Successful Berklee Alumni #206: Kristen Zagalles-Ceberos

Kristen Zagalles-Ceberos
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Graduated in 2019 with a major in Music Business. Principal instrument: voice.

Position: Executive Assistant to the CEO at 300 Bees, a boutique, digital marketing firm based in Miami. Kristen helps with scheduling, meetings, events, making sure the office space is taken care of, and being the point of contact between clients & CEO, plus other marketing and operational procedures.

Update: shortly after this interview, Kristen switched to an Executive Assistant position at Entain x Unikrn, a company which operates a platform for online sports betting.

Overview: While at Berklee, Kristen wanted to work in artist management. She did the Internship in L.A. program and that internship led to a job in that field, though it didn’t pay much. A few months in, Kristen decided that she’s rather build her career back home in Miami than in L.A., so she started looking for jobs in the Miami area. A sibling knew someone at 300 Bees, and through that connection she was interviewed and hired into her current position in late 2019. The company’s rapid growth meant Kristen was able to collaborate and grow a lot during her time there, taking on more responsibilities and more of a leadership role.
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You can see Kristen’s LinkedIn profile here.

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Choice Quotes: “I’ve worked in different industries as an EA. Each industry has its challenges, but also it’s exciting aspects. I like to show progress and grow, so each new opportunity I learn new things. It’s less specific to the industry and more about the EA role itself.”

“I have a great passion for business. As an EA, you get to be in all those conversations: business strategies, project management, goals, internal structuring of operations. That sort of thing is very exciting. It feels like an honor to be in the room when those discussions are happening — to be leaning and able to understand.”

“I use so much of what I learned at Berklee. In a Music Business class at Berklee I learned about sunset clauses. I was at this marketing company. The exec at my marketing firm was trying to structure this contract with an Instagram influencer while making sure her company would get their money’s worth if we parted ways. My knowledge of a sunset clause fit perfectly with the wording they wanted to have in their contract. Things like that are incredibly useful, and add to my value when I’m in those meetings and able to provide a solution to a problem.”

“Of you’re thinking about being an EA, make sure you would enjoy the role. It’s a lot of hard work. Many folks just fall into it because they don’t have another role, but if you don’t enjoy it it won’t be fun. There’s a lot of benefits and challenges in this role. Also, a good thing abut EA positions is there’s a lot of lateral movement, as your skills aren’t industry-specific–you can shift to a different industry and even mix your passion with your work experience.”
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Successful Berklee Alumni #205 – Jordan Johnson

Jordan Johnson
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Graduated in 2018 with majors in Music Business and Music Production & Engineering. Principal instrument: violin.

Position: Renewal Sales Representative at Splunk, a very large tech firm which specializes on cloud data protection and data analysis. Customers are businesses who pay by the year for Splunk’s services. Jordan’s job is to remind customers when it’s time to renew and guide them through the renewal process, average one renewal deal every day or two.

Overview: After finishing Berklee in August 2018, Jordan moved back home to Dallas, Texas and spent a year living at home and doing music for fairly little money. By the fall of 2019 he was eager to make more money and got a retail sales job, but the work was tiring and didn’t pay well and he wanted a career that would allow for him to do music part-time. He was up for doing sales, and friends suggested that software sales is a way to make good money. Applying to many jobs via job search websites, Jordan connected with Splunk and was hired.

His first job at Splunk was in an entry-level sales position: sales development–cold-calling potential and any business that’s interested is immediately sent along to someone else. Yet Jordan did extremely well in this role, always beating his quota by at least 30%. In under a year, his extraordinary performances was noticed and Jordan was promoted three levels into his current position.
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You can see Jordan’s LinkedIn profile here.

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Choice Quotes: “I enjoy speaking with people, figuring out how to problem solve through various tasks. The pay, benefits, and flexibility are all good. Also, this job role has opened me up to a whole new realm of opportunities. Our country and world are moving to a more data-centric directions. If you’re not involved in data, within a few years you’ll probably be swept away. AI, machine learning, etc. are going to be replacing a lot of jobs. Finding a role where you’re behind the intelligence and data, or in the tech space in general, is your best bet.”

