Successful Berklee Alumni #55: Phil Lee

Phil Lee

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

 

Graduated in 2007 with a major in Music Business.  Principal Instrument:  voice.

Position:  Support Engineer at Avizia, a tech firm specializing in tele-medicine.  Phil mostly resolved issues that customers have with problems encountered with their software, though maybe 20% of his time is dedicated to his own development projects.

Overview:  After graduation, Phil worked at Warner music in licensing for a bit over a year.  He voluntarily left his job and moved back home to Virginia, intending to go to law school and go into entertainment law.  However, before he even applied Phil quickly figured out that law school was not for him.  He then searched intensively for jobs, both in and out of music, getting a job locally underwriting loans at a commercial real estate firm.  He worked there for two years  before getting laid off, then worked at a similar job in Maryland for a year, then a similar accounting-type job at Aptify back in Virginia.

Phil had always been interested in computers and technology, so six months later when a computer system administration job opened up at Aptify he asked to switch into that position, knowing that it would involved him learning a lot of computer skills on his own time.  They agreed, and he switched into that position, later shifting to customer support.  After two years, the management changed and it was time to look for a new job.  Using Indeed, Phil found the posting for, applied, and got his current job in late 2015.

 

You can see Phil’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice quotes:  “Support engineering means dealing with the issues people see in the software–with what’s not working.  Finding solutions is really rewarding–improving features and rolling out new features.  Plus it feels good to know that I’m part of a company that helps people access health care they otherwise wouldn’t get.  I also enjoy playing with and learning a lot of new technologies–my company wants support engineers capable of resolving a lot of issues without going to the developers.”

“A support engineer has to have a thick hide because most of the time your’e dealing with unhappy people. Few excel at it, But if you’re technical but also extroverted and enjoy talking to people this is an excellent career choice.  The pay is good, and nearly every software company has a support team.”

“The diversity at Berklee helps us live in a society and relate to different people and cultures–which is especially important in my career where I’m working directly with all sorts of clients!”

“It’s important to go for a career you can enjoy and have a bit of passion about, but remember that it’s OK to have more than one passion.  Music remains a passion of mine but I’m just as passionate about technology.  Once I realized I could be passionate about both, my career did better. ”

 

 

See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.

Successful Berklee Alumni #54: Mark Bruning

Mark Bruning

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

 

Graduated in 2012 with a major in Contemporary Writing & Production (CWP).  Principal instrument:  Bass Guitar.

 

Position:  Software Engineer at Ensono, which provides computer services to mid-and-large size companies.   Mark is on a 6-person team builds & maintains the front-end interfaces for customers to interact with the company’s services.

 

Overview:  Mark always liked computers, taking some classes while in high school.  He considered studying computer science in college, but chose Berklee instead.  Shortly after graduating Berklee he parted ways with the studio her worked at, and had a tough time finding a music industry job.  Waiting tables for money, he figured he might go back to school, then discovered MIT’s Open Courseware, where courses are available online for free.  He took the introductory computer science class, and found it challenging but enjoyable and sensed a possible career path.  Mark resolved to teach himself web development, reading books in the Missing Manual series.  In part as a teaching tool, he rebuilt the websites of his father’s business’s website, as well as that of another family member, which lead to a bit of money and a lot of knowledge.  In the summer of 2013 he and his now-wife moved to Illinois for a fresh start.  He got a part-time job working for his uncle, a computer consultant, doing more computer-related things though not web.

By the spring of 2014 work with his uncle was tapering off and Mark wanted to get back into web development.  He went on craigslist and started applying for jobs.  A recruiter brought him in to do a large number of tests and skill assessments so that appropriate jobs could be sent his way.  Soon he was offered a temporary contracting job at The Pampered Chef as a front-end web developer, which quickly led to a full-time job offer.  In late 2014 they did a re-org, which led to less work to do, so Mark took the quiet hours at work (plus some at home) to figure out more systems and he was transferred onto the e-commerce tech team, where he learned more.  But by late 2015 the culture of the company was changing and he wanted to leave.  A colleague and friend mentioned that his former company, Ensono, was looking for software developers, so Mark applied and got the job in early 2016.

