can solve a problem and someone is appreciative.”

“You really have to approach this kind of work is in a client-oriented manner, rather than give canned answers. I try to tailor solutions to the person. If I know them I know how they like these things taken care of. Some people want to learn to do things themselves., some want it done right away. ”

“As a Berklee grad, you have way more marketable skills than you give yourself credit for! Think about experience you have, inclinations on what you want to do. I’ts all about spinning what you have to find the job you want.  Don’t sell yourself short–really spin all your skills and talents and make then work to get you that job you want.”

 

Wellington as a Berklee student.  “Music education in general helps you be personable–you’re working with people, you’re playing in ensembles, working on group projects. You’re creating something together fairly often. That group-mindedness and focus benefits a whole host of careers. I’ve super-introverted and have a hard time meeting people, but working I learned to switch into an outgoing client-friendly mode. Berklee had a lot to do with that.”

 

 

 

 

 

Wellington having fun with friends.  He has some advice for new IT people.  “Keep moving forward. It may not feel like you have huge enough experience to move on to the next position, but you often can. A skill which took you 2 minutes to learn may be very attractive to employers. On the flip side, find a company you like to work for and a role that you actually like. It’s a combination of coworkers, company culture, and the actual work. Go find the right fit.”

 

 

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #153: Kristin Corpuz

Kristin Corpuz

 

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 7 min.) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2017 with majors in Music Business and Professional Music.  Principal instrument:  voice.

 

Position:   Staff writer and freelance writer.  Kristin writes articles, mostly about lifestyle, beauty, and entertainment.  Mostly her articles appear in online publications.  She works part-time for both Elite Daily and My Life Out of Office, where she is expected to work certain days writing several articles each day.  However, a decent fraction of her articles are published elsewhere, as Kristin has working relationships with many editors and publications.  You can see many examples of her writing at her professional website, www.kristincorpuz.com/writing.

Included among these articles is one written in September 2018 (shortly before this interview) for Elite Daily, titled, “My Career Has Nothing to do with my College Degree & Here’s Why I’m OK with it.

 

Overview:  While at Berklee, Kristin great enjoyed learning about the music business, but gradually realized that she didn’t necessarily see herself working in it. “I couldn’t picture myself at a desk, doing it. It wasn’t me. I didn’t fall out of love with the music industry, I just didn’t see myself in it.”  In late 2016 Kristin moved to New York City and looked for an internship or job, enduring several frustrating months of rejection and seemingly-solid offers falling through.  Eventually, someone at Billboard, whom she had interviewed for a previous Music Business class, wrote her back and got her a well-paying internship at Billboard, where she both completed her academically-required internship and continued to work for several months.  While helping with music charts, during this time Billboard was trying to establish a lifestyle branch of its website, and part of her job involved writing articles.  Sadly, that position ended in August, 2017, and Kristen couldn’t find another position at Billboard, but she realized she enjoyed writing lifestyle articles and was determined to make a career of it.

For several months Kristin worked a variety of side jobs to support herself while attempting to get articles published, with minimal success.  Finally in November Teen Vogue published a piece by her.  Once she had pieces published by two well-known publications, it became much easier to get additional articles published, as editors took her seriously as a professional writer.  By January, 2018, she had stopped working side jobs and was supporting herself full-time as a freelance writer.  She accepted the staff writing positions that August; while the income was comparable, they made both her income and her weekly routine more reliable.  Kristin recently moved to L.A., but kept the same  jobs, as writing can be done from anywhere.

 

You can see Kristen’s professional page here.

 

Choice Quotes:   “My creativity is being pushed, in a different way from music, but still in a way that I’m contributing something positive. A lot of publications speak to experiences I wish I’d seen when I was growing up.   More diverse voices are being heard these days, esp. in beauty and lifestyle. Also, I have found a great online community with other journalists–we follow each other, support each other, read each other.”

I’m always on the hunt for a good story. Someone says there’s something they wish they knew and I say ‘Aha!’ and put it in my notebook.

“Berklee puts a huge emphasis on interpersonal relationships with musicians, otherwise known as networking.  I had to reach out to people, get them to play for me by pitching myself. Those qualities transferred over, with me often making a case, ‘This is why you, publication editor, need to take a chance on me.'”

“Often I don’t write anything until it’s assigned to me officially, as I don’t want to waste time. I’ll reach out to editors I know with an idea for a piece. They know me, so once they green light it I’ll write the article and get paid.”

 

 

 

Kristin as a beauty product writer.  “A lot of publications put an emphasis on the voices of minorities. As an Asian American and a first-generation American, I bring a rare perspective. Also, as a performer growing up, I used make up. I also have eczema, a skin condition, and have a lot of knowledge of what beauty products work well. I love de-stigmatizing the condition, which can have a positive impact on someone’s life.”

 

 

Kristin reflects on the business being a writer:  “In my staff writing positions I’m paid by the hour.  For freelance articles, the pay rate is very interesting and reflects the diversity of the industry. Print usually pays $1 to $5 per word, but digital can be less. When I started writing I took any assignment, but now I’m comfortable asking for more money. That said, if I’m taking on a new publication and want to build a relationship with an editor I might be willing to write an article for less. It’s less a set rate than a conversation that involves many factors.”

 

 

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #152: Omar Perez

Omar Perez

 

Listen to the interview (approx. 42 min.) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2018 (left Berklee in 2017), with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  Percussion.

 

Position: Payroll Operations Specialist at Whole Foods, the large grocery chain, working at its corporate headquarters in Austin, Texas.  Part of a six-person team that covers the entire country, Omar’s job involves lots of troubleshooting and making sure everything is running smoothly for the local “Payroll Benefits Specialists.”  Omar deals with issues that come up–missing paychecks, incorrect amounts, pay for terminated employees and the like.  Omar also audits payroll information, verifying accuracy and looking for errors to correct.

