Education has enabled Connie Glowney to construct a life she never could have imagined

Connie Glowney

Education is always important. For Connie Glowney (MBA 2013), it has been essential.

School paved her path to confidence, self-discovery and freedom—not to mention her current role as director of international retail operations at Starbucks.

But it was a long and winding path.

Like many children of the 1960s, Glowney grew up in a traditional family where men went off to work and women stayed home to raise children. As a result, she believed that college was something for her brother, not her.

“This view on life definitely influenced me,” she says. “In some ways, I saw the same life for myself. I thought that was what I was supposed to do.”

Dead-end job

Glowney was married at 20 and had two kids by 23. But financial realities dictated she bring home a paycheck. In 13 years with JCPenney, she worked her way up from customer service to the accounting department. Then, at 29, she had a startling epiphany.

“It was incredibly depressing,” she recalls. “These women around me were all in their 60s, had been sitting at the same desks doing the same jobs for 30 years. I realized that would be me. I knew right then and there I had to do something to save myself and I knew that in order to do that I needed to go to school.”

A second life-changing moment of clarity followed in quick succession. Her plans to pursue a degree in hospitality at community college were met by her husband with an ambivalent shrug.

“That’s when I had my second epiphany: he was not going to be in my life.”

A fresh start

Glowney got divorced and worked her way—slowly—toward her associate’s degree while raising her two kids on her own and living on the edge. She applied at Starbucks for the benefits and flexible schedule.

Glowney (center) in her early days wearing the iconic green apron of Starbucks.

She started as a barista, but her hard work and facility with accounting led to a promotion to manager and, eventually, the corporate office. She also met and eventually married John Glowney, a partner much more supportive of her career aspirations.

Starbucks proved to be just as supportive of their family. Even before they were married, Connie was granted family leave to care for John when he was diagnosed with cancer. And it afforded a flexible schedule during the formative years of her third child, born when she was 39.

After she returned to a full-time schedule, Glowney knew her career needed a jumpstart. Surprised to receive such enthusiastic support from her family, friends and employer, she enrolled in the Foster Executive MBA Program.

A Starbucks store in India.

Her prospects improved almost immediately. While in the program, she was tasked to lead operations for Starbucks’ arrival in India. Then she took on Asian operations. And things went up from there.

The currency of confidence

The Foster EMBA was a great education, and a huge confidence boost. “A degree is more than a piece of paper,” she says. “I realized how smart I was, how much I intrinsically knew and how much business experience I had. After getting educated, I had a language to coincide with thoughts I already had.”

She parlayed this into her ever-rising profile at Starbucks. Today she leads a team that ensures Starbucks delivers on its strategic and annual operating plans at thousands locations around the globe.

It’s a long way from the sales floor at JCPenney. Where Glowney once saw insurmountable challenges, she now sees endless opportunities.

Glowney at the center of her Foster EMBA team.

“I’ve always challenged myself to learn more, do more, be more,” she says. “The gifts from actually completing school allowed me to trust that as a partner at Starbucks, as a leader, as a manager, as a wife and mother, my ideas are my ideas and it’s okay to own them or even change them. Owning them in confidence—and letting them go through true leadership—is a power discovery.

“There are many roads that fork. Every day, every week there are choices to be made. Some of those choices will be easy and obvious, others will be difficult or seem dark. When we show courage for ourselves, we don’t always know where the road goes, only that it’s got to be taken.”

-Adapted from a profile in EMBA Edge originally written by Janna Lopez.