Can you tell us a little about your background?
My background is a bit all over the place. My undergraduate degree is in the history of the Soviet Union, After graduating, I mostly worked as a musician and arts manager. I am a jazz/improvisational pianist and singer.
Can you remember what inspired you to get into tech?
I was inspired to get into tech when, somewhat by chance, I happened to meet a professor at CCRMA at Stanford University, their computer music research center. I was taken by the idea that technology could create new opportunities for music-making. I realized it was kind of a perfect combination of things where coding could provide new skills I could use in my creative work, while also providing a stable income to support myself. Fortunately, that ended up working out.
How did you discover Le Wagon, and what was the most important thing you learned?
I discovered Le Wagon because I wanted to move back to Europe (I had been living in London but left and was back to the US) and knew I wanted to do a bootcamp. Then, I found out that one of the people I went to university with was teaching for Le Wagon in China. We had a great series of conversations that convinced me this was the right experience for me.
How did you decide what to do next after you graduated?
After graduating, I didn't really decide what to do intentionally. It more just happened. I wanted to stay in Berlin but didn't have a visa and had to leave. I still had some freelance work in arts management, so I continued doing that and then started getting freelance clients. Eventually, I was offered to work on a freelance basis for a Le Wagon alum's company in Berlin, and that helped me move back and get a freelance visa here in coding and music.
Can you tell us about Obst Digital and your journey setting it up, including the highs and lows?
When I got to Berlin, I ended up working with Martín de Frutos and Toni Panacek, who had both been my teachers at Le Wagon. We enjoyed working together a lot and, at a certain point, we realized we didn't need others to manage us but could instead build our own working culture how we wanted. There are always highs and lows as a freelancer. Client acquisition, in particular, is a journey. You have to assume everything will fall through and keep working at it until the contract is actually signed.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of Alex?
These days, I'm working more for clients on a long term basis rather than shorter projects. I work a lot for Groupmuse (https://www.groupmuse.com/), which is a music company, so I get to merge my passions. It's also a worker-owned cooperative, which is an amazing environment to be a part of. There isn't really one "average day" for me. Sometimes, I'm working for a longstanding client, sometimes on a new project, sometimes I'm teaching...it varies a lot. I also prioritize music practice and practice at a local venue, so that takes up a lot of my time.
What do you enjoy the most about working in the tech industry?
I love having a hard skill that's needed in a wide range of industries. I feel I have a type of security where I'm not really afraid at this stage in my career that I won't be able to find work. As a result, I'm able to choose what kinds of projects I want to work on and can prioritize those that have social impact or are in the arts. I also love that, during non-pandemic times, I make my own schedule and can continue touring as a musician without sacrificing a regular income.
Do you have any advice for future alumni of Le Wagon who have just graduated?
A lot of people come to the bootcamp interested in freelancing. I'd really encourage people to consider it. But I'd also caution that freelancing is a skill and takes time and work to learn. You have to be OK with failing and able to handle uncertainty, at least at the beginning. I'd also encourage people to consider blending their existing interests and base of knowledge together with coding. I know plenty of people who work at the intersection of coding and something else that drives them.