Good technicians often serve as the unsung heroes of working coffee shops and roasteries, coming in to save the day when coffee machinery goes haywire to keep the coffee flowing. Yet if coffee is a male-dominated industry, then nowhere is that more true than in the field of coffee technicians.
Through the efforts of groups like the recently formed Coffee Technicians Guild (CTG), the technician profession is growing ever more visible in the coffee industry, and in the process generating new interest from people in coffee seeking to forge a viable career path.
Certainly, there are many women already working as coffee technicians or as owners of businesses providing technical services, yet there remains a clear need for increased diversity in the field.
Randy Phillips, a technical training specialist at espresso machine manufacturer La Marzocco, recently told Daily Coffee News that one of the most frequently asked questions he fields is, “How can I become a coffee technician?”
So, in an attempt to provide clearer access points into the profession while increasing gender diversity in the trade, Phillips and La Marzocco after sales support specialist Rachel Dickinson teamed up with The Coffeewoman to host Let’s Fix It!, an event in which coffee-industry-leading women technicians led workshops for existing and aspiring technicians.
The event was held on Saturday, April 21, during the Specialty Coffee Expo at La Marzocco’s Technical Training Department in Ballard. For those who were able to get tickets to the sold out event, the unique educational opportunity offered prospective technicians a hands-on experience exploring some of the basic skills required to repair and maintain brewing and grinding equipment.
Workshop presenters included Dickinson, Rebecca McNelly of Heartland Tech, Jill Fountain of Macchinisti, Sheli Maciel of Allegro Coffee, Clare Pluckhorn of Deeper Roots Coffee, Chelsea Neemers of Stumptown Coffee, and Erica Green of Blue Bottle Coffee.
“We get to choose who we stand with,” Phillips said. “This is a statement about diversity and inclusiveness just as much as it is about education and encouragement.”
As a manufacturer, La Marzocco hosts technical trainings, but they are designed for current technicians, not those who want to be introduced to the profession.
“Getting started would really require something more along the lines of a community college course, rather than a 3-day training,” Phillips said. “In lieu of a community college course, we hosted this event to give people an opportunity to get exposure to some of the basic skill sets that an espresso repair technician needs, and to feel confident pursuing technical repair.”
The event included a Q&A session with the presenters, who each described their path to being successful in the technical side of the coffee industry, while communicating the important lesson of what they wish they had known when they were just starting out.
“I think it’s such a fantastic concept to have workshops like this, where anyone who works in the coffee industry can learn more about the equipment they use everyday,” said Heartland Tech’s McNeely. “Coffee techs are generally not thought about until something on a customer’s machine breaks and they need service on their equipment.”
Blue Bottle’s Green told Daily Coffee News that quality technicians are hard to find, while confirming that female technicians are even more scarce.
“To be able to come together and spend time with these professionals was amazing enough, but to do so while encouraging and supporting the curiosity of coffee people or budding technicians was incredibly moving and encouraging,” said Green. “I have so much hope for the future.”
According to Phillips, this was by far the most popular technician-focused event that La Marrocco has hosted. He said LM plans to offer other events like this in the future, although he hopes such events will grow more organically within the industry. Said Phillips, “As an educator and a former repair technician, I encourage other organizations to collaborate, diversify, and educate.”