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My Road to Cicerone

Abbotsford’s Tiffany Waldron says being a woman in the Australian beer industry drove her to become a Certified Cicerone® “to prove that I knew what I was doing”. Here she talks about her own journey and how she has helped others on theirs.

What’s your current role and how does being a Certified Cicerone help you with it?
My current role with Founders First is a wonderful mixed bag of so many aspects of the industry, which is exactly what I love about it. I have built a beer education program for the national sales team, which we will roll out to the hospitality venues, and then to our customers (as venues start to re-open post-COVID!). The basis of this program is to cover all aspects of the Certified Beer Server exam, and our full sales team has now earned that title. I’m also working to pull together content for a digital platform, which will include everything from beer and brewery information to education and curated beer bundles.

Describe the factors that made you decide to become a Certified Cicerone
To be entirely honest, as a woman in the beer industry, part of the drive to become a Certified Cicerone was to prove that I knew what I was doing. It’s also been great to have a level of expectation around knowledge in our industry, and to see the growth of recognition in Australia since launching Cicerone here.

Explain some of the challenges you had while studying for the exam, and how you overcome them?
The first time I took the Certified Cicerone exam, it was on my Christmas holiday home (I’ve lived in Australia for nearly 14 years, but I’m from Pennsylvania) and I flew into San Francisco to take it. I studied alone – even set up an off-flavour tasting for myself with a homemade kit. I showed up in SF to find that everyone had been studying in groups, with friends or colleagues, and I realised I was woefully under-prepared – mostly because I didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off. So the second time I sat the exam was the first time it was available in Australia. I had miraculously passed the tasting portion the first time! Annette May, the first female Certified Cicerone and an Australian living in Michigan, had spoken to a group in Melbourne about the Cicerone program, and I met some people to study with that night. We structured a plan for weekly study sessions and shared our knowledge with each other and all three of us passed!

How did you prepare for the exam? What were the most beneficial resources that you used?
To prepare for the exam, breaking down the syllabus and acknowledging your weak areas is a good starting point. Recruit friends and colleagues to support your study. Practice exams and flipping flashcards needed someone else to assist, and I found both of those very helpful(with Chris Cohen’s study guide). We also set up tasting sessions in the same way that the Certified Cicerone exam is done, and I think this sets everyone up for success in that portion.

Since becoming a Certified Cicerone, what have been some of your greatest achievements?
I took the exam for the second time during my first week of working at ABI as a Craft Beer Ambassador (not stressful, or anything…), and since then, I have helped more than 75 people pass their Certified Beer Server exam within ABI, Founders First, and beyond. We also just awarded our first Pink Boots Society Cicerone scholarships in Australia with a view to roll out a virtual education program for members.

In your opinion, how valuable is Cicerone certification for those looking to boost their career?
More than the accreditation itself, the knowledge required to achieve Cicerone certification is essential for anyone who wants to make a career out of the beer industry.

What’s your top study tip for anyone preparing for the Certified Cicerone exam?
My number one study tip for anyone preparing for the exam is to find someone to study with. And my second tip is to spend time to dive deeper into a portion of the curriculum that you don’t often drink or talk about – I learned so much about Belgian beer history the first time around because I didn’t often drink traditional Belgian styles before I started studying.

This interview was first published at cicerone.org. Head here to read more and to find out about the Cicerone® Certification Program.

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