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 Jessica Grayson, paid search manager, at Merkle.
1. Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Watford (North-West London) and now live in North London. I lived in Birmingham during university, but I truly belong in London North of the Thames!
2. What drew you to your current career?
My degree was in Ancient History, so marketing might not seem the smoothest transition. However, when I graduated, I knew I wanted a job that continually challenged me. I joined Merkle straight out of university and have never looked back. While Paid Search marketing wasn’t on my radar before, I’m so grateful that this career has offered me an insight into so many different industries and helped me grow as a professional.
3. Why Merkle?
When I graduated, I struggled to find a marketing agency that would welcome me without any experience - until I came across Merkle. From my first interview, I knew that Merkle would offer me a chance to get professionally trained, but also quickly get stuck in and learn on-the-job. There’s a real focus on our culture here, particularly around work-life balance, inclusion and diversity. It’s those values that make you stick with Merkle for the long haul.
4. Tell us a bit more about your day-to-day
As cliché as it is, my days really do vary dependant on what role I’m focusing on – whether that’s line managing, leading client teams or delivering training. Roughly a quarter of my time is based in meetings with my teams and/or client contacts – making sure we’re on the same page with a smattering of having a giggle. The rest of my time I split across delivering training, progressing on strategic projects, supporting department initiatives and more. Delivering training internally and to clients is a real passion of mine, so I look out for these opportunities wherever I can. We also have dedicated time each week for self-learning, which means we can upskill wherever we’d like to.
5. What do you enjoy most about Paid Search? And what do you think future developments will be?
Paid Search is always evolving, with a trillion different betas and changes since I joined over 4 years ago. Gmail campaigns and lengthy builds are old news, replaced by a greater focus on Amazon, IM, apps and the cookieless world. Aside from the channel evolving, I’m also lucky to work on an evolving portfolio of clients - from UK retail giants to international brands to small-medium size businesses. I like being challenged to constantly adapt and make sure our strategic focuses are always relevant to the industry, brand and region we’re speaking to.
Finally, I love how Paid Search can integrate with other departments so seamlessly. Our ‘Total Search’ methodology is relatively new to the Paid Search space, and I love seeing all the savings and insights we can drive for our clients through collaborating with SEO.
6. What would your advice be to somebody considering a career in Paid Search?
Do your research! There’s a plethora of free Google resources online, like Skillshop, which will help you gauge if this is your right career. If you like analysis, learning new things and a fast-paced work environment then this is likely the right step for you.
7. What is your greatest accomplishment?
I’m lucky to say that there’s a few things I could lean on here – from internal awards to pitch wins – but I think I’d have to say our external training proposition. When I first joined Merkle we didn’t offer training to clients, however when I heard of this idea I jumped on the bandwagon straight away. I was the first person to deliver external training in the business, and while I suffered from chronic imposter syndrome the entire train journey to my first session, it ended up being a success. Since then, I’ve really enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone and had the pleasure to train managed clients as well as in-house marketing teams. I also now lead the external training proposition for our Paid Search department. From that first training session, I’ve learnt that getting out of your comfort zone is scary but massively rewarding and one of the best ways to learn.
8. Tell us a bit about your journey so far with Merkle.
Straight after graduating university, I started my life in Merkle within our training academy. This 3-month intensive course introduces you to the bread-and-butter of Paid Search, plus is combined with a coaching programme to help you along the way. I then started gaining some clients, from small-medium businesses to luxury beauty to pro-bono charity work. As I gained experience, I then dabbled in some other roles – coaching new joiners, becoming a sub-lead on some client teams and also delivering training internally and externally. I was also interested in Paid Social, so had some opportunities to join client teams in this department as well. A few years into my role, I went through our management training programme, where I started line-managing the lovely team that I have today. And the rest is history!
9. What inspires you about Merkle’s workplace culture?
Even though we’re a big business now, Merkle have always encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit. Our external training proposition was an idea that was taken on board by senior management and grown exponentially since. Equally, I’ve seen full training programmes and tools develop from lots of my co-workers’ ideas.
This willingness to challenge the status quo can be seen throughout our culture today. For instance, diversity and inclusion is a conscious & consistent focus for us, which we push ahead in lots of different ways. One memorable moment for me was attending barrier-free training by Leonard Cheshire. I really appreciated this session, as it gave me a whole new way of considering disabilities and adjustments we can all actively make.
10. What was your dream job growing up?
My first dream job was being a zookeeper - but my pet tortoise helped me quickly discover that visiting animals suited me better than the practicalities of cleaning up after them! I’m also a big reader, but soon came to realise that this doesn’t translate into being the best fictional writer. After those short stints, my dream job was just one that I enjoyed. I’m lucky that my parents have always encouraged me to just do what I love – which is why I chose the quite random subject of ‘Ancient History’ as my degree. From there, you just find transferable skills and passions that meld into your dream job.
11. Are you involved in any of our DEI Pillars? If so, which one and can you tell us a bit about it?
I’m not actively involved in a specific pillar, but love attending all the events & trainings that are on offer! I’m grateful that our events aren’t always about the concept, but also make you think about those practicalities affecting day-to-day life. The barrier-free training by Leonard Cheshire was one of those lightbulb moments for me. Learning about the accessibility features of Microsoft Teams versus Zoom versus PowerPoint have no doubt made me more aware of how I can make a change for the better.
12. How do you like your eggs?
Poached eggs are definitely my fave, however I don’t have the knack for cooking them yet. If anyone has some tips, please share!
13. What are you currently watching on Netflix/Prime?
I am a big fan of F1’s Drive To Survive and currently watching the latest season. I’ve never really been into sports, but I can’t resist the politics, competitiveness, and friendly rivalry of F1. I challenge anyone to not be cheered up by Daniel Ricciardo’s cheeky nature!
14. What’s your guilty pleasure?
The lyrics to Disney songs. I am terrible at remembering the lyrics of even my favourite artists, but my childhood has helped etch “Zero To Hero” in my brain forever. I am easy to spot in a karaoke bar…
15. What is your dream holiday destination?
Anywhere in Asia, but if I had to pick it would probably be Sri Lanka or Vietnam.
16. Best advice or mantra you live by?
“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone”. There’s been so many times where imposter syndrome has nearly got the better of me, but I don’t think I’ve ever regretted putting myself out there and giving it a go. If you need any more encouragement on that, read up about the growth mindset!