On this International Women’s Day, what better reason to celebrate our female partners (employees) from across Asia? Meet our 4 female partners who share the stories and passions behind their Starbucks journeys, explaining what continues to drive and motivate them to this day.
Rany Men, retail store manager, Cambodia
Although Rany Men’s hometown lies in the Cambodian province of Pursat, her Starbucks journey started in Siem Reap, where she moved to pursue her studies. Joining as a barista at Starbucks Siem Reap International Airport five years ago, she fell in love with the company – and has not looked back.
Rany is now a retail store manager in the coastal city of Sihanoukville, which she calls her “dream job”. She describes one of her proudest moments as introducing Cambodia’s country mug to tourists and seeing their reactions when she explains the cultural symbols and icons it depicts.
She is also particularly passionate about empowering others – just as she herself has been throughout her career at Starbucks. “I love that Starbucks commits to priorities such as a sustainable future, social inclusion and equity at the workplace, which encourage a female partner like me to become a leader for my own store,” Rany says.
“There’s endless access to coffee knowledge and skill development, which I can build for my future career and use to teach my juniors,” she continues. “Watching my partners grow stronger as they learn from new challenges and develop themselves has always been the biggest driver for me. All this encourages me to find myself in the right place to challenge the status quo and become the strong independent woman I am today.”
Ultimately, it all comes back to Rany’s dedication to Starbucks mission and values – which she encapsulates as “providing a welcoming place to everyone” and “inspiring partners to achieve the impossible.”
Amy Lai, coffee master, Hong Kong
A humble cup of coffee really can change someone’s life – as Amy Lai discovered when she purchased her very first Starbucks latte.
“Despite my hearing impairment, the partner serving me at the Starbucks store was very patient with all of my questions, which made me feel valued as a customer,” Amy says. It was this experience that inspired her to join Starbucks, beginning as a barista; nine years later and she is now a Coffee Master at the Starbucks Reserve Coffee Experience Bar in Hong Kong’s bustling Taikoo Cityplaza store.
Being hard of hearing has not held Amy back, with her teammates describing how her resilience, enthusiasm, and positive energy “make everyone’s day brighter”.
Amy herself relishes the sense of connection that Starbucks offers; she describes her greatest passion as not only hand-dripping coffee with different beans to create different flavors, but that she can then, “communicate and share these tastes with different customers.” Her most memorable moments are when she sees customers grow more familiar with Starbucks offerings and become regulars at her store.
“I think Starbucks mission and values are to provide a third place for customers to feel relaxed outside of their home and workplace,” Amy explains, “To create every cup of coffee with a familiar taste and to connect with customers with a human touch.”
Marie Valido, learning and development manager, the Philippines
Marie Valido’s action-packed Starbucks career began 24 years ago after graduating college and has encompassed countless roles – from barista and shift supervisor, to district manager, advanced classroom facilitator and global coffee master.
Having won Store Manager of the Year in 2009 and the District Manager Business Excellence Award in 2013, Marie’s love for learning propelled her to her current position – learning and development manager at Starbucks Philippines, where she is responsible for retail partner training and coffee leadership activities. This included heading the launch of a digital training program available for partners.
“For me, coffee is like music,” she says, “It brings people together, giving us endless opportunities to showcase what we can do and experience life-changing moments.”
One such moment came for Marie on an Origin Experience trip to Sumatra; she then shared her experiences with 300 coffee masters at a Starbucks leadership summit, where she took the opportunity to celebrate the hard work of those involved in growing, processing and purchasing coffee.
“I said every time you drink a cup of Starbucks coffee, remember that it has the stamp of the passion, dedication and above all, quality of all the people who have handled it,” she recalls. “Our work goes far beyond purchasing and ethically sourcing coffee – we help ensure that we enrich the lives of the people and community involved in the process.”
Of course, this includes the partners that Marie loves seeing progress under her training – and for fellow women in the industry, she has some sage advice.
“Grab every opportunity or make the opportunity to grow continuously; we have the ability to shape our path to success. And every time we are given a chance to showcase ourselves, put in the work and do our absolute best – because even if at times we fail, we still gain learning experiences that make us better than what we were yesterday.”
Phoenix Shih, category manager of the coffee and beverage team, Taiwan
When Phoenix Shih initially joined Starbucks on a university classmate’s invitation, she didn’t drink coffee; fast-forward 22 years and now her partners tell her that “what runs through my veins isn’t blood, but coffee!”
Phoenix’s decades at Starbucks have seen her progress to category manager of the coffee and beverage team in Taiwan, where she is responsible for Starbucks Reserve projects such as introducing Reserve coffee beans, certifying partners’ coffee making skills and promoting coffee education and engagement – including hosting coffee competitions and coaching competitors.
Under her training, partners in Taiwan have claimed runner-up title at Starbucks Asia Pacific Regional Barista Championships in 2017, third place in 2018, and been crowned Latte Art Champion three times. Phoenix fondly remembers watching the first-ever competitor she coached take to the stage in 2016 – “It moved me to tears because I realized how happy and proud I was to help my partner grow and achieve personal success.”
Regarding her own journey, she remarks, “I was fortunate enough to experience a variety of job opportunities within Starbucks, which allowed me to continue to grow.” As an authorized SCA Trainer and certified CQI Grader, Phoenix now judges local barista competitions such as the Taiwan Brewers Cup – and even plans her holidays around coffee expos. She says, “I am very lucky that my job is coffee and I want to spread that passion.”
Reflecting upon International Women’s Day, Phoenix shares the African proverb: “When you educate a man, you educate an individual; when you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” She continues, “As a woman in the coffee industry, I hope to use my contributions and influence to help more partners progress and develop, enabling them to make a positive impact and fulfil their potential.”