Most of this week has been finishing up the final touches on my supplier profiles project. It feels good to compare how things look now to how they did when they got here.
I also had my exit interview with Sustainable Harvest’s CEO David Griswold this week, so I’ll share some excerpts of that (the interview was recorded, and then transcribed).
DG: What were your main tasks this summer?
TB: My main task was improving the Grower Information Form site (GIF 2.0), particularly writing narratives for producers in cases where we didn’t have narratives in English but did have information with origin offices or forms growers had filled out. In some cases I was able to interview producer organizations directly and hear their stories, which was a lot of fun. I also linked to all relevant blog posts.
I created a document showing where things are now with GIF, which active suppliers have narratives, missing pictures, blogs, etc. Things are pretty good, we’re just missing a few suppliers that I haven’t been able to track down information on. Six profiles are missing, four of which are in Brazil. But we can link those to profile of the exporter, Bourbon Specialty Coffees, which is a pretty solid profile.
DG: Is that all you did?
TB: No. I also did some translating, reformatting training materials, Green Mountain mailing (haha, although that was not supposed to be quite such an adventure), research for the harvest update, and other research projects for Sara. For example, looking into Nicaraguan banking policy.
DG: So Sara could come to you with a new project and you could sort of juggle that?
TB: Yeah, it was great. I get frustrated when I only have one project, even if it is a really great project. The GIF project was great, because even within one project there were a lot of moving pieces to juggle. With almost any project you can’t just sit down and do it, because there is a lot of waiting for information involved. So if there are a lot of things you can balance it is a lot better.
My opinion is that is better to give the fellows more to do than you expect us to be able to do. It’s better to sort of overshoot the mark than to estimate what you think we’ll be able to do and sort of scramble if we get that stuff down. And if we don’t finish everything, then we don’t finish everything.
DG: What were some examples where you didn’t have enough information to do the project?
TB: I knew enough about coffee to know where to look for outside information when I needed it, and my main contact person (Sara) is awesome. The second week, which was before Sara got here, was sort of slow. I was working on strategic relations with Lewis and Clark that week, which was fun but it was also sort of rehashing a lot of things I’ve already done. But that is understandable, because my manager is the supply chain manager and she travels a lot.
DG: What worked?
I really loved what I was doing. I’m sort of fascinated by supply chains generally, so having the chance to work with Sara and sit in on the supply chain calls and learn about the challenges and opportunities for a company like this was fascinating. Basically, this is an industry that I want to be a part of, and things look really different from the outside. You can sort of look at what a company does and what their marketing materials but the rationale for a lot of the decisions isn’t made clear.
So it’s been great to sort of be on the other side of the curtain, and hear the explanations behind the complicated decisions we have to make every day. It’s just a higher level of thinking about things than what marketing materials say or, you know, “God in a Cup.”
My assignment was very basic, just do research about cooperatives and write about them. It was fun, I liked it, but the best part is sort of being able to sit in on Sara and have access to you guys.
DG: What could be improved?
I had a great experience. I liked that I had a lot of projects, and access to a lot of information. The first week I was working independently was sort of slow, but I don’t think that’s a problem with the program necessarily, it’s just how things worked out.
DG: If you don’t have your supervisor in town, that can be problematic.
TB: It is fine to not have your supervisor around if you can meet her first and get a sense of what you’re supposed to be doing while she’s gone. Mostly the issue was the timing. But the upside of that is that I got to work with Katie on this really neat project for half of that week.
It was a price risk management project. It was similar to the GIF thing, in that what I was doing was pretty basic, but Katie explained futures markets to me in a way that made sense, which was just mind-blowing and awesome. It’s one of things that isn’t intuitive. Last year, you know, I knew it was really important but it’s really hard to teach yourself about that sort of thing.