My Life Changed 20 Years Ago

It was October of 1994, twenty years ago, when the trajectory of my life changed.

It was October of 1994, twenty years ago, when the trajectory of my life changed.

I was living with my parents and back in school getting a second degree, this time in marketing. College loans helped to cover tuition but I needed a part-time job to cover other expenses like food (and my bar tab at the Barley House).

Enter Starbucks Coffee.

As a marketing student, I had heard of this upstart coffee chain but never stepped foot in one.

Starbucks was holding a hiring fair at their meager Dallas training office tucked deep inside an office building. When I entered the windowless office I was handed a cup of House Blend. (I still remember how amazingly flavorful that cup of coffee tasted.) I filled out the job application and was immediately put into an interview.

For most people a job interview is not a big deal, it’s just talking. But for someone who stutters, it’s a HUGE deal because… it is just talking. Some how I managed to minimize my stutter enough that it was a total non-issue.

I was offered a barista job at Starbucks store #677 (Preston Center). That was October of 1994.

A year later I was out of school and working as a Media Planner at an advertising agency in Dallas but I still kept working at Starbucks with a Saturday morning shift behind the bar slinging lattes.

Frustrated with my job at the advertising agency, I abruptly quit. I became a vagabond barista picking up odd shifts at Starbucks locations all over Dallas.

Then fate interrupted.

Starbucks was growing so fast they couldn’t manage all of the local store marketing activities happening in the field by the small marketing team at corporate in Seattle. They created a field marketing department and Dallas was one of the first markets to get a zone marketing director.

This marketing director, Lisa, needed help and I saw an internal job posting for a field marketing specialist. I sent my resume in and a few days later I had my job interview at the Creekwalk Village Starbucks in Plano.

I vividly recall that interview. I dressed in a snazzy Banana Republic suit and carried a Coach leather bag with examples of my work as a Media Planner. When Lisa walked in, she saw me at the merchandise wall talking shop with Scott, the Creekwalk Village Starbucks store manager.

Part of me believes when Lisa saw me talking shop with the store manager, she was able to envision me as a Starbucks field marketer. Much of that position was serving the needs of store managers by designing and implementing new store opening plans and creating local store marketing programs. Seeing me interact with a store manager gave Lisa confidence that I could represent her department well.

A few days I was hired on as a Starbucks field marketing specialist.

From there, I followed Lisa to working in the marketing department at Starbucks corporate. That experience led me to becoming the director of national marketing at Whole Foods. And that experience paved the way for me to publish TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE, which has led to a nice career as a marketing consultant.

It’s only fitting that my Halloween costume this year honored how my life changed twenty years ago…