This post was authored by Anna Shen, a recent software engineering intern on the Webex Calling team.

Anna, Felipe, and Angel holding coffeesWhen I first stepped into the office, I felt like the new kid at school again. None of my team worked in Chicago, and with so many hybrid workers, the office wasn’t full. I took my time exploring every inch of the new workspace, tentatively searching for a spot where I felt like I could fit in. Everyone talks about how the most important part of your internship is the connections you make, but my hands still shook a bit at the thought of socializing. My first week flew by, and I had yet to gather the courage to approach anyone.

I like to tell people that my short-term career goal was to work somewhere with latte machines. The Cisco Meraki Chicago office must have heard my prayers when they installed five instant machines alongside two much fancier espresso machines. Unfortunately, I was illiterate in whatever language baristas used to churn out the drinks I craved. While I had two dilemmas: a latte shortage, and loneliness in the open office in which I was a newcomer, I had one solution for both.

I first met Felipe during a lunch break in a pantry, but I’d seen him using the espresso machines in the morning. We talked briefly, and I, hoping to extend the lifespan of the conversation, brought up my desire to use the espresso machines. “Lucky for you,” he said, a smile spreading across his face, “I can teach you!” Looking back, Felipe was probably just as eager to make a connection as I was. We became good friends, bonding over coffee, coding, music, and joking about my methods of making friends. Coffee critiques became conversation starters, and we’d come up with things to do for afternoon tea breaks. “Hey, have you tried matcha?” “I got boba at this new place,” “Let’s try making chai!” helped lay the foundation for a strong friendship to stand on. My proficiency as an amateur barista grew, as did my confidence to socialize.

Three weeks into latte-making, I got to pass my knowledge on. Angel and I’s friendship started at the espresso machine when he asked for a demo. A fellow technical intern, we started sitting together and spent many afternoons giggling over terrible puns. I’ll get to watch him hone his skills at the espresso machine.

Luckily for me, Angel and Felipe also hit it off well. One afternoon, we taste-tested a drink kit Felipe got. Somehow, I was the only one who knew how to use a cocktail shaker. Other days, you’d find us crowded around the espresso machine, combining our skills to make the best lattes. Felipe pulled the best espresso, and I’d mastered steaming milk. While Felipe sat in an adjacent open office, he’d come over to Angel’s and my block to chat often. Usually about my silly statuses. (Some highlights include: “Cascading Style Sheets? More like Creating Stressful Situations.” and “Ask me about my bird’s pants.”)

My relationships with Angel and Felipe are just two of the many I’ve built here at Cisco Meraki Chicago. I was introduced to some of Felipe’s friends, who introduced me to even more people. I’ve garnered the courage to approach others on my own during office events. Now, I’ve got a blue sticky note on my monitor, filled with the names of all the people I’ve met during my all too short internship. Just like how my morning latte art attempts improved from fluffy clouds blobs to basic hearts, I am taking new encounters in stride, each one easier than the last.

Ready to make new connections as a Cisco intern? Apply now.