A Conversation with Rachel Dickinson


By Roger Whitman

 I had the distinct pleasure sitting down with Rachel Dickinson. Rachel is a part of the Aftersales Support Team at La Marzocco and a founding member of Let’s Fix It. The stated goal of the conversation was to share thoughts and experiences related to building a career in the world of coffee equipment but the topics ended up a little more widely distributed. It’s fair to say we shared many viewpoints and the following paragraphs are a summation of this conversation.

Let’s Fix It is a women-led technical introduction to the world of commercial coffee equipment. The deliverable, if you will, is to give a feel for what technicians do. To allow anyone with the curiosity to peek under the hood and walk away with a better understanding of what goes into keeping their machine running, and maybe, that additional push to dive head first into the rabbit hole that is repairing coffee machines. 

Based on Rachel’s experience, guidance and support for that next step is an area we can improve upon. Many times the economic pressures of running a business overrule best practices and the equipment repair gig is not excluded. Investment in training is key. Rachel sees new technicians benefiting from shop time as a means of gaining experience without the chaos and pressure of field work. Being allowed and encouraged to make mistakes in a controlled environment is a more effective at building a confident, skilled technician. Without this groundwork laid you run the risk of increased stress, which can lead to burnout, and eventually we have one less technician to rely on. 

One idea that Rachel is hoping to advance is a “Ride Along” program. With the organizing muscle of the Coffee Technicians Guild, Rachel would like to see us offering ride alongs to prospective technicians. This level of experience would help separate the myths from the realities of being in the field and help more accurately assess someone’s interest in making a career change. With the help of the Guild we could make this happen. If you like the idea be sure to reach out to our leadership team in support of this idea.

Another part of the challenge in recruiting and retaining talented folks is the culture that exists not only in the coffee industry but society at large. We should always work at treating people equally and doing our best to avoid the habits of convenience when assessing someone’s concerns or questions. Be aware of the social programming that has occurred and brought us to where we are today, and act/interact in a way that will allow us to build a more equitable and inclusive future. Consider how different backgrounds yield different experiences and competencies and work on bridging the gap to allow those starting from a different place to contribute and feel welcome. Reflect on how someone that doesn’t share external similarities can be held (unintentionally) to a higher standard and level the expectations placed upon them. 

Some additional resources for other folks looking to enter the trade are: