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 employees and co-leaders of the LGBTQ+ pillar, Danealle Khaimskiy and Kelsey Harrington.
1. What inspired you to become a part of DEI?
Danealle: As a queer woman in business, I thought I had a story and experience worth sharing. I also wanted to be the visibility that I craved as a closeted teenager.
Kelsey: As a “career switcher” joining Merkle, I joined the DEI pillar to use the skills I have gained through my prior professional experience to help support the community here. As an open and out queer person, I also wanted to help build a community at work and support company initiatives around LGBTQ+ inclusion. In my professional work experience thus far, I’ve gained perspective on the importance of working for a company that honors, respects, and uplifts ALL its employees. It’s important for me to be part of programming and shifting perspectives that will help to support Merkle’s efforts in making those progressive moves and become an industry leader in the DEI space.
2a. What are some of the LGBTQ+ pillar's biggest achievements in 2020?
Danealle: I think getting leadership and everyone on board with pronoun usage. It’s awesome seeing it in everyone’s signatures and hearing people start their calls with it.
b. What are the main goals/objectives for the LGBTQ+ pillar in 2021?
Danealle: Our main goal is to focus on the intersectionality of Pride by working closely with the other pillars.
Kelsey: I am most excited about collaborating with the Parents BRG on a new LGBTQ+ parenting circle. This circle is for those who identify as LGBTQ+ parents and/or those parenting LGBTQ+ children. My partner and I are foster parents to a teen who identifies as a part of the community and we also have an adopted toddler. I look forward to connecting with others about how we navigate the many nuances of being a working LGBTQ+ parent.
3. What does Pride month mean to you?
Danealle: Pride month to me means history. It means bravery in the face of opposition. It means living life, every day of it, to its fullest.
Kelsey: Pride month is a time to reflect on how much progress has been made due to the sacrifices and battles started by Black trans women in our country’s history. All my comforts, rights, and the love and acceptance I have today is because of the people who have come before me willing to risk it all. That is something that I too often take for granted. Pride Month is a time to respect those elders and celebrate progress. I appreciate the allies who step up to say they support us, and I look forward to continuing to fight for progress with them by our sides.
4. What is a moment in your life that defined or shaped who you are today?
Danealle: I don’t think there is anyone moment, but growing up the daughter of immigrants, especially religious refugees, gives you a very different perspective on life.
Kelsey: Going to graduate school for College Student Development and studying in a very self-reflective program absolutely shaped who I am today. It was the first time in my education I really had to reflect on how my identities impact my view of the world and cause deficiencies in how I appreciate and respect the worldview of others. It was a profound experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
5. To date, what has been your biggest learning or teaching moment?
Danealle: I think my biggest learning moment was anytime I watched the current political climate unfold. It was a very big eye opener on how far we still have to go.
Kelsey: Learning from the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement has been a major learning opportunity for me over the last few years. When it comes to DEI efforts, it’s important to put intersectionality at the forefront of our progress. This is impossible to do if we don’t learn from each other. As a white woman, I’ve been so sheltered from the structural and institutional racism BIPOC people continue to face. It’s important for myself and other white people to know we are not the experts in this arena and we must first, listen and learn.
6. What inspires you about your workplace culture?
Danealle: Just how open and supportive everyone I have worked with has been. Everyone is so willing to jump into Pride events and learn something new.
Kelsey: I find the support I receive from my career advocate and colleagues to be inspiring. There is no doubt this past year has been challenging for working parents and others. I’m so proud to be on a team that prioritizes mental health and wellbeing. My co-chairs Kevin and Danealle care so much and give so much of their time to the LGBTQ+ BRG. I aspire to be like them!
7. What politician or social activist (deceased or living) inspires you the most and why?
Danealle: Bayard Rustin is so inspirational and yet, he was almost completely written out of history. He was a gay, civil rights activist who worked closely with MLK, Jr. Despite being ostracized, he still worked day and night to fight for what was right by fighting for the civil rights of African Americans.
Kelsey: Oh gosh, picking my most inspiring social activist is too tough! I love the energy of grassroots activists who continually work, lobby, and organize for their causes. It’s hard to not get burnt out and anyone who can maintain that energy for years is truly an inspiration!
8. Rapid fire:
a. Favorite Food
Danealle: I love ramen!
Kelsey: My meal of choice when I’m out is almost always a buffalo chicken sandwich!
b. Favorite Musician
Danealle: Currently it’s Elle King
Kelsey: My go-to for most everything is Sylvan Esso
c. Favorite TV show/movie
Danealle: The Good Doctor is my fave show
Kelsey: I love the Princess Bride!
d. Favorite hobby/activity
Danealle: I love reading, fishing, and writing
Kelsey: I enjoy playing/watching soccer and bike commuting on my cargo bike
e. Favorite book
Danealle: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Kelsey: Honestly… I don’t have one
f. Guilty pleasure
Danealle: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures! If it makes you happy there shouldn’t be any guilt around it.
Kelsey: I could spend a relaxing weekend away just vegging out and having no guilt whatsoever.
g. Best advice or mantra you live by (in your own words)
Danealle: You will get close to the edge many times in life, but never fall off.
Kelsey: Only put time and energy into what you love