Category: Coffee shop

Introducing…Blog #110

I’m happy to introduce my guest blogger, someone who is also a traveller, learner, and always curious about life. And, he is passionate about coffee! Welcome to Probe and Ponder, Nathan Sawatzky (yup, my son 😁) Nathan has just launched his newest blog sitecheck it out!

Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

“Dear Howard,

I was a partner at Starbucks (on and off) for six years. It took me three tries to get a job, and after my first stint with Starbucks, I was let go before my probation period was up. I’m pretty sure I was a great barista, but I was young and probably had things to learn. This experience was the first of many formational experiences that I would receive at Starbucks.

A YEAR LATER, when I joined again, I was trained by a store manager named Jamie, who used to sing to the customers in line. They loved him, and I learned so much from him. He embodied the third space , and he deeply loved coffee! I learned from him how contagious a love for coffee was, and still to this day, I love sharing my passion for coffee, making a french press for friends and coworkers, and then just talking through what we taste in the coffee.

I spent a couple of years working in a mall where, after we introduced Frappuccino’s to the world, that’s all anyone wanted. We were blending coffee, and at this very busy mall kiosk, I learned how little time I had to make an impact on someone’s day. I learned how critical 30 seconds can be, and I learned how to make the most of those 30 seconds. At every opportunity, I shared my favourite coffee, I would joke about what was happening in the world, and I watched customer after customer smile as they left our kiosk (except for the one lady I congratulated for being pregnant, I learned never to do that again).

Eventually, I became a supervisor and learned how to balance operations with inspiration. I may not have been the quickest closer, but I’m confident that those on shift with me felt fulfilled after their shifts. Here I learned that leadership was more than just being inspirational and charismatic; it was also being the person who would work harder and take on the tasks no one else wanted.

Pike Place; first Starbucks Store

My last post at Starbucks was as part of a team that opened a high-volume store with a drive-through. I was exhausted after every shift, but by that point in my time at Starbucks, I got to spend a lot of time training new partners, and I loved it! It wasn’t as common to have managers who loved coffee as much as Jamie did anymore. Still, I did my best to channel Jamie’s love for coffee and made it a personal mission to excite as many people as I could about how vital coffee was, not just because it’s the best tasting liquid on the planet, but because of how it brings people together. The third space was, and still is, wholly intertwined with crafted beverages. I remember hearing about how you would sometimes take a shift at the Pike Place store and do tastings with guests and partners. Here I gained another lesson in leadership; you should never be too important to get involved with the core business.

I left Starbucks to join a soon-to-launch virtual world called Club Penguin. If memory serves, you too had stepped away from your post at the company.

During my time at Club Penguin, I’m not afraid to admit that so much of the training our support and safety reps was based on the training I received (and delivered) during my time at Starbucks. I’m only a little shy to admit that probably half of our early employees were recruited directly from the store. If I received good service, I would hand them a card and invite them to come in for an interview. You might at least be happy to know that many of those former partners went on to do really amazing things in my industry.

Eventually, Disney purchased our company, and we began to open global offices. I was in Australia building our new team around the time that you announced your return to the CEO role, and I saw a bunch of stores closed that week in Sydney. I also remember the day that you shut down the stores around the world (I think I was in Brazil) to reconnect the partners with coffee and the espresso machine. I was so impressed that we did a whole training module with our now global teams about how important it is never to forget what your core business is.

I’ve since gone on to work for several large (and small) technology companies. My focus these days is on online safety and digital civility. I still love coffee, although I will confess that some of the smaller roasters here in Europe have taken a prominent role in my coffee rotation. But, as I travel the world, finding a local Starbucks has been a priority wherever I go. I love seeing how the vision I was taught so many years earlier is expressed in different cultures. I think you’d admit that keeping those values front and centre wasn’t easy; I can relate. As Club Penguin grew, trying to keep the passion for our players at the heart of all our teams was increasingly difficult. I think you’d probably have some significant bits of wisdom to share about what you’ve learned over the years; I hope to drink some coffee with you one day and hear that wisdom.

My kids just finished reading “Pour Your Heart Into It,” and they loved it. My four oldest can make a fantastic cup of coffee in both a pour-over and an AeroPress. Starbucks, and yourself, continue to inspire a new generation of people trying to figure out how to find their passion and bring their best to the market.