 

You can see Mark’s LinkedIn profile here.

 

Choice quotes:  “Developing software is an art form–it’s creative problem-solving with very tangible results.  We solve real-life problems creatively using code.  I get to develop cool things–I get to create!”

“Anyone thinking about going into tech, be the “T” person–where your knowedge and skills have both depth in one area and breadth.  Tech is a very experience-driven industry.  It’s very competitive the higher you go, and it’s a lot of work, but get out there and do it.  Build stuff.  Make a hub account and code and show folks your code.  It’s a much easier sell in an interview to be able to show stuff you’ve done than just claiming without evidence that you can do it.”

“There are a lot of sacrifices that you have to do in order to make it in your profession.  That’s even tougher in music when a lot of people don’t really make it.  I’m lucky to have found an equal if not larger passion in a field which is much bigger and in which nearly everyone who has the skills finds a good job.  I’m not saying just to follow the money, but you have to think about what you love and also allows you to do the other things that you love.  There’s a balance.”

 

See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.

 

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Successful Berklee Alumni #53: Scott Brown

Scott Brown

 

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Listen to the interview (approx. 53 min.) or download it.

 

Graduated in 2006 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  trumpet.  (He also played guitar.)

 

Position:  Intellectual Property Attorney at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.  Scott is part of a 6-person team.  He analyses whether things can be trademarked and files for trademarks, he does similar work for copyrights, and he reviews marketing materials to make sure they don’t violate any laws.

 

Overview:  While at Berklee Scott decided he wanted to be an entertainment lawyer.  He worked at Newbury Comics the year after graduating for a bit of experience and applied to law school.  He was admitted to Ohio State’s excellent law school, where he paid (discounted) in-state tuition.  While at law school, he “fell out of love” with being an entertainment lawyer, realizing that “it really isn’t much different than any other small business lawyer,” but he became very interested in trademarks.

Graduating from law school in 2011, he found himself without a job, but someone he met at a trademark conference referred him to a job at a (now-defunct) new law firm that specialized in high-tech start ups.  He got a job that September and worked there for several years, while continuing to network with trademark lawyers in the hope of getting a trademark attorney job.  Eventually, in late 2014 one of these mentors he’d met learned of an open position at Nationwide, suggested he apply, and vouched for him.  Scott got the job, and has been there since.

 

You can see Scott’s LinkedIn profile here.  Scott invites anyone interested in going into law, or recently out of law school, to contact him, either via LinkedIn or via email (Listen to the interview for that email address.)

 

Choice quotes:  “Trademark law and branding are fascinating!  It’s kind of the fun stuff of life to me:  music , art.  It’s the legal parts of all that.  Reading about trademark and copyright law is interesting stuff, and I enjoy keeping up on it and don’t have to force myself at all to do it.”

“”I was good at school.  Being a lawyer is almost the same as being good at school: read, study, apply it.”

“Working as a lawyer in-house (rather than at a law firm) was the right choice for me. I get to focus on one client, and it’s a less demanding lifestyle in terms of hours per week and stress.  Another nice thing about working in-house is that you can take a little bit longer and be more detail oriented when filing for a trademark, considering what will happen 3, 5, or even 10 years from now.  At a law firm you bill by the hour so you have to just get it done quickly and move on.”

 

See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.

 

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Successful Berklee Alumni #52: Loren Khulusi

Loren Khulusi

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

 

Graduated in 2008 with a major in Music Production and Engineering (MP&E).  Principal Instrument:  guitar.

 

Position:  Product Manager at Dollar Shave Club.  Loren works on internal software tools built and used by the company.  He plans new features for the software, figures out what to prioritize and do at various times, reports on progress to the higher-ups, and coordinates with the engineers to get things done.

Overview:  After graduating Berklee, Loren moved to L.A. and worked for two and a half years, unpaid, for a music producer.  He toiled for long hours, and part of his responsibilities included building websites.  He eventually left to try to be a freelance music producer, but couldn’t get nearly enough decently-paid work.  Meanwhile, “people were chasing me to build them websites.”  At some point, Loren thought hard about his career direction and what could make him money.  He put away the recording gear and decided to be a freelance web designer instead.

