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I Am Merkle, Vol. 2

Last month, we kicked off the inaugural edition of the I Am Merkle series – a collective of interviews that showcase the individuals who make Merkle a unique and diverse place to work. This month, learn more about our featured employee, Kirt Morris.

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

First and foremost, I am a traveler, wannabe foodie, fútbol (soccer) fanatic, and a budding blogger. I am also a Director in the Data Management Group at Merkle. In my current capacity, I have end-to-end responsibility for the managed services team on Canon’s Digital Transformation Project. During my twelve years at Merkle, I have delivered, maintained, or assisted on marketing technology platforms for the following clients: Proctor & Gamble, Clorox, Burt’s Bees, Urban Outfitters, Carters, Samsung, UnderArmour, Eddie Bauer, Lowe’s Home Improvement, GEICO, Kimberly-Clark, and Canon, Inc. I also co-lead both the newly formed DAN Americas Multicultural Business Resource Group, and the Merkle Ethnicity pillar.

I was born in the Saint Ann’s District of Port-of-Spain in the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. I spent my earliest years between Arima and Mayaro Trinidad, two miniature villages in the northern and southern regions of the island.

Trinidad and tobago

*Arima is the Amerindian (Carib/Arawak) word for water. Arima was given its name “place of water” because it sprung up on the banks of the Arima River. Mayaro is located in the south-eastern corner of the Trinidad and is the Arawak word for the place of the Maya plant. Maya is the word for the plant, and ro means “the place of.”

I immigrated to the US in 1994, to attend the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP, Go TERPS!), and I currently reside in Maryland with my two boys, Jake and Seth, and my wife, Nikki.

*Source: Towns and Villages of Trinidad & Tobago by Michael Anthony

2. What drew you to your current career?

Obtaining a solid education has always been a fundamental foundation ingrained in me by both my parents and grandparents. From an early age, I wanted to be an engineer and pursued STEM courses like advanced math and physics while attending secondary school in Trinidad. In the late 1980s to early 1990s, I was able to learn the BASIC (Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) programming language.

Once I immigrated to Maryland, my Uncle Charles and Aunt Jacquelyn were instrumental in planning my professional path. While visiting UMCP with them to register for mechanical Engineering classes, they both informed me that there was a new field of study, computer science, that was going to be the wave of the future. I immediately decided to register for computer science instead of mechanical engineering and the rest is history.

After graduating from UMCP with a B.S in Computer Science, I worked for Ernst & Young Consulting in the critical technologies service line with a focus on telecommunications clients for seven years before joining Merkle in 2008. I enjoy the consultative aspect of my role and having to learn a client's business during the process. Also, being able to work with different clients every couple of years and learning new technologies keeps my role contemporary and appealing.

3. What is your biggest accomplishment?

My most significant achievement to date is the launching of my “side hustle” blog and e-commerce site, Trini-In-Xisle. TriniInXisle (Trini’s in Exile) was a creative idea born in 1994, but ultimately materialized in 2018. I established TriniInXisle to promote Trinbago culture and to connect Trinis living abroad to share our perspectives beyond the Caribbean diaspora. Carnival is Trinidad’s most renowned commodity, but I intend to articulate the culture of our people, the diversity of our customs, and the milieu of culinary selections the islands offer.

Trini in Xisle

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

Disquieting and complicated personal and professional circumstances typically reveal my most meaningful learning moments. Sometimes when you believe a situation you are facing is falling apart, the pieces may be actually falling into position.  

In my previous career, I worked on a consulting project abroad and the team was only permitted to travel back to the United States once every fourteen business days for a total of three days. The project was undersold and over scoped, causing the team to work extended hours during the workdays and weekends. Even though team spirit was low, we were able to complete the systems integration project over a period of eighteen months. The following are the key lessons I acquired during the project that I still carry with me today:

  • Sometimes, your best effort will not be immeasurable enough for the people around you. That's ok!
  • "Every struggle, whether won or lost, strengthens us for the next to come." – Victorio. I try to always live by this creed.
  • Don't allow fear of failing to prevent you from taking calculated risks.

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

I connect my personality, and who I am now, to the discipline and honesty I acquired while attending Arima Boys' Roman Catholic Primary School (ABRC). The school's adage "Deeds, Not Words" still resonates with me today.

While attending ABRC, every pupil was trusted to purchase lunch at the cafeteria and retrieve their change from the pile of coins laying on the counter without teacher supervision. The discipline that I acquired at ABRC has adhered with me through my adolescence into adulthood, and I continually try to do the right thing, even when no one is observing.

6. What inspires you about your workplace culture?

The flexible working atmosphere at Merkle is a pre-eminent differentiator. Even though I seldomly work from home, knowing that I have the flexibility to work from home to accommodate personal appointments, teachers’ conferences for the kids, etc., when needed, is a priceless asset. 

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

Getting compensated to traverse the globe and blog about my experiences in various cultures would be my ideal trade. I am intrigued by non-western societies and their mores. India, China, and various countries in Africa would be at the top of my shortlist of countries to visit, primarily during the festivals of Diwali, Lunar New Year, and Guérewol, respectively.

8. What was the first concert you went to?

Summer holiday, also known as, “August” was always a peak season for performances in Trinidad. The first concert that I can remember attending was a doubleheader with Maxi Priest and Shabba Ranks. My most memorable show, though, was seeing Mc Hammer perform live at the National Stadium in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Can’t Touch This!

9. Rapid Fire:

Favorite food

Curry! Any protein curried - curry chicken, curry beef, curry goat (don’t knock it until you try it)

Favorite TV show/movie

Schindler’s List and Band of Brothers

Favorite hobby/activity

Fútbol: Playing, watching, and coaching.  I am a US Soccer Certified Youth Coach

Favorite book

I am an avid reader, and I have more than one. Some of my most recent favorites are:

  1. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  2. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, and
  3. Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish

Guilty pleasure

Doubles! Doubles is a common street food originating from Trinidad and Tobago. It is usually eaten during breakfast, but is also eaten occasionally during lunch, or as a late-night snack. It is even considered a popular hangover food for local Trinidadians.

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

Always do the right thing even when no one is looking.
One Love: there is only one race, the human race.- Bob Marley