One of the industry’s first CX devotees, Karoline Eastman has prioritized the “experience” component of the gig both inside the office (preaching the CX gospel to pharma’s notorious skeptics) and out (she’ll travel to her 50th country before too long). And there are few people in the business with her alt-rock bona fides — read on to learn about her DJ stint as Special K in the Morning on WCDB in Albany, New York.

How did you find your way into this industry?

I always loved technology and wanted to do something with it, but couldn’t figure out what that was. My one full four-year degree, as a fine arts/poli-sci major, didn’t get me where I wanted to go. So I went to the digital design program at Parsons, which let me marry art and technology. Then I jumped right into the early dot-com world.

Was it as crazy as advertised?

I started out on the creative side, doing websites for Bloomingdale’s, Nine West and J.Crew. We were so young and we were working and living and sleeping and eating in these loft buildings. Most of our parents worked in traditional jobs, but we worked and partied with our friends all day long. It was really bonding.

When you think back to that era, what jumps out at you?

The dot-bomb part of it, after everything fell apart. Ad agencies were just starting to experiment with digital and we were doing social media with MySpace. But even then I was thinking along the lines of “How can people use this technology?” I didn’t care about the design; I cared about the way people would engage with it. That’s what pushed me into strategy/CX.

Has it been challenging to bring that thinking to pharma?

They can be a little bit behind, due to the regulatory stuff. The way I approach it is to try to get people to think beyond brand awareness advertising. It should be more, “Where can your brand meet customer needs?”

Is that frustrating to someone who’s spent so much time preaching the CX gospel?

Oh, for sure. You want to be able to talk about personalization, but some people just aren’t there yet. You’re really thankful for the ones that embrace it, because you can go in hard.

What was your most important learning experience along the way?

I always loved music, so I decided to try college radio. They gave me a little training session and showed me the music library, then they let me do the overnight shift. I bombed. The station director worked with me and eventually I got one of the good shifts — Special K in the Morning on WCDB, the Capital District’s Best. It was Screaming Trees, The Lemonheads, Collective Soul …. Sometimes you take good things away from bombing. You learn that everybody fails sometimes and that it doesn’t have to be scary.

What’s something about you that your colleagues don’t know?

Well, they’re certainly not aware of Special K in the Morning (laughs). Maybe it’s that I’ve traveled to more than 40 countries. I’ve done all of Eastern Europe into Russia and some of the former Soviet states, and I’m looking to head out to Asia next. What else? I scuba dive. I swim a lot. I ride my bike around and hike. Nature grounds me.

After you retire, what do you want to do?

I love roaming the Earth and drinking wine, which I do as @Winenado on Instagram. The farthest I’ve gone to explore wine was the country of Georgia. Sign me up for more of that. I want to see how they make mezcal in Mexico, or sake in Japan.

Click here to listen to Special K in the Morning’s Ultimate ’90s playlist on Spotify.