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Reinventing the Water Cooler Conversation

In the midst of the pandemic and months into working from home, Hardik Gupta, a data scientist at Meltwater, was missing the social connection of going into work, specifically the spontaneous conversations with people from other business functions and teams. He decided to experiment with emulating these conversations remotely and #mw-coffee-chat was born. We sat down with Hardik to get a better understanding of the idea and how and why it was so successful.

Hardik, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Hardik Gupta and I have been a data scientist here at Meltwater for 3 years, having joined right after college. I usually sit at the Meltwater Headquarters in San Francisco. At the moment I am in Bombay, but will be returning to San Francisco in a few days. I am very excited to get back into the office and catch up with my colleagues in person!

So what is #mw-coffee-chat?

The #mw-coffee-chat is an internal initiative which pairs employees with a randomly selected peer every 2 weeks to enjoy a conversation over a virtual cup of coffee. No fixed agenda, no strings attached, no stress. Just a good conversation with somebody from across the Meltwater world that they likely don’t know.

How does it work?

We use a Slack bot from LEAD. To participate in the coffee chat, people must join the #mw-coffee-chat slack channel, in which the bot is integrated. Once they join the channel, the bot’s matching algorithm tries to pair people who have the least in common, e.g. the least amount of Slack channels. It will then ping the two matched parties in a private conversation and encourage them to start talking. It repeats this process every 2 weeks.

How did you come up with the idea?

I’m part of a Carnegie Mellon alumni Slack channel which uses similar bots to match alumni from all over the world. I was also missing the social connection of going into work, specifically the spontaneous conversations with people from other business functions and teams. I thought, why not try something similar at Meltwater?

What has the reception been in Meltwater?

First I thought of running it as a pilot. My bare minimum requirement was 20 people to join the Slack channel for being matched with other employees. But within the first week we had over 300 people join across different functions and geographies. Today more than 550 employees have joined the Slack channel. People really enjoy these conversations (as visible in the raving reviews below).

What contributed to it catching on so fast?

Everyone was working remotely. Everyone was keen on having some level of social connections back and here was this opportunity to connect with people across all business functions and outside of your office. Given how global the organization is (we have offices in over 25 countries) it is great for people to meet others from different cultures and backgrounds.

Have you heard any amazing stories?

I was matched with someone from South Africa. He was so excited about the initiative that he even wanted to set it up for his office internally. Through the course of the chat, we discovered an overlap between my data science team and his business function which could be leveraged to streamline both pieces of work. Without #mw-coffee-chat, we would have never had that conversation.

So, what’s next?

First thing is to have a couple of other people onboarded as admins, so I’m no longer the single point of failure. There is a lot of interest to start doing this at local office and department levels, so I will help roll it out there. I am also interested in coming up with a framework to measure the direct value of #mw-coffee-chat, because it’s inherently subjective.

Thank you for the conversation Hardik! And most importantly, thank you for bringing back the water cooler conversation via #mw-coffee-chat.