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 Ethnicity pillar, Cheryl Harewood and Trevor Hadick.
1. What drew you to your current career?
Cheryl: Initially what drew me to my current career was a call from a manager wanting to talk to me about my automotive experience. My education is in computer science and software engineering, and I have spent most of my career in the automotive, finance, and consulting field where I worked in IT and the project management office (PMO). Process is my first love and I have always enjoyed understanding how things work and, if they don't, how to fix them or make them better. So, when I got the job at Merkle almost four years ago, it was a great way for me to marry my love of process and best practices with data analytics. What I enjoy most is the client interfacing and being able to offer recommendations on growing the business.
Trevor: I am a chemical engineer by training, so I have always enjoyed the processes and operations that make things work. Early on in my career, I learned python and became six sigma certified. That peaked my interested even more with data and analytics. In the beginning, I had roles that were analytics and operations focused. Then I took a job as an internal consultant, and that is where this strategy component that I liked came in. I enjoy roles that have an analytics, strategy, and an operations mix to them and Merkle is the perfect place for that. I can utilize data to make recommendations on marketing strategies and then determine how we are going to execute and test them.
2. What inspired you to become a part of DEI?
Cheryl: I believe that there is an imbalance in the world and if I want to see change, I must be part of it. From my very first job out of undergrad, I was always the only African American on my team or one of very few in my department. This has always concerned me because I knew so many educated people that looked like me, yet they were not occupying the same spaces that I was. DEI is important to me, because I know what an equitable workplace can and should be. Most of all, the fact that I get to be a part in shaping that narrative is what inspires me the most about DEI.
Trevor: I joined DEI at Merkle to continue advocating for change; this is change that I have been advocating for over the past decade, starting with my time at Carnegie Mellon University. I’ve pushed for increased diversity within the workplace, across all jobs, departments, and levels. Then ensuring that as we increase diversity, we improve the company culture to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all to thrive. I have always been a strong believer in continuous improvement, so we shouldn’t stop with our initial DEI efforts. We should take a step back, assess the current environment, and continue to make improvements every day. Change takes time and it may not be easy nor fast, but it is worth it.
3. What part of your new position as Merkle’s Ethnicity pillar co-leads are you most excited about?
Cheryl: What excites me most about my Ethnicity pillar co-lead position is being able to be a voice for the voiceless and having Trevor as a partner in this journey. There is so much work to be done and knowing that we’ll be able to accomplish these tangible, but aggressive, goals is exciting. Working with executive leadership has been one of the things I have enjoyed the most, because they are just as committed as we are and they have ensures that we have what we need to be successful which makes all of this worth it.
a. What are some of the Ethnicity pillar’s biggest achievements in 2020?
Trevor: I think the biggest achievement for the Ethnicity Pillar was the appointment of Kirt Morris to Chief Equity Officer for CXM. Kirt is a great leader and role model for those who are a part of the Ethnicity Pillar since it was created over 4 years ago, and with everything going on in the world, this a well-deserved promotion.
b. What are the main goals/objectives for the Ethnicity pillar in 2021?
Cheryl: The pillar is focusing on building relationships with Howard University and other HBCUs to increase representation across the organization. We also plan to create transparency on the current DEI status of the business to ensure accountability as the business progresses. Our programming will ensure that there is continuous learning and education across the organization. Within the organization, this will include a newly launched mentorship program. Externally, we will be partnering with our clients and also getting more involved with our local communities.
4. What is a moment in your life that defined or shaped who you are today?
Cheryl: There are two moments that have shaped the person that I am and continue to become. One was being hospitalized and diagnosed with chronic anxiety, and the other was the loss of my father a year and a half ago. Both caused an extreme amount of pain and uncertainty. I was also left feeling a certain amount of shame because there was a part of me that I felt I had to hide from others. But, what I have learned through one experience is that it has made me into the person I am today: confident, unapologetic, and okay with not always being okay.
Trevor: Attending Carnegie Mellon University shaped who I am today. Carnegie’s motto is, “Our heart is in the work” and I carry that same mindset with me every day. It is about doing what you love and enjoying it so much that you never want to stop doing it. It changed the way I chose what I worked on, how I worked on it, and what approaches I took to innovation and problem solving.
5. To date, what has been your biggest learning or teaching moment?
Cheryl: One of my biggest teaching moments came early in my career as a young consultant working for one of the big six consulting firms. I was on a quality assurance testing team where we were expected to build a guide on how these legacy systems worked for a chemical company that was our client. I asked my manager to send me to the client site so that I could shadow and work with the client. I was able to learn not only how to use these legacy systems but to build a manual and repeatable model for the organization. This is when I realized how important it was to have processes, documentation of those processes, and to implement best practices.
Trevor: Some of my biggest learning moments have been when I stepped outside my comfort zone, walked in someone else’s shoes to better understand what they did and their point of view. I have done this throughout my career, but two times were extremely rewarding. One was in manufacturing, when early on in my training, I worked 12-hour shifts on the factory floor to better understand the machines and the operations of the plant. Another time was when I attended a three-week customer service training and onboarding class. I learned so much during these immersive experiences, and my work quality was much better afterwards.
6. What inspires you about your workplace culture?
Cheryl: What inspires me most about my workplace culture is its ability to change and transform, and that I am a part of that process. I have been able to step into a role to help develop programs and shape policies that will change the trajectory of BIPOC employees’ careers and to provide opportunity and access where it wasn’t available before. To be part of this change gives me great hope for what the future holds.
Trevor: Diversity in skills and experiences. I work with people who have their own strengths, some who have worked on the client side, some who have always worked for an agency. We combine our skills to deliver stellar value to our clients and I think that is amazing.
7. What politician or social activist (deceased or living) inspires you the most and why?
Cheryl: Katherine Johnson- A mathematician who was one of the first African- American women to work at NASA. Her greatest contribution was to the space exploration, where her calculations help synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Module with the lunar-orbiting Command and Service Module. Her calculations were also essential to the beginning of the Space Shuttle program and she worked on plans for mission to Mars. She is also a member of my beloved sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.
Trevor: Marie Curie because she dedicated her life to research on radioactivity, enabling many advancements in science, technology, and healthcare. There is a theory that this work was part of the cause of her death. Many of her items today remain too radioactive to interact with.
8. Rapid fire:
a. Favorite Food
Trevor: Bacon and eggs
b. Favorite Musician
Trevor: Frank Ocean
c. Favorite TV show/movie
Cheryl: The Good Doctor
Trevor: The Good Wife
d. Favorite hobby/activity
Cheryl: Boxing Workout
Trevor: Soccer referee
e. Favorite book
Cheryl: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Trevor: Rich Dad Poor Dad
f. Guilty pleasure
Cheryl: Eating organic caramel popcorn
Trevor: Eating ice cream
g. Best advice or mantra you live by (in your own words)
Cheryl: Prepare like you never won and perform like you never lost
Trevor: Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened