“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” — Bill Gates
Meet the crema of the crop.
The NCA Next Generation initiative was launched last year to help support talented young professionals who are passionate about the coffee industry. (NCA membership is not a prerequisite to join.)
Led by a volunteer board of emerging leaders, the Next Gen group has worked for the past year to develop new networking opportunities, professional development programming, and NCA social media initiatives.
The first Next Gen Breakout Session will be held at the NCA 2018 Annual Convention on March 15 in New Orleans. The educational session will include leadership lessons, investment insights for a young adults, and information on how to get involved.
Here, Brandon Jackson, Vice President in Commodities & Logistics, Brown Brothers Harriman, and the first Chair of the NCA Next Gen Committee, talks about why we need new voices to help guide the coffee industry’s future – and what to expect next.
What’s your professional background, and how did you become a part of the NCA Next Generation Council?
I’ve been a banker at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. for 10 years, but they’ve been in coffee for the last 200 years. So I’m just the latest banker lucky enough to focus on this industry. But sitting in this periphery role, I get to see the intricacies and work with almost everyone in the supply chain: growers, exporters, importers, shippers, warehousemen, logistics providers, roasters, packagers, insurers, brokers, futures clearers, banks, etc.
What’s been amazing about coffee is that, even with all those players, it’s such a tight-knit community. That’s a great quality about the industry and one that drew me to it, but it also means it can be hard for younger professionals to break in and make a name for themselves, which is something I’ve personally been working on. So I’m as excited as anyone else about the Next Gen initiatives.
Why did you want to get involved in the NCA Next Gen?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with several commodity sectors, but coffee has been far and away my favorite because of the people. That explains the NCA piece, but my Next Gen interest came from my first 5 years industry – I didn’t have a big expense account, I couldn’t travel to the conventions, couldn’t hear the speakers, meet the leaders of the industry, etc.
I think there are a lot of “younger” folks out there who want to be involved and can do great things, but may not have the access. I thought the Next Gen group would be a great way to bring that access to a younger generation – distributing presentations from the convention, hosting regional events with industry leaders, providing unique content aimed at people still climbing their career ladders, etc. I certainly wish I had something like this years ago!
Describe why you believe the next generation is important (as it pertains to the coffee industry).
I think there’s been two phenomenon that have come to the forefront of the coffee industry in recent years: a generational gap and continued consolidation. The average age of the leadership of the NCA is late 50s/early 60s; there are a lot of 20s/30s year old professionals that have come into the industry, but I think there’s a gap in the 40s/early 50 year olds. That begs the question, “what happens when the current leadership starts to step away from their careers in coffee?”
There’s also been a great deal of consolidation in the industry over the last few years. The NCA only gives one company a single board seat – so if two companies become owned by the same parent, that means a seat is eliminated. If this trend continues, it will be important to have new voices join the board to help guide the industry. Both these really highlight that we need focus on who these future leaders are, and help build their path.
What is the purpose of the NCA Next Gen Council?
The NCA Board of Directors created the Next Gen Council for two main reasons: to identify young, talented individuals in the coffee industry, and to foster their development into being future leaders in our industry.
When you look at the current makeup of the NCA Board of Directors, most individuals will be retired in 10 years. There’s a generational gap that they’ve identified, and the Next Gen Council is aimed at identifying the next people who will occupy those board seats and providing them with the resources to get there.
Are there Next Gen events at the NCA annual convention or other times during the year?
This will be the first of many networking and content-driven programs that we’re hoping to roll out in the years to come. It is open to all Convention Attendees under the age of 40, and we’ll be sending out specific programming in future newsletters. We hope to see you all there!
What are you working on and what can we expect out of the NCA Next Gen Council in 2018 and beyond?
We’ve been busy over the last year building a sustainable structure from scratch. Now that we’re starting to identify “Who is the Next Gen?,” it’s time to start delivering value.
We’re focusing our efforts across four initiatives, each of which have a dedicated Next Gen Committee, which many of you are a part of. We’re focusing on: Recruiting (continuing to build our Next Gen network, which consists of more than just NCA Members), Events (the NCA Breakout Session, networking events, gatherings at other industry events, etc.), the Newsletter (providing monthly, unique content to our members, along with a rundown of industry news and announcements), and Social Media (this is a specific area where the Board of the NCA has engaged the Next Gen to help, with the goal of building NCA brand value through digital mediums).
Each of these focuses are interconnected, and we’re hoping 2018’s efforts and all your involvement lead to a lot of value for both the Next Gen members and the NCA itself.
How do I get involved with the NCA Next Gen Group?
It’s been a grass roots effort thus far, but we now have a formal sign-up (available here). And I encourage everyone to have their friends and peers sign up, too!
Learn more about the NCA Next Generation Group, or sign up to join. Eligible NCA 2018 Convention attendees are encouraged to attend the Next Gen Breakout Educational session on Thursday, March 15 at 9:30 a.m. in New Orleans (times subject to change).