Tractor’s terrific trio keeps the beer farm in proper working order

Posted: April 2, 2015 by cjax33 in NM Women in Brewing
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Most of the time we have our subjects pose with a beer. They chose cute instead. From left, Melissa Martinez, Nicole Duke, and proud mama Skye Devore.

Most of the time we have our subjects pose with a beer. The Tractor staff chose cute instead. From left, Melissa Martinez, Nicole Duke, and proud mama Skye Devore. And at least one baby was kind of looking at the camera.

Back when the Crew decided to do a series on women in craft brewing, Tractor seemed like one of the more obvious places for us to contact. The only real question is how many staff members would there be for us to interview. The final answer was three, but admittedly it could have been an even bigger group. Tractor has long been at the forefront of hiring women for key positions.

I called upon the triumvirate of leadership to sit down for an interview Wednesday afternoon. The Tractor triumvirate consists of Skye Devore, the brewery’s co-owner, Nicole Duke, office and operations manager, and Melissa Martinez, who manages both Tractor taprooms. We were also joined by two adorable young ladies who kept us all smiling, but they did not have anything to say about beer since they are clearly a bit shy of their respective 21st birthdays.

NMDSBC: So specifically for each of you, what does your job entail here?

Skye: I am the co-owner and in charge of finance, marketing, and helping with the front of house.

Melissa: I manage both taprooms and (front-of-house) employees.

Nicole: I am the ‘Brew Princess’ and I manage everything in the office and operations …

Skye: She saves all the rest of us.

NMDSBC: How did you each get into the business side of a brewery?

Skye: The former owner of Tractor was having a really hard time with finding someone to run the business and make sure everything was going OK. So he asked me if I wanted to do that part of it as a side job. So I said sure, why not? That’s evolved into where we are now.

Melissa: Through friends, actually. I got this job out of a recommendation out of somebody. I transitioned jobs. I wasn’t actually planning on applying, but I said what the hey?

Nicole: Same thing (as Melissa). Lauren (Poole), who was working at the taproom at the time realized Skye needed more help as she got busier. So I came on from there. I transitioned out of some (other) jobs as well.

NMDSBC: When you meet someone and they ask what you do for a living, what is their reaction to the fact you work at a brewery? Does the response differ by gender or by the age of the person asking?

Skye: People say it sounds like fun, but there’s always kind of the general assumption that that means you’re the bartender.

Nicole: Yeah, all the time.

Skye: Yeah, that’s what you do. So then they ask what do you do, that (answer) always intrigues people a little bit more. I don’t notice that big of a difference between people, but I’m not really the kind of person who looks for different responses.

Nicole: I totally agree with you there. From men to women, I always get a great response from men. Oh, awesome. Because it’s like the dream job. I think women are just a little less excited, maybe … maybe it’s more foreign to them. But I always get a really good response from men.

Melissa: I always get a response like them expecting I’m this huge party animal and can you hook me up kind of thing. But generally they don’t know what I do. They just have this assumption that if you work at a brewery, you drink a lot, pretty much.

NMDSBC: We are finding more and more women in positions of authority at breweries across New Mexico. Do you find that the industry as a whole is becoming more accepting of this or is it just the natural growth of the industry as men can’t do everything?

Skye: I can remember to my first GABF (Great American Beer Festival) or Craft Brewers Conference and it was the meeting of flannel shirts and beards. So, I think that that maybe was the reason that craft beer was a smaller percentage of the market was because they were (only) catering to flannel shirts and beards. And so as the industry grows, there is interest from people that aren’t like that. So that really helps. So now the Pink Boots Society is starting a New Mexico chapter. Now there are enough women in the field that it is becoming significant. You aren’t necessarily alone or one of few when you go to things.

NMDSBC: Not everyone starts at the top in the brewery or in the front of house. Melissa, you started as just a server and have since earned your way up the ladder. What has that experience been like for you?

Melissa: It’s been interesting, because not only did I start out liking only one type of beer, a girly beer, but my palate has changed a lot. A lot of people don’t really expect you to know a lot about beer if you are a girl. But they’re generally like, oh, I didn’t know that about beer. I feel like a lot of people don’t know that I am in a position of authority, because I work really hard. Most managers just have keys. When I tell people they’re like, oh, I never knew.

NMDSBC: Maybe you should yell at more employees. Then the customers will know you’re in charge.

Melissa: I really don’t like to alert people, because then they start coming to me.

Skye: It fosters a team environment to have our team the way it is. Melissa has done an amazing job with it.

NMDSBC: But what has that challenge been like managing two places? I know you have been rotating the staff between taprooms, too.

