It’s a happy accident that our first release from BGE’s CoLab: Antwerp coincides with our opening speaker’s return to the World Barista Championship stage. A well-known name amongst specialty coffee circles after placing as a finalist last year at the WBC in Seattle, Charlotte Malaval is carving out a remarkable career along a relatively new path for our industry: as a free-lance barista.

In her Antwerp presentation, “Free-lance Barista: How to exist within the global industry as an individual”, Charlotte considers the pros and cons of the corporate structure—for businesses and baristas—that pushes baristas into an independent status before sharing how she’s managed to turn what could be seen as limitations into incredible opportunities for her own self-education and advancement. This isn’t the presentation you think it might be—it’s better—and it contains an important message for anyone working specialty coffee, regardless of where you are on the chain.

Charlotte Malaval began a degree in Cultural Anthropology before discovering coffee. She soon found she had a real passion for coffee, and as she always does, she considered her feelings and followed her intuitions: she left university to start working in coffee, or rather, to start learning in coffee. Now working as an independent barista, Charlotte is most well-known for her work on the competition stage: she placed sixth in the world at the 2015 WBC in Seattle and will return to the WBC stage again, this time in Dublin, to represent France as their national champion.