Cal Stephenson

Chief Operating Officer

F: For the past three years, you've helped lead operations and manage finances at Fullsteam. What are you most proud of during your time here?

CS: I'm most proud of collaborating with colleagues across Fullsteam's departments to complete big, transformative projects - projects like reinventing our kitchen, upgrading our production equipment, or planning out our Boxyard expansion. Finding a good idea and making it real in a way that makes the workday more pleasant for our staff, or the on-site experience more enjoyable for a guest, is incredibly rewarding.

F: What's your favorite (and least favorite) part of the job?

CS: My favorite part of the job is that I'm constantly challenged by, and learning from, the fast pace of the craft beer industry. Whether it's ideating with our production team on how to perfect a beer style, innovating through the use of obscure ingredients or brewing techniques, or finding new ways to engage with drinkers over the bar or through social media - there's always a compelling way to engage my brain.

My least favorite part of the job is finding out that we could have solved a problem, or avoided it in the first place, with better communication. All the technology and all the apps in the world, and we're still guilty of just not passing along information to each other far too often.

F: How do you cheer yourself up during COVID-19? Any new hobbies you've picked up?

CS: I've definitely turned to the outdoors to keep myself sane during these trying times. My go-to is heading out to Falls Lake, the Eno River, or the Robertson Millpond Preserve and spending time away from it all on my stand-up paddleboard. Beyond that, I've enjoyed finding new mountains to climb (literally) and exploring the northwestern section of North Carolina, including Stone Mountain State Park. No new hobbies really, although I recently started going through some of my old baseball cards from my childhood collection - still not quite ready to sell them.

F: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

CS: I'd love to make a trip to South America and tour through the continent - the Amazon in Brazil, Patagonia in Argentina, and the Andes Mountains in Peru and Chile.

F: You're a board member of the NC Craft Brewers Guild. How have you found that work?

CS: I've found it to be very rewarding to work with the staff and other board members of the Guild. The challenges the Guild faces often require me to shift my perspective, thinking more about high-level, overall industry needs, rather than what might most benefit Fullsteam.

F: What made you break away from the corporate world to work in beer-making?

CS: The desire to make an impact - both individually, as well as through a community. In my prior role at a large financial institution, I often felt like a cog in the machine: necessary, but easily replaceable. At Fullsteam, I can trace how the decisions we make as a leadership team affect every colleague here -- and I can talk to every person that works with me to make sure I'm not overlooking or misunderstanding something.

I also take pride being part of a larger community that cares about more than just the work, whether that's through giving back to the Durham community during events like Red Friday (benefiting Durham schools), implementing sustainability initiatives in collaboration with Keep Durham Beautiful, or finding other ways to engage through beers like People Power and Juneteenth.

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