“I like negotiating. I took a Contract Negotiations class at Berklee. This is definitely paying off for me even though it’s not licensing issues. Also, at Berklee I pushed myself to be in a helluva lot of extracurriculars. It taught me a stronger work ethic and to be accountable for a lot of tasks. It helped me get a good understanding of work-life balance and how to do a task effectively and efficiently with little margin for error.”

“I’m still producing, working with a lot of up and coming artists. That hasn’t stopped. Music remains my passion. This past Saturday I was in a session. I recently took a couple of months off, but other than the occasional break I’d be in the studio at least twice per week.”

“If you want to get into software sales, just type in ‘software sales courses’ and you’ll find a whole bunch of info. There are people at Splunk who didn’t even go to college and are now making 200K – 300K/year! It’s just about learning the software. Just learn stuff and being able to leverage what you learn. You’ll be surprised what doors you can open.”

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See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #204: Li Yin Cheok

Li Yin Cheok
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Graduated in 2018 with a major in Music Therapy. Principal instrument: cello.

Position: Clinical Research Coordinator of the Lifestyle Intervention in Preparation for Pregnancy study at Tufts Medical Center, a large hospital in Boston. Li Yin is in charge of candidate recruitment for the study–soon-to-be mothers who will receive guidance for healthy eating and lifestyle. She also coordinates with other study locations, helps present data, and makes sure other paperwork is in order.

Overview: Soon after finishing at Berklee Li Yin got a music therapy job with a chain for day care facilities, but after some months she was feeling burned out–there was lots of driving and the pay was low–so she decided to go to grad school. In August, 2019, Li Yin Enrolled in Tufts University’s Masters in Child Study and Human Development program, graduating in May, 2021. As her program was finishing up, a recent alumni who worked at Li Yin’s current position reached out to Tufts to let them know she was leaving to get her doctorate and see if anyone wanted the job. Li Yin had grown to enjoy research while in grad school, and took the position.

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You can see Li Yin’s LinkedIn profile here.

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Choice Quotes: “This job involves a lot of problem solving. With 3 sites a lot of problems can arise, and I’m usually the first to respond and help resolve things. I also enjoy the scheduling–it’s like the game Tetris. “

“Doing music helped me be more open-minded and it helps me see the more humanistic side of things; it helps me relate better to participants and other people.”

“Try not to get too hung up on what you’re going to do after college. One thing I’ve learned from mentors is that even if your first few jobs aren’t exactly what you want, consider them learning opportunities and stepping stones to where you ultimately want to go. And even if a job isn’t what you wanted you may find that you enjoy it.”

“If you want to work in research, find any opportunity to get some research experience. Volunteer at a research lab if need be. Even a few months of relevant experience can help.”

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See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #203: Krystina Lyons

Krystina Lyons
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Graduated in 2018 with a major in Performance. Principal instrument: voice.

Position: Talent Acquisition specialist (HR) at Wellpath, a nationwide staffing agency the provides medical personnel for institutions such as prisons and rehab centers. Krystina, a contract employee at the moment, handles the administrative end of onboarding newly hired people. She’ll verify background information, work them through the paperwork to ensure they get paid and taxes are collected, and gets them into the system so that they get their I.D. cards, connects them to the leadership of the site they’ll be working at, and answers any questions along the way.

Overview: By the time she was finishing up Berklee, Krystina knew she didn’t want to tour for a living but wanted a stable job. She went straight to law school in Boston after Berklee, hoping to go into entertainment law, but realized that a career in law wasn’t for her. That summer one year into law school Krystina had an unpaid internship at a music management firm in Nashville, where her boyfriend lived, and she decided to remain in that area. She also realized that she really enjoyed the human interaction. To support herself, she did odd jobs such as dog walking while she looked harder for a good position.

In early 2020 a recruiter reached out to Krystina to work for Amazon as a recruiting coordinator. She took that position and enjoyed it, but soon found her position changing into more of a marketing and web design role. Wanting to get back into recruiting/human resources, she applied for jobs, and was hired into her current position. She also plans to go to grad school in the near future for a Masters in Human Resource management.
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You can see Krystina’s LinkedIn profile here.

