At Merkle, our DEI team is thrilled to unveil two innovative internal programs that are sure to help our employees reach new heights in both their personal and professional lives.
Forward Movement Fridays: A 6 month long cohort group to learn and apply effective tools, strategies, and principles of behavioral change to achieve personal and professional goals.
LIFT (Leverage internal future talent): A development program for high potential women over a 9-month long experience for 15 Merkle women. The program is designed to elevate competence and confidence among the women and skill development in areas that will make them highly impactful in their current and future roles.
This month in I Am Merkle, we talk with team members who are participating in these programs this year. The four people interviewed are:
Amy Kieffer, VP, Enterprise Sales
Scott Burnam, Associate Director, Client Services | Cardinal Path
Crystal Webb, Director, Performance Media
Spencer Kollas, VP Client Partner
AK: I am a true Minnesotan…born and raised! I grew up in White Bear Lake, MN (shout out to the movie Fargo – Go Bears), and in true Minnesota fashion, I live about 10 minutes from my hometown in Centerville, MN. I have been married to my husband Travis for 15 years, and we have two amazing kids – Adele, 11, and Carter, 13! We welcomed our newest family member two years ago; an English Bulldog named Tootsie. She is the queen of the castle.
SB: I spent 80% of my life on the Adirondack Coast, in Plattsburgh, NY; then, moved to Dayton, Ohio (after meeting a woman who would become my wife and the mother of our son). We spent the next 15 years there before moving to beautiful Phoenix, AZ in 2021!
CW: Hello! I am Crystal Webb, born and raised in New Orleans. I lived there through high school and moved to Atlanta in 2000 to attend college at Clark Atlanta University. I’ve been in Atlanta ever since.
SK: I was born in Connecticut and lived there until 7th grade when we moved to Jupiter, Florida. I went to undergrad and grad school at Florida State University and now live in Atlanta with my wife Candace and 3 kids, Riley, Sydney, and Joshua.
AK: I started my career at FICO in the marketing services group, back when we worked on the mainframe blue screens (Google that). Fun fact, I also have a twin sister that worked with me at FICO and Merkle! I learned early on that I love working with clients and solving problems. Building relationships is my jam. I started as an Account Manager and transitioned to sales, where I found my voice and thrived. I had always aspired to work at Merkle. I worked at Merkle for a few years and then had an opportunity to work at a start-up. I left for five years, learned a ton, then returned back home to Merkle.
SB: I learned website analytics during my first career in higher education as I became responsible for enrollment management when college websites began the drive to measure enrollment funnels. After 25 years in that vertical, I had an opportunity to make a big move into a new space and took the risk.
CW: I was drawn to my career because of the ability to plan and be strategic. Planning and strategic thinking are two of my favorite job functions. I was glad to find an avenue within media that aligned with my skillset and gave me satisfaction.
SK: I honestly fell into it; I was a project manager for NASCAR.com and was talking to our partner at our email service provider and asked if they knew anyone that could use my skills and I ended getting hired to create and run their brand-new deliverability practice. From there I have spent 20 years in various roles working with clients to build out their digital marketing campaigns.
AK: Early in my career, I tried to conform and hold back hearing things like "you are too much, and" you need to know when to be quiet." Guess what; you do you. You own how you respond, and no one else is in charge of you.
I started to thrive when I owned who I was. I also learned that negative people would never like my style. Practice gratitude, and if you do you…your life will change forever!
SB: My last mentor once reminded me that the 10-20% of my job I didn’t like was the part I got paid for and the rest I’d probably do for free. I remember this exchange all these years later when I feel salty about the tasks that I don’t like.
CW: I had a boss who used to always tell me, “It’s okay, we’re not performing heart surgery,” whenever I got stressed about work. That stuck with me and helped me stay calm during any work challenges.
SK: I am not sure I can pick just one—I try to keep learning, and in turn keep teaching from everything I do. If I had to pick one, I would say that not everyone wants to be, or should be in management. It is important to focus on working with people to find the right career path for them, and not just a one-size-fits-all path.
AK: I started working when I was 13 years old. We grew up in a family that had to work hard to earn every dollar we had. We all had responsibilities at an early age. I learned that everyone has to lean in to survive and thrive as a family. The same is true with my career. If I’m not leaning in, working with fantastic colleagues, and believing in the mission, I am not thriving. I must have passion and work with like-minded people in a culture that embraces mission and purpose.
