How Green Thumb’s Tech Team is Making Cannabis Customer-First

Contrary to what one might think a job in the cannabis industry entails, the passionate tech team at Green Thumb Industries touches more lives than they do plants.
Kim Conway
June 30, 2022
Kim Conway
June 30, 2022

You might think that to work in the cannabis industry, you’re limited to plant-touching jobs. 

At Green Thumb Industries, however, touching plants is simply part of the memorable new hire experience of visiting a cultivation center. “The coolest moment of my career here was going to a cultivation facility and having the opportunity to see the vast flower rooms and all the love and care that goes into growing this magical plant,” Bonnie Runimas, manager of IT infrastructure at the company, said. 

Runimas distinctly remembers feeling energized by her visit, as it confirmed that she found a role in the right place. “People have this perception about cannabis, but there’s some serious science going on in those cultivation centers,” she said. 

As for Aaron Matejek, selling consumer packaged goods is a key element in his e-commerce tech lead role. But seeing the product through from “seed-to-sale” really puts the process into perspective for him, and to this day, it’s something that he excitedly shares with new hires. 

From the vast warehouse space down to the cultivation staff’s level of care for their product, application manager Joe Turcotte’s cultivation experience left him feeling grounded by the dedication on display. “The team members working there have fun, but they’re very serious about their jobs and how they do things within their facilities,” he said. 

That passion extends to all GreenThumb team members. “You sign an offer to work for a cannabis company, but it’s different when you enter the door on the first day,” Turcotte said. “Seeing the camaraderie — and everything our team does besides selling products, like supporting community initiatives — fuels you to work hard and help for good.”

While dressing up in lab gear and walking through rooms full of plants is not a typical day-to-day task for this tech team, the hands-on experience offers a valuable opportunity to feel directly connected to the company’s mission: promoting well-being through cannabis and giving back to the communities they serve. 

Like Runimas, Matejek and Turcotte, many Green Thumb team members have transferred over from more traditional tech roles to apply their skills in a growing, greenfield industry. Although they might not be touching plants, they’re certainly touching the lives of their customer base — and that makes their work all the more meaningful.

 

Reception area in the Green Thumb office
Green Thumb

 

How have your skills transferred over from traditional tech? What are the primary responsibilities of your current role?

Aaron Matejek, Tech Lead: I was working in traditional e-commerce, consulting with large enterprise businesses. My skills transferred extremely well — almost a one-for-one match to cannabis. At Green Thumb, I help manage the development of our e-commerce website or our digital stack, which includes in-store systems, like menus. Our primary application is our customer-facing website for Green Thumb’s retail stores called RISE. 

Joe Turcotte, Applications Manager: Previous to my role as an applications manager, I was at a small co-manufacturer. All of my skills and responsibilities transferred right over. I’m now in charge of any application or system that the team is using within our environment to perform their day-to-day jobs. If they have issues, enhancements, opportunities for improving processes or need to purchase new software, I’m involved.

Bonnie Runimas, Manager of IT Infrastructure: I worked in logistics as the enterprise infrastructure manager, and it’s been pretty much the same here in IT infrastructure. As the back-end systems team, we’re in charge of messaging identity and access management, storage, backup, disaster recovery, public key infrastructure, enterprise content management, cloud architecture, and more. It’s a pretty big list. 

 

“We really care about the customer and their experience.”

 

How is your team doing things differently in the cannabis industry? 

Runimas: From a technology perspective, our job is to remove technical obstacles and be more efficient. But the most powerful thing that Green Thumb is doing isn’t in IT — it’s what we’re doing in the communities we serve. There’s a stigma around cannabis, but we are really helping people out there. I went to a store opening recently, and I was almost in tears. I met a man with five different types of cancer, veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, people who can’t sleep at night, people with pain — and seeing them find relief in our products is a reward in itself.

Matejek: I come from a state where cannabis is not legal. When I went to a dispensary for the first time, it completely blew me away. Getting boots on the ground and going to the retail store — and outside of that, all the work we do for the community through Good Green grants and more  — is really why I chose to join Green Thumb. 

Turcotte: Our mission is to promote well-being through the power of cannabis. I was out in New Jersey for the recreational launch at one of the stores, and it was so cool to see people who had been waiting for so long to be able to purchase cannabis legally. What really sticks with me is empowering and bringing a better image to the cannabis industry in general. We really care about the customer and their experience. 

