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Cindy Nham, MBA '15

Cindy Nham, MBA '15

Aug 11

Strategic Coffee Immersion

I have always been a big coffee drinker. I’ve been a proud Starbucks Gold Card member since 2010. I own three types of coffee devices including a French press, a pour over, and a Vietnamese single-serve drip to satiate my lifelong devotion to smoky, intense French roast coffee with condensed milk. During Core classes, those daily 9:00am coffee hours at Sage Hall were my saving grace. I savor a cup of coffee over a cocktail any day. I thought I knew so much about coffee…

…Until I interned for a coffee company. As a finance intern at Starbucks Coffee Company, I had my fair share of NPV analysis and modeling. Much of my projects sat at the interaction between strategy and finance, and steeped in data analytics (hint: PAY ATTENTION IN STATISTICS CLASS!). Beyond my Excel covered monitors, the real learning experience has been my coffee immersion. This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in countless coffee tastings. I toured the roasting plant just outside Seattle. I even attended Coffee Masters classes and tested some of the company’s secret new food items. I met with leaders in store development, supply chain, channel development, marketing, and R&D. From each, I received a different understanding of coffee.

coffee imerssion

Before, a latte was a latte. It tasted great and provided a shot of energy for the day. But now, a latte is so much more. It has a thousand years of coffee history and a story to be told. It starts in the rich soils of the world’s coffee belt, grown at specific attitudes, hand cultivated and washed by farmers with generations of coffee farming in their families. The green Arabica beans are then carefully selected and sent off to roasteries where they are batch roasted to precise flavor profiles. Along the way, countless coffee tastings are conducted. Food scientists create thoughtful food pairings while the marketing team works to narrate the journey of that coffee. Fast forward to the espresso bar where a barista carefully pulls the espresso shot at a precise 18 seconds and steams the milk to create my dark roasted, Latin America sourced latte with 2% milk. Each step carefully thought out and practiced a thousand times before it is of sufficient quality to serve. A latte is not just a latte. It is brilliant and inviting and affords a heavenly break from a hectic day. It is the product of a long thoughtful journey---from the “first ten feet” of the coffee farms to the “last ten feet” at a Starbucks café.

Coffee Immersion

Any classmate who has ever worked for a consumer goods company can probably identify with this sentiment. There is so much thought that goes into a single product. Every step that is needed to bring that product to market is thoughtfully executed and tested a thousand times over. No customer experience happens by accident. Every interaction is carefully curated before you can get your hands on that product.

Johnson has done a spectacular job of bundling our technical training into strategic immersions. But there is no class that quite compares with the immersion that our internships provide. Here, we experienced the incredible layers of thought that goes into every product. As a finance intern, I learned much more than finance this summer. I learned about coffee culture and how that resonates around the world. I learned the history of coffee and the craft behind farming, roasting, and serving it. As I wrap up the summer in Seattle, I’m eager to hear back from friends about their summer immersions and the stories they’ve learned along the way, particular those at Moet Hennessey and Tory Burch.

P.S. Will trade coffee beans for champagne and shoes.

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