ANGEL INTERVIEW NOVEMBER 2017
When you were growing up, what jobs did your parents have?
My grandpa raised me from 8 years old. He did remodeling, construction, interior, heavy duty work. He’s a really hard worker. He’d be really tired and beat from the day, he’d be really sick and tired, but he’d always say “I have to do it because nobody’s going to do it for me, either I do it, or I live out on the street.” He took it more than just a job, a lifestyle. I realized you have to work for your own stuff, nobody’s going to hand it to you.
What was on your mind most when you were a kid?
I guess just trying to find a way to be happy and successful within my own term, not what everyone else would define as successful, just trying find myself at a young age.
What kinds of things were you having to do that made you think that?
Having to help take care of little brother at the time. I was having a hard time going back to school. I was so used to taking care of my little brother, I was kind of stressed out about my life at a young age. I just wanted to have time to myself to find out where I fit in.
When I wasn’t really able to be a kid. I felt all the stress and all the pressure that I wouldn’t allow myself to go have fun, or go play, or go do kid things because in the back of my mind I was so used to being the protector. I kinda grew up faster than I was suppost to. It kind of shows now.
So that’s work. You started working at 6 with your brother. How did you decide that was an important role to play?
I feel that my siblings and my grandpa are the only family I have. I feel like as a big sister and as a role model I feel responsible for the way they grow up I want them to have a better life than I had growing up, to not endure the pain that I endured.
How old were you when you started thinking about getting a job?
Probably like 12, I knew as soon as I turned the legal age I wanted to work. I wanted to make money, to have nice things, be independent.
Do you remember one thing you wanted to buy when you got a job?
I remember when I was little, saying I wanted to have 11 cars by the time she was 18. Here I am and don’t even have 1 car.
When did you get your first job?
A month after my 16th birthday I got hired on at McDonalds. I worked there for about 3 months. I didn’t really like it there at all. The people I worked with were really unprofessional to the max, you wouldn’t believe it. Daily customers was killing my vibe every day. Everybody wants their stuff and wants to go, they really don’t care about you as a person. I feel like I have bigger and better things to do, nothing against people who work at McDonalds, you gotta start somewhere, but I wanted to grow from that experience.
What happened after McDonalds?
I quit working for a couple months. I got tired of not having no money I started applying online. 2-3 months later found another job at a place called Café Rio. They said I had an attitude, but really I was uncomfortable and didn’t really know how to be myself. That’s when I was really closed off and shy at the time. It’s a little bit after I dropped out of school. I wasn’t very social. They took it at as if I had attitude and didn’t like the way I was working. I was just trying my best.
You have learned so many skills here at Prodigy about working under hard circumstances. Do you think now, if you went back to Cafe Rio would things be different?
Since I’ve been working at Prodigy I definitely got confidence in myself a lot more. I’m more comfortable meeting new people and interacting with them than I was a couple years ago. I feel like I have a good level of professionalism than when I did a couple years ago. Overall, my work ethic has expanded since working at Prodigy and if I were to go back to those older jobs I think that I could possibly be one of the best employees that were there. I could bring what I know to show them. When you work in a business, you got to hold your professionalism different than if you’re interacting with someone outside. I’m either going to say something or be the bigger person and walk and find myself a better place like I did here at Prodigy.
When you were working at those places, how did you feel about yourself?
I felt like I knew I could do better than what I was doing. They didn’t appreciate me as an employee. At the time, I didn’t have any work history, I kind of felt like I was lost in within the workforce and trying to find my way. The way they handled the situation with me, instead of helping me grow they put me back a step in a way. In the end I realized my self worth and I kinda found it.
After you were discouraged by Cafe Rio, do you think there was something that influenced you to try again with work?
When I was doing my diversion, that was a life changing moment for me. It was either get my life together and use this opportunity as a way to come back, or put myself in a worse position. I was pretty much taking every and all the opportunities I could get.
So diversion is a way you don’t have to go to jail?
It’s kind of like probation but your charges get dismissed after you complete it. You do what you got to do, you better yourself and we will forgive you for your past mistakes pretty much. And that’s what happened thankfully.
Did you have to do any time on diversion?
