Fay’s colleagues adoringly call her a success story, having entered the industry with no experience, to now being the Director of Coffee – a professional coffee bean artist! – at Padre Coffee.
But it is what’s behind the scenes of any success story that’s fascinating to uncover. When we view a career trajectory from the outside in, it can appear as if it was all planned, but often what is at the heart of a fulfilling path is a little more mysterious.
For Fay, it all began with following a whim to learn how to make coffee after spending two years at home looking after her small boys.
“When I had the boys, it was an opportunity for me to rethink what I wanted to do in my career and I thought making coffee is a great way to spend my time and be social.”
She started working at Padre Coffee in 2009 with very little knowledge of hospitality or coffee, and has since learned to roast, buy and grade coffee, and now lead a team, proving that we grow into the opportunities we are open to.
“I hadn't really planned on any of it. It's not something I had set out to do on purpose, but I enjoyed the process and progress.”
Like many interviewees, after I’d turned off the recorder for the interview, Fay repeated a few times that she doesn’t think she’s very interesting.
Many of us find it hard to see ourselves as such – and maybe we don’t ever really have to employ interestingness as a metric for ourselves. Maybe what counts is having good people around you that see a spark within you – who see the success story – and hold it for you.
“I have some really great people around me – surrounding yourself with people who are open and there to support you is key,” said Fay.
The team at Padre Coffee are a true example of supporting and holding the excitement for those around them – a quality that has been there from the beginning, said Fay.
“A decade ago, there wasn't a lot of information on how to roast coffee, so we were all learning as we went along and helping each other,” she said.
Roasting coffee requires an artfulness that is part methodical, and part mystery, explained Fay. “It relies on you using your senses – your sense of smell, sense of taste, as well as your instincts.”
Being in tune with your instincts for coffee roasting resembles the creative process – not only do you require a nimbleness, but to truly know what your instincts are telling you, there often needs to be a sense of consistency.
“I definitely I see it as a creative process – we rely on our sense of creativity and our knowledge of the coffee, as well as the tools that we use to keep it all consistent. There are parameters that you need to stay within, but you can always experiment,” she said.
Observing Fay’s day-to-day, it appears this definition of creativity – part experiment, part adhering to parameters – could also be applied.
She describes her days as both ad-hoc and fairly routine. There is a structure to her week as she co-parents her two young boys, but there is also an interest in experimenting with the small parts of her daily life. There is an openness to learning that creates a thread in her days and working life, reminding us all to be receptive to new opportunities, and yet appreciative of those wonderful, mysterious things that are already in the fold of our lives – and the successes we’ve had along the way.
Director of Coffee at
My mornings differ depending on whether or not I've got the kids with me. I usually wake up around 6.30am, but I try to push it to 7am.
I’m not really a morning person, but I’ve been trying to get up a bit earlier lately. When I was on holiday recently, I was getting up reasonably early and I realised how much I enjoy taking my time in the morning – I felt better for the rest of the day. Whereas prior to that, I'd get up, last minute, jump in the shower, get dressed, and head straight out the door feeling quite frazzled. I was over feeling frazzled and getting to work and not feeling like I was ready.
In the last little while I’ve got into the habit of making the bed straight away, too. It’s a small win for the day, and something I learned about from Jim Kwik and his morning routine. He says, "The way you do anything, is the way you do everything” and that really resonated.
The other big thing has been not checking my phone first thing in the morning, because that’s a huge distraction as well.
After I make my bed I’ll make a juice. Then I'll sit down and do ten minutes of meditation. I've tried meditating on and off, but it's something that I keep gravitating back towards because I do notice a difference when I do it.
Then it's just shower, get ready, and head to work around 8am. I don’t live far from Padre, so I’ll either walk or drive, depending on whether I have to pick up the boys from school.
When I first get to Padre, it's usually greeting everyone, having a chat with the team, and touching base about what's happening throughout the day. There's always someone making a coffee, which is really great.
Some days, I have maybe about five coffee – just the other day I was at my desk and settling in with my morning coffee, and then Andy brought an oat milk flat white and then Charlie brought me another filter coffee, so I had three cups of coffee sitting on my desk!
My work will vary day-to-day and it really does depend on whether I’m in the office or the roastery. Sometimes I'll work in the webshop – that's where all of our online orders get packed and dispatched, and we try and rotate shifts. Coffee is all roasted and packed in the production area at the back of the office. I'll spend maybe a day a week in the workshop, which is really great, I really enjoy that. It's a different way of keeping in touch with customers.
