I Am Merkle is a series of interviews that showcases the individuals who make Merkle a diverse and unique place to work. Join us throughout the year as we celebrate our diverse culture through the lens of your peers.
In this pilot interview, we chat with Kelly O’Hara, Vice President at Merkle and Delivery Lead for the Marketing Technology Services organization. Kelly shares with us some experiences that helped shape who she is in and outside of Merkle.
1. Tell us about yourself and your role
Currently, I work for Merkle as a Delivery Lead within our Marketing Technology Services group. I manage a team of thirty people who support retail clients, including Sherwin-Williams, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Goodyear Tire. One of the things I really like about the role and type of work is that it allows me to connect the dots and solve problems. I also get to work directly with clients externally as well as mentor and develop our resources internally. Before Merkle, I worked for a company that was acquired by Merkle, so I have had the experience of growing with a company and then through an acquisition to a large company that was also growing globally.
I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was a blessing to grow up in Hawaii, not only because it is paradise, but also because of the tremendous diversity that is woven into day to day life. I, like many in Hawaii, am mixed race; half Chinese and half Caucasian. At age 18, I left paradise to attend Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. I had never been to Minnesota before, but I knew I would feel at home in the Midwest as I had spent a lot of time in Ohio (where my mother is from) as a child. Despite the harsh winters, I grew to love Minnesota and have been here ever since. I now have a husband and two children (8 and 11 years).
I love being active and enjoy the outdoors in the summer. Most of the time I am driving my kids to various sports practices and games, which is really something I am passionate about. I love watching them compete and watching the lessons learned through those experiences. I also spend as much time as possible on my yoga mat. I have found that yoga and meditation has really helped me focus on what’s important, both professionally and personally. Additionally, I volunteer for a non-profit called Girls on the Run where, each spring and fall, I coach a group of twenty 3rd - 5th grade girls. Our mission is to create a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.
2. What drew you to your current career?
I wouldn’t say I was drawn to it so much as circumstances gradually landed me here. While I started my career as a marketing analyst, I also worked part-time as an assistant coach for track & field at a local college. When the Women’s head coaching job opened up, I was offered the job and decided to leave the corporate world for a while; I coached full-time and eventually earned my Masters in Applied Kinesiology. I was on the road most weekends, about nine months of the year and eventually wanted to start a family. So, I retired from coaching and came back to marketing at a company that was eventually acquired by Merkle. I don’t have any formal training in Technology, but I’ve always had a passion for learning new things. Here I am!
3. To date, what has been your biggest learning or teaching moment?
I can’t say this has been one moment or even a few moments. I try, and I encourage my team to try, to take something away from every experience and every relationship. There have been many individuals, people I’ve worked with, sponsors, friends, teachers, and coaches who have helped shape my personal and professional philosophies. I think that’s what you have to do; find the learning where you can. Life isn’t about one event, it is a huge collection of moments. So, the question is always, “What are you going to contribute to those moments based on learnings from the past, and what are you going to take from those moments to carry into the future?”
4. What is a moment in your life that defined or shaped who you are today?
The most pivotal event in my life thus far has been my mom’s passing a few years ago. Although I was already in my 30’s and “on my own”, her death caused me to feel felt like I was learning how to really be on my own.
5. What inspires you about your workplace culture?
What inspires me most is when I get to collaborate with people who strike just the right balance of truly knowing, caring and acting in accordance with our client’s best interest and doing the same for Merkle. There is always a balance and sometimes it takes creativity to strike that balance. That collaboration is really energizing to me.
Merkle has something called the Merkle Awards, which is an investment in recognizing great work and celebrating our people. I have been honored to win two awards (Client Management Excellence and Unsung Hero) and I am in awe of the talented people at Merkle whom I am fortunate enough to work with every day. To be recognized amongst all that talent is incredibly humbling for me.
6. If you currently weren’t doing what you do today professionally, what would you be doing? (dream job)
Several years ago, I was considering the idea of going to law school, so it would have to involve that. I also considered potentially working on a campaign or as a political consultant. I am a big advocate of empowering girls through the power of sport, so perhaps expanding my role in the Girls on the Run organization for which I currently volunteer would be a consideration.
7. What was the first concert you went to?
MC Hammer on the Let’s Get It Started tour in 5th grade.
8. Rapid Fire Round:
Favorite TV show/movie
TV Show: Wonder Years
Movie: Good Will Hunting & A Star Is Born
Practicing yoga, and watching my kids compete in various sports
“Becoming” by Michelle Obama
Watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette and listening to Charlie Puth
Best advice or mantra you live by
There are a couple. I can’t choose:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Trust the wait.
Embrace the uncertainty.
Enjoy the beauty of becoming.
When nothing is certain, anything is possible.- Mandy Hale