Melissa: It’s been very hard, but luckily I have some amazing employees and I have some amazing lower-level managers that I can count on to help me with making everything run smoothly.

NMDSBC: The coordination of that much humanity is impressive between the taprooms.

Skye: I think we are, maybe a lot of breweries are, maybe not, but we’re probably female-heavy in the front of house. We are always debating do we need to hire another dude? (All three laugh) And so, I think for us, more than I imagine for a lot of other breweries just because of all of us being in charge, we sometimes have a problem balancing out the guys. It’s interesting.

Melissa: There is this misconception that you don’t have beautiful women (serving), guys won’t come.

Nicole: Do you want your beer from bearded flannel guy or do you want your beer from Coors Light sexy swimsuit poster girl? We’re balancing those stereotypes.

NMDSBC: Nicole, your job has also evolved over time. At first you were doing a lot of what events manager Carlos Contreras does now. How has that shift in responsibilities been like for you?

Nicole: When we were trying to balance some other things, trying to tackle some other projects, it made more sense that I was working on events and things. The evolution for me is a huge relief. While I did my best to really coordinate events and things like that, and the artwork, Carlos has been such a powerhouse and so much more suited to do that and focus on that for me. At the time, I wasn’t always able to put my 100-percent effort into those things. I think that is where you can see his effort. It’s great to have him on staff so I can focus on the tasks that I need to get done and do them as best as I can.

Skye: It also has been able to have you focus on tasks and projects that aren’t necessarily so (event-oriented). Nicole handles the whole Beer for a Better Burque program. She does everything for that. She also started our sensory panel. That’s been something that not everybody sees all the time. It’s just really important that she has been able to work on.

Nicole: (And) coordinating the food trucks is one of those jobs no one else wants to do.

NMDSBC: Skye, you now have the added challenge of motherhood and these two little ones. What has that been like?

Skye: It goes from a text saying I’ll be home tomorrow because I’m doing stuff all night to having to worry about the kids and working from home in the morning so I can be with the kids. Before I had them, though, I didn’t go full-time working at Tractor til I was pregnant. So when I was pregnant I was on kind of a limited basis because I was with twins I had to do bed rest and stuff. Everyone was so used to me not being around all the time. But since I’ve had them and come back to work, it’s the first time I’ve actually been like 100 percent Tractor. I still feel like I’m doing more than I’ve ever done for before for Tractor, even though I now have two little ones to take care of and run after. It’s pretty awesome. It’s definitely a having-it-all type of thing. It’s pretty cool. Being able to bring them (here) certainly makes it easier. I find that like when I have to jump in and bartend with a baby or when you’re pregnant you make the best tips. (All three laugh)

NMDSBC: In general, where do you all feel things are headed for women in craft brewing? And do you think we’re going to see more women not just in the front of house but more in management and more working on the brewery floor?

Nicole: Certainly. We’ve also got Sharon (Garcia) now working in the brewery. We’re going to see more and more of that kind of shift.

Skye: She started here as an accounting intern. When she graduated with her accounting degree she was like I interviewed for some jobs but there’s not any that I think are a good fit or that I like and I like working here. We’re like, well, as far as positions go, we’ve got this position in the brewery. Do you want to see how that goes? She was pumped about it. I see more of that happening.

I feel like breweries are also really progressive in a lot of respects. I don’t see equal pay for equal work being as big of a barrier in breweries. For us, definitely not here. I think women make more than men on average at our brewery. I think it’s really female-friendly for an industry. Breweries looking to differentiate themselves from everybody else, you have to have different perspectives and women offer that.

Melissa: If you just look at other breweries, too, I know Nexus has a (female) brewer and she was working at La Cumbre before, so definitely (women are moving up).

Skye: Eventually you do run out of bearded guys with flannel shirts.

NMDSBC: But you never run out of bearded metalheads who write about beer.

* * * * *

A huge thank you to Skye, Nicole, and Melissa for taking time out of their busy schedules to sit down and chat. We had to postpone this for a week since a certain interviewer was battling a cold and absolutely, positively did not want to risk the wrath of a new mother should have passed it along to her and her babies. Thanks to the twins, as well, who did just fine throughout the entire interview, never once requiring mama to take them out of the room. So yes, folks, Skye even has angelic babies, you can now be even more jealous of her.

Oh, and I may have to make a return trip to Tractor and learn more about Sharon’s story of going from accounting major to assistant brewer. If I had known an accounting degree could lead to a brewing job … I would have still majored in journalism. I am terrible at math.

Anyway, our NM Women in Beer series will continue next week. We have only scratched the surface so far.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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