I went to Gilliam for 4 days after I caught my case. I was in there for four days, I had to go to the hospital. It was a really dark time. I pretty much woke up in there. They put me on anesthesia, put me out. I woke up in a hospital handcuffed to the bed. I was freaking out. That’s when I got this diversion I just really wanted to be a better person.
Do you remember the moment when someone opened the door and let you out of Gilliam? Who was it that was there?
I had to wait in the Gillian for my court date, then they transferred us all to the Denver County Court. I was waiting in the cell for about an hour and they called me out. It was a big court room, there were a lot of people there, and I saw my grandpa and the attorney sitting there and I was in the middle of tears because I never thought I’d be in that place sitting in that chair. My grandpa was still there of course, no matter what I did. He was always there for me. My attorney told them what was going on with me in my life and what kind of led to what happened, I guess they had some sympathy for me. They decided to give me another chance and I just really took advantage of it. I completed my diversion in August. We had the [Prodigy] birthday party so that was within the same week. My diversion officer came down, so that was kind of my party.
How did [your diversion officer] help you rethink about work?
They were really pushing me to get a job. When she found out about Prodigy, she called me and we were talking and she said, “how would you like to work at a coffeeshop” and honestly in my head I was like that’s no, that not me, but on the phone I said, “sure, sounds good.” When I did the training it was a lot more than I thought it would be. I felt like it was somewhere I belonged. During the training I wanted to come to the training and be around Steph and everyone else. I was going through a really rough time, so if Prodigy can make me feel that way, even after everything I’m dealing with that’s probably something good for me. That’s probably something I need. That’s when I really bugged Steph to hire me every single day, “will you give me a job please.” Yeah, I got here.
What was your idea about coffeeshops?
I couldn’t imagine myself [there]. I felt like it was a bunch of kinda high class people. Even I think now, I never would imagine in my life I’d be working as a barista. Sometimes I’m still surprised by it. But I find joy in it. If I would have never had this experience, I would have never found something that I’m passionate about.
Can you think about what it is about work now that makes you feel motivated?
I like being held accountable, not everybody does, but I like to know that people depend on me, there’s places I gotta to be, and there’s things I gotta do and I like to have that in my life. It makes a schedule and finds purpose for me. That’s what keeps me coming, is knowing that I have somewhere to be and I have things I need to get done or else it will throw things off track and I don’t want that for my team. I think that’s really what motivated me to be coming in five days a week. I even work six days straight and I’ve never done that in my life.
Do you feel like you have to tell yourself something when it’s really hard? No one’s perfect and no one has good days every day. Sometimes we hate our jobs. Is there ever like that that happens and is there something you tell yourself that keeps you going?
Do you feel like you have to tell yourself something when it’s really hard? No one’s perfect and no one has good days every day. Sometimes we hate our jobs. Is there ever like that that happens and is there something you tell yourself that keeps you going?
Did someone or something about Prodigy change how you think about work?
I’d say Steph. Steph has been one of the best bosses I’ve had since I’ve been working in the work industry. Just goes to show me, I know it’s not all about work, there’s more to life than just working. You can do your job but not everything just has to be about work. Steph has a good relationship with all her employees, she’s understanding. Being able to understand there’s more to life than just work, you can’t just always throw life to the side for work because sometimes life is going to throw things at you that you don’t have control over. A lot of other places don’t understand that or don’t really care.
How is the job helping you in every day life?
I’m saving up for a car now, in process of buying a car. I’ve been doing payments on it. I’m going to pay it off this week when I get paid. I’ll be driving it before next year.
What color is it?
It’s a gold Saturn. Without Prodigy I wouldn’t be able to do that. The whole reason I want to get my car is so I’m able to be reliable with work and be here on time and be able to go to sleep at night without stress for how I’m going to get to work in the morning. I used to have to wake up at 3am just to be on the bus at 4:30am to be to Prodigy by 6am. There’s been days when I’ve only got 2 hours sleep and still managed to get up and come. If I didn’t really care about Prodigy, I don’t think I’d be going that far, honestly. I would be like, I could find another job closer, but it’s not like that . The trip’s worth it to me. If I have to wake up at 4 every day to go make my money then I’m gonna do it, and that’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s paying off. Today I just woke up at 4am again.