Six months later, Loren was making some money doing freelance work, but still not very much, so when an old Berklee friend posted on Facebook that his (fashion) company was looking for a full-time web designer, Loren applied.  He got the job.  Roughly a year later, the company announced that they were closing down the small e-commerce department that Loren worked in in order to partner with Amazon.  Loren applied for jobs and reached out to recruiters, one of whom got him an interview with the Dollar Shave Club, which led to a job as a web developer, soon talked with building functional prototypes of websites.  Loren liked being an engineer fine, but found the product management job really interesting and though it looked fun, so he asked the people about it and how he could transition to it.  After roughly 1.5 years as an engineer at this company, he was offered a position in product management.

 

You can see Loren’s LinkedIn profile here.  Loren invites anyone interested in Product Management to email him at lkhulusi <at> gmail <dot> com.

 

Choice Quotes:  “Having an artistic background, I really enjoy communicating with the engineers and bring a vision to life.  It’s a lot like being a music producer, working in a studio, findingthe right people, bringing people together, herding cats, and making something great things happen.”

“I never thought I’d be doing a 9-5, but here I am and I’m happy.  It took me a while to adjust.  When I was at Berklee I thought working 9-5 wasn’t cool.  I was an idiot back then.  If lifestyle, financial security, and being able to eat is important to you, a steady job really can change your perspective.  I went from poor and struggling to making a very comfortable salary–my life changed overnight!”

“MP&E is a tough major, but it’s great prep for non-music jobs.  You just have a get shit done and time is very scarce.  That very much translates to life:  nobody’s holding your hand and you’re responsible for your destiny–you have a figure out a way to do what you need to do.”

“Never turn down an opportunity, even if you think it’s something you didn’t want to pursue.  In the beginning I wasn’t very interested in web development–I’d rather have been doing music–but someone told me, ‘Don’t fight it.  You never know where it will take you.'”

 

See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.

Successful Berklee Alumni #51: Adam Kirschner

Adam Kirschner

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Listen to the interview (approx. 45 min.), or download it.

 

Graduated in 2013 with a major in Music Business.  Principal Instrument:  drums.

Position:  Senior Account Manager (Business-to-Business Sales) at StitcherAds.  StitcherAds is a software that helps companies market their products on Facebook.  Working for a combination of salary and commission, Adam brings in new business by cultivating relationships with new clients and working with both companies and advertising firms to build campaigns.  He speaks with clients, talks to Facebook reps, looks over contracts, puts together “execution strategies” to optimize company websites to work with their tools.  “It’a new, exciting field.  No two days are the same.”

 

Overview:  While at Berklee, Adam did several internships, including at a music publishing company in New York City.  That company hired him as an office manager, but, per Adam’s own admission, he wasn’t very good at it, as he was very interested in music publishing but not in the minutiae of running an office, so after three months he was let go.  Tending bar part-time, he looked first for music industry jobs, but after a month he was feeling the financial pressure to get a job, so broadened his search.  He found a tech sales company Single Platform, cold calling small businesses to sell their $79 software.  “Sales is tough, but they’ll take college grads with no experience.”

Seven months later, Adam moved to Austin, Texas to be with his girlfriend, figuring correctly that Austin’s burgeoning tech sector down there would make a mob search pretty easy.  Within a month he was working for Memory Blue, which did cold-call software sales for other companies on demand.  After a few months, he was working on behalf of StitcherAds, and he did a good enough job for a couple of months that StitcherAds decided to take him on as their own employee in January, 2015.

 

You can see Adam’s LinkedIn Profile here.

 

Choice Quotes:   “I’m on the leading edge of an exciting space, such as digital advertising.  Every day new information comes out, new types of ads, new clients.  It’s totally different now from even a year ago.  It’s a fast-moving industry and we’re always on the edge of our seat!”

“A large spectrum of personality types can succeed in sales.  I’m very outgoing, but I’ve seen more quiet, reserved folks do just as well.”

“It’s really nice to be able to make my living, pay the bills, save some cash, and at the same time I can playing all the music I want without having to worry about music making me enough money.”

 

See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.

 

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