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How Casual Coffee Chats Can Boost Your Career

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Cox’s RandomCoffee program was designed to bring back moments of connection during the isolation of the pandemic. But it turned into something much bigger. Here’s a look at some of the ways the program helps people succeed in their careers. 

Networking at work doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But what if you could take the pressure off and simply sign up for a coffee chat with a random colleague once a month?  

That’s the idea behind Cox’s RandomCoffee program. It helps connect people from different parts of Cox’s family of businesses, regardless of where you live.  

The program started out to bring back moments of genuine connection during the pandemic. And on the surface, RandomCoffee continues to offer employees a way to make connections and build their professional network. But there’s a deeper level of learning and development that happens through these casual conversations. 

I talked to three Cox employees who’ve participated in the RandomCoffee program. Here, they share the unexpected ways in which a random coffee chat can drive career growth. 


A way to discover new paths within a large company 

Kami Finkel-Hannon signed up for the RandomCoffee shortly after she joined Cox in 2022. As a newer employee, she saw it as a way to meet people outside of her day-to-day work in workforce planning for Cox Communications. 

Through these casual, 30-minute chats that she opted into every other month, Kami not only met people from all over the country, but she also discovered interesting career paths she didn’t know were even possible within Cox. 

“I learned about jobs I didn’t know existed and, more broadly, how the company works,” she said. “When you come in as a new employee, you learn the operations of whatever division you’re in; but this gave me a really good insight into some of the other divisions.”  

This exposure to other areas of the business helped ease Kami’s transition into a different part of the company in late 2023, when her manager encouraged her to apply for a senior manager of talent strategy role at Cox Enterprises. 

“It wasn’t as scary to me to change divisions; I kind of had an idea of what it might be like, so I think it helped,” she said. “It’s part of that larger culture, right? We have this RandomCoffee, these networking opportunities, and we have this culture of managers and leaders supporting their talent and their talent’s growth and development.” 


A low-stakes approach to practicing interpersonal skills 

Learning and development manager Sue Baldauff loves meeting new people, so a program like RandomCoffee felt like a natural fit when she heard about it in 2021. 

“During the pandemic, this was obviously a great way to meet other colleagues,” she said. “I joke that I’ve never met a stranger; I enjoy the interaction and so this was right up my alley.”  

Although Sue joined the program for the joy of having conversations and making connections, she could easily see how this program can help people practice their interpersonal skills, which are essential to career growth. 

“It helps you hone your elevator speech; it helps you practice saying who you are and what you do succinctly,” she said.  

What’s also great about the coffee-chat format is that it’s a low-stakes environment to put yourself out there, especially for people who are more introverted. 

“For somebody who is extroverted like me, you gain my energy from the conversations; but I would recommend it to folks who are introverted, too, because it allows you to get out of your comfort zone and make those connections — or at least practice having conversations with people as well,” Sue said. 


An indirect form of mentorship 

Something Kami wasn’t necessarily expecting out of RandomCoffee was the opportunity to give and receive guidance. 

“Hearing how people have navigated their own careers has been really interesting. And people have really great insight and advice — and just not just career advice, but also just life advice,” she said. 

One of her favorite conversations was with someone who taught themselves the skills to build a career in cybersecurity.  

“He had just some really good career advice in general about being able to teach yourself and being a self-starter,” she recalled. “It’s never too late to start to learn something new to move into a different career path, and that it’s actually very healthy to move around, take different roles and try new things.” 

Another one of Kami’s most memorable conversations was with an intern, which allowed her to offer her advice and perspective on how to navigate the world of work early in your career. 

“I would definitely encourage people to participate in it, especially people who are new, early in their career or looking to make a career change,” Kami said. “But also, people who are not necessarily looking for career development for themselves, there’s a lot of opportunity to connect with people to give them advice and share experiences and knowledge.” 


A source of real-life inspiration 

When Jenn Steadman came back to Cox after a stint outside the company in 2021, she wanted to do things differently the second time around. 

“When I returned, I made a commitment to myself and had the backing of my local leadership team that we were going to focus on career development because I’m very interested in growing within the company,” said Jenn, a senior media consultant for Cox Media

She dove headfirst into different opportunities, including two types of mentoring programs within Cox. More recently, she signed up for RandomCoffee, where she’s been able to learn more about different career paths as she continues to contemplate her own journey at Cox. 

“I like to hear about other people’s journeys and what they do,” she said. “And most of the people I speak to absolutely love what they do; I think it’s just kind of inspiring.” 

Jenn said RandomCoffee offers a different kind of development, especially for people who are still soul searching in their careers. 

“It’s very different from the other development opportunities that are more structured and intentional,” she said. “But how do you reach people that still don’t know what they want to do? I think this is a great way.” 


Curious to learn more about Cox? Join our Talent Community and explore job openings! 

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