I Am Merkle is a series of interviews that showcase the individuals who make Merkle a unique and diverse place to work. This month, learn more about our featured employee, Liyah Sudra. 

Liyah Sudra | Senior Project Manager, SEO & DEI Lead

Liyah Sudra sits within the Merkle Media brand of dentsu as a Senior Project Manager in the SEO department. Liyah primarily works on a large global, regulated Heated Tobacco client which operates in 70+ markets across 4 regions to ensure operational excellence through resourcing, process improvement and budget and capacity management.

Liyah also chairs dentsu Represent, the Employee Resource Group (ERG) dedicated to improving diversity, equity and inclusion for talent from ethnically diverse backgrounds. One of Liyah's main DEI passions is the Seat At The Table (SATT) mentorship programme. Liyah successfully piloted SATT in Merkle UK in 2022. This programme aims to pair ethnically diverse talent with senior and executive leadership across the business to help them with career progression. In Q4 2023, along with Jane Wright, Liyah will be rolling SATT out to dentsu UK.

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

I grew up in Leicester which is a super multi-cultural city in the East Midlands but probably more recently known for the Premier League win in 2016. My parents were both born in Uganda which makes me a second-generation immigrant, they left Uganda in the 1970s as refugees after Asians were expelled by Idi Amin and settled in Leicester where they still are today. I moved to London (Lewisham specifically) in 2019 to start working but 4 years later I’m living in Brixton!

What drew you to your current career?

Merkle was my first job after finishing my masters in ‘Marketing for the Creative Industries’ at the University of Leicester and I’ll be honest; I just wanted any job in marketing that I could find at that point! Even in a masters for Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which is the business area that I’m in, was not mentioned once which is wild. It’s been 3 years and 10 months and throughout that time my role at Merkle has evolved and changed. I started as an SEO Junior Associate and now I’m a Senior Project Manager (still within the SEO team) mainly working on Philip Morris International but not doing much SEO at all! Project management is something that very naturally plays to my strengths, so when this opportunity came about in 2021 it was the right transition for me!

Are there any teaching moments from working that you could share?

Everyone has things that they are good at and things that they need to work on to improve. In the past, I’ve got so caught up trying to develop skills in something that I’m just not that good at but more recently I’ve really been championing leaning into your strengths. That’s not to say we shouldn’t actively be looking to widen our skill sets, ask questions and always be open to learning more, but for me for example, my natural strengths are organisation, problem-solving, adaptability which is one of the reasons why I decided to make the change from executing SEO to project managing SEO projects. It’s much easier for me to excel when I lean into strengths that I’m naturally good at. Work smarter, not harder!

What do you like about Merkle’s workplace culture?

People always pitch in to support each other, it’s not everyone for themselves, it’s how can we work effectively as a team and share the load to make sure the stress isn’t on one person. I love that DEI is placed at the forefront and we have dedicated ERGs for all areas of diversity.

What makes you passionate about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)?

I’ve often been in rooms where I’ve struggled to be heard, treated differently to those around me or not even present in the room to be able to share my views in the first place. Being a woman and colour and coming from a multi-cultural city like Leicester, I’ve had early and constant exposure to cultural and racial diversity and the different ways of thinking that comes with that. Unfortunately, these different ways of thinking/perspectives that come from people with diverse backgrounds are often pushed aside or not able to be expressed in the first place so working on DEI initiatives is so important to amplify these voices and ensure equitable opportunities. This is what has led me to be passionate about DEI and ultimately co-chair Represent – dentsu’s employee resource group (ERG) for race & ethnicity. In an ideal world, the system would be equal and fair and there would be no unconscious bias and there’d be no need for these types of groups, but it’s not the way it is unfortunately.

If you could have any occupation in the world, what would it be?

Dream job would be to own my own coffee shop that could act as a multi-functional space for a bunch of creative things.

Rapid fire

a.       Favourite food: I love Japanese and Korean food. Karaage, Dakgalbi, and Udon are some of my favourites.

b.      Favourite TV show/movie: I find this question difficult but something fun that I recently watched is ‘Platonic’ with Seth Rogen & Rose Byrne

c.       Favourite hobby: Eating, crochet, jewellery making (most crafts really!) and bouldering.