Little did Mata Sisomnuk dream when she was hired as a cafe attendant that 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 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 maintain our focus on our customers’ needs while she keeps the restaurant clean.”
Rise, a nonprofit agency that provides person-centered employment and job-placement services statewide to people with disabilities, helped 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, 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.
In Mata’s first few weeks, Angela Mannila, a Rise occupational communication specialist, helped Mata with the tasks required of the job, including washing dishes, taking out garbage, keeping bottles of hand sanitizer filled and cleaning the bathrooms, outside patio and the indoor restaurant areas. Angela stops in about twice a month to check in with Mata and Martin to help ensure all continues to go well.
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 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.