Stefanie Vartabedian – From Music Nerd to Apple’s Digital Music Librarian
Published: August 4, 2017 by Kate M. Spaulding
2016 graduate Stefanie Vartabedian takes us on her career journey and shares the best career advice.
As part of my effort to explore the available LIS career paths, I reached out to some SJSU iSchool alumni to learn about their jobs. The first stop on this career tour was 2016 graduate Stefanie Vartabedian. She is a Digital Music Librarian at Apple, which sounds exceptionally cool. I asked her to talk about special libraries, her work, and her path, and she was gracious enough to agree. I hope you find this as fascinating as I do!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, where you work, and what you do?
I would have to say I’m a bit of a music nerd. I studied music in undergrad and found myself deeply interested in the history of music, ethnomusicology, and world music as well as how technology would forever transform the music industry (when peer-to-peer was all the rage). I attended law school and found myself drawn to the local music scene and had a role in booking artists to perform on-campus. I also had a brief stint as a college radio DJ.
The technology bug bit me soon after graduation, and I spent 6 years working in law tech (helping lawyers with online marketing). Library school was always on my radar and I took this chance to re-pursue a career in the music industry, but this time, I focused on metadata. In my experience thus far, I have found the current music industry values forward-thinking information professionals since technology – especially data – drives all major digital streaming services into the future.
I’m currently at Apple in a contract role as a Music Metadata Curator working on a very exciting music metadata project. I am using online research skills honed in the MLIS program as well as developing the ability to curate/update pertinent information (akin to cataloging) to ensure the finest user experience. I see myself basically as a Digital Music Librarian.
What inspired you to get your MLIS? What drew you to special libraries?
I was inspired to get my MLIS because information is such a powerful piece in our modern, technology-driven economy, especially here in Silicon Valley. The ability to understand the value of specific kinds of information and how to manage it is a skill that many employers want, and the MLIS was a great way to gain such a perspective.
I deeply enjoy the process of learning and felt drawn to special libraries because they require specialized knowledge in a given area. As I mentioned, I’m a music nerd, so I’ve always dreamed of working with some kind of music collection. I was drawn to digital/emerging technologies, and special libraries tend to be a good place to gain such exposure since they tend to be less traditional overall.
How did you get to this awesome-sounding position as a Digital Music Librarian at Apple?
While I was wrapping up my eportfolio last fall, I stumbled upon my dream job working on Pandora’s streaming music validation project as a temporary Music Librarian. This contract opportunity put me on the radar and in the loop, and I soon learned Apple was interested in hiring a team of music curators; once the Pandora project ended, I was fortunate to join Apple’s team in April. It’s been a wonderful experience thus far, and I also happen to work with another recent SJSU MLIS graduate [editor’s note: Go team!].
I know you’re involved in your local SLA chapter. Has that helped your career trajectory?
Being involved in the local SLA chapter has helped me immensely. I joined as a student member at the end of 2015 as I was looking for a way to interact in-person with both students and new professionals (one thing that can be challenging in an online program). SLA has allowed me to connect in-person and learn more about the professional trajectories of many alumni and develop my networking skills by attending regular events. I was able to attend the annual conference in 2016, which helped me gain confidence in my overall elevator pitch and learn about the value of transferable skills.
What is the best career advice you’ve gotten and/or what’s your favorite career advice to give?
On the note of transferable skills, I would have to say an individual’s ability to convey – in a language the organization can understand – how their specific skills can help said organization (be it public, private, nonprofit, etc.) can help those lacking experience get a foot in the door. It’s a very competitive job market and getting people to listen and really hear how LIS professionals can truly bring value is key. It’s not easy, but with some self-analysis, practice, and patience – good things will come. Have faith.