You’ve just become the CEO again, and I am rooting for you. Congrats on all that you’ve accomplished, but more so, thank you for all you’ve taught me. Your vision and style have deeply influenced me and, in turn, have influenced others.

Warmly,

Nathan Sawatzky

PS. We almost met once, but some events transpired, and that opportunity was lost. I am led to believe, though, that you at least heard about how deeply Starbucks inspired the community team at Club Penguin. In case you didn’t, though, now you have.”

If you want to know more about Nathan and all he’s into, you’ll find him right here!

The rubber band snapped!…Blog #104

Still overwhelmed by such beauty!

Two more weeks in Albufeira, Portugal, before heading to Valencia, Spain. We are thoroughly enjoying, and appreciating, balmy 16-20 degree celsius weather, boasting azure skies, sometimes dotted with fluffy clouds, and the occasional refreshing rain. Most days start with breakfast on the deck, where we can look out between buildings and clearly see the ocean spread out before us. The background sounds combine the squawks of seagulls, sweet songs of various birds, people calling to each other on the street, or from their balconies, and vehicles manoeuvring through steep, winding streets. The morning routine of hanging laundry out to dry and walking your garbage to the end of the street is embraced by all. Mail is delivered by a CTT delivery person often driving a scooter, with parcels dropped off by the delivery van. Mid-morning see’s an elderly couple walk down the hill for their morning coffee, while several locals gather outside the cafe for a morning espresso and chat. All this from my office balcony perch on our 4th floor apartment.

View from ‘my’ table

Somedays I head to my favourite cafe, Roca Beach Bar, right on the beach. Not only is the coffee good, but the Pastéis de Nata are amazing, served warm with cinnamon to sprinkle on top. I’ve become a regular, and receive such a warm greeting each time, with a genuine ‘check-in’ to see how my work is going. They have even dubbed a table as being ‘your table’, one that welcomes me with a breath-taking view of the vast beach and ocean just steps away.

Then the inevitable thing happens. Around 17:00, the sun loses its warmth, and slowly slips from view, eventually causing the air to drop to single digit temperatures. I had no idea how cold it would be in the evenings here in the south of Portugal. Ok, not as cold as at home in Canada, but still cold. We learned that the buildings are constructed to provide cool in the blistering summer heat, but in no way equipped to warm their inhabitants during the winter. From white concrete walls, to beautifully tiled floors, summer efficiency doesn’t feel so great when trying to warm oneself while huddled around a fireplace. Sure, it does a great job of taking the chill off the air, but once you stray more than a few feet away from its blaze, the chill quickly wraps itself around you.

This is where the rubber band snapping comes in. Finding wood for a fire is easy here in Albufeira; you simply add it to the grocery list and pick up with your regular staples…oat milk, granola, eggs, fire starter, logs, firewood. Easy. Except these 9 kilos plus bundles are stacked in bins that require one to bend over, lift, twist, and drop into a shopping cart. I’ve been doing it successfully for 2½  months, until a few days ago. I have no idea what I did differently, except that my back decided enough was enough, and snap! Instant pain, instant ‘I can hardly move’, instant inconvenience! The shopping cart became my crutch until reaching the ‘comfort’ of our car.

With the aid of a heating pad, topical cream, Tylenol, and rest, I am well on my way to healing. The past few days, however, have made getting comfortable a real challenge. Sitting for too long hurts, lying down makes me ache, and walking has dropped a few gears to slow motion. However, even though I knew the bricks creating the footpaths had gaping cracks, the roads had many potholes, the stairs were totally uneven, and the walk to the beach was a downhill trek (not to mention the uphill return climb), the pain that shot through my back with each crack, dip, step, and hill, drew attention to these irregular surface conditions. Nothing changed about the footpaths, roads, or hills over the past few days, but my attention was drawn to them because something in my body had broken down, making it difficult for me to ‘make do’ with such uneven terrain. 

