Successful Berklee Alumni #167: Zacharias “ZJ” Olivarez III

ZJ Olivarez


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 4 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2011 with  a major in Composition.  Principal instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Engineer 2 – Product Technologist (technical support engineer) at Dell / EMC Technologies, a large, multinational tech firm based in Austin, Texas.  ZJ is on a team  of six that support the sales staff and helping get their enterprise (large business) customers’ systems properly configured.  ZJ answers many questions from sales / marketing people as well as helps clients.  When not answering questions, ZJ is in meetings, or is either giving or getting technical trainings.


Overview:  ZJ wanted try his luck in New York, so after a brief stint at home in Austin delivering pizzas and saving money, he moved to NYC, working for the better part of the year at Barnes and Noble, but the money was tight and he was homesick, so he moved back to Austin and lived at home while working as a line cook in a restaurant, as he was always interested in cooking.  But the pay was low and the hours were late and long, so after a year he followed his father’s career and got a job selling cars.  The money was good but highly variable, and the hours were long and exhausting, and there was always the stress of being let go if he didn’t meet his quota.  After about two  years, friends who worked at Dell encouraged him to get a job there, as both the pay and the work-live balance were better.  One of them recommending him for a technical sales job.

Although ZJ did not get that job, he reapplied about 6 months later and did get a technical sales position.  He did well, and after a year his boss offered him a choice:  continue to work in sales with a better territory, or switch into technical support.  ZJ was in the process of purchasing a home, and the reliability of a salaried position had a lot of appeal, so in late 2017 he switched to tech support as an Engineer-1.  He was promoted to engineer-2 in October, 2018.  (Ranks go 1, 2, senior, principal).


You can see ZJ’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes: “I like being that go-to person. If anyone has a question I either know it off the top of my head, or if not I’m an answer seeker doing my best to figure it out. It’s nice to be able to help the sales organization meet their numbers and close their deals.”

“I learn a lot from my peers. Del is very good about retaining employees, so many have huge seniority. I can go to them with a question, or for info about an old ‘legacy’ system. Each of us 6 on the team has our specialty. Mine is what they call hyper-conversion infrastructure and visualization. When we get a project, we figure out the exact needs. If multiple specialties are requred we’ll team together.”

“Berklee helped get me to where I am now. Being a musician, you learn about delayed gratification — you have to put in the work and time and dedication to become a musician. Same thing with composition — it’s a language of its own. Music made me a lot more detail-oriented”

“Tech is a vast industry. There are so many avenues you can take within it. In a big corporation, they nurture their internal talent, and you can follow your interests to that sector of the company.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #166: Henry Leitzinger

Henry Leitzinger


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 6 min.) or download it.


Left Berklee in 2012 (officially graduated in 2014) with a major in Professional Music.  Principal instrument:  piano.

Position:  Managing Director of Homebrella, a home insurance company in France selling renters insurance, focusing on younger people and non-natives, part of the Admiral Insurance Group.  Henry was hired to start this sub-corporation, which launched in early 2019.  He came up with the strategic plan and hired the necessary people (starting with around 12, up to 30 less than 6 months later).  He focuses on the strategic direction of the company, personnel issues, and making sure work with corporate partners is going well.  Henry has the support of the Admiral Group, but he functions much like an entrepreneur.

Overview:  After leaving Berklee in May 2012, Henry moved home to L.A., where he hung out a lot and gigged a bit, but he was feeling under-challenged and worried he’d stagnate.  He realized he could finish his Liberal Arts courses for a semester at The Sorbonne University in Paris (for 400 Euros!), where he could learn a new language and hopefully do well in the music scene, so he moved to Paris at the end of August.  He enjoyed Paris, and was doing well in the music scene, so he stayed.  For the next two years, he cobbled together a living gigging, playing in a wedding band, teaching music classes and private lessons.  But by late 2014 Henry was starting to feel burned out — it was becoming less fun, and the income was unpredictable, so he started to explore other options.  He found an ad for a job in online marketing, wanting someone bilingual, and contacted the company, asking for an internship for 6 months (with a possible job after that if everything looked good).

