This is our fate…


Thanks a latté, Starbucks January 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — melaniesleeper @ 1:49 am
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I’m a barista!!
Okay, okay, okay…technically I’m a Store Manager, but at Starbucks we’re all baristas.

Being a barista was NOT my life career goal. What?! You mean you didn’t aspire to make lattés and brew coffee for your career, you say?? Well, not exactly.

When I met John I was in the middle of “taking a semester off.” (See blog: the story of us). I did start school at a really great university with a major in Elementary Education. That flopped quickly after I realized how really cool it was to celebrate that I was no longer in high school. First semester gpa 2.7! Holy shit!

I got damn near perfect grades for a majority of high school (never studied) and elementary school was pretty much identical. I was a pretty good student. Could’ve stood to focus less on boys and more on work, but I never struggled in high school. I did have some really kick ass teachers–a couple of them really pushed and encouraged the pursuit of the teaching certificate. Many said I’d be a good teacher. I always wanted to be either a teacher or nurse. I couldn’t stand the thought of more science so I took their advice and that’s the career I chose. It made perfect sense.

After my flop out of the university, I landed myself a stint at Triton Jr. College. Not my finest moment I’ll admit. What was I doing there? That’s the attitude that made my stay at Triton crappy. I thought I was better than JC. My teachers and my grades and my mind told me so…so why the hell was I there?? Everything my brain knew about JC told me that life ain’t gonna go my way with school. I started dating a boy and got a job as a bank teller and went to school part time. Life was okay.

As life moved forward, I just became really unhappy with the boy, the job, the apartment, bills, school…all of it! Before I knew it, I was 21 years old! Why do I have to have all of these grown people responsibilities?! All of my friends were wrapping up college and I barely had enough college credits to complete the equivalent of a sophomore. Road to nowhere.

I ended it all. The boy, school, job, apartment. Done. I moved in with dad. It was short lived. We couldn’t get on the same page–or I guess I just wasn’t ready to grow up. I moved in with Memo.

Ah, Memo…the Queen of enablers, My Memo. I loved my Memo. She lived a tough life. A really crappy childhood and, in my eyes, an equally cruddy adult life. As a kid she was essentially abandoned and was forced to sink or swim at a really young age. She and my grandfather (who divorced before I was born) buried two of their 7 daughters. I suppose those instances being the moments of crossroads in her 70 years alive creating the Memo I knew when she died. I’ll save the rest of my Memo story for another blog.

A couple of months before I moved in with her, my aunt, her youngest daughter, died of the dreadful disease that still plagues my family to this day, addiction. When I moved in she was happy to have company.

My stay with Memo, my grandma, was short. I had just reached my 22nd birthday. I had not taken any classes that semester and had two part-time jobs. Those two jobs barely supported my newly found beer budget and my car payment. Any money I needed beyond that came from “borrowing” money from my brother, memo or friends.

I met John about 4 months after I moved in with Memo. (Insert the story of us).

After I had Kayla, John and I decided that it was important that I finish what I started with school. We were settled in an apartment and Kayla was about 6 months old. I applied to College of DuPage. I slowly crept my way back into classes. And gradually brought my ungodly gpa from 2.0 to a 3.1.

Bring on more babies! A year into school and nearing the end of my pregnancy with JJ, I finished the requirements of a 2-year degree that would transfer into a major university. That fall I took some time off from school. JJ was born as a new semester was starting so school wasn’t an option. During the time off I applied and was accepted to North Central College in Naperville. In January 2005 I had two babies under two and a full class schedule. I loved it.

Through out the first year at NCC, John was paying out of pocket for our health coverage. Almost $2000 a month!! Wha?!
He suggested a look into part time jobs, such as Starbucks, that offered full time benefits to part time employees. I never new such a company existed. I, not really wanting to add any more to my already hectic day, applied. I got a call from the first location I went to in Naperville. I was scooped up quickly. I was annoyed.

What the hell is a barista? I didn’t even know the word existed until I was hired as one. I really-truly-honestly thought I’d hate the job. My first day they handed me a huge binder filled with “all things Starbucks.” I worked my way through that thing-still not completely sure this was the right fit. It’ll do for now. It got John off my back and gave health insurance to my family and I suppose the free coffee was a bonus. I’ll tough it out as long as I can.

That position turned into a supervisor position pretty quickly. And before I knew it, it was graduation time. One of my happiest days! Lord, I worked so hard for that day, for that piece of paper that I’d coveted for so long. I got it!

I parted ways from Starbucks in 2007-two years longer than I thought I’d last. I was sad to leave but really excited to start my teaching career.

