I Am Merkle is our interview series led by Merkle's DEI team, highlighting the exceptional individuals that contribute to the diverse and vibrant work environment at Merkle. Merkle Technology Strategy team recently had the opportunity to engage with one hundred Cristo Rey High School students, leading a full day presentation on consulting and marketing, organized by Merkle. Read more on this here! This month, we are thrilled to showcase four outstanding members from Merkle's Technology Strategy team: Kayla Wolf, Phil Marsalona, Allison Coppin, and Laura Lopez.
Kayla: I grew up north of Chicago, IL on the border of Wisconsin. I went to college in Indiana, then spent a few years in Cleveland, OH. I now reside in Nashville, TN but I’ll be moving again soon!
Phil: I was born in Houston, TX but spent high school and young adult years in the Philadelphia area. In 2017 my family and I moved to West Palm Beach in sunny South Florida – NO MORE WINTER! 😉
Allison: I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and now live in the city of Chicago. Despite being born and raised here, the weather is something I still haven’t become accustomed to.
Laura: I was born and raised in Whittier, CA, where I still reside. Whittier is located 12 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Kayla: I was working in email and direct mail marketing in account management and realized I was deeply interested in the overall marketing technology ecosystem. When a chance to consult with Merkle came up, I jumped at the opportunity.
Phil: I’ve always been interested in gadgets and technology. After college I landed my first job in A/V production at a small company and made friends with the IT guy and web master. They let me help on projects where I learned more about tech and a bit of coding. From there I got my first job at a digital agency which eventually led me to Merkle.
Allison: Excitement partially driven by fear. I knew that this career would break me out of my CRM box. Although that previous experience had been valuable, I was open to an opportunity that pushed me out of my comfort zone and broadened my horizons.
Laura: A combination of always strategically being in the right place to be involved in technology implementations and my ability to organize chaos. I love taking a complex situation and making it digestible for any audience.
Kayla: The successful completion of our Merkle Dream Grant project! It was inspiring to see the rest of my team get behind my idea and bring it to fruition with a full day of teaching and mentoring a hundred high school freshmen.
Phil: Having a family! I’ve been married for 12 years and have 3 little girls – Penny (8), Mimi (5), and Lina (3)
Allison: Being a great friend. I take a lot of pride in my relationships. I like to think that I am reliable, kind, and can make my friends and family laugh. Those relationships fuel me to be better in all aspects of my life, including my career.
Laura: Raising my daughter, who will be going off to college this fall. She sees how hard I work and the sacrifices I make, all while balancing life. I will continue to work to be a strong role model to show that women are leaders.
Kayla: Learning about positive reinforcement when training my dog, Mulligan. The ideas of this training protocol apply to humans, too, and it continually shapes my thinking and the way I confront conversations and requests with others.
Phil: The first time I wrote a software program to automate a business process, my mind was blown. I literally automated more than 50% of my job at the time which freed me up to do more fun and interesting strategic work.
Allison: Being comfortable is great. Being challenged is rewarding. Finding a balance between the two is what I strive for. I want to be comfortable with the culture of a company but challenged through the work.
Laura: My biggest learning moment was joining Merkle, where I can be in a room full of smart and ambitious people. I am constantly humbled by the talent across the organization.
Kayla: Changing majors during my junior year of college. It felt like admitting I’d failed at being an engineer. I came to realize I only owe myself my best effort and that doing the hardest thing won’t result in the most successful career. Instead, flow with what you’re good at and have confidence you have the vision to get yourself where you want to be.
Phil: When I was 17, I made a decision to (try my best!) to follow the teachings of Jesus. I cannot imagine who or where I’d be today had I not.
Allison: Volunteering at a children’s hospital gave me a greater appreciation for what I have and helped me navigate high stress, very sensitive situations while remaining calm. I take a lot of that with me as I navigate new and old relationships and business engagements.
Laura: When I decided to change my path physically and emotionally and become solely dependent on myself. I completely started over and rebuilt from the bottom up. I learned to be stronger in all aspects of my personal life, which allowed me to find my strength to try new things in my career.