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Choice Quotes: “I’m a big people person. I love learning about people, listening to them, hearing their stories. When the pandemic started and people’s morale was low I spearheaded a committee to see how we can fix that–make people feel heard and more comfortable coming to work. It helped me showcase leadership. I get to be a positive force in people’s lives. I get to help people and solve complex problems. I get to take the creative part of my brain and translate it into helping people in corporate America.”

“One of the best things I did was to say yes and try different things. I found more about myself through this zigzag journey I’ve been on. It’s made me better in my career field and confident that I can do whatever I set my mind to. If you’re ever wondering about a career, go learn about it. You owe it to yourself to try new things and see what happens.”

“The whole Berklee degree was so creative and made me use my brain in a new way–trying to see every possibility is a good mindset for HR. Berklee set me up for success as I knew I’d have to do new music, unlike my classical training as a kid, I had to learn to improvise. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, and that helped me in my career, to be comfortable in the uncomfortable unknown makes it easier to grow myself, so that through HR I can help others grow and learn.”

“Find something that piques your interest. Even within HR, there are so many entry-level positions and different specializations you can do.”

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See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee/BoCo Alumni #202: Avery Stump

Avery Stump
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Graduated in 2018 from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, with a major in Musical Theater.

Position: Content Marketing Analyst at Komarketing Associates, a small, Boston-based Business-to-Business digital marketing firm. In her remote, entry-level position, Avery produces content/blogs, rewrites content to work better with popular keyword searches, and makes blog topic recommendations based on what’s popular.

Overview: After finishing BoCo, Avery moved to NYC and waited tables as she started auditioning. Her long hours made her feel burned out, and her first year there was rather frustrating. Then in September 2019 she got a job performing on a cruise ship–then the pandemic hit, ending her cruise ship job and the prospect of near-term employment in live theater. Avery moved back home to Cape Cod, helping her mother’s day care company, and finding herself most interested in helping with the company’s marketing and social media profile. By early 2021, she realized that she enjoyed that work a good amount and started looking for marketing jobs.

Among many others, Avery applied to a job a Komarketing. She didn’t get the position, but asked them to keep her in mind. Several week later they contacted her about another position. One sample project, four interviews, and two months later she was hired into her current role.

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You can see Avery’s LinkedIn profile here.

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Choice Quotes: “Marketing and SEO is completely new to me. But I like the challenge, and trying to learn new fields, and I like the people. The more I learn about this field the more I like it. It’s fun and challenging.”

“Working remotely I’m not feeling that in-office vibe. On the other hand, I spent all summer in France with my boyfriend whose family summers there. I definitely feel very lucky to have a job that’s able to accommodate that!”

“The harsh reality of writing this content is it’ll neve have my name on it.” It’ll have someone bigger in the industry’s name on it, though they will review and approve what I write.”

“BoCo is really good about making sure you communicate a story in your performance. The writing classes helped you bring yourself to what you did. Marketing is similar–you’re trying to tell a story and share an experience.”

You have to be patient with yourself, especially if you want an arts career. In the meantime, find something in or out of the arts you’re passionate about so you don’t feel like you’re in a waiting game. Also, your major gave you creativity and shows your passion. Find what’s unique to yourself and how you can market that in interviews and that you’re talented in a different way.”

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See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee/BoCo Alumni #201: Kiara Burns

Kiara Burns
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Graduated in 2018 from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee with a major in Dance. Primary focus: ballet.

Position: Private Movement/Fitness trainer/entrepreneur at kiaraburns.com. Kiara works one-on-one with both local clients and with folks all over the country over video. In addition, her website has a very affordable video workout subscription service, with 75-and-counting different workout videos.

Overview: While at BoCo, Kiara needed to work for money. Initially working at restaurants, she found that didn’t fit her schedule, and a friend suggested she try working as a fitness trainer at Pure Barre. She was hired, made it through a very tough training, and worked there for a bit over a year until graduation. Kiara really enjoyed working in fitness, and found that more motivating than performing. After graduating, Kiara moved to L.A. and transferred to a Pure Barre franchise in that area. Looking for more career growth, Kiara left Pure Barre after a few months to work at a private studio, waiting tables on the side for more money.