That 6 month internship led to a job, Over the next 3 years, Henry was promoted twice, to where he was handling the social media accounts for huge corporations.  However, Henry had risen as far as he could at this small firm, and since he liked business and strategy, he decided to get an MBA.  He applied to top schools and was accepted at INSEAD, near Paris, which had a highly-rated 1-year program.  Halfway through the program the CEO of the Admiral Insurance Group came to Henry’s Corporate Entrepreneur class as a guest-speaker.  The CEO would routinely peruse the resumes of the students, and invited Henry to have a conversation.  A number of conversations later, Henry was offered his current job, starting right after graduation in July 2018.


You can see Henry’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “The key pillar that attracts me to this job is the creative aspect. I wanted to create things that didn’t exist before and develop them. Instead of choosing the members of the band and writing the music, I now choose the members of the company and write out the strategy. At the end of the day, we get to look back at all that we achieved and created. That’s what gets me up in the morning.”

“Just hang in there. Don’t let the situation make you feel like giving up. It may sound like my path was an easy progression which just happened, but when I was in it I had no idea it would turn out anything good. At one point I was a 25-year old intern where everyone else had business degrees.  Once you get an opportunity, give it your all, and it will lead to great success.””

“When I was 18 I had had a big passion for music. If I hadn’t gone to Berklee I’d have always had some aspect of regret for not giving music a shot. I’m glad I did it. Even if today I’m not in a music-related career, I saw it through until my departure from it.”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #165: Ricky Gonzalez

Ricky Gonzalez


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 8 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2011 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Vice President of Content at Flyquest, an e-sports team that competes in the League of Legends (fantasy video game) professional league.  Effectively, Ricky is the executive producer of all content related to the game, such as videos showcasing the players, and team shirt designs.  “It’s like an intense movie set, except that it never ends.”  He ensures good communication between his video players and the players they showcase.  Video content can all be seen on the team’s YouTube channel.


Overview:  While at Berklee, Ricky did a summer internship for someone who got contracted to make a video for OK GO, which has millions of views.   He toured with the band and was showcased as their “video guy” (despite minimal experience) and found other bands reaching out to him to do videos.  He figured that doing videos was his ticket to success and started a company while at Berklee.  Shortly after graduation in August 2011, a studio in California invited him to move out there and work directly for them doing videos for all their bands.  He did so, but the studio folded in mid-2012.  Ricky applied and took a job with a newspaper that was starting a video channel, and at some point new management liked his ideas and promoted him during a re-org, but ultimately the station was closed and everyone laid off in the spring of 2014.

Ricky co-founded a video production company, shooting commercials as well as music and everything else.  The company was doing OK, but he was starting to get into e-sports, being a big fan/player of League of Legends, and he realized that teams were starting to do videos, but those were of low quality.   At the end of 2015 Ricky posted on a Reddit that he’s like to do better videos, and heard back right away from a team owner, which hired him on a retainer, until the team dissolved a few months later.  He reached out to the CEO of another team, The Immortals, and was hired…on the condition that he move up to Santa Monica and live in the team’s mansion.  Ricky worked there, ultimately giving up his old company until the company decided to focus on other video games.  Wanting to stay with League of Legends, Ricky reached out to Flyquest, where he was hired into his current job–pleasantly surprised to be offered the title of vice president!


You can see Ricky’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “Most of my job is managing people — the biggest par is making sure the players and my production staff have good communication and are all on the same page as to what we need to do, so when we got o make the video it’s done thoughtfully without wasting the players’ time. The players often are young and not very trained, so my job is make them comfortable being in front of the camera.”

“Music people make the best video production people. We have music in our blood–a better sense of timing and rhythm when we edit. Out knowledge of music, and what will work well, also affects how we plan the shoot.”

“There’s no way I’d have made it here in my career without Berklee.  I learned how to collaborate with people, dealing with personalities and talent.  If you’re not in a team sprot of a band, you don’t really get that.  Also I started off doing music videos, and being able to speak the music side is why I got as much video work as I did.”

