For Many Starbucks Partners, Flexibility is Key to Pursuing Their Dreams

On any given day of the week, the Starbucks store in Pike Place offers an inside look at what makes America such a diverse place. The store has become a top tourist attraction in Seattle, drawing people from around the world who want to experience the first Starbucks location.

“I always wanted to work at Starbucks. I had a friend who worked there and he suggested I apply and I love it,” Saniya Mazmanova, who began working at Starbucks in June of 2015.

It doesn’t take long to realize why friends and fellow partners (employees) call her “Sunny.” The 21-year-old barista has an outgoing, optimistic disposition, driven by the passion she has for creating great experiences for the customers in the iconic Seattle store, and by the future she’s creating for herself.

Currently a full-time student at the University of Washington, Mazmanova, came to Seattle in 2005 from Russia and is pursuing a degree in business, informatics and analytics. Along with a full class workload, she’s required to complete several hours of lab time.

For Mazmanova, and thousands of partners at Starbucks, a flexible schedule is paramount to reaching her goals. She’s among the 28 million people in the U.S. who are employed on a part-time basis, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The advantage she has, unlike many who work part-time, is full benefits at Starbucks and the full support of her manager.

“My manager knows I have specific hours that I can work, and specific days when I am available,” she said. “My lab time is important for me to graduate and continue to learn.”

Last semester, she was only able to work about eight hours a week so she could focus on school. Currently, she averages about 14 hours per week. Each quarter Mazmanova chooses her classes, then fills out an availability form and discusses it with her manager. The hours she’s able to work at the original Starbucks store are then determined.

“College is hectic. Knowing I have a place to work that still lets me pursue my dreams makes a big difference for me,” she added. “The flexibility Starbucks offers is what helps me go to school.”

‘Starbucks has expanded my horizons’

When you ask Vanessa Justiniano, 19, for the key to her success, her response is quick and confident.

“It wasn’t easy, it was hard work,” said Justiniano, a barista trainer at the Bird Ludlam store in Miami. “Things haven’t come easy for me and my family, but I understand that it’s the reason why I work so hard to be successful.”

Born in Bolivia, Justiniano moved to Miami with her parents when she was five years old. Her parents left a successful business in the hopes for a better life in the United States. Shortly after their move to the U.S. her dad realized he missed what Bolivia offered and wanted to go back. Her mom didn’t feel the same way.

“It was a difficult choice for my dad,” she said. “He made the sacrifice for me and my brother, but he left a life behind in Bolivia and I understood why he wanted to go back. It also made me more focused on wanting to do my part to help my mom.”

Justiniano landed her first job at the age of 16, and a year later had an opportunity to work at Starbucks. Although she struggled at first, her confidence as a barista grew over time. Soon she was excelling at Starbucks and training other baristas in her store while trying to keep up with an intense class load her junior year of high school.

During her senior year, Justiniano’s mother, urged her to cut back to fewer than 20 hours a week at Starbucks so she could serve as vice president of her class and enjoy her last year of high school.

“I worked with my manager and he was great when it came to scaling back my hours,” she said. “It allowed me to focus on graduating and preparing for the next phase in my life.”

She worked weekend hours at Starbucks and focused on her plan to attend Florida International University, to pursue a career as a nurse.

“I’m going to keep working at Starbucks and have asked my manager to move me to full-time while I’m going to school at night,” said Justiniano, who will be signing up for the benefits program and the company’s employee stock purchase program which are available to any partner who works more than 20 hours per week. Her move to full-time has been a goal for Justiniano, who has wanted to put in more hours as she’s taken on more leadership at the store.

“Starbucks has expanded my horizons and helped me grow,” she added.

‘I appreciate Starbucks flexibility and feel supported’

Maxwell Heller has two passions – coffee and engineering.

By day the 21-year-old, who’s been a partner since 2014, is a barista at Starbucks Shadyside store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At night, he’s studying and completing classes through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan – a unique partnership with Arizona State University that provides full tuition reimbursement for U.S. partners pursuing one of the more than 60 bachelor’s degree options ASU offers online.

Going back to school is an opportunity he didn’t think was possible.

Prior to joining Starbucks, Heller was an engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh. After completing his second year, he couldn’t afford tuition and decided to become a Starbucks partner to save money to go back to school.

“It seemed like a huge challenge to find the time, energy and money to go back to school,” said Heller. “I put that off for a while so when the Starbucks College Achievement Plan came out (in 2014), it just clicked.

Heller was a Starbucks shift supervisor but decided to step down to focus on his classes after eight months at ASU.

“Something that I appreciate is the flexibility that the company has,” he said. “And I feel supported knowing that Starbucks is helping push me forward in my career goals.”

Heller currently serves as a full-time summer intern at the Starbucks Support Center (headquarters) in Seattle, working with the global technology team. Once his internship ends, he will return to the store and resume his duties as Starbucks partner and college student.

“Even though I’m enjoying this experience, I’m looking forward to going back to the store,” he said. “Everyone at Starbucks has a sense of humanity, decency and respect for one and other.”

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