Sitting behind the piano as an accompanist and musical director and guiding the customer service efforts of a major tech start-up may not seem like the most expected of career changes, but West Virginia University graduate Jeff Hanlon is living proof that the transition can be a smooth and successful one.
“In the summer of 1997, I decided to make the switch from pianist to the corporate world, trading one keyboard for another and beginning an entry-level, customer service-focused job,” Hanlon said. “I quickly discovered that the years of performance for many thousands of people translated quite well into keeping customers happy.”
Hanlon, who graduated from WVU’s School of Music in 1996, will return to speak to students as a part of the College of Creative Arts Alumni-in-Residence Series. He’ll talk about his career trajectory and the portability of performance skills in a presentation at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, in Bloch Hall, 200A Creative Arts Center.
A native of Williamstown, W.Va., Hanlon began his association with WVU in high school through the Mountaineer Music Camp and the Invitational Honors Band. At WVU, he studied piano performance under Peter Amstutz, but felt fortunate to work with the entire piano faculty at the time, including James Miltenberger and the late Christine Kefferstan. He was active in the Mountaineer Marching Band, WVU vocal ensembles, and the Symphonic Band.
After graduation, he pursued graduate studies at the University of Washington, focusing on accompanying. He had groomed his love for collaborative arts at WVU and became a sought-after accompanist for singers and instrumentalists. He accompanied and served as musical director for summer stock performances until his career shift in 1997.
A relocation to Silicon Valley and work with various start-ups eventually led to Hanlon joining IMVU, Inc. He’s currently Director of Customer Care and Education for the international, 3D virtual social network with over 120 million registered users.
“My mantra is ‘Delight the customer and do the right thing,’ which is influenced greatly by my musical education,” Hanlon said. “I regularly train our teams on the importance of performing for customers.”
As a result, IMVU’s customer satisfaction scores have risen steadily since 2009. He received the Silver Stevie Award for Customer Service Leader of the Year in 2015, an award adjudicated by customer service professionals around the world. He currently lives in Richmond, Va., traveling between IMVU’s corporate offices in California and the Philippines. And, when he’s not working at the keyboard for work, he’s still makes time for the piano.
CONTACT: David Welsh, WVU College of Creative Arts
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