It got me thinking about life and work in general. When things are going well, when there are no new challenges that come along to disrupt the flow, we don’t pay much attention to problems or issues. Sure, they exist, but we work around them, we put up with them, until we can’t. Why is it that something, be it catastrophic or minor, has to happen before we give attention to those things that we can actually change in order to make life, systems, processes, or relationships better? Why do we settle for mediocrity when we could actually implement changes that just maybe, would bring growth and increased joy or efficiency to our personal and professional lives?

I obviously can’t do anything to change the surface conditions in Albufeira, nor can I change the building construction; however, my rubber band experience can serve as a reminder to pay attention to what I can change (yup, even how I lift). And more than that…do something to effect that change.

Grateful to #remote for your input!

It’s Dec 15, 8 above, and I’m sitting outside working…in Canada!

I am taking a much needed break from writing a report (a paper actually) on our research. Ok, to be honest, I just needed an excuse to take my iPad and sit on the patio of my favourite Kelowna coffee shop, Esther and Sons, and reflect on this past year of delving into the amazing world of remote work. If I were to sum it up, the words I would use are grateful, amazed, inspired, and overwhelmed!

Some highlights have been:

  • meeting many of you;
  • traveling to Europe and chatting with many remote workers in co-working spaces (intentionally), and in cafés (accidentally);
  • hearing your experiences and adventures;
  • learning so much from the experts (you!);
  • experiencing amazing cafés (to name a few: Buro Espresso Bar, Robert’s Coffee, The BarnLucifer’s Specialty Coffee, Utrecht Onz Cafe, Amsterdam Lot Sixty One, House of Tribes, Kaafi);
  • virtual conferences and conversations
  • connecting with remote workers in my own continent of North America, and of course right here in British Columbia;
  • the willingness of many of you to share resources, both your knowledge and connections;
  • the honesty of remote workers in sharing their joys and challenges;
  • and, last but by no means least, doing all this in collaboration with Nate Sawatzky (my son)…so great! (big thanks to the incredible support of our families)

So, where am I with all of this? 12 pages into a paper on our findings…being reminded how frustrating (but important) citations are in validating the research and findings.

One of the words I used to describe my experience was ‘overwhelmed’; let me be clear, it’s a great sense of being overwhelmed! Our focus was on learning the competencies necessary for success as a remote worker, how feedback is desired, from whom, and what support is needed. You taught me that…and so much more!

As I look at the findings, the implications for business schools, managers, HR professionals, city planners, and potential remote workers is powerful. I have so many “ how might we…” questions arising from this that narrowing down my next focus of research will be a challenge!

What do I need from you?

  • I hope to have the research summarized by the end of January. If you would like a copy send directly to you, please let me know.
  • If you were to identify an area of remote work that you would like to see research focused on (again, a joint industry/academia approach) what would it be?

Nathan and I at The Hague during our research trip

Email me at roberta@samisremote.com with both your requests and suggestions.

That’s it…back to the report fuelled by coffee and vitamin D!

And by the way…Merry Christmas to all.

Making time to ponder the joys of remote work.

One day a week I dedicate time to researching and developing (R&D) my skills and understanding of the world of remote work. I really love those days. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the other elements of my professional life, but there’s something invigorating and exciting about setting time aside to focus on learning from various sources.

Today, for example:

  • I had a virtual meeting from my home office with Ayush Jain from Remote Panda;
  • enjoyed a research collaboration conversation with our son in Europe, while sipping coffee at one of my favourite cafes here in Kelowna, Canada;
  • continued reading chapters from ‘Work Together Anywhere’ by Lisette Sutherland and ‘Remote Revolution’ by John Elston (I highly recommend both);
  • attended a farewell lunch for a colleague at Okanagan School of Business where I’m a business professor;
  • set up a November virtual meeting with some of our new faculty;
  • researched resources for a winter course I am teaching on Organizational Change and Development;
  • and perhaps the most important activity of the day, took time to reflect and journal about what I’m learning from various experiences and people who continue to cross my path as I continue to examine the world of remote work. (I journal with an actual paper journal using a Lamy fountain pen…definitely slows down my thinking and helps me process more effectively)

Even though I love these days, they don’t happen by accident…I have to intentionally schedule them into my week.

