Career Insights: Colin HarmonCareer Insights, For Baristas | May 15, 2015
What is your job title?
I am Managing Director of 3fe Coffee and I oversee the different aspects of what we do within our Roastery, Cafe, Webshop, Events, Training and Machine Sales/Tech support.
How long have you worked in coffee?
I’ve worked in coffee since 2008 and opened 3fe in December 2009.
What was your first job in coffee?
I worked as a barista with Coffee Angel in Dublin on a gas-fired espresso machine off the back of a Piaggio Ape. It was cold hard work but Karl Purdy was a great person to learn from.
Do you remember the moment that you decided that you wanted to make coffee a career?
I had always worked in cafes bars and restaurants throughout my years in school and university. My first job was in McDonalds and I worked in a wide range of F&B businesses in the year after that. Initially I decided that I wanted to open a restaurant that had decent coffee but once I started my research I got completely sucked into the coffee side of things. I saw a video online about Flat White in London which had just opened and was creating a huge storm in London and so I bought a ticket to go check it out. I arrived at the shop, ordered a coffee and sat down. Once I had that first sip I knew that coffee was important and incredible enough to build a whole business off. So I did.
How did you act on this decision?
I quit my job at the Bank where I was working and after a few false starts I found Coffee Angel. I entered and won the Irish Barista Championships and a year to the day after I started at Coffee Angel I was in the finals of the World Championships, eventually finishing fourth. After that I found a spot within a city-centre location where I could run a one-man coffee shop and began growing slowly form there. Today we employ 18 people and roast coffee for over 50 businesses in Ireland.
What has been the most valuable investment you’ve made into your own career?
Everything intangible is what I value most, so all the people I’ve met, the questions I’ve asked, the travelling I’ve done and the mistakes I’ve made. Theres also so much information out there that so accessible and free that the only investment required is time. I get frustrated with people that are focused on buying expensive equipment when they can solve a lot of their immediate problems by just doing some research and making some mistakes until they learn something.
What advice would you give to someone that wants to transition from being a barista into another role in coffee?
First up I’d ask them to consider if they definitely want to leave the bar in the first place. Our industry has progressed to the stage where its completely achievable to build a career as a barista and if thats where your skill set lies you should focus hard on that and excel at it. If, however, you are sure that you want to move on, make sure that you make the right choice because I see a lot of people move into roles that don’t suit them and they end up in a worse place for it. If you’re not into manual labour then roasting probably isn’t the job for you. If you have an aversion to sales targets then wholesale probably wont be your bag. There is no role in coffee that doesn’t require hard work and dedication to succeed so don’t trick yourself into thinking all your problems will disappear if you move on from the bar. The irony of all this is that I don’t do any of these things at 3fe and now work as a Managing Director. I’ve always said though that my motivation is to become so successful that I could work bar again because I miss it every day.
What advice would you give yourself, if you could go back to your first coffee job?
Ask more questions and don’t ever think its too late to say you don’t know. A lot of people, myself included, advance quite quickly at the beginning because they’re not afraid to ask questions but you reach a point where you’re expected to know the answer so you don’t ask anymore. I have to constantly remind myself that its ok to now know all the answers, getting to the solution is the important thing, no matter how long it takes.