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Young Staff Members Network Socially and Professionally

How do you meet people spread across almost 400 acres, more than 21 buildings, and 10 departments? The Laboratory’s size doesn’t deter APL’s young staffers, who’ve found lots of ways to communicate and socialize.

Nearly a decade ago, when some of APL’s youngest staff members were looking for a way to bring together recent hires, they organized a Recent Graduates Network for new employees just out of college. The network offered the chance to meet other young grads, publicize local activities outside of APL, find roommates, socialize, and build friendships.

But many young staff members who were no longer fresh out of school also wanted an easy way to be involved in social activities with their APL peers. So two engineers, Ashley Llorens (of the National Security Technology Department) and Osbaldo C. Cantu (of the Applied Information Sciences Department) formed the Young Professionals Network (YPN) in 2006. The network is a grassroots effort, self-organizing to meet a need. Llorens and Cantu saw it as a vehicle offering both a social outlet for its members and an opportunity for profes­sional networking.

Llorens points out that staff members who interact socially often end up working very well together. “Having personal connections can promote efficiency and productivity on teams,” he says. “Connections also play a role in staff retention,” he adds, because happy employees tend to stick around. “If you have an outlet and you feel connected, you’re more likely to stay,” he says. Club members often participate in the Laboratory’s recruiting efforts and also help new hires acclimate to their burgeoning careers. From the beginning, YPN has intentionally kept its organization loose and casual, rather than imposing membership requirements. The group doesn’t have a presi­dent or a designated social coordinator. Instead, individuals take the lead to organize ad hoc events, so that the responsibility doesn’t rest on a small group of people.

One constant is Happy Hour on the first Friday of almost every month. Other events pop up spontaneously. In 2007, YPN hosted a music festival where APL staff members could show off their talents. They’ve also hosted salsa dancing, laser tag, bowling nights, and a paintball excursion. They’ve gathered at Rocky Gorge to check out the mini-golf and batting cages. And summer of 2009 brought the group’s most daring exploit, a skydiving trip. One enthusiastic jumper, a summer intern, said her adventure showed that “at APL, the sky’s the limit.”

YPN encourages staffers to log on to its SharePoint site to see a variety of postings, from upcoming gatherings to links of interest. Llorens points out that the group has no age cutoff and is inclusive of all career paths. “This group is here for whoever is interested in what’s happening socially around APL for young professionals,” he says.