As a loadmaster in the Air Force Reserve, Afsheen Saatchi calculated and planned for the exact placement of cargo on a Boeing C-17. Once the military aircraft took off for another deployment to the Middle East, Saatchi had some spare time. Onboard he read “Onward.”
“Regardless of the struggles Starbucks faced as a company, Howard never strayed from his core values,” Saatchi said of the Howard Schultz book Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul. “To many of us in the military, Starbucks is our home away from home. Whether I walk into a Starbucks at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, or a Starbucks at Incirlik Air Base Turkey, I'm home.”
Two years later, Saatchi is a Starbucks partner (employee) and recruiter for the company’s military and veteran outreach program.
Last November, Starbucks announced a plan to hire 10,000 veterans and active duty spouses over the next five years. Since then, Starbucks has hosted hiring and career fairs across the country, including a recent event in Tacoma, Washington with nonprofit partner Goodwill Veteran Services.
Veterans and active duty spouses were able to participate in mock interviews and receive on-the-spot resume reviews and advice on using LinkedIn for job searches. They also learned, to the surprise of some, how military skills transfer to jobs within Starbucks.
Many of the traits that are inherent to the armed forces are also abilities Starbucks looks for when hiring partners. Those include being a leader, knowing how to solve problems and working with people from diverse backgrounds.
“The problem is I think it’s somewhat intimidating for a civilian recruiter or hiring manager to sit down with someone who has a couple of decades of service in the military, and it’s difficult for the veteran to explain what he or she did without using a ton of acronyms,” Saatchi said. “I’m trying to bridge that gap. It’s almost like my job is being a translator.”
Heather Jennings, a Starbucks regional director whose area includes Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, has seen military skills translate to retail store jobs “seamlessly.”
“We’ve had a lot of successful hires,” said Jennings. “My area of expertise is operations, and both with Starbucks and the military that requires a strong sense of teamwork, accountability to each other, accountability to a mission, and a lot of self-reliance.”
The majority of positions Starbucks hires for are in the retail environment, where the company operates 20,519 stores worldwide. Those who joined Starbucks from the military say the retail stores offer leadership opportunities and room for advancement.
Amy Quesenberry went to a job fair in last August, on her birthday, uncertain of what she could do to get her “civilian life in order.” As a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard, Quesenberry had been on seven deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates. Trained as an air battle manager, she wondered what civilian employer could possibly use her strategic skills.
Quesenberry landed at Starbucks.
She began as an assistant store manager and was recently promoted to store manager of the Lakewood, Washington military community store. That store looks like most Starbucks coffee shops, but it’s unique because a portion of every transaction goes to Goodwill’s nonprofit Operation GoodJobs program.
San Antonio, Texas is home to another military community store and Starbucks plans to establish five more stores in joint base communities around the United States. Ten cents of each sale in those stores will benefit nonprofit programs that help returning veterans and their families as they transition back to civilian life.
“Knowing who we’re helping makes the work we do at Starbucks even more rewarding,” Quesenberry said. “Just as with my military career, this work feels like I’m part of something that is bigger than myself.”
As a reservist, there is a chance she could be called away from the Starbucks store she’s now managing.
“I know Starbucks would support me if that were to happen,” Quesenberry said, noting she has a standard commitment to the Air National Guard every five weeks.
In the meantime she’s committed to doing a “great job” in her store now and possibly in other leadership roles in the future.