Words of Wisdom from NCA Board Members: Part I

As Next Gen-ers in coffee, we are fortunate to be surrounded by so many remarkable industry leaders, many of whom serve the coffee community via their roles on the NCA Board of Directors. Michelle Dunaway, Sales Executive at Mercon Specialty and NCA Next Gen Council member, rounded up some great words of wisdom from several of these leaders. From advice on career advancement to what they’re currently reading, check out these NCA Board Members’ words of wisdom below.

Bruce Goldsmith

President & CEO of Baronet Coffee, a 4th generation coffee roaster with 100 years of history defined by tradition, family & commitment to exceed expectations.

Bruce has served as Chair of the NCA Board of Directors and is currently an active NCA board member.

He has been in coffee since 1988 when he started doing research into “gourmet” coffee, what we now know as Specialty Coffee.

His advice to the younger generation in coffee: “Get involved, don’t be afraid to ask questions [and] voice your interest, so that when an opportunity arises you are prepared to seize it!

The NCA is a 110-year-old organization and is trying to evolve … so get involved and look for opportunities, meet people — you never know what will come out [of it].”

Favorite radio shows: “How I built this” by NPR

John Boyle

President & CEO / Managing Director at Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA

John has been involved with the NCA for 14 years, 10 years as a board member and has been with MZB for 15+ years.

His advice: love what you do and get involved! 

“I think it is very important to enjoy what you do. Certainly, being in the coffee business, it does help to love coffee and to understand the entire supply chain all the way back to origin; the history, where coffee comes from; there is a lot to learn [about] how the whole supply chain works.”

Be passionate, be driven and be aggressive, speak your mind, but always do it with a perspective – [understand] where you can really make an impact and drive change [to] affect the broader industry.”

Career advice: “Work hard and deliver on your commitments.”

Favorite NCA memories: “Seeing how the NCA has evolved and the true leadership position it has taken as the voice of the coffee industry. Prop 65 was a moment when the industry rallied together, focused on an issue, and the outcome benefitted the whole industry.  This is the picture of success.”

Matt Saurage

4th Generation family owner of Community Coffee Company

Matt started his career in coffee at a young age and realized coffee is an industry experiencing constant change.  Evolution is inevitable, so he advises to “learn continually, challenge yourself and be open to new ideas.  In the coffee industry, your reputation is your most valuable asset.”

Other tips:

  • Be a lifelong learner
  • Listen
  • Surround yourself with people with different ideas and perspectives
  • Take action!

Matt travels with his AeroPress and brews Community Coffee signature Dark Roast blend – his favorite.

“To the future of coffee, salut!”

Miguel Moreno

Head of Coffee business, Grupo Nutresa

Advice on finding advancing your career in coffee: “Find the right place and person to talk about your career plans — about what you believe you can do and what you can achieve.”

“Ask questions: what do you need to do better and what do you need to do to improve?”

“Go beyond your role, when you are in a meeting have an opinion, be present. Every topic matters, always have an [integrated] view of the information and everything that you have access to.”

Books he recommends:

  • Think Again – Adam Grant
  • What works, Gender equality by design – Iris Bohnet
  • Exponential Organizations – Salim Ismail

Paul Feldman

Managing Director at Brown Brothers Harriman (Commodity Finance)

“Be curious, there are no bad questions.”

“Make sure you always try as much as you can to be a good listener, but don’t hesitate to challenge — always being respectful.”

Paul never thought or planned he would become a banker. “Don’t plan your career path [based on] where you think it has to go… having a plan is great, [but] recognize the serendipity involved in life. Be ready, if necessary, to have your plan dramatically change or even dissolve over time.”

Michelle Burns

Executive Vice President-Global Coffee, Tea and Cocoa at Starbucks Coffee Company

Michelle has been in the coffee industry for 30 years. Getting to where she is now required many moves within the company that expanded her knowledge in business development, relationship management, negotiation and operations, store development, and more — all driven by the willingness to lean into opportunities.

She says the essential ingredient for developing relationships is having shared goals. There must be a benefit to everyone in a partnership; gaining mutual understanding and the support that coming together creates.

To grow your career, she advises to be “driven, intentional, purposeful … [and] open.”

“Knowledge of the issues is important, but it’s also critical to remember who we serve and why: the producers and every other link in the value chain. The nuance of understanding all the parts of the value chain is critically important and valuable, as it is our duty as an industry to truly understand the magnitude of the issues we are facing and in order to create a sustainable future for coffee.”

On diversity, she advises you to “be inclusive and hear alternate points of view; diversity must absolutely be part of the future.”

What Michelle is currently reading: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard – Chip Heath & Dan Heath

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