I struggled to find a teaching job. Very few interviews–but there weren’t many jobs out there. I was scooped up by a co-op that provided Title 1 services to private school students in the city. BCA! Loved that job and that school and those kids!! I taught all grades, K-8. I worked mostly with students who needed extra help with Math and Reading. Honestly it was a fun teaching position. I learned a lot.

The down side: it was FAR! I live in Westmont and BCA was in the south side of Chicago. The commute in traffic was just under two hours. When doing the math, the money I made wasn’t enough to make the two hour commute worth it. I miss that school. I didn’t go back.

I ended the job without another one lined up. Bad choice. I ended up being home for a year. This caused high tension between John and I. He was gone a lot. He had to over compensate for my lack of a job. It came to the point of ‘shit or get off the pot.’ I wasn’t ready to end my marriage because of this. Starbucks crept back into my mind. I applied at three locations. Stupid online applications. They aren’t really a good way of connecting with a personality and mannerisms. I knew if I could just meet one of these managers, they’d rehire me.

So that’s what I did. I called the Wildoats Starbucks in June-2010. The manager sounds excited! Okay, maybe she’s interested. Can I interview tomorrow? Absolutely! Interview-I nailed it! She loved me (she still does as a matter of fact). She called me after she checked on some rehire status stuff and called my previous manager to get a history. She finally hired me on July 17. Thank God!

Back to barista I went. I was actually happy to be there. I liked a majority of the partners and I thought I fit in pretty good. My boss promoted me to shift supervisor pretty quickly. I don’t think I was a barista for more than a collective of 6 months-during both of my Starbucks journeys. After that I stayed a supervisor for just over a year. During that year the potential to move forward and make this a career presented itself. I took it. If I’m going to be here, I suppose I’ll make the most of it, right?

I worked my ass off. Lots of hoop jumping. Lots of really difficult situations. At the end of the day-yes, it’s just coffee. But the year leading to my management career was tough. But it paid off. I was presented with a date to interview in August of 2011. I went to the panel interview really nervous but confident. Wrong!! I failed. Not only did I fail, I didn’t really know why. I sunk. Until this last December, that was one of the crappiest moments of my life.

One month later I got really sick with pneumonia. I missed a month of work. I missed a meeting with my new district manager which should’ve been a follow up to my epic fail. After I came back, I had scheduling conflicts that didn’t allow me to meet with her. Before I knew it, 4 months passed and the 90 days that I was told I would be given to re-panel had since been long gone.

I decided to give up. Forget this. Demote me. I want the barista life back. And I was set on that. Just before Christmas I told my manager that I was not sure this was for me. I gave up.

Shortly after that (days, in fact) I had a shift supervisor meeting. My district manager, the one that until this point I had not yet met, was in attendance. I didn’t care though. I was done. I’m not sure what I said during that meeting but I must’ve said something that made her believe that I was worthy of another panel. We met briefly after. She said I can have a panel for you on January 4th. Can you be there? That’s in two weeks!! Is this woman serious??

She met with me twice in the two weeks leading up to that date. She took her time, listened to my concerns, talked me through my “stories” and was actually really, really cool.

My second panel was better. Not as nervous and not as confident. I passed.

Shortly after I was transferred to the Burr Ridge location as the assistant manager. What a ride! A truly insane/crazy/busy/chaotic/push myself until I can’t push no more-time. I learned so much about myself in a really short amount of time. Leading Courageously.

I helped launch Evenings. Booze at the bux! Imagine that?! I loved being put in a position where I got to be a part of something different. It certainly was. I was with the BR team just over 8 months. In November of last year I paneled for Store Manager. I passed. Develops Continuously.

Shortly after I was offered a spot in Clarendon Hills. 1 mile from my home. Best commute ever! I’m still learning this new role. It’s challenging and fun and has me on my toes. Constantly busy, I’m trying hard to learn this position and grow my new team and hopefully help create someone else’s Starbucks journey. I love the customers-many I know as I live in the same community I work. I make it a point to learn customers names every day-they really are the reason I’m here. Puts the customer first.

Now, here I am, a barista, a Starbucks Store Manager. And just as hard as I worked to become a teacher, I worked just the same to become a barista. I didn’t plan or aspire to become a barista and slang pumpkin spice lattés like they’re going outta style. But I do. And I love it. Who would’ve thought?

Dude, I’m a barista and I bariste things. And right now, I don’t want to do anything else. I’m happy.


2 Responses to “Thanks a latté, Starbucks”

  1. ❤ Keep blogging please, Mel. You inspire me…

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