“Think of the things you love about doing music–is it the creation? The audience response? Take what you like, and make THAT the priority. Often you can find that in other fields. For example, I liked the camaraderie, and found that in e-sports. Think hard about what makes you the most happy in music and if the music thing isn’t working out, start there. I pinch myself every day thinking how lucky I am, doing what I love doing and happy to go to work.”

“If you’re interested in working in e-sports, move to Santa Monica CA — that’s where the teams all are. Also, get involved with anyone you can in the field.  E-sports are growing really quickly. I’ve not stopped hiring people since 2016. Every position is open now!  Also, is worth studying and learning about.”

See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #164: Valerie Blaemire

Valerie Blaemire

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


Graduated in 2013 with a major in Film Scoring.  Principal instrument:  piano.


Position:  Marketing and Development Associate at the Edlavich Jewish Community Center of Washington DC.  The majority of Valerie’s job involves development work:  processing donations, organizing fundraising events, helping write grant proposals and solicitations to donors, but she also does administrative work, including helping promote their programs and writing their weekly electronic newsletter.


Overview:  Valerie finished Berklee skeptical that the standard move-to-L.A. path for film scoring majors was for her, so she moved home to Maryland, and spent a couple of years working some part-time jobs (mostly teaching music and waiting tables) while researching what she wanted to do.  During this time, she got involved with  Valerie decided she wanted to be in the performing arts world, but on the administrative end, so in mid-2015 she enrolled in the Roosevelt University’s Masters in Performing Arts Administration program.  A very busy year involving classes, work, and two internships later, she had her Masters degree.

Initially unable to find a job, she reached out a former professor, who advised her to keep busy with another internship while she looked.  She got a (minimally) paid internship with a small theater in Baltimore and applied to many positions, including “Theater J”, which was affiliated with her current employer.  She didn’t get that position, but they passed her resume along and she was hired into her current job , and she was hired in October of 2016.  In January 2019 Valerie received a raise and a new title (“Associate” rather than “Assistant”).


You can see Valerie’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “This Jewish Community Center (JCC) has lots of arts programming: music, theater, film, as well as a communiity service program and other forms of Jewish engagement.   I really enjoy still getting to be involved in the arts. The arts are really important to me; I feel like I’m directly contributing to arts and culture. I’m doing something that matters to me.”

“I’m not part of the Jewish Community myself, so working at a JCC was a bit of culture shock and a huge learning curve for me. We go home early on Fridays because of ‘Shabbat’ and at first I had no idea what ‘Shabbat’ was.  But it has been an awesome experience, though. I realy like learning about other cultures and have learned so much. Plus me being non-Jewish has been valuable, as I’m able to suggest broader outreach to folks who may not know about of our organizations resources, which are open to everyone.”



Valerie at the Philadelphia Marathon.  “After college I got into running, and got involved with Team In Training, where runners raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society.  That was my first experience fundraising., which became a large part of my career.”










Valerie as a Berklee student.  ” Just because your degree is in music means you have to do exactly what your degree is in. Be aware there are lots of options, including ones to be involved in music, albeit in a lesser capacity.”









Valerie with her dog.  She’s in a good place, but it took time.  For those who are interested in a carer in the nonprofit arts world she says, “It’s hard to get your foot in the door, so get LOTS of experience. You’re going to have to volunteer you time a lot, and not get paid for a while (and the starting pay will be low). I did 3 internships and got a masters before my first position. Start now, and start volunteering. Any organization would love to have you.”






See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

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.

Successful Berklee Alumni #162: Adam Rosenwach

Adam Rosenwach


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 12 min) or download it.


Graduated in 2010 with a major in Professional Music.  Principal instrument:  piano.


Position:  Vice President of Business Operations / Partner at Coridea, a business incubator specializing in producing new medical devices.  They come up with new ideas, or partner with those who have ideas but lack the business skills, build a prototype, and seek investors to create spin-off companies.  The core business is only 8 people, but when you include their 8 spin-off companies, where they maintain partial ownership / control, it’s around 100.