I’ll also spend some days doing quality control, which is a big part of my role. It takes some time to ensure we have secured the best quality and correct volume of green beans for our blend coffees, as well as keeping our single origin offering exciting and diverse. When we are looking for a new coffee, we will look at anywhere between six and twenty samples.
I’ll stop for lunch around midday. A few times a week we tend to have a group lunch and someone will go out and get some Mankoushe from up the road, that's very popular and delicious. I tend to fall into a carb-coma after, though! Otherwise I try and bring my lunch.
There’s no set routine for the afternoon. Because I'm a bit of a procrastinator, if I put something off in the morning and leave them until the afternoon, it will certainly get done at a lot slower pace. Even just writing up an email can just take twice as long as it should in the afternoon!
That’s when I usually crave something sweet, and the whole team knows – we can read each other really well. Everyone is doing something different all the time. As my routine varies day-to-day, there's scheduled things that everyone does, whether it be roasting, workshop, packing orders to go out on deliveries, all those things are scheduled and rely on you being quite timely. Then there’s the fun and creative projects we get to work on whether it’s a new product, merchandise or packaging. Everyone is encouraged to be creative and has the opportunity to work on these projects, which is so great – it's important to mix it up.
If it’s the start of the week, I usually stay back till five, and then on a Wednesday and Thursday I'll take off at around 3.30pm and go and collect the boys after school.
They're always hungry, so I’ll make them a snack while they play or sometimes do homework. I think it’s important for them to have some downtime in the late afternoon.
I'll dive straight into making dinner, at which point I try to get the boys to do some reading. After dinner it's showers and chill time before they go to bed.
When I don't have the boys, my evenings vary. I like catching up with friends, but I don't mind going home and recharging – I'm bit of a homebody and I like my quiet time.
I try to be in bed by 10pm because otherwise my newly-formed morning routine just goes out the window!
Part of my bedtime routine is to listen to Binaural Beats, a playlist I found on Spotify. There are tracks for meditation, relaxing, focus, and play. It means I've got the phone and it means in the morning when I'm not allowed to check it, it's really hard. So far I've been sticking to it.
Even though the routine is hard to stick to, I’m definitely feeling good. I have to say I'm feeling better than I haven't in a while.
BEHIND THE SCENES
On letting go of trying to be perfect…
Self-doubt and guilt can follow you around when you’re trying to be a perfect mum, a perfect coworker, and a perfect boss all at once. But there's no such thing as perfection. I think for a really long time I was trying too hard and expecting so much. Being able to let go has been a big one for me.
Everyone talks about work-life balance and I don't know if it exists. I guess it's just feeling good about where you're at and what you're doing at that time. It’s realising it’s okay for things to go up and down.
On building family as a seperated parent…
From the beginning when we separated we ensured that everything was for the benefit for the boys. The transition was a seamless as possible and we would work together to make sure that they were always happy and just know that we're still a family yet. They still felt that. It's been really positive.
We actually went to Thailand all together. It was challenging, it had its challenges for sure, but it was really great the boys loved. That was really cool. We get along really well. We talk when we have to mostly about the boys. We're not going to hang out all the time, but yes, the relationship works well.
On appreciating the little things….
It's the little things and being grateful about those ordinary things makes things extraordinary. I'm trying to be grateful more often, every day about those little things. About the great people that I work with, about the fact that my son still comes into bed the morning and gives me this massive hug. Not everyone has those little things or aware of them, I’m fortunate.
Advice to anyone who is not quite sure which path to take….
Definitely to take the opportunities. I think I was really fortunate that they were presented to me and I couldn't not take them – it felt right. If it feels like you're going down the right path, or even if it feels a little uncomfortable but exciting to you, keep pursuing it.
Sometimes you have to get a little uncomfortable when you’re at the beginning of embracing a new opportunity. The important thing is not to be closed off – my younger self was really quite shy and not really a risk taker. As I'm getting older, I’m learning to be more open – you begin to let go of your fears, or at least work with them rather than against them. That’s where life brings you opportunities.
“As I'm getting older, I’m learning to be more open – you begin to let go of your fears, or at least work with them rather than against them. That’s where life brings you opportunities.
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