The change in seasons is an always a good time to reflect on the past, present and future. The fall always prompts me to think about my career in coffee and how I got here. As with everything in life it was coincidence, mixed with luck and good choices that have blessed me with a seventeen year career in coffee.
Being a women in the specialty coffee industry is like being a women in any industry. The fact is that this is a male dominated industry, like many others. But as in life there are no excuses, you either want to be a part of something or you don’t. There were many friends and family that told me trading my nine-to-five gig as an insurance examiner to be a barista was crazy. But making the jump from the corporate world to the coffee industry was the best decision I ever made. Moving to Seattle in 2000 to work in the hub of the coffee industry was the second best decision I made.
Today I work for Unic USA, a 95 year old French espresso machine manufacture. While with Unic, I founded Barista Nation, a free educational event that has been hosted in Minneapolis, Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., San Francisco, Portland, Tokyo, Paris, Los Angeles, Dallas, Kansas City, Montreal, Denver, and many more cities to come. My career has given me the gift of being able to travel all over the world and work with some of the most brilliant minds in coffee. I treasure all the relationships and experiences I’ve been able to have with these wonderful people over the past seventeen years. I love to travel and meet new people and learn new skills that revolve around coffee and the business of coffee. For me, the coffee industry is one of the most fulfilling things one can be apart of.
Here are some tips for women looking to begin a career in coffee:
What you studied in college does not have to determine you career
There are many jokes that folks that end up in coffee industry are liberal arts majors with no hope for a real career. Not so. I’m an Art History Major, and my current title is Business and Brand Development. Just because you graduated from college doesn’t mean learning is over. If you are interested in the coffee business, start with reading coffee business magazines, take coffee business classes, and attend coffee business seminars and educational events. Never stop learning, even if it requires you to do an internship at a coffee business you admire, you will network with coffee professionals and learn invaluable new skills that can take you to the next stage of your coffee career.
Coffee is a boys club
Yes it is, and so are 80% of most careers. There is no reason as women we can’t roast coffee, travel to origin, be a World Barista Champion, or have a killer gig in sales. Don’t let anyone determine your career path other than you. Nothing is easy and there are always barriers, kick them down!
The coffee job I want doesn’t exist
Don’t expect anyone to hand you the perfect gig. If it doesn’t exist, create it. Write down why you want to do it in the first place, then think about how you can make your why into a what. If starting a coffee business isn’t for you, find a company that is a fit with your why, and apply. It will likely take a lot of persistence. Chances are, others really want to work there too. They may not even have any openings. So what? Apply. But understand that these days it takes more than submitting a resume. Many coffee business owners don’t even read resumes unless they are interested in a particular candidate. They don’t care about what you have done, per se, they care about what you are going to do. You better have a knock out cover letter, and you should follow up with a phone call, and an email. The majority of your competition are too lazy to follow up. This is the fastest way to get to the top of the stack for consideration. The trick is to have just enough persistence to be noticed, without being overbearing. If it doesn’t work out on the first try, don’t give up! Maybe the timing just isn’t right, but at least you are on the radar. There are hundreds of coffee business start-ups out there. If you don’t live near a coffee business that is in alignment with your why, be willing to move and live somewhere new for one year. If you don’t want to move, you’ll have to create your own coffee culture where you live and find other folks that are like minded. The cool job is where you make it.