“Everything that’s the business part of what we do, I take care off. The design/engineering stuff, the other 3 partners take care of.”   Adam handles meeting with investors and answering their question, legal issues and investment details when closing a deal, Human Resources, and setting up offices and managing budgets for the spin-of companies.


Overview:  Adam moved to New York City after graduation, and an old friend from Jewish camp connected him with a part-time job teaching music after school in the public schools.  In early 2011 he was “discovered” by a music manager and lived in his place in L.A. to do an album, but the manager didn’t like the result, so Adam returned to New York.  Another old friend from the same camp invited Adam to produce her album.  For the next few years Adam (barely) cobbled together as a producer and music teacher.

Meanwhile, Adam wanted to travel the world, and he started studying how certain credit cards gave points to be used for travel. He researched this intensively and “hacked the system”, figuring out how to take many overseas trips, even flying first class and staying in 5-star hotels, effectively for free!  By late 2013, Adam had started a blog, and he’d make money when people signed up for a credit card.  In late 2013, Adam decided to start a consulting business, helping companies save on travel expenses by using the right credit cards.  His first customer, the then-boyfriend of an old friend from the same camp, was a founder of Coridea.  The founder was so impressed with Adam’s work and presentation that he offered Adam a full-time job, which Adam refused, then offered Adam a well-paying part-time job with flexible hours handling the administrative end of their work.  Adam accepted, which ironically meant the end of his consulting business.

Adam worked part-time, continuing to teach and produce music, for roughly a year until 6 months later Coridea made it clear that they needed him–or someone else–full-time as an office manager, at considerably higher pay.  He took the job.  Since then, he has been constantly learning more and more aspects of the business, which lead to greater responsibilities and promotions, ultimately to full partner in 2018.


You can see Adam’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “I am a producer. I work with creatives with a vision and make it happen. I did this after Berklee as a music producer — working with creative people who don’t like to dive into the details to make things actually happen.  I’m still the get-stuff-done person, basically doing the same thing.  New lingo, but helping creatives do amazing things is what I think I’m supposed to do on this planet.”

“At the end of the day, each business deal has its own unique set of challenges. That makes it fun, but also gives me an advantage–when things are new, me being a creative problem-solver means I don’t get scared when confronted with a new challenge. There are a million things like that which can be possible solutions.”

“It’s tough for me to give advice, as I’m such an outlier.. I got lucky, fell into something, and worked really hard. Look for those opportunities. But the easiest path to a career like mine is more school.”

“At Berklee I wasn’t a top player, couldn’t get into elite ensembles, and didn’t get the music opportunities I really wanted.  That experience at Berklee trained me that when an opportunity does come you give it your all and maximize it!”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #161: Shawn Mills

Shawn Mills


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


Graduated in 2010, with a major in Performance.  Principal instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Systems Engineer at General Dynamics Propulsion Systems.  General Dynamics is a large military contractor which builds both military vehicles and communications equipment, with private clients as well as government contracts.  As an electrical engineer there, Shawn is expected to work on many different projects to round out his experience.   He works on a team that analyzes different designs and pieces of new communications equipment to make sure they will meet all specifications to do their assigned task.   This involves a lot of tasks, including communications, programming, and troubleshooting.


Overview:  Prior to Berklee Shawn completed a 4-year enlistment in the U.S. Air Force, and earned an associates degree in electronics, but he really wanted to be a musician and came to Berklee with help from the G.I. Bill, while remaining in the reserves  Afterward, still in the Boston area, Shawn tried to join the army band, but as it was a different services he was only allowed to join a reserve band, which was very part time.  For five years Shawn played in this band while supplementing his income mostly by teaching guitar and some bartending.  But he started to sense that he wasn’t on a good long-term career path.  Then he had a terrible accident with a long recovery during which he wasn’t able to teach or play guitar, and he decided that he wanted to pursue a degree in Electical Engineering (“EE”), at least so he’d have a backup plan is music didn’t work out.

He took some classes at Bunker Hill Community College, did a semester at Texas A&M but didn’t like the program, then transferred to Arizona State University, where veterans all pay (lower) in-state tuition.  While at ASU, companies recruited people for internships.  Shawn did internships at both Raytheon and General Dymanics, received job offers (contingent on receiving his Bachelors degree) from both, and he decided to stay in Arizona and work at General Dynamics.


