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Me in Merkle - Afsar Ali

Me In Merkle is a series of interviews that showcase the incredible individuals who make Merkle a unique and diverse place to work. This week we chatted to Afsar Ali, digital director - digital delivery, at Merkle.

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

I have been in the media industry for 7-8 years where I started out my career in PPC in iProspect in 10 Triton, so very nostalgic feeling being back here. I am British Bangladeshi and I was born and bred in London. I’m a huge gamer and previously was a competitor in Esports. I grew up in South East London in an area called Camberwell, now I hear its very gentrified and definitely not the same area I grew up in. I now live near Canary Wharf. 

2. What drew you to your current career?

I did a degree in marketing however back then, there wasn’t too much in my course which focused on digital. Marketing as a whole didn’t hugely interest me but I knew I wanted a analytical role, so I tried to find something in marketing that could fit into my criteria. I did tonnes of research whilst working side jobs after University and found out about paid search – the rest is history.

3. Why Merkle?

When I found out that Merkle was previously Periscopix, word of mouth gave me a perception of the great work they deliver as well as fitting to an agency in what I was looking for. I was looking for growth opportunities where I can develop my cross channel digital knowledge, skill sets, holistic strategy and the digital delivery team was that fit x100. As well as that, I wanted to be in an inclusive environment where my idea’s are listened to as well as allowing me to pursue my passion in DEI.

4. Tell us a bit more about your day-to-day.

My day-to-day varies hugely. Some days I’m liaising with my international clients in markets like Malaysia and Australia whilst other days  am organising trainings for the business to be anti-racist so very varied.

5. What do you enjoy most about Digital Delivery? And what do you think future developments will be?

I’ve been in Digital Delivery for 11 months and its been the most growth I have felt in all my career in such a short amount of time. That is not just down to the job, challenges and clients but the my team around me giving me that support so I really enjoy the challenge and environment. The team is forever growing which means there’s more growth opportunities, I believe as the team further expands there will be area’s of the business that will need experts in area’s such as ecommerce, DEI, Sustainability, advertising consultancy and more. I think the team will be heading in that direction.

6. What would your advice be to somebody considering a career in Digital Delivery?

Before I joined, I did have this perception that Digital delivery you need to have in depth knowledge of all digital channels but just 1-2 is enough. Others areas of knowledge can be improved as well and also you get a chance to work closely with wider teams like strategy and planning, Media science, CRO, SEO and more.

7. What is your greatest accomplishment?

I lost about 4 stones when I was 15 as I was a bit chubby around 13 stones. I ran almost twice a day and limited my meat intake which at that young age taught myself some discipline. I would say its my greatest accomplishment as it gave me the motivation that I could accomplish many things in my personal or professional life.

8. Tell us a bit about your experience so far with Merkle.

My experience so far at Merkle has been quite fast paced and super rewarding. Outside of the wide variety of day to day work, I’ve met so many talented and friendly colleagues who have support you when you need. Even though is started during lockdown, I have been able to have some social with the team and been great fun getting to know everyone.

9. What inspires you about Merkle’s workplace culture?

The Merkle workplace culture is quite unique and not haven’t really had similar elsewhere. I would say I’ve felt there’s a great deal of focus on collaboration not just within Merkle but within the wider Dentsu network, team orientated and feel like you always have talented team to lean on & people orientated especially with the huge efforts on inclusive culture with DEI at the core.

10. What was your dream job growing up?

I was quite into art and drawing so I wanted to be a Graphic Designer. In reality I had no idea what that career was but thought I could do some cool animations since I was a big fan of Dragon ball Z growing up.

11. Are you involved in any of our DEI Pillars? If so, which one and can you tell us a bit about it?

I co-lead across the Ethnicity pillar and have been for the last few months. I’ve been involved in DEI across my last agency so I wanted bring my passion and experience here at Merkle. Currently we have multiple focuses with large support from senior leaders in the business to make Merkle an Anti-Racist organisation and I manage organising trainings to our leaders in the business. As well as that, I work closely with the pillar to celebrate and create awareness on events such as Persian New Year, South Asian Heritage Month, Black History and more. This is a big passion for me and I love the support we get from the business to make our ideas a reality.

12. How do you like your eggs?

Scrambled with extra buttery goodness!

13. What are you currently watching on Netflix/Prime?

Bridgeton, Demon Slayer, Top Boy and Love Is Blind. I also re-watch Friends because it’s the best

14. What’s your guilty pleasure?

I do like me some cheesy 90s music, my first cassette (yes I’m a boomer) was the band Five and my favourite song was called ‘keep on movin’. So I love me some 90s boy/girl band cheese like Westlife, TLC, Nsync, O-Town, Boyz II Men, the Corrs etc

15. What is your dream holiday destination?

Japan is quite high on that list as I’ve been twice and still fell like I have so much left to do. I would love to visit Hawaii and an island in South Korea called ‘Jeju Island’

16. Best advice or mantra you live by?

When you’re in that meeting or group of colleagues and you have something you want to say/ask a question – find that courage to say what you think would add value. No question is stupid and what you have to say always has value. 

I don’t read much books but I do like this quote by Confucius which I found on the internet "The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life." With a tweak to make this more gender neutral