SB: The concept of white privilege was once communicated to me as not meaning one has had an easy life, but rather that the color of one’s skin isn’t one of the things that made it hard. This simple, eloquent explanation helped me see in ways I’d been blind to for far too long, when I dared equate my struggle growing up in poverty to that of any person doing the same.
CW: After college graduation, I took a job with a door-to-door sales company. I hated the job, rarely met quota, and was fired. The owner of the company told me the job wasn’t for me. He was right and it forced me to find the right job and I’ve been shaped by that experience ever since.
SK: Meeting my wife in an 8am class in college—she needed my notes for the mid-term, and yes, she got a better grade them me on it. We have been through so much together over the last 28 years and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her. That one moment defined who I am today many years later.
AK: I have the pleasure of working with so many amazing people at Merkle, many of whom I call friends! Our culture encourages innovation, passion, and ‘getting shit done’. I love working with like-minded people who are focused on vision and the success of each other, Merkle, and our clients. #Merkleproud
SB: The work we are doing around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is being driven by people whose demonstrated qualities of heart make me feel proud and honored to benefit from their great work. Technology doesn’t inspire me, selling doesn’t inspire me, enriching lives and doing good in the world inspires me, and these people are doing just that.
CW: I am inspired by the respect in the Merkle workplace. I feel like my point of view is always valued. Also, there is a culture that sets you up to succeed through career advocates who are the best cheerleaders, rooting you on throughout your journey at Merkle.
SK: I genuinely enjoy everyone I work with and try to make sure that I provide a safe space for teams to learn and grow at the same time, enjoying the work that they do for our clients.
AK: We should never stop learning. I advocate for leadership growth and push myself outside of my comfort zone. I was honored to be nominated to participate in the LIFT program and take it very seriously. I am excited to learn from others and sharpen my skills to expand my growth and leadership potential.
SB: Admittedly, I had deprioritized this opportunity, having benefited recently from dentsu’s Game Changing Talent program in 2021. However, a rock-star member of my team, Himel Khandker, resurfaced the opportunity for Forward Movement Fridays to me, told me he was going for it, and encouraged me to do the same. I’m so glad that I took him up on his encouragement!
CW: I saw the LIFT program as a runway into a future leadership opportunity. The training and skills offered in this program will strengthen my current leadership skills and give me access to additional tools and people along the way.
SK: I think it’s so important to continue to learn and improve. When this opportunity presented itself, I felt like I had to apply for Forward Movement Fridays because the more I learn, the more I can help my team. It’s critical that my team members grow, and if I can learn one nugget that helps each of them, it is time well spent
AK: Dedicated time to focus on self-awareness and self-growth (both personally and professionally) that shapes the way I show up each day. I look forward to an opportunity to pay this experience forward.
SB: The older I get, the more I’ve become driven to learn from those younger than me; it’s one way that we can cheat around the old adage that ‘youth is wasted on the young’. Among other goals in the program, I’m eager to learn how other generations generate and keep their mojo up in their careers and adopt some new best practices for myself.
CW: I hope to learn more about myself as a leader and gain more skills to become a stronger leader. I also hope to meet more Merkle team members and build relationships with my cohort.
SK: I hope to not only learn new tactics that will help me accomplish more, but also learn new ways of approaching various obstacles.
AK: I LOVE my job – this is my dream! When I retire, I will start a non-profit that supports women at all career stages to build confidence and identify strengths—providing full-service support, including professional styling, resume building, and childcare services.
SB: My dream job would be as the Artistic Director of a small theater company, housed in an abandoned church purchased, and then converted to be a theater performance space.
CW: My dream job would be event planning and design in the entertainment industry. I could see myself designing the set of Watch What Happens Live on Bravo. LOL.
SK: I realize that not everyone can say this about their job, but I really enjoy what I am doing and am so thankful to have landed at Merkle. If I had a “dream job” it would be doing the same type of work but focused on the Children’s Healthcare organization as it is very near and dear to my heart.
AK: Paula Adbul and Color Me Badd
SB: Stevie Nicks at Jones Beach, 1990; Boz Scaggs opened, and it was an amazing show!
CW: I went to an Usher concert in the early 90s at Teen Summit in New Orleans.
SK: This will definitely date me, but it was Herbie Hancock—breakdancing just started and he had the hit song “Rock It”.