 

Overview:  Omar applied to Berklee while in high school and was accepted, but he ended up staying in Texas and worked, mostly in temp jobs, for about 5 years, getting married during that time.  He did some work in a payroll department.  The birth of his daughter made him want to get his degree, so he went to the University of Texas at Austin initially, then transferred to Berklee as that had been his dream.  By late 2017 he was near graduation and he and his family moved back to Austin, and while he looked for a position in the music industry he signed up with a temp agency to get some work right away.  They placed him at Whole Foods, in a different administrative position.

After several months of working there and being impressed by the positive work envirnoment–and no luck finding a good job in music–Omar decided that a career at Whole Foods was a good option.  His boss, meanwhile, wanted to hire him as a regular employee.  They gave Omar a 4-month leave of absence to finish his degree (online); once that was complete in the spring of 2018 he gave them a call and in less than a week he was working at his current job.

 

You can see Omar’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice Quotes:  “I love working with numbers–I’m a numbers guy. It’s natural to get lost in doing the work and have the day just fly by. . I like knowing that you can depend on me that you’ll get your money on time to pay your bills, feed your family or whatever you need. It’s a great family to know I’m part of that.”

“When I get to work in the morning, it’s always a ‘surprise’ to find about 200 emails with questions from paychecks to upcoming checks to people going on vacation and making sure it’s in the system. I spend those first one or two hours answer emails and putting out fires. ”

“I was a major introvert pre-Berklee. Berklee got me out of my shell. It helped me with public speaking, with collaborating with others. To work on projects on other people, learn to work together as a group. It did wonders.”

“Don’t be afraid to go and look beyond what you’re comfortable with. Don’t settle just because something is what think you should be doing. Think about what toher ways you can contribute. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket–there are so many possibilities as to what you can do!”

“Going to Berklee was a dream come true to me. Even though I’m not in the music industry, it helped build relationships I’ll cherish the rest of my life. It prepared me to go out there and deliver and make sure I give a top product and not just go through the motions. I’m grateful to have gone through that.”

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #151: Joe Barnard

Joe Barnard

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 2 min.) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2014 with a major in Music Production & Engineering.  Principal instrument:  guitar.

 

Position:  Founder of Barnard Propulsion Systems, a.k.a. BPS.space, a company that builds and sells technologically sophisticated model rockets in kit form.  Unlike other model rockets, these ones steer not via fins, but by controlling the direction of thrust, just like real rockets do.  A typical rocket kit sells for around $300, but can be re-used with no engines which are under $20.  With the company currently a one-person operation, Joe’s current job is around 25% engineering and 75% running the business (communications, sales, and assembling kits).

Overview:  While at Berklee, Joe met Ben Meyers and was hired by his company, 21 Summit, where he shot many videos and weddings.  Joe spent more time doing video than audio by the time he was finishing Berklee, and he continued to work there until the summer of 2016 (2 years after graduation), then started his own video company, where he shot many music videos for Berklee through mid-2017.

However, in the fall of 2015 he got interested in  SpaceX, and figured a long-term goal was to get a job there.  Knowing that his current experience was inadequate to get a job there, Joe purchased many (expensive!) rocketry textbooks, and spent all of his spare time reading and building rockets “The best way I learn is through experience and experimentation.”   In March 2017 he figured out his current product.  He moved to Nashville that fall, did a few last videos for money, then was able to refine his product and go full-time with his business in early 2018.

You can see Joe’s LinkedIn profile here, but the best way to see what he’s up to is by looking at his company website, bps.space.

 

Choice Quotes: “I definitely prefer being an entrepreneur. The original goal was to get a job at SpaceX. I’ve succeeded by that measure, as SpaceX and other companies have reached out to me and made offers, but it never felt like the right time. My goal at this point is to see how far I can take the business.”

“A year ago there was no market for what I sell–therefore we’ve had many articles written about us which means we’ve had marketing for very little effort.”

“The thing you learn at Berklee is you get out what you put in. If you just show up at class and do the minimum you won’t an education worth what you paid. But if you talk to professors, network with musicians in class,, do extra, you get the value. Running a business is like that. You can’t do nothing and all the stuff you have to do you have to set your own goals for–nobody gives you a deadline. ”

“Finding out what you want to do–if it isn’t music–is even more scary when you have a Berklee degree, which is really specialized.   I’m so glad I went to Berklee and still don’t think I’d change it, but acknowledging it is scary. I’ve heard if you don’t know what you want to do, do a job you don’t love. I really didn’t love shooting weddings–it was so clear to me that I’d rather do rocket work.”

 

One of Joe’s inventions. “My job changes really quickly–that’s what’s exciting. I do love what I do, but I have to constantly make sure I’m focusing on the right things so that I do continue to love it. It’s too easy because you’re spending time on what you don’t love–reading regulations, handling returns, which is monotonous. But if I can spend 30% of the time on what I love I call that worth it.”

 

 

 

 

A rocket in action. “I did an analysis of model industries: trains, etc. Most hobbyists care less about speed and performance than about things being as realistic as possible in both look and function.  Fin-guided rockets have to launch super fast, but real ones start off slowly–and majestic looking. The type of system I developed achieves a slow lift-off, just like the real thing. This opens up a whole new section of the hobby.”

 

 

 

 

 

Joe with a friend. “Although I didn’t do it, if you’re starting a company have at least one other person to work with. You won’t have all the strengths and it’s SO hard to start a business, especially during the first few years. You’ll want someone there to go through the experience. . I moved to Nashville because I knew it would be hard, so wanted to be around friends–that’s really important.

 

 

 

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

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.