AR- Huntsville team members gather for the inaugural “RISE and SHINE” Coffee Social
March 24, 2023 - The workplace has a way of focusing human interactions on getting the job done, especially when the products are as important as the ones powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne (AR). Less formal settings, on the other hand, offer colleagues a world of new avenues to make a connection and, as the site’s women’s resource group explains, creating these strong relationships can have quite the impact on retention, employee well-being and—you guessed it—getting the job done.
That’s the premise behind the monthly coffee socials organized by the Huntsville chapter of AR’s Retain, Inspire, Support and Empower (RISE) Employee Resource Group (ERG). The ERG is focused on enhancing the careers, well-being and work environments for women at the company. One offering of the ERG at the company’s Huntsville location is the “RISE and Shine” coffee social. These monthly gatherings, which employees attend on their “own time and dime,” are a place to learn, draw inspiration and bond over shared experiences.
“Discussions at the “RISE and Shine” coffee socials vary,” said Alison, an avionics engineer who currently serves as chapter president for the company’s Huntsville RISE group. “We often assign a topic or a specific speaker to add structure, but we always find time to discuss more light-hearted topics like what we’re reading or what shows we’re watching,” she said.
Recent topics included AR’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), through which the company covers expenses for employees to earn degrees or learn skills that advance their careers. The featured speaker was Taylor, a RISE board member and Human Resources business partner, and the discussions centered on how to navigate the program and the experiences of employees who have benefited from it.
At an earlier session, the speaker was Brandi, who began her AR career in an administrative role and leveraged TAP to earn a certificate in engineering design technology, which she then parlayed into a position as a Computer Aided Design (CAD) services designer with the Defense Business Unit. “That one inspired me,” Brandi said. “It shows you can do anything – you’re not set in one role.”
But the sessions are about more than career development. “It’s an informal way for us to get to know people,” said Autumn, director of programs at AR’s Defense Business Unit and last year’s chapter president. “RISE gives new employees, in particular, an opportunity to meet and connect with their colleagues across disciplines or fields,” she said.
Alison is not new to AR but happens to currently be the only woman in the small team she works with. “When I heard about RISE, I was excited to be able to interact with women who are not on the same project as I am but who have common interests as I do,” she said.
The coffee socials, which began in 2022 and occur on “off Fridays” (AR embraces a 9/80 work schedule which equates to 9-hour days and every other Friday off) provides the perfect venue for such interactions. The sessions are held at a different coffee shop each time, which Autumn and Alison explain is a great way to get to know the city of Huntsville and its surrounding areas.
Average attendance is 8 to 10 people, but rarely the same 8 to 10 people. “This ’small group’ approach allows attendees to make one-on-one connections in an informal setting,” Alison said.
While RISE is focused on women’s issues, Autumn notes that the group encourages involvement from everyone, bringing new perspectives to the mix while ensuring a broader understanding of the issues women face in the workplace.
“People want to come to the socials, they want to talk, and they want to be part of the group,” Alison said. “Events like this bring people together – not just as co-workers but as humans building connections with one another. I can’t think of a better way to strengthen company culture and encourage team bonding.”
ERGs support AR’s commitment to a fully inclusive workplace and offer specialized groups for LGBTQ+, people of color, women, early-career professionals, veterans, multicultural teammates and more. To learn more about the benefits and culture at AR, visit Rocket.com/Careers.