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Get to Know Spencer Lee, Your Starbucks Barista


My biggest advice boils down to this: roll with the punches. My name is Spencer Lee. You’ve probably heard my loud laugh or seen my purple hair, and there’s a good chance you’ve ordered a drink from me. I’ve been the manager at the Boise State Starbucks for almost two years now, but I’ve lived a lot of life to get to where I am today.

Before Starbucks, I was working 60 hours a week on salary. When I left that job, I took three jobs at the same time just to be able to pay my bills and survive. One day, I politely told a customer in the clothing store I worked at that I was closing shop in 5 minutes and had to go work at my other two jobs “Why do you have three jobs?” he asked bewildered. “Because life is expensive man” I responded. He told me he was the executive chef at Boise State, and I should consider applying to be his assistant.

I interviewed at Boise State and casually joked that I would even work at Starbucks. Funny how that worked out. I’m beyond grateful to be in a fun, safe, supportive work environment where I have learned how to manage a business, take inventory and crunch numbers, and strengthen my people skills.

As a 28-year-old working on my undergrad, it’s hard to not compare myself to my younger 20 something coworkers who are graduating. The reality is, I didn’t have an easy road. I had some major life changes. I got married at 18 and divorced seven years later. I had to completely start over and I’m nowhere near the person I was fresh out of high school.

I learned that people change so much between the ages of 18-25. So, If you don’t know what you want to do with your life fresh out of high school that’s more than ok. I’m an advocate of waiting to get your degree until you know what you’re passionate about. Your interests are likely to change.

I’m studying psychology online through Grand Canyon University so I can be a therapist one day. I’ve benefited from therapy, so I want to help people through their traumas and be there for those navigating mental health struggles. Over the years, I’ve learned how to not let things get to me. Life is too short to take things personally just because my brain is wired differently. I make it known in the workplace that my coworkers are safe to come to me to vent, get advice, and have someone to listen to what they’re going through.

I think if you put goodness out into the world, goodness will find you. I’ve seen this in my life when I befriended a guy who ran the sushi stand in the Market. He was from Cabo and didn’t speak very much English. People didn’t talk to him, so I took the time to get to know him. I was able to communicate with him because I used a translation app and began to understand the way he talked. I helped him write messages to his boss and he brought me and my coworkers sushi. Just by taking the time to get to know someone, I was able to make a friend and benefit from the kindness he showed me in return.

I love life and want to go out and experience it — but that costs money. That’s why I enjoy the simple things like playing with my dogs and watching my favorite horror movies from home.

It’s my goal to have a tattoo from each of the 50 states before I turn 50. It’s an expensive hobby but working hard for it is worth it. Then I can have permanent reminders of the memories I’ve made and remember why I push myself to persist.

My last day off was April 14th. Am I exhausted? Yes. But hopefully it will all be worth it someday when I’m a therapist, and I won’t have to exhaust myself to do the things I want to do. But for now, it’s my own doing. I’m not proud that I work consistently, but I do it so I can do the things I enjoy. I also realized that you can’t complain about your life if you’re not willing to do anything about it.

And if you’re like me, drink a lot of coffee and hope for the best. Come see me at Starbucks and I can whip you up a drink to get you through your day. If you take away anything from my story, just remember to take life one day at a time — it’s too short to waste.

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