So why am I sharing these details of my day? So glad you asked. Technology is wonderful and is essential for just about all the work we do, even more so when the nature of your job calls for technology to connect you with your clients, teams, managers and other key people. However, for me it’s vital that I make sure part of this R&D time is spent unplugged. I need to cut out the ‘noise’ and meditate on the learning to allow time for it to connect with what is important, what’s relevant, and if necessary, file it away for further consideration, or for the ‘interesting but not vital’ file.

As a remote, (or co-located) worker, how are you building intentional time into your schedule to learn, to cultivate your craft, and to ponder the amazing experiences you are having? You’ll never regret it.

“We bring forth our best selves when we are fully activated as human beings, not just as workers.”
The Remote Revolution by John Elston

Albufeira, Portugal…one of my favourite spots for reflection.

Coffee shops with purpose…

Lot Sixty One

In a previous blog I promised to talk about the many specialty cafés we visited while on our remote research trip…and I do mean places to drink a great cup of coffee! 

Coffee shops such as Lot Sixty One play an important role in the life of a remote worker…possibly more than originally imagined. For example, while writing this blog I am sitting at one of my favourite coffee shop in Kelowna…my friends and family refer to it as my ‘other office’. In fact, this would be my 3rd space…I have an office at the college, a lovely one at home, yet still I feel the need to come to Esther and Sons Cafe to create and write. (Never underestimate the contribution of caffeine to creativity!) 

I previously talked about the importance of space as it relates to where we work and connect. When researching remote workers, we set up appointments to meet with such individuals in cowork spaces…and we were awarded with some wonderful, insightful, conversations. Reflecting back on those visits, we noticed some things…to be clear, these are simply observations, but we think they warrant further inquiry.

  • The majority of people we met working in co-work spaces seem relatively fixed to that space.
  • Many users are either small businesses, or stationed at a location distant from the organization they work for.
  • The gender demographic appears to be a higher representation of male vs female.
  • The age demographic appeared to be slanted toward a younger generation (younger than boomers).
  • These shared spaces are not frequented as often by ‘traveling’ remote workers (those who frequently travel globally, but do have a home base).

Father Carpenters

So this is where the coffee shop space comes in.  We know there are various forms of remote working…no surprise there. If it is true that a challenge for remote workers is loneliness and isolation (and this certainly was verified through our interviews), and if our observations are accurate, then where do these ‘traveling’ remote workers go to feel some sense of belonging? Enter the coffee shop.

As mentioned in previous blogs, my son Nathan is collaborating with me as I look at remote work. In his travels he often uses coffee shops to work out of…some of which we visited on our recent trip. The cool thing was that as soon as they saw Nathan, he was warmly welcomed and immediately drawn into a ‘catch up’ conversation. Places like Five Elephant Coffee in Berlin,  Lucifer’s Specialty Coffee in Eindhoven, or Kaafi in The Hague.
It’s important to note that he had not been to these specific locations for months! Yet the commitment of the staff and owners was to create a space that didn’t just serve amazing coffee (
and they did), but a space were the customers could feel a sense of belonging.

Another coffee shop we enjoyed was House of Tribes in The Hague. The space was intentionally designed by Jerome Vester of Ninety Nine Architects for people to come and work while enjoying a good brew. We had a choice of a ‘living room’ type space, individual seating, and even a long table that could be booked for 1 hour meetings. No matter where you sat there was a plug in within arms length…intentionally blended in as part of the décor! They advertise strong internet connection (free of course). Add to that the cheery welcome you received as soon as you walked in the door, and you have a place any lonely traveler would love to open a laptop to get some work done.

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House of Tribes

I would be negligent if I didn’t mentioned one inherent problem here…how long can someone work in one coffee shop, nursing maybe only 1 or 2 drinks, before overstaying their welcome?  In fact, based on conversations Nathan had this week in London, he shared that “it’s becoming an increasingly difficult issue in the local coffee shops. Too many people are opting to use cafes as their office and feel emboldened to do so by the proliferation of cowork spaces and others doing it. Businesses find themselves in a really difficult spot.”

I don’t have an answer for this, but wonder if there might be an opportunity for some forward thinking café owners to provide a ‘remote worker’ package that includes a certain number of coffees, a snack, and a warm welcome for a predetermined amount of time? Hmmm, worth pondering.