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 leaders of the Mental health pillar, Sheba Wheeler, Lindsey Schneider, Keri Myslinski, and Priyanka Baxi.
1) What drew you to your current career?
Sheba: I was drawn to Office Services because, at its heart, the industry is about helping others, providing resources, and being solution oriented. Those are all characteristics of who I want to be as a person, and I love that my career as an Office Manager allows me to express that. We are leaders in our offices. And, we also get to assist in creating a workplace culture of togetherness and fun that makes our offices a great place to be.
Lindsey: If you would have told me when I started at Merkle that I would be here 12 years later as an operations business partner, I would not have believed you. I wouldn't say I was drawn to my career so much as there have been circumstances that have landed me here. I always wanted a career in marketing knowing it would be fast-paced and full of variety. I spent 10 years on the Samsung account and during that time I became passionate about creating effective and efficient processes for the team. Fast forward to today, I am excited to be on the operations team supporting our client teams because I believe we can drive change and transformation around process improvement.
Keri: I wanted to be a graphic designer from a very early age. I have always been drawn to the arts and I am a problem solver by nature, so the two seemed to merge well into the marketing field.
Priyanka: I have always been passionate about marketing, but the love of analytics is something that came post my first job at 3M which introduced me to the world of data-driven marketing. I was absolutely amazed by the kind of insights you can get and informed decisions you can make if you only know how to work with the data. Data is something that most companies have no idea what to do with. That led me to earn my Masters in Marketing Intelligence once I knew that I’d found my calling.
2) What inspired you to become a part of DEI?
Sheba: DEI initiatives give voice to difficult topics so that we can better understand issues and address them. I wanted to be a part of any efforts that create a safe space for awareness, representation, and change in our company.
Lindsey: I have always loved volunteering my time for non-profit organizations and causes that are near and dear to my heart. I made a conscious effort to align with our DEI Mental Health and Wellness pillar in 2020. I saw it as an opportunity to help communicate the mission of mental health and spread awareness about the resources available within Merkle and dentsu around two very significant and substantial topics in our society.
Keri: For a longtime, mental health has been something whispered about, yet everyone struggles with it in one way or another. I have always been frustrated that more attention hasn’t been given to this area along with providing attention to issues raised by other pillars in DEI.
Priyanka: The culture of the company has always been the top priority for me. So, 18 months ago, after completing my masters, when I started looking for a job, I thoroughly researched the companies and their cultures and Merkle’s DEI program was unmatched! What inspired me to join DEI was the learning aspect of it – learning from people with different perspectives, learning to speak up and take a stand on issues that no one wants to talk about, and learning to be more self-aware and confident.
3) What sparked your interest and involvement with the Mental Health Pillar?
Sheba: Initially, I thought the Pillar would be a comforting place to share my own struggles with depression and anxiety. But since joining, I’ve learned it’s also a great vehicle for offering services, educating others about challenges their team members might be enduring, and stopping the stigma and shame associated with mental illness.
Lindsey: To help empower others to feel good about themselves and take the necessary steps to create a healthier lifestyle.
Keri: I have personally struggled with social anxiety and depression since childhood. I also have family and friends that have had their own challenges with mental health. I feel passionate about giving my time to this area because it needs a louder voice in our society and a lot of things could be prevented or resolved with more acceptance, education, and services available.
Priyanka: I joined the pillar with the hopes of finding a group that normalizes talking about mental health and a safe space to validate my feelings without the fear of being judged. What I found was a community ready to help, listen, empathize, and encourage one another to talk and get the most out of life – in all aspects of wellness and mental health.
a. What are some of the Mental Health Pillar’s biggest achievements in 2021?
Sheba: The Motivational Mondays series has helped attendees focus and be resilient during a troubling time in our world. And the “Managing Your Grief Forum” was a powerful testament of why it’s important to create safe spaces for others in times of trauma.
Lindsey: Motivational Monday's and Wellness Wednesdays, Grief Forum for employees and leading a Masterclass on Resilience.
Keri: I think introducing people— some who are just starting out on their wellness journeys— to the building blocks of wellness hygiene such as: mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. These wellness habits will have long-term benefits for people, not just at work, but in their daily lives.
Priyanka: The expansion to wellness as a part of the pillar and the efforts that are now in place to educate employees with well-being messages like, “Motivational Mondays” and “Wellness Wednesdays”
b. What 2021 Mental Health Pillar's initiatives and events are you most looking forward to?
Sheba: I can’t wait for the kickoff of our news features where company leaders share their personal struggles coping with a mental health condition.
Lindsey: Motivational Mondays and Wellness Wednesdays
Keri: Mindful Mondays and Wellness Wednesdays along with the upcoming April Resilience course.
Priyanka: The Mental Health Awareness month in May is something I’m looking forward to, especially the “Take 10 Today” best practices and the Art Therapy session that we have planned.
c. What personal and team goal do you want to accomplish within the Mental Health Pillar this year?
Sheba: I hope to continue advocating as a Pillar communications co-lead, spreading the word about our events to as many as possible, and generating larger event attendance.
Lindsey: To become more aware of my mental health and wellness, to help break down the stigma that comes along with asking for help and to assist with communicating the pillars initiatives company wide
Keri: Helping to create more workshops that will enrich others’ lives. Right now, I am working on a self-awareness program.
Priyanka: Leading an event right from its conceptualization is a personal goal I hope to accomplish. Once the Columbia office reopens, I’d also like to lead a few mental health (MH) initiatives for my location.
4) What is a moment in your life that defined or shaped who you are today?
