By: Laura Zablit
Daniel Lee is a district manager for Starbucks. He loves his job, and he’s good at it (as he himself says). Yet again, he volunteered his time with United Way the other week to support Emerging Leaders in hosting a Winter Wonderland for 50 families struggling to get out of poverty. The native San Franciscan sits down to share his experience as an active volunteer with UWBA.
The great thing about getting older is, as you get older, you define success differently. When I was younger it was all about making more money and somehow title and promotion became important. Now in my life, I define success as how many people I get to help and how many lives I get to impact. And the moment that that changed for me, that is when my life changed for the better.
I have been in operations for almost twelve years now. Part of the reason I stay in operations is not to get results but to develop people. In my role I get to develop people to be better in their jobs. I get to develop people to promote to the next level, whatever is important to them. If they need more money to support their family, I help them to have a better income. That has been my role for the last twelve years and I love it, and I’m good at it. Now working with United Way, I get to take that and do the same thing in the community. Currently, we’re working with youth to help them get their first jobs so that on their resumes, it isn’t just school activities but a barista role, and then slowly growing and moving forward. It is just a continuation of what I love to do and why I stay in the roles that I stay in.
Two years ago I was fortunate enough to win the United Way Believe award. That was an amazing experience, not because of the recognition but because we were able to tell our Starbucks story and inspire other companies to come along and it is more switching to a sustainable impact–helping people get jobs, bettering their lives, aligning our community work with the mission of United Way. There is an initiative called the 100K Opportunity where the top US companies are coming together and have committed to hiring 100,000 16-24 year olds that are not in school and not working right now. The work that they’re doing mirrors the exact work that we’ve been doing in San Francisco with United Way, so that’s been very impactful.
I tell people all the time that I’m born and raised in San Francisco. I went to a lot of the public schools that these youth currently go through, so I know what they go through. So it is my way to give back to the city. I love United Way because the work that they do is truly impactful and meaningful. They help people get their first jobs, they help people who need financial support through the SparkPoint organization. So it is truly staying close to the work and it is impactful work and work that makes a huge difference.
I would recommend it and they do support it. Events in which my family can attend, my peers, and the baristas at Starbucks as well come out in full force. The great thing about United Way is that the work that they do spans a lot of areas. So if you want to help with youth literacy, there are jobs for that. If you want to help with job readiness, there are events for that. You guys do work with financial support and for food banks as well. So whatever your passion is, there is an avenue for that. That is what makes this organization great.
I think there is a point right now in San Francisco where the first step is to help you get your first job. But there is this next level of work that needs to be done, providing them the reading, comprehension, and leadership skills to not just stay a barista at Starbucks, but to move up to a supervisor, assistant, store manager or district manager one day. That is something we want to work on and focus on in the upcoming years. Yes, we have gotten over 200 youth their first jobs in Starbucks, but now it is getting them to develop in their role.
One of the great opportunities of working as a barista at Starbucks is that we have our College Achievement Plan where youth can get a free college education through Arizona State University. As long as they’re employed with us 20 hours or more, we will take care of their education. So that is kind of the first step of leveraging that to have it full circle. It is not just getting a job, but getting a college education that will help you in the future. It is something that we just started a year and a half ago and we have more and more baristas every quarter taking advantage of it because it gives them flexibility. They can work and go to school and as expensive as college is now and how impacted some of the programs are, doing it online through a division one Arizona State University is a big deal.