Then the pandemic hit and the work dried up. Collecting unemployment checks, Kiara decided that the best way to guarantee her continued fitness career was to use that time and money to set up her own business. Her first clients knew her from when she had worked at private studios, then most other clients came through word-of-mouth–the pandemic greatly increased demand for remote, private fitness training.

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You can see Kiara’s LinkedIn profile here.

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Choice Quotes: “My job is super-rewarding! I get to see people have less pain, more energy emotionally, and also the physical changes that come with doing this. And being able to offer such affordable access–people appreciate it. It’s expensive to live in this world. I get a lot of joy from moving my body so much myself and seeing the changes in people’s mindsets and physical bodies.”

“I keep things really fresh. No one workout is repeated or mocked. I do an average of 7 sessions/day, and no two are the same.”

“Lean into the jobs you are doing. I found a lot of insight and camaraderie from my work colleagues, even in restaurants or while doing the Berklee/BoCo telethon–that gave me great skills such as speaking clearly. Jobs help you develop skills you may not know you need. Lean into the skills your job is giving you, whatever you’re doing, and it may help create a pathway you may not have imagined.

“Fitness and dancing are very connected. I feel like I’m dancing every day, the way I move. I just didn’t take it the usual way.”

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See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #200: Kara L’Heureux

Kara l”Heureux
Listen to the interview or download it.

Graduated in 2018 with a major in Music Business. Principal instrument: voice.

Position: Communications Specialist at the Center for Retirement Research. Housed at Boston College and funded primarily by grants, the Center for Retirement Research has roughly 25 employees, researches the relationship between retirement and finances, and shares the results. Kara does many different tasks: She runs their social media, does our graphic design / layouts on anything they put out, runs their email marketing and advertisement program, helps advertise the grants they make, enhances content for the blog by editing and adding graphics, sends out the newsletter, sets up interviews with the press, communicates with corporate funders, etc.

Overview: For two years while at Berklee, Kara worked for the Berklee Performance Center, doing marketing and communications. She enjoyed the work and wanted to keep doing that sort of work after graduation. Her job search was initially focused on the music industry, but the positions she found were too low-level or monotonous, so Kara broadened her search. A family friend put in the good word for Kara to do a temporary communications position at the Beaver Country Day School, filling in for someone on maternity leave. One year later, that person returned and Kara needed to find a new job. She applied widely and was hired into her current position.

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You can see Kara’s LinkedIn profile here.

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Choice Quotes: “I enjoy having a job that’s somewhat creative–I do graphic design and posting to social media. But I also enjoy the specific work we do. I run the blog and see firsthand comments of people using our reserach to determinde their retirement strategy. IT’s rewarding to help out not just the elderly but everyone else who’s planning to retire someday.”

“I use a lot of what I learned at Berklee at my job. My management & marketing classes–especially “Principles of Marketing” with George Howard. Also my computer applications class. I do a lot of reading and writing, so those liberal arts classes helped get my skills up to speed. A videography class I took taught me good software.”

“Each day I have regular tasks, but also new projects. It’s about being flexible and learning new things–and being open to that even if it means watching a bunch of YouTube tutorials. Communications is a good industry for people who are self-starters, like to do their own projects and learn as they go. Watch some videos and learn new stuff. You want to write, start your own blog. Learn what you enjoy, then figure out how you can apply them to your organization.”

“The biggest thing I learned after leaving Berklee–it scared me but was also helpful–was not feeling like you have a have a plan. If you like what you’re doing every day, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. If you’re in music but doing something you hate every day you’re not going to be happy.”

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See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #199: Georgeta Seserman

Georgeta Seserman
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Graduated in 2018 with a major in Professional Music. Principal instrument: voice.

Position: Full-Desk I.T. Recruiter at Motion Recruitment., a large tech recruiting firm with many offices in the United States and Canada. Georgeta is one of a bit over fifty people in their Chicago office. On her team of five, Georgeta is the one “full desk” recruiter, meaning that in addition to finding good candidates for open positions she also reaches out to companies who need talent.

