In 2021, we launched a series of blog posts featuring members of the Sustainable Harvest team. We showcased our logistics and operations team, our origin-based quality-control team, and our supply team. Today we continue this series by spotlighting an important element of our company—our information technology team, or IT team—which plays an essential role in making our Relationship Coffee Model possible and connecting our customers to origin in a transparent fashion.
Here’s a fun fact about IT at Sustainable Harvest: While we champion our IT “team,” the truth is that our IT domain is primarily the work of one person: Chief Technology Officer Oscar Magro. Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, and currently based in Portland, Oregon, Oscar is one of the most familiar faces at SH, having been with the company since our founding 25 years ago. Read on to learn more about this technology mastermind who is so important to our work.
Chief Technology Officer
Portland, Oregon, USA
Oscar has been around coffee all his life, hailing from a coffee-producing family in Oaxaca. Growing up, Oscar remembers his grandfather having green coffee around the house and the smell of the beans his mother roasted at home. Unfortunately, his family left the coffee business around 1990, and Oscar didn't plan to go back to it. In college, he studied computer science and started working for the first internet-providing company in Southeast Oaxaca. But in 1995, Oscar met Jorge Cuevas, and his journey back to coffee began.
The two became friends. Jorge—now the Chief Coffee Officer at Sustainable Harvest—was helping small-scale producers in Mexico sell their coffee to the U.S. and Europe through a small exporting company he had started. Jorge saw the value in Oscar's IT knowledge, and the two began working together, with Oscar handling all of the exporting company's IT work. In return, Jorge taught Oscar everything he knew about coffee, from cupping and quality control to sales and working closely with producers. And not to spoil the rest of the story, but now Oscar is a certified Q Grader with a deep understanding of coffee and technology!
Around 2000, they met David Griswold, now Sustainable Harvest’s CEO, who also held a mission to help smallholder coffee producers—his vision was to connect them to global markets through relationship-based transparent business with buyers. In 2002, Jorge and Oscar decided to close the doors of their company to help David with the logistics and operations side of his new coffee importing company, which became Sustainable Harvest.
"We are not a software developing company, but we think like one. If I can develop new tools to make our company more efficient, I look for ways to make that happen."
Oscar really had the chance to shine at the new company, combining his IT knowledge and experience with his love for coffee to develop Sustainable Harvest’s Relationship Information Tracking System (RITS), which began as a way to record Sustainable Harvest’s coffee purchases. Oscar gradually added new functions to RITS and started integrating information related to quality control, documentation, certifications, etc., until he built the version that currently exists today.
But RITS isn’t Oscar’s only creation: As Chief Technology Officer, he developed all of the systems and tools we use daily to stay in constant communication with our suppliers, customers, and team. He is constantly thinking about ways to improve them so we can better adapt to the market and the needs of our clients. Oscar is also an important part of our leadership team, always looking for ways to improve our operations.
The IT role is crucial at any company, and it’s no different at Sustainable Harvest—Oscar is in constant communication with our team, supporting everyone with any changes or requests around our platforms. “I ask for information and then look for ways to develop what's needed for any internal idea we come up with to come to life,” Oscar says. “We are not a software developing company, but we think like one. If I can develop new tools to make our company more efficient, I look for ways to make that happen.”
The fact that Oscar’s role involves the coffee industry—and helping small producers—makes it even more rewarding for him. “I could work at a tech company or as a software developer, but I'm sure I wouldn't feel as fulfilled as I feel working at Sustainable Harvest,” he says, “not only because I get to create and develop tools for our team, but because of the coffee and relationships part that gives meaning to everything I do.”
"It's not only buying and selling coffee; we truly want to create long-lasting partnerships.”
Oscar has continued to work on various improvements and recently created the Relationship Coffee Portal—the current iteration is easy to navigate for our customers, producer partners, and our company, making important information available to everyone with just a few clicks, allowing us to be as transparent as possible. “The portal helps us develop relationships, as our customers can learn more about the cooperatives we work with and about their coffees through it,” says Oscar. “It also allows our customers to be in direct contact with our team, and it lets us build on the ‘Relationship Coffee’ brand promise.’”
Oscar believes Sustainable Harvest’s Relationship Coffee Model allows us to develop partnerships that go beyond mere commercial relationships. "It's not only buying and selling coffee; we truly want to create long-lasting partnerships,” he says. “We want our partners to grow, improve their processes and quality, become more efficient, and for them to build relationships with buyers,” he says.
We can’t say enough how much we value Oscar’s work and its positive impact on our company—Sustainable Harvest truly wouldn’t be the same without him. We look forward to seeing how his fantastic IT know-how will continue to strengthen our company and help us build stronger relationships with our clients and partners at origin.