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I Am Merkle, Vol. 15

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

I Am Merkle is a series of interviews that showcase the individuals who make Merkle a unique and diverse place to work. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month to pay tribute to the the men and women with disabilities whose work helps keep the nation's economy strong and to ensure equal opportunity for all. Learn more about our featured employees and members of the Enablement BRG: Disability, Ronisa Rhodes and Matthew Bohlman.

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

Ronisa: I am 26 years old, born and raised in Dallas, Texas where I still reside. As a Senior Recruiter at dentsu, I support Merkle and DWA. I love adventures, white roses, and of course sushi (who doesn’t!). Outside of work I coach others on life and landing a career they love. Being able to make an impact on someone else’s life is important to me. When I have down time, I write poetry and perform locally as much as possible. Life is all about what you make of it and how you handle every situation you’re in. That is something I’ve also had to learn going through life. In summary, I’m just a young southern girl who loves to help others make a difference in life and for them to pass it on.

Matthew: Hi, my name is Matt Bohlman and I work as a Paid Search Associate for iProspect in the Detroit office. I am a native Michigander since birth, living in 25 minutes west of Detroit in Livonia since I was 6 years old. While I did grow up in Livonia, I actually attended elementary through high school in the city of Dearborn because the county’s mainstream program incorporated Deaf/Hard of Hearing (HH) students with a teacher for the Deaf and American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. I will always be grateful and give full credit to the teachers, interpreters, and classmates for shaping who I am today. These are the people who Mr. Rodgers describes, “loved me into being” in the way they modeled positive life lessons they instilled in me as a person with a disability, not defined by it. 

2. What drew you to your current career?

Ronisa: Growing up as a kid, I always wanted to help people. As I went through college, I was set on going to law school to become a family judge, but later grew to learn that it wasn’t for me. My mom has always been an inspiration and has worked in HR for over 20 years. Therefore, I grew a strong interest and once I received my first job working within human resources, I grew a strong liking for it! As my career progressed, I niched down to recruiting, and I absolutely love what I do on a daily basis. I get the best of both worlds in a way: helping others and being in a corporate setting where we still enforce and abide by HR laws and regulations.

Matthew: Personal circumstances and curiosity are the two primary reasons I am in my career today. On a personal level, I am passionate about sharing and representing the Deaf/HH community with my words and actions as an example of success by hard work and determination. I am also curious by nature and enjoy learning the “why” behind the results. In my work, I get certain digital ads and analyze each one on its own, its intent, and discover cause and effect. Then I go online and ask myself if I would be an ideal consumer to buy the product or service, etc.

3a. What inspired you to become a part of DEI?

Ronisa: My family has always been my inspiration. Being able to be a voice for others who don’t feel comfortable or a light for those who don’t feel seen. I hear and see you all. Informing others on the importance of being educated is critical because you never know someone else’s situation as we don’t choose a disability, it chooses us. However, we also can overcome it together, leaning on each other as a community.

Matthew: I was inspired to become a member of DEI to surround myself with other professionals who have disabilities and learn from them. In their good company, I am inspired by their lives and their work to grow in my field. I believe we need to work together to communicate awareness within dentsu and the industry to build on the growing reputation of dentsu being “the place to be” if you have a disability where you can be accepted as who you are and be a part of the dentsu family who wants everyone to be successful. 

3b. What part of your new position are you most excited about?

Ronisa: Being in a new industry seeing our work impact people all over the world excites me every single day. Seeing our work take off in the media and sales is truly amazing! Also, being able to be a part of Team Porter (the recruiting team I’m apart of with Porter Chamblee as my Career Advocate) is great as we’re all very supportive of each other.

Matthew: This early in my career, I am MOST excited about getting my foot in the door of the digital advertising space where I want to build my career. In my specific role, I want to understand the “behind the scenes” view of why those ads appear on search engines to specific audiences and how platforms chose who the right fit is. Along that line, I enjoy looking at ads that have been created and learning from them.

4. What is your biggest accomplishment?

Ronisa: Starting my own side consulting business where I’m able to help everyday people land careers with the companies of their dreams. I do this by coaching them with mock interviews, resume edits, LinkedIn Optimization, and more. Being able to help and have an impact on others' lives is truly encouraging.

Matthew: I know this may come off as a cliché answer but having the opportunity to be a member of the dentsu family is my biggest accomplishment to date. I have worked extremely hard to get here academically and professionally. I have been told more times than I can count that “no company will hire you due to your hearing loss.” To know this still happens today means we need more companies like dentsu who will model this healthy dynamic and to DEI. It is why a company like dentsu that is committed to DEI will provide the opportunities, growth, and accept who I truly am. That feeling made all the obstacles worth it. 

