Name: Rob Stephen
Title: Senior Trader
Company: InterAmerican Coffee
How long have you been volunteering for the SCAA?
About 13 years.
What was the first SCAA event you volunteered for and what were your duties?
To be honest it’s hard to remember – It’s been a long journey, but I”m pretty sure I was a panel facilitator in Philadelphia in 1999.
What is your current volunteer role and what are your other duties in Portland 2012?
I currently am an IM (Instructor Manager) on the Professional Development Committee. I help design curriculum for the Sensory Analysis track, and I help staff the classes with instructors and volunteers. I’m going to be the lead instructor for Green Grading and also a new 2nd level class that helps us learn to use the Le Nez du Cafe kit in Portland this year.
Describe your most memorable volunteering experience so far?
My most memorable volunteering experience would of course be as President of the board – it was quite a year and while not always fun, it was very rewarding and I learned a tremendous amount about a lot of subjects, not to mention learning a few things about myself in the process. And of course nothing provides you as deep an insight into the power of volunteering like counting on all of them to make the year happen for the SCAA. But probably the most enjoyable experience I had was being a part of the small committee of volunteers that researched and wrote the green coffee defects handbook, which members now purchase from the SCAA. To see your work in use in coffee labs around the world is a very satisfying and humbling experience. I’m super grateful that the SCAA provided me with an opportunity to make such a lasting contribution.
How has volunteering for the SCAA influenced your coffee career?
I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without having been a part of the SCAA community. As I write these responses I’m in Guatemala, touring farms with customers and building relationships with farmers and millers. I have traveled to over 40 countries and I meet amazing people who teach me all sorts of things on a regular basis. I also have made a pretty good living helping to teach SCAA standards to aspiring coffee professionals, which of course would not be possible if the SCAA hadn’t had the foresight and vision to make them in the first place. Nearly every job I’ve had in coffee has been a result of meeting someone who was able to help me advance my career in some way, and the vast majority of those people I either met at an SCAA event, volunteered alongside for SCAA, or strengthened my existing relationship with them through volunteer service.