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I Am Merkle: Veteran's Day 2022, Pt. 2

Madison McFadden and Tara DiFransesco

I Am Merkle is a series of interviews that showcase the individuals who make Merkle a diverse and great place to work. This month features both National Military Family Month and Veterans Day. To honor both November observances, we will be featuring four members of our Military BRG to share how their involvement with the military has shaped them into who they are today.

In part 1, we highlighted veterans Chad Cochran and Lee Wittschen. Now we are featuring two Military BRG members from military families: Tara DiFrancesco and Madison McFadden.

Tara has worked in marketing for two decades delivering exceptional account management to clients in a variety of industries. Her experience includes direct response marketing business development, project and campaign management and execution, budgeting and forecasting, client services, creative services and print production operations, and digital marketing.

Madison is an SFMC Architect, focusing on the design, implementation, and deployment of a wide variety of solutions on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud platform. She has worked with an extensive assortment of clients within the retail, entertainment, and pharmaceutical verticals.

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

Tara: I was born in Wilmington, Delaware. I moved a lot growing up, so I didn’t grow up in one place. I’ve lived in England, Delaware, Connecticut, Virginia, Pittsburgh, and most recently southeastern Pennsylvania. In September 2021, I made the decision to make a dream of mine come true and live at the beach in St. Augustine, Floria.

Madison: I started on the account team at Merkle and I transferred to my current role after learning the skills through hands-on work during my time on that team. I grew up in Loveland, Colorado. After attending college at Colorado State in Fort Collins, I moved to Denver. Recently, I relocated to North Carolina.

2. How/why did you get involved in the Military BRG?

Tara: I myself not in the military. I come from a military (U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marines) and first responder (police, firefighter, EMS) family and have a lot of friends who are military or first responders. I got involved in the Military BRG because I wanted to support and serve those that serve, and that make so many sacrifices day in and day out to ensure safety, protection, and most importantly, freedom.

Madison: I got involved with the military BRG because my husband serves in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret. This BRG gives those at dentsu a community of people who have similar experiences. It also gives us goals outside of our everyday jobs to work toward to expand the military and veteran community at our workplace.

3. What is one way you will bring awareness to the month of November for Veterans Day and National Military Family Month?

Tara: Every Veterans Day, I personally reach out to all of my family and friends and thank them for their service and make sure they know they are thought of, appreciated, and fully supported. Year round, I always look for and partake in ways I can serve the military and first responder communities – fundraisers, charity initiatives, donations, etc.  

Madison: One way I plan to bring awareness to the month of November for Military Family Month and Veterans Day is to discuss the sacrifices made by those within the military and their families with co-workers, family, and friends. I also plan on taking Veterans Day off to spend with my loved ones who have served in the armed forces.

4. In what ways do you offer and receive support as someone who has loved ones in the military?

Tara: It comes down to creating and maintaining a strong and close network and having the lines of communication in the network deeply rooted and flowing freely in both directions with not only words of support and encouragement but also with acts of service. It could be as simple as sending cards and posting messages to sending care packages and making donations (in the form of financial, goods, and even time).

Madison: I have found the best way to offer or receive support to those who have loved ones in the military is by continually reaching out and offering a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on. Sometimes just listening can be the best support you can give.

5. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who has loved ones in the military?

Tara: Stay connected.

Madison: Having a loved one in the military can be difficult at times, but those times will come to an end. Knowing that everything ends is a gift of experience. Learn to appreciate where you are at and find the positives in every situation – it will allow you to cherish the good times even more than you already do. 

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

Tara: When my first and only marriage ended in 2018, I found myself on my own needing to start over, a bit lost, scared, unsure of what to do, or how to do it. I needed to find myself again and the strength (emotionally, mentally, physically) I once had. I also needed to find and set my direction, my plan of action to move forward. I will say, my military and first responder family and friends helped me tremendously and played a huge role in getting me back on my feet as they taught me structure, discipline, respect, courage, to believe in myself, find my inner strength, and never give up.

Madison: It’s hard to pinpoint one particular moment that defined who I am. There are a handful of things like living alone in my early 20s, moving across the country without knowing anyone besides my significant other, or making a career shift to a more technical role.

7. What inspires you about your workplace culture?

Tara: The people. I’ve been with Merkle for the past seven years and have consistently been amazed with the knowledge, skill, and experiences team members have, and also the passion, commitment, and dedication they constantly demonstrate toward their company, clients, and co-workers. It also has been the first company in my career that I can honestly say it truly feels like family.

Madison: What inspires me about my workplace culture is all of the exceptionally talented people at Merkle. We have some of the best minds in the industry across so many different roles. Being able to collaborate and work with some of the smartest people you have met is truly exciting. The way our teams collaborate and work together is unlike anywhere else.

8. If you currently weren’t doing what you do today professionally, what would you be doing?

Tara: I have a deep love for coffee, so any job with it would be awesome: taster, brewer, “bean-seeker”, product development. I also have a deep love for the beach, so any job with it would be great, too. Or a professional stunt woman.

Madison: I would love to open up an animal sanctuary for senior animals. Providing comfort and quality time for animals who are near the end of their lives would be a very fulfilling job.

9. What was the first concert you went to?

Tara: Early 1990s. Aerosmith. Pittsburgh.

Madison: The first concert I remember going to is Neil Young with my parents when I was in elementary school.

10. Rapid fire

Favorite food

Tara: I live a KETO lifestyle – nuts.

Madison: Sushi or anything with green chili

Favorite TV show/movie

Tara: Sons of Anarchy

Madison: Schitt’s Creek

Favorite hobby/activity

Tara: Being on the beach

Madison: Running, hiking, playing with our dog

Favorite book

Tara: Harry Potter

Madison: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica or In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Guilty pleasure

Tara: Eating peanut butter right out of the jar

Madison: Watching Love Island

Best advice or mantra you live by

Tara: We must be the change we wish to see in the world.

Madison: “Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.” – Bob Goff