Hearing an Irresistible Beat

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Alex Cecil, 28, became a disc jockey after working for five years as a product manager for Citibank in New York.

Q. Why did you leave Citibank?

A. I was good at my job, but I didn't love it. For the first two years, I mistook getting a pat on the back for being satisfied with my job.

Why such a radical switch to disc jockey?

I've always been musically inclined. My father, Charles Cecil, was a musician, and I was sneaking into clubs in New York long before I was of legal age. Years later, when I realized how much I loved D.J.-ing in my room alone at night, it was a huge deal. I had to make the move.

Was it a spur-of-the-moment decision? Did you just give notice one day?

No, I built up to it. On a trip to Paris, I saw a D.J. beginner set and bought it. That was spur of the moment. Later, I bought a professional one, which was much more complex. I was making mix tapes at night, after work, staying up until 4 a.m. and getting up at 6 a.m. to go to work.

How did you tell your boss?

I had made an appointment to have coffee with her on a Friday, but then she asked to meet for two hours that Thursday to discuss my initiatives for the next three quarters. I wasn't going to let her go on for two hours and then tell her I was leaving, so I asked to move up my Friday meeting. When I told her I was leaving to disc-jockey, her jaw dropped. She said: "People can do both at once, you know. You can do it as a hobby."

But to really pursue it, you can't have both a banking and a D.J. job, or at least I can't. I left Citibank last June. In October, when I knew I was ready, I had my first gig at Southside in New York

What's it like working nights instead of days?

Different. I may work 11 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., for example, and then I usually stay a while. There's a camaraderie among people who work in clubs. Now I go home and sleep around the time I'd get up for work before. It's tough when my friends are on a different schedule, but when you find something you love doing, it's worth it.

How does the money compare?

I'm not making the salary I did at Citibank, but as with any start-up, it takes a while to break even. I'm a small business. I'm following my passion and that's what counts.

Vocations asks people about their jobs. Interview conducted and condensed by Patricia R. Olsen.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 19, 2013 2:01 PM


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