Little did Mata Sisomnuk dream that when she was hired as a cafe attendant within a few short months, she’d be learning to brew coffee at Starbucks! For a lover of specialty coffees even before she went to work for the country’s largest coffee house chain, this was beyond her expectations of a great job!
Store Manager Martin Schaffner and his team of baristas appreciate the good work Mata does. “She does a fabulous job and is very thorough,” he said. “Mata takes great pride in her work and we are all grateful to her because when she’s here, the rest of us can then maintain our focus on our customers’ needs while she keeps the restaurant clean.”
Angela Mannila, an occupational communication specialist (OCS) with Rise’s DTH Sensory Support team, assisted Mata in her career planning and job search. Mata had been working in Rise’s Spring Lake Park production facility on a variety of subcontract production work for 16 years, but now wanted a dishwashing job in a community business.
When Mata, who is Deaf and communicates through American Sign Language (ASL), applied for the position at Starbucks, Martin was more than happy to give her an opportunity.
“I think if you take the time to invest in people, they will be appreciative and successful,” he noted. “I never had experience with ASL before, but I thought we’d be able to figure out a way to communicate."
On Mata’s first day at work last June, Martin greeted her in ASL; he had taken it upon himself to learn some basic signs so Mata would feel welcome and part of his team right from the start.
Angela did some initial one-on-one training with Mata in her first few weeks to help her learn the many tasks required of the job, including washing dishes, taking out garbage, cleaning the bathrooms, outside patio, and the indoor restaurant areas, and keeping bottles of hand-sanitizer filled.
“Having Angela help us with training Mata on the job really gave her a good, solid foundation for us to build on so she can be successful,” Martin noted. He has since learned more ASL and also writes notes and demonstrates to communicate with Mata.
Angela stops in about twice a month to check in with Mata and Martin to help ensure all continues to go well on the job. If Mata needs additional assistance, like with interpreting safety training or learning new tasks, Angela is happy to help.
Mata works four-hour shifts, three or four days a week; the remainder of her work week, she’s back working on Rise’s production floor.
Mata, who is 39, came from Laos to the United States with her family in 1992. She lives in a group home in New Brighton and takes Metro Mobility to work. In her free time, she enjoys going to the movies, doing embroidery (including her name on her Starbucks apron), and cheering on her boyfriend as he participates on a number of Special Olympics sports teams.
When asked what the best part of her job is, Mata indicated it was the free coffee she gets to drink. Her favorite flavor (this month anyway!) is a Gingerbread Latte!