 

 

Tell us about a recent project you’ve been focused on.

Matejek: We’re laying the foundation to help our consumers shop easier and find products they need. For example, if they’re having sensations of pain, how can we display a product for pain management? Helping patients get access to cannabis in states where we can deliver has been a big undertaking as well. 

Turcotte: Recently I was part of implementing a digital asset management software. We have different dispensaries and cultivation sites that want to show or promote things on different streams of media. It was all about consolidating that into software. Another fun project was helping analyze our radio-frequency identification scanning inventory management solution to help with inventory and plant tracking.

Runimas: My number one project right now is the automation of our identity and access management. Due to our rapid growth, it’s become exponentially harder to efficiently onboard, offboard and move people around within our systems. There are a lot of manual processes that we are working to automate, and I look forward to returning countless hours to team members in various departments who are involved with onboarding. The first impression that every employee has of IT happens when they join, so it’s my team’s goal to make that the best possible experience.

 

WHY JOIN NOW?

As of today, cannabis is legal for adults in 19 states and Washington, D.C. and medical marijuana is legal in 38 states and D.C. Recently, populous states like New York and New Jersey have legalized both medical and recreational cannabis. In short: there’s never been a more interesting time to get into the cannabis industry. “I always tell candidates when I’m interviewing, “If you think about when the iPhone touchscreen first came out, somebody looked at it and said, ‘We should make a screen protector and a case for this,’” Runimas said, citing “so much opportunity” in the world of cannabis tech for innovation and improvement. Headquartered in Chicago, Green Thumb has 17 manufacturing facilities, 77 open retail locations and operations across 15 U.S. markets.

 

“The most powerful thing that Green Thumb is doing isn’t in IT — it’s what we’re doing in the communities we serve.”

 

What are you most excited to accomplish over the next few months?

Matejek: In the e-commerce space, and if you look at the cannabis industry as a whole right now online, we’re stuck in what I would call the nineties, and everyone’s site looks the exact same. Where the e-commerce team is going to have the biggest impact is really differentiating Green Thumb by helping patients and customers find the products they’re looking for in an easier way and providing a good customer experience on the front end. 

Turcotte: I’m still in the process of learning, absorbing and seeing where opportunities lie for us. I don’t necessarily like to kick in the door and start saying we should do things a certain way. I’m looking to make an impact on analyzing what we’re doing as far as software capabilities across the board at different cultivation sites by making cohesive decisions on our platforms, software and processes. It’s going to be a long road, but that’s what I’m focused on.

Runimas: The operations lifecycle is pretty repetitive. It’s people, processes, technology and business practices — and those are the four areas in which my department needs to mature. Automation is a big thing now, and it’s a big word everybody uses, but people don’t realize how much it does for us on the technology side. I’m also looking forward to helping progress our business into a well-oiled machine that you’d see in an industry that’s been around for 20 or 30 years.

 

Green Thumb team members
Green Thumb

 

Why should new hires consider joining the cannabis industry?

Matejek: There’s so much we do that needs the perspective of an outside eye that hasn’t been in the cannabis industry before, for example — to echo what Bonnie said earlier — to mature our processes. That outside knowledge makes a big impact in what we do here at Green Thumb. 

Runimas: I tell candidates that for anybody with any kind of practical work experience, there’s something they can bring here and teach us. Having people from different industries means we have different perspectives, and we need that. 

 

“There’s so much we do that needs the perspective of an outside eye that hasn’t been in the cannabis industry before.”

 

What makes the work you’re doing with Green Thumb meaningful to you?

Runimas: Infrastructure is a core pillar to IT; we share a lot with competitors about how we do things. I want to create a blueprint on how to mature an IT infrastructure organization.

Additionally, working here has been personal. I’ve been interested in cannabis for many years. My brother did 10 years in a Louisiana prison for possession because their state laws are very strict. In that time, his diabetes was left unmanaged and when he was released, he shortly passed away. Every time Ben Kovler does an interview and talks about the 40,000 incarcerated people who are in for possession and non-violent or cannabis-related crimes, the way he speaks to releasing them makes my heart sing. I’m personally invested in seeing that the business is successful for many reasons — not just my career.

 

 

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