Can you remember a particular moment that you dealt with differently than you would have in the past?
Closing. There was a problem with me closing. I was working by myself and coworkers weren’t happy with me, I came into work and we had a conversation and I started crying my eyes out cuz I felt sad that’s how they thought about me. That was really rough for me. Instead of calling the other person out on their stuff, I thought “I’m gonna be a bigger person and take what you’re telling me into consideration, I’m gonna try to be my best every day, I’m gonna try really hard to make you happier.” I’m a lot more understanding and a lot more caring. I was really just mean before. I’m not that person anymore. It’s a hard skill. But you gotta learn from it because they’re saying that for a reason.
I would take feedback kind of critical before. I would be offended and would take things out on the person. Since I’ve been working here, I’ve kind of managed how to rule that out. Just being more understanding of where the other person’s coming from. Instead of being mad about it, I think about it.
Now that you’re a shift lead, what’s changing for you at work?
I’m still managing how to learn things myself and still teach other people. You don’t have to know everything to be a leader. You just have to be open to taking other people’s look at things. A leader isn’t someone that knows everything. That’s not a leader. A leader is someone who is willing to learn more and be open. I feel like being able to learn for myself and then teach other people. I’ve never had that responsibly before, and it’s pretty cool. But I’m still managing all that. Being professional about it, not abusing my authority. I’m trying to balance it out.
JAIME INTERVIEW NOVEMBER 2017
Prodigy is fortunate to have a new apprentice, Jaime, working on logistics for the coffeehouse. Jaime finished his pre-apprentice training this fall and introduced us to a skill set he calls “tinkering” which has since become a valuable asset to running the coffeehouse. Prodigy has brought on an educator, Kevin, to launch an alternative apprenticeship for Jaime and others to study the technician elements of operations. Kevin and Jaime have built a mobile tap system that we used at the Grand Coffee Bazaar, created exterior signs, and hung new menu boards. They are working on building a training lab in Prodigy’s basement.
One of Prodigy’s Key Performance Indicators is for apprentices to develop an innovation mindset, an emerging indicator of career success. An innovation mindset is the combination of a growth mindset (overcoming this challenge will be good for me), a maker mindset (I want to generate experiments to overcome this challenge), and a team mindset (I know how to benefit from the minds of others for this challenge). This conversation with Jaime brings us a vivid picture of someone actively developing these three mindsets at Prodigy. After the conversation, I wondered why I was so curious about Jaime’s imagination and later realized I was face to face with a maker mindset. Listen for signs of these three mindsets developing in Jaime and see what interest they spark in you.
As a side note, you’ll hear Kevin’s voice toward the end of the interview when I include him in the conversation.
When you were growing up as a kid, was there someone in your life who was working that you noticed?
What kind of work did he do?
He used to be a mechanic.
How old were you?
Seven, eight years old. I always wanted to go with my dad to where he works. I never got that opportunity to see how he works mechanic stuff. That's how when I saw my dad start working on the truck that he had, he used the skills he got from where he was a mechanic to repair his trucks. It kinda got me interested. I was never good with cars, but I know that my dad normally tinkers with cars to see what's wrong with it to repair it. For me, I like to tinker and make it.
What did you notice about his tinkering and making that was impressive to you?
That it's not impossible to repair something or to make something if you put your mind to it. Because my father he never had the proper tools to repair some of his furniture he had that is really important. He worked with basic tools like a screw driver and fire and all the other stuff he doesn't have. He has but he doesn't have the advanced technology that we have today. But he still did it with basic tools.
What kind of problems did the trucks have that he was trying to fix with basic tools?
My dad will want to give it a new attachment. But he didn't have the I think it was a bit a specific bit that he needed to drill a hole so what he did is I think I remember that he got a hammer and a nail I believe and what he did is he pounded it, I can't remember much. I was 8 or so. I can't remember much of the details on how he added that attachment to the truck, but he did it, it worked and sadly the truck didn't last long. it was a pretty old truck so it went to the scrap yard.
That's an early memory that you have of your dad working. What did you learn about an attitude about work from him?
