Talent in Cannabis: From the F-18 Super Hornet to General Manager with Aubrey Estrin

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Aubrey Estrin’s experience in the military as an aircraft engine mechanic was instrumental in giving her the transferable skills required of a general manager at Beyond Hello cannabis dispensary

She describes that her experience in the military is what best prepared her for the cannabis industry, and her passion is what drove and keeps her here.

In this interview, Aubrey tells us about how:

  • Working in the military taught her how to work in fast-paced, high-stress environments
  • The mental health problems she saw in the military could have been helped by cannabis (as addressed by grassroots cannabis veterans programs)
  • The military prepared her for managing a diverse group of individuals
  • Her experience as an administrative assistant and her degree in psychological and sociological sciences also gave her essential skills
  • To truly motivate employees and impact behavior
States need guidelines on what and how to legislate so we can find an equilibrium where companies, patients, and states can all benefit and utilize this plant for good equally.

– Aubrey Estrin, General Manager, BEYOND / HELLO

BEFORE CANNABIS

What were you doing before working in cannabis?

Before working in the cannabis industry I served in the military for about 8 years. I was an engine mechanic on multiple aircrafts including the F-18 Super Hornet. This role prepared me to handle any high-stress situation. I learned how to communicate efficiently in a fast-paced environment. As you can imagine, communication is hard in a chaotic or stressful environment and it can be challenging to remain calm. Learning to clearly convey my message in these types of environments has significantly helped strengthen my leadership skills. (Here’s more about why veterans make great cannabis employees)

After the military, I attended Pennsylvania State University and graduated in

May 2021 with a Bachelor’s in Psychological and Sociological Sciences. I learned a lot about how people operate both individually and as a group, which has also significantly influenced my leadership skills. It’s extremely helpful to be privy to natural human behavior when you are leading a huge team. When you can expect how folks will react to policy changes or critical feedback, you can preemptively prepare verbiage and tactics in order to get the best response.

While I was in school, I worked full-time as an administrative assistant for an industrial piping distributor. I strengthened my time management and task management skills. I became an efficient manager who was able to increase my workload while spending the same amount of time working. I learned about sales and accounting, how to manage programs, and implement new procedures to increase profitability and efficiency.

Aubrey and fellow BEYOND / HELLO employee at a dispensary opening.

What were some of the struggles you faced working in the military?

In the military, there are a lot of mental health problems that the military doesn’t take seriously. Folks are forced to deal with a lot of traumas like family separation by themselves. While the military does provide services for families while on deployment, there are still a lot of mental health problems that exist within the service. Many members self-medicated with alcohol and easily prescribed prescription drugs. Cannabis is not allowed in the service which concerned me. I knew how beneficial it would be for people.

Do you think cannabis could change the experience of military folks?

I absolutely believe folks in the service would utilize cannabis as a healthier alternative for pain management or stress. Alcohol and opiates have ruined the careers of individuals I know. They get discharged from the military or create a habit they are unable to stop. Folks wouldn’t be allowed to work if they were prescribed opiates so they would sit in the shop and do paperwork which would waste man-hours. Folks would drink too much and it could affect their performance. All of these side effects could be prevented by active duty members having access to medicine that is not harmful like the substances previously mentioned. And, of course, I believe veterans should also have access.

THE TRANSITION

What drew you to the cannabis industry? How did you get in?

After seeing folks struggle with mental health coupled with my own mental health struggles, I knew I wanted to focus my career on cannabis. I wanted to work with people in and around the wellness sphere so I could help people find ways to live better, healthier, and happier lives. I knew I wanted to make an impact.

What was it like transitioning into the cannabis industry from the military?

The military and the cannabis industry both bring together folks from all different backgrounds, forcing them to work together to accomplish a common mission. For me, I learned leadership skills in the military that supports me in leading anyone regardless of their background or differences.

Also, the military is highly regulated.  So having already worked in a highly regulated environment has helped me navigate the cannabis industry.

CANNABIS GENERAL MANAGER

What is your current role?

Today I am a General Manager at Beyond Hello cannabis dispensary in West Chester, PA. I have a team of 35 individuals who all have a unique story that connects them to cannabis in some way. I run both front and back of the house, managing everything from sales and inventory to personnel management.

What are some challenges of being a cannabis general manager?

The biggest challenge right now is working in an industry that isn’t federally regulated. Multi-state operators have to tailor operations to each state which is tedious and time-consuming. This industry is changing so quickly. Keeping up can be challenging, but the military truly prepared me to handle curveballs and pivot no matter what the circumstances.

BEYOND / HELLO dispensary in West Chester, PA. Photo credit: BEYOND / HELLO

What do you like best about being a cannabis general manager?

I like being able to help folks improve their lives by giving access to medicine to patients who have been in pain for so long. This is an industry where everyone has a personal impact story with cannabis and working in the industry for most of us has been overwhelmingly positive due to the plant being so taboo in the past. I love seeing how my work helps support my staff.

What’s the biggest difference between the military and the cannabis industry?

In the cannabis industry, you have the freedom to take a stand on social and political issues and to fund entities that are operating to promote change, like mass incarceration. Cannabis businesses have the power to make changes on important topics.

What’s one thing that everyone transitioning into the cannabis industry should know before making the transition?

Everyone should know that continuing to keep cannabis federally illegal makes it hard to provide consistency across the nation. If you’re going to work in cannabis, you must be prepared for a constantly changing environment.

THE FUTURE

Do you have advice for other people who are starting their journey in the cannabis industry?

Stay flexible and enjoy the ride. Being on the frontier of this industry creates a group of professionals who are resilient and able to navigate anything this ever-changing world has to throw at us in the future.

Where do you see your career going?

I see myself working directly with cannabis companies to improve their employee experiences. Providing leadership skill training and implementing policies that support performance, work ethic, and motivation. When retail employees are happy and excited about what they are doing, it transfers onto the patient or customer and creates an environment where folks want to return again.

External motivating factors are short-lived and intrinsic motivating factors are what last. If companies are able to foster environments that make personnel feel capable and critical to both the mission and the team; the use of external rewards and punishments are not as needed to impact behavior. Value and culture play a big role in a cannabis employee retention strategy.

What are one or two things you’d like to see change in the cannabis industry?

Federal legalization. It’s such a crucial step. States need guidelines on what and how to legislate so we can find an equilibrium where companies, patients, and states can all benefit and utilize this plant for good equally.

If you’re interested in a career in cannabis, reach out to one of FlowerHire’s cannabis recruiters.

Cannabis salary guides (prepared by the FlowerHire team)

Cannabis Manufacturing & Production Salary Guide

Cannabis Retail Salary Guide

Cannabis Cultivation Salary Guide

Cannabis Sales Salary Guide


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