5. To date, what has been your biggest learning or teaching moment?

Ronisa: Learning to walk fully in my purpose in life and who I am as a person. Often times we’re on autopilot, just living life and we don’t stop and ask ourselves if we’re even happy with what we’re doing. In 2019, I made a promise to myself that in everything I do I will love it or not do it at all. The lesson has been self-love.

Matthew: I am happy to say that I have had many teachable moments throughout my life and I eagerly wait for more. I am the cumulative total of my mentors, family, and friends. I like to grow and learn. I have an incredible group of individuals who not only support, encourage, and challenge me, they also inspire me. I have learned that one moment doesn’t define you, yet what you learn from it does. Learning from it will influence what you’ll do in the next moment, to create domino effect. Before being hired at dentsu I had interviews where I didn’t get the position. I went back and looked at the interview process and had family and friends hold mock interviews so I could improve.   

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

Ronisa: September 19, 2015. While attending Sam Houston State University, the first football game of the semester I passed out later learning I was re-diagnosed with Generalized Epilepsy. In result, I broke both ankles landing me in the hospital for a week, living in a rehab for 3 months using a wheelchair while slowly learning how to walk again. My life changed in a moment. I’m excited to say I’ve fully recovered and no longer need a wheelchair!

Matthew: When I was in high school, I would go to a nearby elementary school to assist the teacher for the Deaf with their Deaf/HH students. I found I liked encouraging them to keep studying hard, stay strong and reach out for help. A little boy once shared that he was told he couldn’t do anything. I told him it wasn’t true at all and we talked about it. This always stuck with me because I went through that myself. It makes me sad to see kids with disabilities being treated so poorly and made to feel like a failure. I have made it my personal goal to live my life in such a way that Deaf/HH kids, and those with disabilities, can see what they are capable of and inspire others to do the same.  

7. What inspires you about your workplace culture?

Ronisa: Dentsu and their drive for change has inspired me since day one to be even more involved in driving change in life and the workplace. Knowing I’m in a role with a company that values change and the voice we have is so inspiring. It matters, and it always has!

Matthew: It inspires me daily to know that I am a member of a workplace where I am accepted for who I am and have the accommodations I need to be successful. Being at a company where employees with disabilities are treated with the same expectations as those without is essential to me. I also want to grow and get better in my field.  

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

Ronisa: I’ve always dreamed of traveling the world being a motivational speaker helping others based off my own life, encouraging them to keep going regardless of what life looks like at the current moment. You never know what tomorrow may bring as every day is unpredictable. The impossible is always possible, you just have to believe and have faith.

Matthew: If I weren’t doing advertising, I would probably be doing something with psychology. I always find people fascinating, their story, and the “whys” behind the decisions they make based on prior experiences. My dream career outside my current possession would be a food critic and/or movie critic. I love food and watching movies!

9. What was the first concert you went to?

Ronisa: ​​​​​​​Wiz Khalifa

Matthew: I am afraid to share it…Hilary Duff?! Not by choice! My sister wanted to go, and my mom was a single parent so I got stuck going to the concert! (My two favorite concerts were the Goo Goo Dolls and Bruno Mars.)

10. Rapid fire

a. Favorite food

Ronisa: ​​​​​​​Thai food

Matthew: Ribeye steak

b. Favorite TV show/movie

Ronisa: Avid YouTube watcher

Matthew: The Marvel movie, “Endgame.” There were 21 Marvel movies released prior to the movie “Endgame.” It was a blockbuster hit where you experience a roller coaster of emotions. Due to the series, by this movie you feel like you have built a connection with each of the characters who all ban together in order to stop the big villain. 

c. Favorite hobby/activity

Ronisa: Random adventures around the city 

Matthew: I am without a doubt a TV streaming person. I have a lot of favorite TV shows that I watch across various genres. I’m a big fan of Marvel. 

d. Favorite book

Ronisa: The Greatest Miracle in the World by OG Mandino

Matthew: Good to Great by James C. Collins. It’s a classic but it is insightful.

e. Guilty pleasure

Ronisa: Practicing TikTok dances in the mirror

Matthew: A Culver’s Cement Mixer frozen custard made with every type of chocolate mix-in available!

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

Ronisa: If you fast forward the story 5-10 years from now, will the things you're doing still matter or have an impact?

Matthew: Don’t let others decide who you are and who you will be, only you alone can decide the person you will become. You will be the person affected by that choice.