Focus. He was very focused. Probably he got it because he was...I can't get into much detail...he was very focused.
When do you think you started to think about the idea of work for the first time?
I didn't really start thinking of the idea of work. I started thinking of the idea of how can I start tinkering. Somewhere around middle school is when I started to tinker. That's when I discovered tinkering, how I could tinker with all sorts of stuff.
How did you discover it, do you remember one thing that happened?
Yeah, we were a poor family of course and we desperately needed the money, so what my dad did is went out and looked for metal. Old machines and stuff like that and started taking it apart. I didn't want to do it, but little by little it started catching my interest and I started doing it.
What was he going to do with the metal?
Sell it to the scrapyard to get extra cash.
How does that work? I don't know much about that.
It's a complicated process. You have to have a certain amount of pounds of metal in order to scrap it. So it has to exceed, I think, 1015 pounds of metal. Then you can scrap it. It has to exceed it higher, but it can't go any lower. The more the better basically.
How much would you get for a truck load of metal at the scrap yard?
Most, it changes over the years. At first my dad got a hundred and twenty dollars. I don't know for how much metal. I really don't know. You normally weigh the truck and driver at the same time and subtract the weight. They weigh the truck and the driver and the amount of metal that's in the back and then when the truck is fully unloaded they would measure it again, subtract it from that and that's what you get.
What was on your mind the most when you were about that age? What kinds of things were going through your mind?
A lot of stuff. I imagined a lot of stuff. I was very, a thinker. I like to think a lot. When I was a kid.
What were you imagining or thinking about?
My own little world, mostly. Like kids like to do, to play around imagine their own little story. How it goes, if you're the hero or the villain, you know? That type of stuff.
When you were in middle school, you said you started to tinker. So, tell me more about that. You said you discovered it from watching your dad collect metal, but when did you exactly find your way into tinkering?
When I broke a television with my sling shot.
Tell me this story, please!
My dad wasn't home in time, so I decided to go out to the ally. My dad forbid us to go to the ally, but I did it anyways. So what I did is I got my sling shot to start picking up rocks from the ground. Then I saw an old broken television next to one of those giant trash cans that we used to have. It was right there sitting there, I thought I'd do a couple target practice. I started shooting rock until I managed to break it. Then I was curious what's inside. I started looking around to see that it was made of different components. It's one of those old televisions, really big blocky ones. So I got curious so I decided to see what my dad brought today in his junk truck. So I went and started looking for other stuff to see if I could break and see what's inside. I had my slingshot, but with the tools he told us specifically not to use. And so I did that and I started to break it apart, breaking stuff apart. Then I got curious how the things functional worked. That's when I broke one of my dad's tools. He didn't know it was me. I never told him. It stopped working. He just got mad and threw it away and said tools fail all the time, so I didn't get crap.
Where did your mind go from that experience?
I had an opportunity actually to dismantle a house with my dad. The owner didn't want the house, he wanted to destroy the house, but first he needs to get rid of whats inside. My dad came took me and my brother to this house because it was a good opportunity to look for more metal. So what I did is I said yes, it caught my dad off guard but he went with it. He didn't expect that I wanted to go see. It turns out that inside a house you can really do a lot of stuff there was literally a hidden compartment that goes directly to the basement and comes to a bedroom in one of the rooms. It was like a secret escape route or a secret tunnel preventing your parents knowing where you were at.
Do you think it was built into the house or someone created it?
It was actually constructed. It was made. It was made. The house was made but good thing is that there was no history in the house and no-one was killed or anything. It was just a secret compartment to go to the basement.
So how did your mind go after you had the TV experience and this house experience...how did you kind of conclude that you're a tinkerer. You said you decided that in middle school.
I decided it when I first, I started taking things apart but I never started building anything. Then of course I went to a pottery class and started making things out of clay. I can actually fashion the clay to my will. Then I was saying, why can't I do that with other stuff. Why can't I do that to wood, plastic, metal, aluminum, or any other stuff that I can find. Down to stone, anything. So I started doing research on how technology used to work in the past that they used to use flint and stone and wood and fire to make their tools. Then I was like, that's very interesting. So I decided to see if I could reconstruct that. It took me years and years to perfect it until I am right now a pretty good expert on how to make my own tools out of wood, stone and flint. So I can do my own stuff. I know how to construct a bow out of wood from a tree and know how to construct grass into rope. So it took years of practice, but I got the hang of it and I started to decide to go a bit more challenging. I started working with stuff that's more complex to work with is metal. Because metal needs to be heated.
