Year of Graduation: 2013
Major: Political Science
Position: Supply Chain Manager, Fulton Beer, Minneapolis, MN
Please give a brief description of your current position and where you are working.
My current position is Supply Chain Manager for Fulton Beer, which places me in the heart of our office attached to the production plant in Northeast Minneapolis. Here I can virtually monitor the beginning of the process right to the very end. It is my responsibility to make sure that we have the right raw materials in stock to brew, the right containers to package finished beer, and also, to work with distributors to develop forecasts and prepare upcoming deliveries to ship and sell the packaged product.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
During my junior year at CSB/SJU I was looking for something outside of the norm. It was going to be my last summer before graduating and entering the workforce indefinitely, so I wanted a fun and fulfilling opportunity where I could still get legitimate work experience. If I was headed for a career in politics, I wanted a job where I could get my hands dirty. In the Star Tribune, I had read about three Johnnies who were opening a brewery in downtown Minneapolis - the first since Grain Belt left for St. Paul in 1976. The day of the Taproom Grand Opening, I got a group together and went to go drink some cold beer and maybe to convince them to let me clean floors and scrub kegs, which is exactly what happened. It was a summer to remember, and I was fortunate that they wanted to hire me back when I finished school.
What skills are important in your field?
Communication is extremely valuable both internally and externally. There are so many moving parts in the production process that it is critical to have everyone, from the front of the house to the back, working on the same page in order to efficiently and effectively churn out quality craft beer, of which there is a high bar in our market. If one link in the chain is broken, the process can be derailed very quickly. Outside of Fulton, we are constantly working with vendors, distributors and customers. Maintaining good working relationships with sales representatives is important when negotiating contracts and prices. Luckily, there are plenty of genuinely good people in this industry - more than a few fast friendships have started out as sales solicitations.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
The best part about the job is being a part of the great brewing community in Minneapolis and the Midwest at-large. There is a deep tradition among creators and artisans in this area that Fulton gets to tap into, which connects us to some of the best bars and restaurants in the country, community engagements and fundraisers, to weekend block parties and festivals. After a hard work day, there is nothing better than cracking a cold one with your coworkers, especially when said cold one is the fruit of one' own labor. On the other side of the coin, we run a very large operation that is growing at a fast rate and extending itself into new, untapped markets. With this comes a lot of stress and anxiety. If I get some numbers wrong, it could mean that we lose a tap line at a bar, or worse, not be able to brew a batch due to a shortage. Knowing that I work with such honest and driven people at Fulton helps me sleep at night.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
For most of the time I was studying at CSB/SJU, I intended to use a Political Science degree to find a job in that field. The only thing ”political" about my career at Fulton, is that I tend to get animated talking politics after a couple IPAs. That being said, it was the variety of opportunities provided by a liberal arts institution that helped me find my path. Two sculpting classes helped me get in touch with my creative side, I was able to dive into the social science of food and culture in Anthropology, and I was able to dissect the Minnesota bill that allowed breweries to open taprooms in a course on Public Policy. And in hindsight, access to the Johnnie/Bennie network was just as important as my studies (after all, it did play a big role in being hired at Fulton). I can say that I still benefit daily from the communication and social skills I picked up while being active with the Eugene J. McCarthy Center.
What activities/experiences were you involved with while at CSB/SJU and how have they been helpful in your career at Fulton Brewing Company?
I certainly have to attribute some of my interest in this field to Brother Willies, for allowing me to acquire a taste for local craft beer many an evening. Conversations with the bar manager got me intrigued in the story of how a crisp, foamy beer came to be sitting on the bar in front of me in Collegeville - how was it carbonated, where did the aluminum can come from, who made it?
Also, volunteering at the Sugar Shack was a great introduction to small-scale food production and the satisfaction when you get to hold a finished product that you're proud of. The food and beverage production can be labor intensive and monotonous - from drilling hundreds of holes in maple trees in the Sugar Bush to adding log after log to the stove that heats the evaporator. However, hard work only adds to the rewarding nature of covering some pancakes in a top grade syrup that you had a hand in making. The same can be said of brewing beer.
What advice do you have for CSB/SJU students thinking about a career in the beverage industry?
I have found the beverage industry to be one of the most varied workplaces in the world, meaning there is endless opportunity. There are positions in every field including computer science, lab testing, retail and merchandising, fabrication, sales, graphic design, event activation, accounting, logistics, and you name it. There is even a place for individuals with a BA in Political Science and very little science or accounting background, who was enthusiastic and had a willingness to learn. The industry touts economies of every scale - from the biggest companies in the world, like Coca Cola and AB InBev, to local nano-breweries that can fit in your living room. Craft beer is still exploding, and Fulton has had the fortune to grow quickly into a regional brewery, which means exciting access to new markets and consumers across the country. In my 5 years, there has hardly been a dull moment, and there is always a new ambitious project on the horizon. We're frequently adding new personnel to match the growth and the new responsibilities that come with it. Three years ago, we did not have a formal Marketing department, and now we have four full-time employees. First and foremost, we are manufacturers - that can mean long hours watching a conveyor line, sitting at the desk crunching pages of financial statements, or pounding pavement trying to earn one more retail account. Any job can really feel like a job at times, and this industry is no different, but we're proud to have a friendly and diverse staff from a ton of different backgrounds that can come together at the end of the day and be proud of their work.