From Berklee to Apple and Tesla, La'i Dowsett '14 Fuses Music and Business to Blaze Tech Trail

Belinda Huang
October 28, 2016
L'ai Dowsett
La'i Dowsett

When it comes to musicians' career paths, the possibilities are endless for those who are wired with creativity. Alumna La’i (pronounced "lah-ee") Dowsett ’14 makes that point very clear, having blazed a trail into the technology world at Tesla and Apple, where she fused her passions for music and business. Dowsett set the bar high for swiftly building a creative career after Berklee. The summer after graduating, she landed an internship at Apple as an editorial programming and label relations intern.

“In terms of leveraging an internship to get a job, [summer after graduation] is the best time to do it,” she advised. “I’ve found that it’s one thing to have a great work ethic, be reliable, and learn quickly, but it’s another thing to be someone you want to spend 40 hours a week with. As a musician, you’re in the business of learning people.”

Gaining Confidence at Apple

Upon completion of the internship, Dowsett was hired onto the iTunes Apps Operations team, transitioning into a more tech-related position. During her time at iTunes, Apple was in the process of launching Apple Music. Dowsett was part of the apps team, helping to support the launch alongside other departments in the company. Her time at Apple laid a strong foundation for her to springboard into other areas, eventually leading to her current marketing position at Tesla. She says that Apple was the push that she needed because the company believed in her and challenged her.

“It was the first place in a professional sense where my potential was realized," Dowsett explains. "It gave me the confidence that I could fuse my creative and business knowledge and make that applicable to anything. Musicians are highly teachable and empathetic people. For creative people, there is no end, and that was recognized in me.”

An Australian-raised Hawaiian native, Dowsett majored in music business/management during her time at Berklee, finishing the degree in three years. She was a voice principal who wanted to understand the music business in order to take control of her artistic career, but her creative aspirations soon led her to expand her horizons on the business front.

According to Dowsett, getting her business degree from a music institution like Berklee was unlike any other business degree because the microcosm of the music industry within the school provided a context that informed her business knowledge. Dowsett says she created opportunities for herself at Berklee and was “a student of a class I created for myself.”

“I think it’s really special to be trained to leap into the music industry while also having been a musician yourself. Because even now I’ve found that, in a non-music company, human connection and the experience of the product isn’t always in the foreground,” Dowsett says. “So being someone who studied at Berklee gives me a competitive advantage.”

Shifting Gears with Tesla

In her current job as part of Tesla's marketing/communications team, Dowsett works closely with the company's digital team to collaborate on all external-facing video and design content. From conceptualization through completion, she also oversees the development of marketing content that supports Tesla’s North American initiatives for global campaigns, such as auto shows and product launches.

During the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship's (BerkleeICE) inaugural Silicon Valley trip in January, a tour that exposed students to a range of career possibilities in the tech sectorDowsett was introduced to the students as a leading example. The trip was framed around the idea that every Berklee career is a startup, and Dowsett echoes that sentiment. While her current job at Tesla may seem like a drastic shift of companies and roles, she explains that marketing is storytelling, and she has been a storyteller her whole life.

“I’ve been in a line of work that I’ve commissioned for myself, exploring people’s experiences and trying to express my own. I see Tesla as a company that is creating products that act as the framework for the world we want to end up in,” she says. As she learned more about the company, Dowsett says, the desire to support Tesla's vision struck a deep chord. "The only feeling I could compare that with was singing and coming to Berklee," she says.

For Dowsett, anything short of chasing her dreams was never an option, and she is an example of success that stems from an undying commitment and a genuine passion for her craft. She advises current students to create opportunities for themselves by continually being creative while putting people first.

“Never treat people as a transaction or opportunity because they’re not,” says Dowsett. “As musicians, what led us to pursue music is that it makes us feel things we’re never going to forget. People never forget the way you make them feel.”