How old were you at this time?
At this time I was 18 when I started to work with metal. Not just iron, but steel which is much tougher than iron.
Did you do that at home, in a class, or a job?
At home. I was still in school at the time, but I never did my homework, screw the homework time to go outside. I learned a lot from games how they constructed things. I used video games, I used books, I used TV, shows I watched from TV. I put them all together then I go outside and try to copy the same way they did it or come up with my own strategy to make it happen. That's when I started to keep going deeper and deeper to tinkering. I never told my brother about that or my older sister. My older sister started to figure it out by the time she started catching up what I was doing. And of course they were trying to put me down, but I never bothered to pay attention to them, so I still kept going. Then I was like, my mom had a problem. One of the couches were broken. But it was one of those metal couches that would open up and then close. That you could extend your foot. I repaired it in secret without them noticing. After that I learned, somewhere around 17 or 18 is when I got my first job. I used to work at a moving company. They have a whole lots of stuff and they want you to know how to work with pipes, faucets, and stuff like that so you can repair yourself if a new person's coming in. They don't want this, they want you to put that every day. Have to put a bed together, we did it. Such as I learned that knowledge, I started advancing more of my tinkeringness to the point that my parents accidentally broke their faucet and I repaired it again in secret.
Why do you think you did it in secret?
Cuz I didn't want them to know that I was really good at this stuff. Until they discovered that I repaired the faucet. So that wasn't good news for you. You wanted it to be a secret. I wanted it to be a secret. But my mom was, this happened a year ago that my parents discovered that I know how to fix stuff, know how to make things, or modify something to make it better.
What were you afraid would happen if they found out?
They wouldn't approve. But my mom definitely approved. She approved with no doubt, without thinking it twice she just said, I like it. My mom wants me to help out with a lot more stuff, a lot more bigger projects. Such as we're moving to another house. She wants me to make her a shed that we can store soda cans. Cans that we're done with throw it in that shed, so that we can start collecting a bunch of cans and earn a little more cash even though we're working full time, everybody of our house gonna be working full time jobs. My mom wants us to get a little bit more extra money for fun.
I have a question about your first job at the moving company? Was that a good experience for you?
It was a pretty bad experience because I didn't know what was wrong with my back at the time. So lifting things were not a good option.
How long did you stay there?
I didn't stay there for too long. It was during a vacation from a school vacation. Summer vacation. That's when I was working with one of my uncles at a moving company and I didn't stay there for too long, probably a good four months.
Any other jobs before Prodigy?
I used to work first was a moving company then a fast food restaurant. Burger King, Steel street.
And was that a better experience than moving?
It was good but still they want me to lift a lot of heavy stuff, because I was the tallest dude there and I was a lot stronger because over time tinkering with things and moving things lifting things gets you a bit stronger and I was stronger. But like I said, I have a back problem, its something I was born with, doctors can't really fix it.
You have a shirt on that says "I've got your back."
Yeah, it's a pretty cool shirt. Speaking of I got your back I just wanted to wear that.
Ok, so you had those two jobs, how have you felt about your job searching process, or how have you felt about your future ability to get a job in tinkering?
I was really hoping to, maybe I was thinking to open my own company. People have somethings that broken, we can repair it for them. If they don't want to get rid of it, we can repair for them. Or to examine the problem and see if it's repairable or not. If it is repairable, we will fix it for them. If it's not then we'll have to tell them the bad news.
What were your first thoughts about Prodigy?
At first I was not going to like it. I thought I was like, no, it's not going to be my type of skill. I know it's working with coffee, but I don't drink coffee. I drink tea. But when I said, what the heck, it's a job. So I might as well take it.
How did you find out about it?
I actually came here. I was introduced to Steph about a job. I might as well take it. I did the application by myself, surprisingly. A little help from my brother, but the majority of it was just me.
