Predicting Coffee Demand with a Crystal Ball: My summer internship at Starbucks

This week we have a great post by Peter Kazarian (Class of 2016)! You might remember him from his writeup on the Japan study tour and the 2015 Silicon Valley Tech Trek. Just last summer, Peter had a great opportunity to intern at Starbucks in their channel development department. Read on for more about his experience at one of the most exciting brands in the world!

Peter and other 2015 Starbucks Interns, Day 1. Learning what it means #ToBeAnIntern

Peter and other 2015 Starbucks Interns, Day 1. Learning what it means #ToBeAnIntern

Predicting Coffee Demand with a Crystal Ball

That might sound like something out of Harry Potter. But in the plain ol’ world of normal economics, it describes my 10-week internship at Starbucks HQ. At the Starbucks Support Center (aka the “SSC”), the iconic Starbucks green siren lady overlooks Seattle at 2401 Utah St South. Over 3,500 employees walk the halls, typing, sipping and lab-testing our way to caffeine excellence on 6 continents.

How’d I Get There?

How’d I get there? Foster’s On-Campus Recruiting office connected us with Starbucks’ University Recruiting team – and a selected group of classmates interviewed for the pleasure of becoming a “partner,” as all Starbucks employees are known. I got the call and the offer in the middle of my Foster Study Tour in Japan and celebrated a bit too loudly in a hotel lobby for 6am Tokyo time.

The Internship

Internship programs can differ, with some firms hiring based on short term need and budget. Starbucks takes a longer, more deliberate approach. With part MBAs and the rest technical and undergrad interns, there was a formal on-boarding program, weekly meetings with SVP/C-suite leadership, and great experiences like a Sounders game or fancy catered dinners at museums. You also get a free pound of coffee per week, just like if you were a store partner. One of my favorite parts was the connections we were able to form with MBAs from other schools like Kellogg, Booth and Stanford – now good friends of mine who are returning next summer.

My department was under the Channel Development arm of Starbucks, which included Consumer Packaged Goods and anything else not in a Starbucks retail store, like grocery bottled Frappuccinos, licensed stores, and in my case, bulk B2B customers like airlines, hotel chains, restaurants and campus cafes. As part of the Digital and Loyalty team, my main project this summer involved e-commerce enhancements to our B2B team’s website, and forecasting new sales revenue and cost savings from these changes.

The Single Most Helpful Thing

My e-commerce and direct marketing background really helped me understand the data I was working with. Over six years in digital and advertising agencies, running reports, doing quality assurance on microsites, making databases play nice with one another – those were past marketing experiences I could lean on. But I really benefitted from a few specific Foster classes I had taken. Dr. Foad Iravani’s Business Statistics class helped me become more confident at “talking about numbers”, not just reading them. Elizabeth Stearns’ Advertising and Promotions class was great exposure to the artifice and skills that make a good pitch/presentation.

The single most helpful thing wasn’t a class, though. While quarterbacking this complex project between three Starbucks stakeholder teams, I really relied on all the team-focused group work that Foster builds into almost every class. Sure, I was using some technical skills I’d brought with me to Seattle, but things like delegating, project planning, and checking in without micromanaging helped me “land the plane” with a much more complex project than I’d ever done before.

The “Where Are You Going?” Question

And it went great! My initiative (part of a larger plan) received a green light, the final presentation was well received, and I’ll be returning to Starbucks next summer as a Product Manager. Also I got to meet Howard Schultz for like 30 seconds one time. I had a great experience this summer, and I’m lucky to have the “where are you going” question answered early. My Foster classmates and I are happy to head back for the weekly coffee tastings, sample kitchens and food truck pods, once we graduate of course.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

Want to read about more Foster internship experiences? We have a whole category of those!

About the Author

peter kazarian Prior to Foster, Peter Kazarian was a lifelong Californian and veteran of the LA/SF digital/ad agency scene. As a digital strategist, he focused on web strategy, e-commerce and database-driven marketing for major nonprofits like the American Red Cross and the City of Hope cancer treatment center. 

After winning a few industry-specific awards, he came to Foster to move fully into consumer marketing on behalf of for-profits. He really enjoys his UW education and bonding with classmates and alums, and he had a great time working at Starbucks HQ doing Brand and Channel marketing this past summer. When not networking or studying, he spends his time cooking, hiking, and going deep in the blogosphere. And trying to adjust to the PNW’s weather and lack of Mexican food.