Kayla: The action that follows the words. It’s easy to say culture is valuable, it’s a lot harder but more important to support initiatives like our Dream Grant financially and from a management perspective.
Phil: The genuine humility and intelligence of the people at Merkle makes me grateful to work here daily. And the Tech Strategy team I’m a part of is the most dynamic, smart, and hard-working (yet balanced) teams I’ve ever been a part of.
Allison: The culture at Merkle is very collaborative. It nurtures a lot of learning opportunities and new ways of thinking.
Laura: I see so many women in leadership and women supporting women to ensure this culture lives on. Merkle is ever evolving and fosters a safe place where you can learn from each other and show vulnerability, which opens opportunity to grow in spaces you may not have otherwise considered.
Kayla: I wrote the original Dream Grant and orchestrated the trip overall, which included working closely with the staff at Cristo Rey to make sure our planned sessions aligned to teaching modules the students had encountered at school. I had a lot of help developing documents and running discussion groups from my fantastic team!
Phil: The Tech Strategy team recently partnered with Cristo Rey to do an all-day onsite learning experience. The Merkle Tech Strategy team designed the day and took over 100 students through a series of educational and workshop sessions to teach them all about customer experience, technology, and consulting.
Allison: I taught a classroom of students with my colleague, Brandon Jackson, as part of a larger Cristo Rey learning day with the rest of the Technology Strategy team at Merkle. We taught the students about consulting, and how the Marketing Technology Strategy team works with clients.
Laura: Through the Tech Strategy team, I had the opportunity to help educate the Cristo Rey students in what we do at Merkle, marketing, technology and help them understand consulting as a potential career path.
Kayla: The moments where a student seemed to ‘get it’ were so rewarding. There were occasions where I was surprised by the creativity and consideration used by students in their contributions. Some kids expressed genuine interest in consulting as a career after hearing about what we do every day. Knowing that we gave these students an opportunity to see whether this could be a good fit for them as adults was amazing.
Phil: Connecting with the students and hearing their innovative ideas was incredible! The speed at which some of the students were able to pick up on the concepts we were teaching and apply them to their daily experiences was so fun and exciting to see.
Allison: It was exciting to see the students getting so involved during the lesson, and ultimately presenting their ideas at the end of the day. Not only did the students present well, but they had great ideas! It was exciting to get a sneak peak of what our future leaders are capable of.
Laura: So honored to be a part of the Merkle x Cristo Rey partnership! As a team, sharing our experiences and personal journey that led us to Merkle, marketing, and technology is priceless for high school students. Knowing that Cristo Rey students have the internship connection with Merkle is extremely gratifying given this opportunity can be life changing as they begin their path about what they want in a career. As freshman in high school, these students are highly influenced by their surroundings and having Merkle help guide and educate can make all the difference.
Kayla: Consulting, but working with governments and municipalities to encourage climate and animal-friendly strategies in construction, highway management, etc.
Phil: This is a hard one! I have so many interests and they change monthly. Today it would be: Chief AI Officer
Allison: Maybe own a bakery shop. Really lean into my love for cookies.
Laura: Owning and managing a ranch that takes in foster animals and running a doggy daycare at the ranch. My social feeds remind me every day that this my calling!
Kayla: Fresh sourdough and butter
Phil: Kao Soi Ramen
Kayla: Tommy Boy
Phil: Jurassic Park
Laura: 13 going on 30
Phil: Playing Music
Allison: Eating cookies
Laura: Cycling (obsessed with Peloton), Shopping (also my cardio), spoiling my dog
Phil: The Three-Body Problem Trilogy by Cixin Liu
Allison: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Laura: Any true crime book
Kayla: Terrible horror movies/tv series
Phil: Imperial IPAs
Laura: Trash reality TV (Bravo of course)
Kayla: "Get comfortable living in the storm” – my dad
Phil: That golden rule! “Do to others as you would like them to do to you”
Allison: "If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours" – Dolly Parton
Laura: "Through failure there is growth"