How do you take your coffee?
Black! But on occasion, I still indulge and drop a spoonful of honey in it, which is how I used to take my coffee.
Tell us about some of the challenges (and joys!) of being a member of the coffee community
I work in research & insights serving the coffee community so it’s very interesting to compare two different industries side-by-side. A personal challenge is simply not knowing all of the dynamics and nuances that are involved in bringing coffee to my kitchen every day but I’ve learned a lot as I’ve gotten to know different folks in coffee. My favourite thing about meeting members of the coffee community is hearing their experiences and perspectives (which I learn from). Coffee folks are so much more relaxed than researchers!!
My team (the one that supports the coffee tracking work) is diverse in representation and I intentionally built my team so there’s a range of personalities, skills, background and interests. If everyone received the same education, thought the same way and brought the same skillset to the team, we wouldn’t be growing – certainly not our perspectives or learning from each other. It’ll likely be very efficient (if everyone was the same) because you’d expect there to be minimal conflict but if we’re looking to build up people and the business, you need to invite different perspectives to the table.
How has being part of the BIPOC community strengthened or challenged your experience in Canadian coffee?
It’s certainly heightened my awareness that more work needs to be done to increase opportunities for the BIPOC community. Being a board member of the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity (CCRE) has given me a peek into the challenges faced by BIPOC coffee workers throughout the coffee chain. There were heavy conversations, but also uplifting and hopeful ones too. It puts my work into perspective: my job is to represent Canadian consumers so how do I use my work to amplify BIPOC and have the coffee community move in a direction that is more inclusive and diverse?
Has the Canadian coffee landscape changed in terms of diversity & inclusion since you've started working 17 years ago?
I can only speak to the research industry but it’s probably the same parallels to the coffee industry too. With heightened awareness and more people willing to speak up and do something against inequity opens up opportunities for those that wouldn’t have compared to almost two decades ago. BIPOC workers have always been here – that goes for both research and coffee industries. I’d say the notion of inclusion has gotten better now that we have three or four generations of workers in the same company (maybe). The difference now is that there’s more education and active work towards ensuring everyone has a fair chance to succeed.
If you could work towards ONE thing to increase diversity & inclusion in Canadian coffee, what would this be?
I love working with young people because of their fresh perspectives (and they teach me about social media and other cool things). I believe mentorship goes a long way for young workers starting out in their careers – if they know they have someone to speak with, bounce ideas off of, and get guidance on how they can approach making positive contributions, we’d probably made more progress than we’ve had. I probably sound like I’m passing on our problems for the next generation to fix! But speaking from experience, having mentors and becoming a mentor – this is what builds strong relationships and community. If we hope for and expect change to take place, we need to start building strong relationships and empowering those who are in it for the long haul!