Map It Forward: A Barista Career Mentoring Event

San Diego Coffee Network and Map It Forward partnered to host a career-building workshop focused on highlighting the skills and career pathways available to baristas.


Photos courtesy of the San Diego Coffee Network

Last month, the San Diego Coffee Network (SDCN) partnered with Map It Forward, an organization dedicated to putting on coffee-career workshops, to host a career-building workshop aimed at helping baristas. Oftentimes, barista jobs are treated as transient or unskilled work, and this workshop brought baristas and coffee professionals from all over Southern California together to discuss potential career options in coffee and to have meaningful conversations with current and future employers about the skills they’ve developed and how to be fairly compensated. The event was hosted in late July at Communal Coffee in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego.

“We decided to partner in putting on the event because we saw the need for career advancement and empowerment in the San Diego coffee community,” shares Kat Adams, co-director of the San Diego Coffee Network, and a barista at James Coffee Co. “There are so many extremely talented and driven baristas here who are overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated. The problem we kept seeing was that great baristas would work as hard as they could, for as long as they could, and then eventually be forced to leave coffee to pursue opportunities that would be financially profitable for them.”

Map It Forward helps baristas identify their skills, ask for fair compensation, and plot out a career in coffee beyond a minimum-wage position.

Money and salary negotiations seemed to be the most pressing topic for attendees. Before the event, founder of Map It Forward Lee Safar sent a survey to attendees about what issues they’d like to discuss, and the group unanimously voted to talk about how to ask their bosses for a raise. “This type of professional development is available in almost every other field, but is hopefully just beginning and will continue to grow in coffee,” Kat notes.

This event in San Diego was the first of a series of workshops aimed at improving working conditions for baristas by giving them tools to market themselves to future employers and ask for the wages they need to continue working in their roles. The San Diego Coffee Network chose to put this event on because they saw valuable members of the coffee community leaving because they said they weren’t making enough money or didn’t see a future in coffee. “[We’d see] a select few of those great baristas would have to leave the position that they loved and were skilled at to move into different positions that made them more money,” Kat shares. “The community was effectively burning out or pushing out their best baristas. … This workshop gave baristas the tools and insight to recognize their own worth, assess their own strengths and goals, and create a career map for themselves to achieve their own goals.”

Attendees at the San Diego event overwhelmingly requested to talk about how to ask for a raise and negotiate wages.

The event helped baristas in the area build a vocabulary and set of skills aimed at helping them advance in their careers. “I left the workshop with a more clear picture of my own career path and the tools and empowerment I didn’t know I had available to me,” Kat notes. Map It Forward will host another event in San Diego on August 28, with plans for future programming aimed at higher-level concepts and ideas, and is hosting a series of workshops in Orange County at the end of August. There are plans for future events on the West Coast, so if your coffee community is interested in hosting a similar event, you can contact Lee at Map It Forward—gather 40 of your favorite baristas and let Map It Forward know there’s interest in your city!

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Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at