Bad Batch: Becky Reeves
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At age 25, Becky Reeves has already had quite the career. Currently, she is a Market Developer for the alternative milk brand Oatly. She is a fellow at this year’s RECO event at the Coffee Expo in Seattle, WA. She competed in the United States Barista Championship (USBC) multiple times. She worked in demanding cities such as Portland, Las Vegas, and now Austin, TX. I Instagram-stalked her, and I was so excited when she made the move to Austin that I slid into her DMs and asked if we could be friends. Spoiler: she said “yes!”. We sat down to talk about how she developed an amazing career, co-founded a nonprofit organization for women in coffee, and why competitions and panel discussions are awesome. Queue the rosé.
Tell us your coffee story: how did you get your start, how long have you been in the industry, and how are you involved now?
I got my start in coffee when I was sixteen. I worked at this place called Sunrise Coffee. I was there for 4 years and worked my way up to leadership. It was a classic small business environment. I didn’t have a job title, but I had more responsibility. I was young and silly. I thought I knew everything. Then… I went to Barista Camp. It was a humbling experience. I met people from all over the world. I saw my first barista competition there. That’s when I decided I wanted to be serious about coffee. I packed up and moved to Portland. I got a job at Ristretto Coffee Roasters and competed in the United States Barista Competition (USBC). At my first competition, I tied for 2nd place in the West Coast Region. I’m still really proud of that! It was a blast.
After I competed, I did more freelance-y stuff with companies such as Kitchenaid and ISI. After a while, I left the coffee industry because I was burned out and needed a change, so I moved back home to Las Vegas. I worked as an event coordinator for a casino. I was really unhappy there. I decided to throw a “Hail Mary” and apply to work for Oatly, an alternative milk company. I acted totally over the top and ridiculous during my interview, and I got the job! I moved to Austin.
Now, my role in the community is more of a Barista support role (Becky is now in charge of Oatly’s South East Market Development in the US). Having come from the industry, I feel like I know what baristas want and need. I feel privileged to be in this position.
You competed again in the 2016 USBC and placed 16th in the US. That’s dope. Do you think it takes a specific type of person to compete?
It doesn’t take a specific type of person. I think the idea that it takes a specific kind of person to compete is what marginalizes people. Anyone can do it. I would like to see more quiet and reserved people compete. People think that if they are quiet or not “coffee famous” they shouldn’t compete. They are the voice that we need because they represent a large group of the industry. They need help though. It takes help, it takes a team, it takes a village, to get ready for competition. It takes a LOT.
You co-founded the organization Women Investing in Northwest Coffee Champs (WINCC) in November of 2016 with Caryn Nelson. Was there an "aha" moment that made you take action to create this organization?
It started when Caryn sponsored a specific piece of equipment my company couldn’t cover. We sat down for coffee one morning and the conversation led to “why don’t we see more women compete? Why don’t we see more black people compete? Why don’t we see more representation?”. It came down to resources. They don’t have the money or support. Any opportunity we have to help fundraise or donate/give access to the tools to succeed. That’s what we want to do. We created a library of competition wares and tools that baristas can “check out”.
Lately, WINCC has become more personalized. This year, we specifically sponsored our first competitor: Oodie Taliafairo. We are so excited to see them compete in Seattle this year! As for future competitors, we are creating a formalized process for renting equipment and seeking sponsorship, but Caryn and I are both really busy right now. It feels like the organizational work will take longer and not be as productive. I would rather just take action and get things done.
You recently got a job with Oatly and you are super pumped. What’s so great about your new job?
This job has changed my perspective a lot. Before, my expectations were very low. I was working for employers who conveyed the “you’re lucky to be here,” attitude, but Oatly said the exact opposite to me during my interview. They said they were “lucky to have me,” which made me feel listened to. It genuinely felt like they wanted me to take a job because I wanted it, and they wanted me. Thinking back to the old jobs that I had, I realized I have PTSD from small mistakes. I would get scared that I would get fired for making one little mistake. Oatly knows I’m not perfect, and they’re ok with little mistakes. It’s important for companies to have grace, patience, and love. Even though I’m technically in sales, I don’t have quotas to maintain and I know that my company has my back. They make me feel like I know how to do my job. They trust me. I feel valued. They check in to see how I’m doing “just because,” and they talk positively to other professionals about me. They did this in front of me, saying “Becky is going to kill it, she’s going to dominate the market,” I wish more employers did that.
What are positive qualities you look for in an employer?
Oatly provides benefits that I have never thought to ask for. Once a month, we have the opportunity to meet with a career coach to assess I am in my career and where I want to go. They just changed our health benefits to include even more coverage. Health insurance kicked in immediately. These benefits makes me feel like I matter. It makes me feel like if I took an issue to them they would help me out.
Demographic is huge. Just last night I was looking on Instagram at a company, and the only people represented where white dudes. I don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t represent me and vice versa. The way a company represents themselves over Instagram/social media plays a huge role in determining whether or not I feel as though I would fit in with the overall team. Speech is important. Pay attention to the way the baristas talk to customers and the way the managers talk to baristas. I also pay close attention to what companies sponsor events. Sponsorships show that companies care about the coffee community. If there are just a lot of men. That’s a fair red flag. I had one interview at this one place where four dudes sat me down for an interview in a secluded room. I did not feel ok. That’s never ok.
Speaking of social media, your Instagram is awesome. I follow you. How has social media helped you shape your career?
Hell yeah. It got me the job! It’s funny because the way I present myself on social media is very broken and ugly. The dumb shit that I do is real. My advice: hit send on whatever you’ve typed up first. Just type it up and hit send. Don’t edit it. It’s brilliant. I can promise you that. Go with the first photo. On twitter I just shit the bed. In my cover letter to Oatly, I wrote that I gave myself the title “Vice President of Coffee Twitter” and nobody fought me so I kept it.
You recently spoke on a sexual harassment panel at a Coffeewoman event in Houston. Thank you for sharing your story. What advice would you give to people who would want to speak on panels but are too nervous?
I used to be really nervous, but now I’m just excited to be given a platform to be heard. As women, it’s easy to tell yourself that your story isn’t unique or isn’t important. Every body deserves to be heard. Even if you think your experience is small compared to others. It’s not about being a victim, it’s about sharing with people who have common experiences to you. I’ve learned that having the ability to share experiences with other people has an insane amount of value.