Overview: After graduation, she moved in with her parents in NYC, planning to do music full-time while working a number of side jobs for money. She was working extremely long hours and by late 2019 was feeling unhappy, unhealthy, and like she had failed. Then the pandemic hit and she found herself unemployed for the rest of 2020. Georgeta moved to various places, and realizing she needed a job, applied online for remote work. She got a sales job at Yelp!, not realizing it was a sales job when she applied. After a few months, Georgeta felt it was not the right job for her.

On a whim, Georgeta applied to Motion recruitment, figuring if she was going to do sales she’d rather do recruitment, where she’s directly helping people. The initial screening call went very long as she and her future-boss really hit it off, and the next stage interview turned into the final interview, ending with a job offer. Hired into her current job, she hit the ground running, lining up candidates at a furious pace. Soon she received a de facto promotion to full-desk recruiter.
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You can see Georgeta’s LinkedIn profile here.

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Choice Quotes: “What a client needs constantly changes–the interview process changes, or someone gets mad. It’s always exciting; there’s always adrenalin flowing. I also love getting to call people and tell them they have a final interview or even a job! I had a candidate who had been stuck in a fairly low-paying job and I was able to place him someplace much better and really improve his life. On the business side, I enjoy having adult, business conversations, advising both job seekers and companies about the job market.”

“My relationship with music is healthier these days. Music feels less like a chore and something I’ll fail if I don’t do it all the time. Now I do it to feed my soul. I have this stable 9 to 5, then my art happens in the evenings and weekends, which is the prime time for that anyway.

“The biggest thing I learned at Berklee was the grind! I was always doing something, involved in something–that drive come from Berklee. And it served me very well in my current role. Also at Berklee I learned about building relationships, being able to connect to people, listening to them.”

“Don’t be afraid to go into sales. The most successful people from Berklee I’ve seen have gone into sales or recruiting. If you’re having a hard time doing the arts ever day don’t freak out–it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. There’s a lot of aspects of music you can carry into your 9-5 and still be successful. Do what you want to feed yourself and feed your music.

“Before getting on this path, I felt extremely lost and like I’d failed in everything. I never thought I’d see myself be so good at a job, and enjoy it and just be happy with my situation. Just know that if you’re just coming out of school you’re seeing the real world for what it is: exciting but also scary as heck. If you’re feeling lost, it’s not going to be that way forever. Find what excites you and just go for it. You might be in a bad place initially, but that’s how it goes. It will get better.”

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See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #198: Lauren McNutt

Lauren McNutt

Listen to the interview or download it.

Graduated in 2017 with a major in Songwriting. Principal instrument: voice.


Position: Team Lead and Trainer at Nom Nom, a company that develops and sells its own food and supplements for dogs and cats. There are a bit over a hundred employees, and around 25 of those are in customer service, which includes sales and account management as well as support. Lauren developed and maintains training modules to onboard new customer service people. She both trains new people and oversees other trainers, including her assistant. Lauren also reviews communications to make sure everything is done correctly.

Overview: Lauren moved straight to Nashville after Berklee. Her attitude was that she wanted a day job, which then would allow her time to do music evenings and weekends. A temp agency placed her in a medical office–she’d had prior, related work experience–and after five months she was made a regular employee. By 2019 she had enough experience that she felt she had earned a raise and promotion, but they weren’t forthcoming, so she started looking for a new job. Finding the Nom Nom position on Indeed, she was one of a group of folks hired to do customer service at the rapidly-growing company.

While there, Lauren would informally train new customer service hires as the company continued to grow. Eventually the company grew to the point where they asked her to specialize in training and create formal training materials while giving her the new title and a raise.
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You can see Lauren’s LinkedIn profile here.

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Choice Quotes: “I really like bringing happiness and joy to people. I like being that first point of contact to welcome people and make them feel like part of the team. Also, at my company specifically, we talk about people’s pets all day! I love dogs & cats and like to get people excited about what we’re doing — we sell really cool products.”

“A misconception of the day job is that you won’t be able to do your music anymore. If you take a job that specifically gives you the times to do you want to do, it definitely can work. Almost every evening I do music or am at a show or meeting music people. You definitely can do those without feeling like you’re struggling for money.”