You an see Shawn’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:   “My job is broad like an undergrad degree and gives you a taste of many things so you can figure out what to focus on. There’s never a shortage of jobs or possibilities for EE, and the pay is good.”

“If you can prove yourself in EE there’s always something else to learn or to do.  If you want to stay in music, you could find work designing instruments, or whatever. ”

“Better to have an EE degree and not need it because I’m a rock star than need it and not have it.”

“Stay true to yourself, but keep an open mind Don’t just isten to yourself–take advice from friends, family, and mentors.”

“Coming out of Berklee you have a famous people.. Berklee is a culture, it’s a thing. I wish it well. It’s not easy, but you have to be the change you want to see in the world and have to be happy with yourself.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee/BoCo Alumni #160: Kayla Moen

Kayla Moen


Listen to the interview (approx. 49 min.) or download it.


Graduated from BoCo in 2009, with a major in Musical Theater.


Position:  Learning and Development Manager at the 5-star St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan., part of the very large Marriott International hotel group, which has thousands of hotels under over 30 brands.  Kayla delivers trainings to the hotel employees on everything from safety to professional development to orienting new employees.  Training material is provided from the corporate headquarters, but Kayla has to familiarize herself with it and give it her personal take.  She also has developed some of her own materials.  On the slower weeks, she spends part of her time helping out the Human Resources department, especially with creating events involving the employees.


Overview:  Kayla moved to NYC after graduation, worked a large variety of side jobs while aggressively seeking roles in musical theater.  Sadly, she wasn’t offered any major parts, and the offers she did get paid dismally low.  She struggled financially for two years.  In 2011 Kayla got a job tending bar at a restaurant, which paid a lot better than her previous jobs, but she was still actively pursuing a musical theater opportunity.  A year later, a friend from her softball league who tended bar at a Marriott hotel, helped her get a better bartending job there.  By 2013 she was tapering off the musical theater auditions, when her boyfriend (now husband) encouraged her to think about her long-term career, and Kayla decided she wanted a career at Marriott.

At the beginning of 2015 Kayla switched from tending bar to working at the front desk, despite the awkward hours and drastic pay cut, as it was necessary experience in order to establish a career path.  After 4 months, she applied for and was hired as assistant to the manager of a different Mariott-owned hotel.  That exposed Kayla to many different career possibilities, and she decided she wanted to work in Human Resources, so when a HR person left Kayla got her boss’s permission to move laterally into that job in mid-2017.  But a year later she learned that the hotel was being re-branded, so she had to find another job if she wanted to stay within the Marriott family.  She applied to many positions and was hired into her current job.


You can see Kalya’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “The first time I was hired by Mariott was 7 years ago, at the Renaissance Hotels. The instructor was so energetic and awesome and I felt empowered and couldn’t wait to start my job!  Now after all these years I’ve worked my way up to this point. I love being up on stage, to present this wonderful content, be able to help people and do something good. In this role I do that, and have relationships with everyone at the hotel, from janitor to general manager.”

“Everything I’ve learned in school I use in my life and at my job. Even being physically aware of my body–the body language, the impression I give off. I do a training on body language and I’m an expert on that due to BoCo.  Senior year BoCo they train us to present ourselves given how we want to be perceived. That helps me do trainings and get people on board. It also helped with interviews–interviews are a piece of cake compared to auditions!”

“Get out and meet people. I have a girlfriend who want to BoCo who’s a musicians but she meets bandmates and gets gigs by being so social. Those connections create opportunities for success.”

“Wherever your’re working, if you want to be in a training position, get involved in it as much as you can. A lot of folks don’t want to do it, but take it on, get involved, help the trainers. The trainers will count on you. Then if a position in training opens up they’ll think of you because they know you. Once you’re doing the job, get to know every single person in the business, and treat them all as an equal — they’ll see you as someone they respect, not just someone in an office who barks orders.”


See the full index of successful Berklee/BoCo alumni


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