You don’t have to know your career aspirations in order to have a successful career.

That’s what Steve Lovejoy told Business Honors students on his recent visit to Mays Business School. Lovejoy is Senior Vice President of Global Supply Chain at Starbucks Corporation, where he provides leadership in global manufacturing operations and store development.

Lovejoy said he couldn’t have foreseen his current role when he was an industrial engineering major at Purdue University. “Supply chain didn’t even exist,” he told students. “It found me. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated. My journey went with people putting opportunities in front of me and then me deciding if I wanted to take that next challenge. Because when you make changes, you’re taking a little bit of challenge – especially changing companies.”
After 18 years in supply chain, he joined the coffee company in 2010. His responsibilities have taken him internationally as he oversees global operations in all of Starbucks’ manufacturing sites and contract manufacturing sites around the world. He even worked abroad for six months in Shanghai, China.

Lovejoy advised students about making career decisions: “Take some chances, don’t be too quick to rotate out of an experience especially if you don’t like it. Because you have to ask yourself ‘am I learning something that’s going to foundationally help my career later on?’”

He recalled his own experience working third shift in a manufacturing plant as a sanitation supervisor in food operations. “That was not a fun 18 months – not at all,” he admitted. But working in a food company –learning about inspections, sanitation and the FDA – proved to be invaluable for his work at Starbucks. “Did I enjoy it? No. Am I glad I had the experience? Yes.”

Lovejoy also shared insight into Starbucks’ values, mission statement and five-year strategy and how all of it ties together to some of its recent social initiates. Starbucks is offering tuition to college students and opportunities to veterans; giving increased attention to sustainability and nutrition; and raising awareness of various social issues. Though this social involvement is controversial, Lovejoy said the company is simply trying to do the right thing.

“Many of the things we’re doing we’re not trying to do for competitive advantage,” he explained. “We’re doing them because they’re the right things to do. The more companies that join in, the better our world will be.”

Many of the students received this message well. “I really enjoyed his point of view on Starbucks’ social goals and the ensuing discussion,” said Rusty Hundley ’16, a Business Honors and finance major. ”It is great to see companies making an impact outside of their business.” Hundley also said the discussion of Lovejoy’s personal career “highlighted to me the importance of foundational experience and the non-reversibility of some decisions we make.”

David Jordan ’16, a Business Honors and finance major, added: “I have a lot of respect for Starbucks’ mission of being excellent through a lens of humanity not being afraid to voice opinions on sensitive issues.” He said the presentation helped him “see Starbucks as providing a place of comfort and normalcy for customers across the world.”