“At Berklee, I took advantage of the liberal arts classes. I think that really worked to my advantage in the corporate world. Now I do a lot of written communication and documentation, and I have a valuable skill set that came from taking a lot of poetry and writing classes. I’m really glad I got that Berklee degree rather than a BFA, which has less Liberal Arts. Many of my friends who have a BFA had a harder time getting non-performance jobs.”

“I kind of stumbled into this position. But in hindsight, in a lot of places I worked when new people came in I would show them the ropes. Training is something you can get experience in if you’re willing to help new people. Just be vocal about wanting to help train people in whatever you’re currently doing. Once you have that experience it’s easier to get hired into that position officially.”
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See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #197: Sam Smalley

Listen to the interview or download it.

Graduated in 2017 with a major in Electronic Production & Design. Principal instrument: drums.

Position: Audit Associate at PWC, one of the “Big Four” accounting firms. Sam is on a six-person team which does audits of firms and funds in the financial industry.

Overview: Sam’s father worked in finance, and he was always interested in it. While at Berklee he was in a band that was seriously trying to make it, but it was feeling more like a job and less fun. Thinking about the very uncertain prospects of a music career, by the time he was finishing Berklee he decided to pursue a career in accounting. He took a year off, living at home and working while taking the GMAT and applying to grad school. He got into his top choice, Northeastern University’s dual degree MS in Accounting / MBA program, which appealed to him as it was a good feeder into working for a Big Four accounting firm. Sam started in June, 2018.

As was standard, halfway through the program is a 3-month internship, where you typically then expect to be hired upon graduation. Sam asked to intern for PWC in New York, both because he was interested in finance and because he wanted to live in New York and enjoy the music scene. Sam did the internship and, after he graduated in August, 2019, was hired into his current position.
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You can see Sam’s LinkedIn profile here.

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Choice Quotes: “Working as an accounting gives you a financial background, which is useful in a lot of ways beyond your accounting career. It’s good to be aware of how transactions flow, how businesses are run. It’s a career that’s really fungible: you can translate it into small business knowledge, you can start your own company or CPA firm. Accounting is recession-proof. All those contribute to a profession that’s constantly challenging you and rewarding you.”

“At a place like PWC you are exposed to some of the most complex firms and institutions out there. The learning curve is really intense. But with that exposure you get an amazing amount of experience. As the years progress you can see how much you’ve grown as a financial professional. You’re always exposed to new financial challenges. For example, there are new financial instruments. You’re never bored. “

“PWC has an up or out model–every few years you’re either promoted or they let you go. The work is extremely demanding and intense workload. There’s high turnover. That also means your chances for growth are high if you stay. But leaving isn’t as hard as it sounds, as a lot of people see experience at a Big Four as a great learning opportunity. Just having a Big Four on your resume is a great thing to have in your career.”

“In order to get into Berklee, you have a prepare a lot. To do music well, you have to be focused, good under pressure. If something goes wrong you have to figure out on the fly how to make it better. My industry is very client-focused and it involves the same skills. A lot of my meetings with clients–you have to be ready and prepared to present your piece and have to be ready to handle whatever their response may be.”

“If you’re on the fence between music/non-music, as I was, it’s probably going to feel disheartening knowing your passion for music may not turn into a good career. It’s OK and normal to feel this way. Just consider that I know so many in creative fields who are just as jaded as any office/factory worker. Once it’s a job it’s no different. It’s totally OK to say ‘I went to Berklee and I became a financial analyst, a chemical engineer, etc.”

Anyone considering this path (Big Four) definitely needs to consider that it takes its toll definitely. All the steps to get the degree, get licensed, the long hours. It’s not for the faint of heart. That said, if you can swing it, you can grind through the exams, the CPA exams, etc., it’s definitely worth it! You’re setting yourself up for a really good future if you go down this road. “

“The big tip for accountants is to get as many of your CPA exams done before you start working. It’s really hard to study 2-3 hours/night for these extremely-rigorous exams on top of the slog of working. Unfortunately I didn’t start studying until I started working. I took some breaks and sabbaticals to get through the exams.”

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See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.