Opinion / How to call the shots in your coffee career

Living in the present, truth and self-reflection are the greatest assets of any aspiring coffee professional, says Kamal Bengougam

Kamal Bengougam, Managing Partner, Coffee Pilgrims

It would be easy for me to write about the success of Eversys – how a small Swiss company started 10 years ago and became one of the leaders in its field. How did we do that? The answer is discipline, vision and people. 


I want to challenge coffee professionals to have an honest conversation with themselves, because achieving these successes lies with the individual. 


I want to inspire you, but I can’t motivate you. Motivation must come from within. 


I was recently asked “is Eversys going to replace the barista?” I replied – “Do you know any 50-year-old baristas?”. Silence. 


Being a barista is not a lifelong profession, it’s a transient job. When we set out on our careers, we need to make good decisions to progress. 


If I’m starting a business, I need to have a competitive advantage. If I decide to go into a career, I need to learn every aspect of that vocation. 


Understanding these factors will help to ensure success, but we often don’t spend enough time trying to understand what motivates us and who we really are. 


Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. 


I remember vividly at the age of 16 staring out to sea and asking myself what my life would turn out to be. What would I do, who would I love, and what legacy would I leave? 


Now I’m challenging you to go on that same journey. I urge young coffee professionals to ask themselves the same questions. Stop and ask yourself: “What makes me who I am?” 


I have good news for you: You have a gift and a unique passion. But do you know what it is? If you don’t, why don’t you? 


Ask yourself those questions. Our life is a story we are born into. In the beginning, the story is our parents, then we go through our teenage years and come to a crossroads – choose to follow in our parents’ footsteps or start walking on the wild side. 


“Develop a plan to become the person that you were created to be” 


Let’s say you live for a hundred years. How did you make a difference and what will you be remembered for? 


We recently launched an amazing piece of technology into space. The James Webb Telescope allows us to look all the way back to the beginning of time, but we still can’t look even one second into the future. 


We look back at the past, which we cannot change, and we spend time thinking about the future, which we do not know. This is why the only thing that matters is the present. 


Ask yourself where you want to be in three, five, ten years’ time and work backwards, develop a vision and then set milestones. 


Develop a plan to become the person that you were created to be. Don’t try to copy others. 


I spent a lot of my life trying to please other people because I was a foreigner in a foreign country, so I had to make more of an effort. 


But once I realised the importance of being happy in my own skin, what other people thought of me became less important. What mattered most is how I felt about me. 


Whether it’s a dish, a relationship, a perfume, or a cup of coffee, most things in life can be boiled down to three things: Top note; heart; aftertaste. 


The top note should be your identity, the heart should be your purpose, and the aftertaste is your legacy. So, the questions for you are: Who are you? What are you here to do? What is your purpose and what will you leave behind? 


I want to encourage you to believe that you have far more options than you think. What is stopping you from believing in a realm of untold possibilities or from becoming the person you were created to be? If it’s fear, ask yourself: ‘What is fear? Is fear real?’ 


Fear arises from things we believe might happen but have yet to occur. We learn from the past, which we can’t change. We have a future full of hopes, which we don’t know. So, in this present, what can we do? 


What can we do to ensure that we will get to where we want to and that when we get there we’re going to like it? 


The answers are good decisions, knowing who you are and being absolutely honest with yourself. 


Sometimes the voices in our head can be deceiving, either making us afraid or providing a false sense of security. 


Live in truth. Have a clear vision. Don’t be afraid to be passionate. Vocalise what lies within. 


I will leave you with a quote from Herman Hess: 


“I have no right to call myself one who knows. I was one who seeks, and I still am, but I no longer seek in the stars or in books; I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn’t pleasant, it’s not sweet and harmonious like the invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves.”

Kamal Bengougam is an MBA graduate who has juggled commercial ventures with a passion for international development, social justice and value centred leadership. He held the role of Commercial Director at Eversys for more than ten years. 


This article was first published in Issue 13 of 5THWAVE magazine.

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