During his career at Hahn Family Wines Joshua Cairns has risen from file clerk to the Director of Marketing. He has studied the business from all angles over the last decade and found his niche. His story is a classic example of the hard work and dedication it takes to make it in the beverage industry. We are proud to have Joshua, his wisdom and experiences as a part of the Drink Careers 101 Project Advisory Board.
How did you get your start in the wine industry?
Having grown up in Napa, I’d been around wine for a while. While attending UC Berkeley, I was working my way towards becoming a paralegal for a firm in San Francisco. The world of law didn’t seem to fit so when I discovered that a friend from Napa had just started a small sales & marketing company, I asked if they had any open positions. The Monday after graduation, I started at Wimbledon Wine Company (now Hahn Family Wines) as a file clerk and assistant.
What did it take to work your way into the position of Director of Marketing?
A lot of filing! Also, a fair bit of perseverance, and the willingness to learn. My degree from Cal is in classical history, which as you might imagine, left a lot to be learned. Since I grew up in the Napa Valley, I knew names of wineries and people in the industry but very little about how the wine business actually works on a day-to-day basis. In the last decade, I’ve progressed from file clerk through just about every position in marketing and admin at Hahn Family Wines — accounts payable, accounts receivable, collections, order entry, inventory, warehousing, ecommerce and online marketing. But, I am lucky enough to work for a company that helped me learn through doing and not just reading or observing. Taking any opportunity I could to pick up a new skill or bit of knowledge, I discovered that marketing is was I wanted to be doing and that I wanted to keep doing it in the wine industry. I think it was this practical use of that same range of skills and knowledge I’d acquired over the last 10 years that helped gain me the promotion to Director of Marketing.
What is your favorite aspect of working in the wine industry?
Well, if I’m being totally honest, I like eating and drinking! You can’t help but like that part of things in this business. But, what I really enjoy about it is the opportunity to constantly meet new people within the industry; it’s a small enough world that everyone is willing to share their knowledge and their passions. Meeting people across all segments of the wine world allows me to adapt their insight to not only my position as Director of Marketing but to other facets of Hahn Family Wines as well. Being a family-owned winery, we’re allowed the chance to wear a few hats at once so job descriptions often evolve over time to include the information you pick up along the way from wine compatriots.
What are some of the challenges you face with wine marketing?
One of the main challenges is definitely the slower pace of change in the wine industry as compared to some others. In order to keep up with the flow of technology and ideas going on in the wider world, we have to look at what companies outside the industry are doing. It’s for that reason that I try to attend at least one tech conference annually that has nothing to do with wine. Bringing some of those ideas back to HFW with me helps make us a cutting edge winery that hopefully increases that pace of change just a little bit.
Is there anything exciting going on at Hahn right now that our readers should know about?
For the first time in 16 years, we have a new winery president. While many of the best parts of Hahn will remain, having someone new at the top allows us to reassess what we are doing and why we’re doing it. This has already resulted in some new and exciting changes at Hahn that we’ll be rolling out soon so stay tuned!
If you could give one piece of advice to a student considering a career in wine marketing what would it be?
Don’t turn down any work or learning opportunities, no matter how small you might consider them to be. You never know when working hard as the file clerk or marketing assistant will yield that big next step in your career.