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I Am Merkle, Vol. 3

I Am Merkle is a series of interviews that showcase the individuals who make Merkle a unique and diverse place to work. This month, learn more about our featured employee, Cathy Elton.

1. Tell us about yourself; where did you grow up? Where do you live now?

For the first ten years of my life I lived in a tiny town called Addison (in upstate New York) where my father was the quintessential town doctor and my sister occasionally rode her horse to school. So, it was a pretty rural existence, until we moved to nearby Corning, the big city of 12,000 people. In my twenties I moved to San Francisco, where I managed bands and wrote fundraising copy for nonprofit organizations. People always think it’s funny that I was a manager in the music business and a copywriter, but those two things aren’t as different as you might think. I guess I’m good at convincing people to do something, whether it’s buying a record or giving to a good cause. Currently, I live in Brooklyn, NY and have been a Creative Director at Merkle for the past four years.

2. What drew you to your current career?

Strangely enough, I started out on the business side of things, working as a circulation director at a magazine. As part of that job I had to hire freelance direct mail copywriters and I quickly realized they were making a lot of money doing something that came very easily to me. So, I threw caution to the wind and became a copywriter. I first wrote for nonprofit organizations and politicians – it was fun to write letters signed by Barbara Boxer and Ted Danson. Upon moving to New York City in 1997, I “sold out” and started writing copy for Citibank! It wasn’t a difficult transition. Like I said, marketing is marketing. In my role at Merkle, I manage nonprofit accounts like the National MS Society and one financial services account, American Express. No music business clients yet, but it could happen!

3. What is a moment in your life that defined or shaped who you are today?

Seventeen years ago, I found out I inherited heart disease from my father (thanks, Dad!) and had a 90 percent blocked artery. That harrowing experience changed me in some pretty fundamental ways. For one thing, I think about every morsel of food that goes in my mouth — will this make my heart healthier, or less?

4. What’s something you’re really proud of?

After I recovered from the cardiac episode I described above, I started a heart-healthy food blog called What Would Cathy Eat, featuring my own recipes, writing, and photography. I stopped blogging a few years ago, but the site remains active and I still get comments and emails from people thanking me for the recipes. If I’ve helped someone live a healthier lifestyle or change their eating habits after having a heart attack, well that’s pretty great.

5. What inspires you about your workplace culture?

The dedication of the people I work with is a constant source of inspiration. I came from a place where people had pretty bad attitudes and never realized it could be any different. The support and friendship of my co-workers keeps me going and keeps me positive.

6. If you currently weren’t doing what you do today professionally, what would you be doing? (dream job)

I’m pretty sure I would be a chef, which I’m sure would be a lot more difficult than what I do now.

7. What was the first concert you went to?

Well the first one I can remember was Yes, Bob Seger, and the J. Geils Band at Rich Stadium in Buffalo (I’m old. Very old.)

8. Rapid fire:

Favorite food

Spaghetti with homemade meatballs (vegan meatballs, mind you)

Favorite TV show/movie

TV: The Wire

Movie: Blue Velvet

Favorite hobby/activity

Cooking for my friends

Favorite book

Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn

Guilty pleasure

Large quantities of dark chocolate

Best advice or mantra you live by (in your own words)

Remember to breathe