And then, so your first thoughts not gonna like this. And then did something or someone about Prodigy change how you thought about it?
It was actually a thing that changed it. It was actually the coffee bean itself.
Tell me the quick story about the coffee bean.
That different coffee beans from different worlds have different tastes and you can brew it differently to your will.
What did that mean to you?
Tinkering with coffee and making coffee taste how you want it to taste.
How did that change your idea about being at Prodigy?
At first I didn't like it but when I started going deeper and deeper I thought, this is quite interesting. I didn't know you could mess with a coffee bean to make it taste really good. I thought coffee was just coffee. You know people come and get coffee and go, but you can actually get a pretty good coffee if you brew it correctly. Or brew it how you want it to be brewed.
How did you guys [Jaime and Kevin] start working together?
Kevin: It was Steph and Brady. They were talking about it. The different skill sets of the potential apprentices and Jaime and another apprentice came up they defined them as having this other set of skills and maybe sort of like when Jaime said, I wasn't too thrilled about the whole coffee thing, he didn't know a lot about it, or he doesn't drink coffee. But there were other things that Jaime had mentioned in his interview and in the training. And that I think turned on the light for Brady and Steph and they were kind of like, we want to branch out to more apprentices we don't want it to be just about coffee. We want to help apprentices develop other skills. So that's kind of where we're at. This is a pilot program. You're part of creating a program that I think we're hoping is going to last.
Have you had any new thoughts about yourself in this short time you've been working here at Prodigy?
Mostly not really for myself because I really don't care what happens to me. I normally will care what happens to my family. My parents, especially my dad. Because my dad really needs us to be there for him more than ever because right now he's already at his final hours of life. And this new house it might help us or it might just screw us over. And that's why even though I am still working at Prodigy I still need to look for a second full time job that I can at least make more money to help out my mom mostly because she knows deep down in herself but she doesn't like to admit it that my dad is not gonna be there for long.
So you've been seeing yourself as helping your family by working at Prodigy in a small way.
Yes and hopefully in the future I can open my own company or work at a company exactly in my same skill set in the long run basically.
Kevin: You talk about how you see Prodigy as a way for you to provide for your family. But how has Prodigy any different from Burger King or different from the moving company that you worked at? You're providing for your family and a jobs a job? So why is Prodigy different?
That's actually a really good question. To tell you the truth, Prodigy is actually way different than the jobs I had. Here at Prodigy even though it's just a job, we don't care that it's just a job. We're here to help out with others, to help out people in their time of need, or to help them upstairs. Here everybody works as a team. And the jobs I used to have, we didn't work as a team. They would literally throw the newcomers into a job without knowing the basic skills they need to make the job a lot easier. That's something I didn't like. The moving company, same thing. I was only with I couldn't be with my uncle for too long because he works at a much higher pay at a different area. I had to depend on strangers to help me out but they're too busy doing their own thing. So what they did is put me on cleaning duty and then they tell me to come with them to do this, what am I suppost to do. I didn't even know what we do. And then I went to used to work at a fast food restaurant, same situation. They leave you to do this when you get done they say you did it wrong. I was like you guys didn't tell me exactly where to put it so I guessed. Then I used to work at a Walmart. Same situation, but this time a little different because they have people there to actually help you. But still went the same path, they still leave you out there in the blank. And here was different. You guys actually show how to work things, how to use the machines and how to properly brew the coffee and how to pat it down with the equipment you got upstairs and everything. And it's different which actually I did enjoy because I mostly been struggling most of my life. And that's why my brother and my older sister, now my little sister think that I'm quite useless because I can't figure things out. And I'm like, you guys aren't telling me anything how to work this, how to do this. How am I suppost to know. I can't read that well. So that's why it's different here than out there. Made me a lot more comfortable to come here than other jobs.
If you were to change one thing about Prodigy for the next apprentices what do you think should change.
A work space for the new apprentices. I want them to have a nice comfortable environment to come to, instead of going to that other meeting room we end up getting kicked out 24/7. So that's why they want, brady and Steph want us to make this basement the comfort zone. They want this spot we're on right now, the classroom. They want us to treat it as a classroom, this place for them to come.