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, Cathy Elton.
1. Tell us about yourself; where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
For the first ten years of my life I lived in a tiny town called Addison (in upstate New York) where my father was the quintessential town doctor and my sister occasionally rode her horse to school. So, it was a pretty rural existence, until we moved to nearby Corning, the big city of 12,000 people. In my twenties I moved to San Francisco, where I managed bands and wrote fundraising copy for nonprofit organizations. People always think it’s funny that I was a manager in the music business and a copywriter, but those two things aren’t as different as you might think. I guess I’m good at convincing people to do something, whether it’s buying a record or giving to a good cause. Currently, I live in Brooklyn, NY and have been a Creative Director at Merkle for the past four years.
2. What drew you to your current career?
Strangely enough, I started out on the business side of things, working as a circulation director at a magazine. As part of that job I had to hire freelance direct mail copywriters and I quickly realized they were making a lot of money doing something that came very easily to me. So, I threw caution to the wind and became a copywriter. I first wrote for nonprofit organizations and politicians – it was fun to write letters signed by Barbara Boxer and Ted Danson. Upon moving to New York City in 1997, I “sold out” and started writing copy for Citibank! It wasn’t a difficult transition. Like I said, marketing is marketing. In my role at Merkle, I manage nonprofit accounts like the National MS Society and one financial services account, American Express. No music business clients yet, but it could happen!
3. What is a moment in your life that defined or shaped who you are today?
Seventeen years ago, I found out I inherited heart disease from my father (thanks, Dad!) and had a 90 percent blocked artery. That harrowing experience changed me in some pretty fundamental ways. For one thing, I think about every morsel of food that goes in my mouth — will this make my heart healthier, or less?
4. What’s something you’re really proud of?
After I recovered from the cardiac episode I described above, I started a heart-healthy food blog called What Would Cathy Eat, featuring my own recipes, writing, and photography. I stopped blogging a few years ago, but the site remains active and I still get comments and emails from people thanking me for the recipes. If I’ve helped someone live a healthier lifestyle or change their eating habits after having a heart attack, well that’s pretty great.
5. What inspires you about your workplace culture?
The dedication of the people I work with is a constant source of inspiration. I came from a place where people had pretty bad attitudes and never realized it could be any different. The support and friendship of my co-workers keeps me going and keeps me positive.
6. If you currently weren’t doing what you do today professionally, what would you be doing? (dream job)
I’m pretty sure I would be a chef, which I’m sure would be a lot more difficult than what I do now.
7. What was the first concert you went to?
Well the first one I can remember was Yes, Bob Seger, and the J. Geils Band at Rich Stadium in Buffalo (I’m old. Very old.)
8. Rapid fire:
Spaghetti with homemade meatballs (vegan meatballs, mind you)
Favorite TV show/movie
TV: The Wire
Movie: Blue Velvet
Cooking for my friends
Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn
Large quantities of dark chocolate
Best advice or mantra you live by (in your own words)
Remember to breathe