Barista Magazine

AUG-SEP 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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W h y P r o d e v M a t t e r s S t r a t e g i e s f o r P r o d e v # 1 : H o s t o r v o l u n t e e r a t a l o c a l c o f f e e e v e n t # 2 : D o a b a r i s t a e x c h a n g e # 3 : J u d g i n g i n s t e a d o f c o m - p e t i n g # 4 : S t a r t o r p a r t i c i p a t e i n a c o f f e e e x c h a n g e THE SPECIALTY-COFFEE FIELD is full of lifelong learners, many of whom seek to develop skills outside of the job training that accompanies their position. While traditional professional-develop- ment pathways like taking Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) courses and competing in coffee championships are excellent avenues for continued education, they aren't always fi nancially accessible to coffee professionals at various tiers of the industry. Thankfully, professional development—or prodev—for coffee careerists can be far more mul- tifaceted than it initially appears: It can be free or low-cost, and it can present dynamic options for learning opportunities designed around your needs as a coffee professional—no matter what you do in the industry or where you do it. Why Prodev Matters Professional development is critical to helping coffee professionals at all levels stay engaged and productive in their jobs. Without prodev opportunities, coffee professionals—especially those with a thirst for growth and knowledge, who are usually some of the biggest assets their companies possess—will learn and master skills, and then can become bored and disengaged from the work, and either get a promotion or leave. In most companies, there aren't infi nite opportu- nities for upward mobility, and without outside prodev options, scarce promotions often feel like the only way for coffee pros to learn new skills, leaving most workers unhappy and disconnected from their day-to-day and ready to fi nd a new job just to pick up a few new skills. Whether companies provide prodev opportunities or baristas engage in them of their own impetus, furthering one's educa- tion and fi nding new challenges is crucial in engagement and to retention for many of coffee's most valuable workers. Strategies for Prodev Below are nine examples of free or low- cost professional-development opportu- nities for coffee pros at all levels. This is by no means an exhaustive list; it's meant to get people thinking outside the box about how they can better involve their employees, coworkers, or selves and continue to grow without having to pour too much of their own income into ventures that won't necessarily repay the expense. #1: Host or volunteer at a local coffee event When you're feeling like you're not getting what you need in your community, consider that an opportunity to create or support spaces fi lling that gap. If there's an exciting organization in your city or re- gion hosting events, get in touch about volunteering with them. If such a group doesn't exist, consider starting one yourself. Much has been written in Barista Magazine about grassroots coffee-community guilds and clubs; not only do they offer a sense of community, they bring tons of developmental skills to their founders, members, and volunteers, like learning how to plan and host an event, how to get sponsors, how to write and share a code of conduct, and how to think about accessibility. In Colorado Springs, Colo., Brittney Balestra, who's been in coffee for three years, worked with her former employer to create and pro- duce the fi rst Womxn in Coffee Awards. Brittney was inspired to act after a local mainstream newspaper story printed a "best-of " list of local baristas that included only men. "For me personally, hosting a local event taught me how to reach people: the best way of communicating and investing in conversa- tions with people who may not totally agree with your message or event," says Brittney. "Everyone has a different viewpoint, and that's probably the most valuable professional development that I've expe- rienced." Many who start these groups or events do end up using some of their own money to get things rolling, but by creatively engaging sponsors, you might not have to spend any money at all for these incredible growth opportunities. #2: Do a barista exchange Often, baristas and managers feel that the only way to learn how other cafés operate is to move jobs, which is costly for all parties and shouldn't be the only option on the table. Thankfully, it's not—there's a great professional-development opportunity in coordinating a baris- ta exchange with another local café. To do a barista exchange, work with your managers to schedule either a shift, a few shifts, or even a whole week where you and a barista from another company switch places and learn the ropes at a new shop. You each get paid as usual. This obviously requires endorsement from managers and coworkers, but can open the doors to more communal sharing of skills and longer retention of baristas who want to grow. If done right, it shouldn't cost a dime. #3: Judging instead of com- peting Just as volunteering for a local event can be as educational as hosting or attending, judg- ing at local throwdowns or coffee champion- ships is a great low-cost or free alternative to competing. Sara Frinak of Ally Coffee has worked in coffee for nine years, and has been volun- teering at coffee competitions for fi ve of those. "At fi rst, the volunteer shifts were an incredibly helpful way to afford trade-show attendance. I worked for a small company in the South, and we could barely afford travel and accommodations, so getting a free pass to events was huge," she says. "After a while, it became more benefi cial for the conversations I could access. Being in the room with so many industry members is invaluable to staying informed and motivated. You may hear or see things that inspire you, or you may hear or see things that really piss you off. Either way, it keeps me going." [Editor's note: For more on how judging coffee competitions can impel creative and professional growth, see Brian Helfrich's article, "How to Come Back Strong from Failure," in this issue on page 84.] #4: Start or participate in a coffee exchange Organizing a coffee exchange locally, nationally, or even internation- ally can be a fun and educational way to taste coffee outside your own company, calibrate with the larger industry, and expand your palate. The basic premise is this: You trade a bag of coffee from your company for one from another café or roastery. The setup can be a lot larger, or stay local and one-on-one. Benefits of Prodev There are myriad widely acknowledged bene- fi ts of ongoing professional development: • Increases employee engagement • Ups employee productivity • Increases employee retention/reduces turnover • Adds new skills to your company • Diversifi es the skill set of the wider coffee industry 78 barista magazine

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