Software Engineering STL

Raising the Bar: Matthew Koch on How Bar Management Prepared Him for Consulting

Matthew Koch

Matthew Koch’s consulting career started in bars.

Except he wasn’t on the front side of the bar wall. He was mixing cocktails, participating in competitions and teaching classes and workshops to non-industry people. Matthew would rotate bars, observing their processes and making recommendations based on their pain points.

In bartending, for example, there’s a concept called batching. Imagine you have a cocktail that requires four shelf-stable ingredients. You can keep them in four separate bottles, or you can combine them, in their appropriate portions, into one bottle.

To batch or not depends on multiple factors: how many employees you have tending bar, how busy you expect to be, your customer base, how your customers order (i.e. from a menu, at the bar…), where your customers are sitting (i.e. at a table, at a bar…) and more.

If your customers are sitting at the bar, want the mystique and enjoy the process, and if your bartender knows the back bar well enough to swiftly navigate the combination of ingredients, maybe pouring from four separate bottles is the way to go.

But combining all the ingredients into one bottle will probably get drinks to customers quicker. Maybe you only need one bartender now instead of two. How much does that improve the quality of life of the one bartender?

Working in management taught Matthew soft skills to move everybody toward a common goal. He’s learned to tailor his speaking style to different personalities, because not everybody responds the same way. He’s also learned, through management, to see the big picture.

After eight years, bar management no longer presented the challenge it once had. Plus, it paid pennies.

For a few years, Matthew tossed around the idea of enrolling in LaunchCode. When he received two days’ notice that the restaurant he worked for was closing, and LaunchCode had two days remaining to apply, he took it as a sign: It was time to move on.

It was extremely frustrating at first, having problems he didn’t know how to solve. But he liked learning the latest technologies.

And the more he worked with them, the more he mastered them. It was a quiet transition: He’d begin working with them and feel like he’d made no progress. Next thing he knew, he’d be explaining how it worked, although he couldn’t pinpoint the moment he’d transitioned to mastery. It wasn’t too much different from learning the cocktail process, actually.

Matthew appreciates the open-endedness of Daugherty’s model; he can travel if he wants to, but he doesn’t have to.

“I’d be completely bored if I had to do the same thing day-in and day-out,” he said.

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