Sheba: My mother’s untimely death at only 48 years of age continues to shape who I am. That loss makes me want to keep fighting for every moment of life I can because we never know when our stories might be cut short.
Lindsey: The Semester at Sea 2002 study abroad program. The program gave me the opportunity to travel to 10 countries in four months. It took me completely out of my comfort zone and the world was my campus. I spent the semester making lifelong friendships and immersing myself in different cultures across the globe. As you can imagine, it ultimately gave me my passion for travel and appreciation of the world and other cultures.
Keri: I would have to say being bullied growing up. I always find myself wanting to help the underdog or outsiders. I have a lot of concern for people who feel alone and need support, advice, and someone to champion them.
Priyanka: My move to the United States four years ago would be that moment. Up until then, I had lived a very protected life in India and the move was difficult at first. I did have a tough time away from my family and friends initially but I learned to adjust. While I learned basic life skills, living independently and managing finances, I realized that the experience of my move definitely molded me as the person I am today.
5) To date, what has been your biggest learning or teaching moment?
Sheba: Watching my younger brother and sister become parents has been some of my biggest teaching moments. After our mother died, none of us could foresee how life could continue in the face of so much sadness and loss. But not only did they survive, my siblings started families of their own and their children bring all of us purpose.
Lindsey: There has not been one specific moment that I can identify. I encourage myself to take something away from every experience and relationship. I have had many individuals (family members, friends, co-workers, teachers, mentors) who have helped shape me both personally and professionally. All my experiences and relationships are really a collection of moments. Understanding how I can contribute to each of those moments and choosing to take something away from the moments has taught me some of life's biggest lessons.
Keri: I feel like I am always having big teaching moments. If I had to pick one, it was when I read “The Untethered Soul”. It’s a life changing book and it’s something I recommended to anyone interested in self-improvement. It has helped me become more self-aware, and it has changed every aspect of my life.
Priyanka: The concept of Hygge – the art of creating joy and contentment in the everyday moments of our daily lives has been my biggest learning to date. I was introduced to “The Little book of Hygge – Danish Secrets to Happy Living” and it inspires me every time I read it. We often forget in our daily (busy) lives to take some time for ourselves as self-care. This book taught me to always be in the pursuit of everyday happiness. Hygge is a state of mind that everyone should strive to reach. As Benjamin Franklin said: “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”
6) What inspires you about your workplace culture?
Sheba: I am inspired by our philanthropy and efforts to create an inclusive and diverse workforce. Merkle isn’t just jumping on the DEI bandwagon to create the appearance of caring about these issues. It has leadership and financial support in place to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are sustained efforts for the company’s betterment.
Lindsey: Having been at Merkle for 12 years, I genuinely believe in Merkle's culture and the platforms available for growth, learning, financial reward, recognition, camaraderie, and fun. I am inspired every day knowing that I get to work with some of the most talented and smart people I know.
Keri: I am inspired by the actions taking by my fellow employees and their commitment and interest to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. People have volunteered their time and have shared personal experiences of their own wellness journeys and it shows their passion and commitment to these areas.
Priyanka: The fact that it is open and encourages people to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts without the fear of being judged. An excellent example of this was the Multicultural BRG’s quarterly meeting that was held in Q1, where people across various cultures came forth to talk and the energy/emotions in the meeting were infectious!
7) What mental health or wellness figure (deceased or living) inspires you the most and why?
Sheba: Iyanla Vanzant because she teaches us to look within ourselves to find what we need to “fix our lives.” She is a champion of spirituality and the foundation it can create for personal understanding and greatness.
Lindsey: Ariana Huffington - she draws on the latest research and science that show the profound and transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving. She shows us the way to a revolution in our thinking, culture, workplaces, and our lives.
Keri: Thích Nhất Hạnh. His teachings have taught me to come from a place of compassion rather than defensiveness or reactiveness when someone lashes out at me with hate or anger. Anger and hate come from a place of suffering and keeping that in mind helps to understand others actions on a deeper level.
Priyanka: Jay Shetty is an author, former monk, and a purpose coach. He has a podcast where he shares practical wisdom and life skills in a way that doesn’t sound preachy. He cuts through the clutter and shares actionable insights on relationships, stress, finding our purpose, and other relevant topics affecting our happiness and how we chose to live our everyday lives.
8) Rapid fire:
Keri: Chicken wings
Priyanka: Ramen noodles
Sheba: Nina Simone
Lindsey: Kygo, NeedtoBreathe
Favorite TV show/movie
Lindsey: This is Us/Top Gun
Keri: “Black Mirror” and “Pride and Prejudice (2005)”
Priyanka: Currently, Anne with an E
Sheba: Collecting crystals and gemstones
Lindsey: Hiking, biking, skiing, running, cooking, wine tasting
Keri: Bird watching and learning new things
Priyanka: Does online shopping count? No? Ok. Watercolor painting
Sheba: “It” by Stephen King
Lindsey: Kite Runner, Becoming - Michelle Obama, Thrive - Ariana Huffington
Keri: “The Untethered Soul”
Priyanka: The Little Book of Hygge
Sheba: Watching hockey fights breakout on the ice
Lindsey: Reality TV
Keri: Watching Korean and Chinese dramas
Priyanka: Randomly adding things to my Amazon cart when I’m bored
Best advice or mantra you live by
Sheba: “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lindsey: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Courage is grace under pressure” – Ernest Hemingway
Keri: “It doesn’t have to be perfect, just give it your best at this moment.”
Priyanka: The most dangerous phrase in the language is “We’ve always done it this way.”