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 and member of the Interfaith BRG, Ryan Katz.
1. Tell us about yourself; where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I am a partner of clients and leader of people, and through my 7.5 years working at Merkle, I’ve had the pleasure of wearing many hats while working with several notable brands coaching teams to drive transformative relationships with clients. Pretty cool for an introvert! This also means that I am not very good at talking about myself, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.
I was born in Brooklyn, NY, raised in Cherry Hill, NJ, went to the University of Maryland (Go Terps!), and through that became a Maryland transplant. This translates my love for NY sports teams, Philly Cheesesteaks, and Maryland crabs. I live in Ellicott City, Maryland with my lovely wife and two kids (6 year old boy and 2.5 year girl).
After work, I love to workout (running, OrangeTheory Fitness, Apple Fitness+) and finding ways to give my kids belly laughs. My happy place is on a beach with my family, any beach, though we frequent Rehoboth, Delaware. “Toes in the water, butts in the sand, not a worry in the world…,”. Well the song changes a bit with little kids, but seeing the world through their innocent eyes reminds me many times to slow it down and enjoy these important moments.
2. What drew you to your current career?
My professional journey has been an evolution of learnings. Initially, it was the magical world of Disney that drew me into first wanting to become an animator. So, my freshmen year in high school I signed up for a class called Commercial Art that taught how to create compelling ideas through drawing, painting, and other related art forms. It was a four-year program, but what I learned quickly is that I couldn’t compete with the artistic hands of my classmates, but that I could ideate with the best of them. Maybe it was the glamorization movies and shows like Melrose Place, Crazy People, Boomerang, or Mr. Mom that put me onto the industry, but my first gig at Tierney as a Strategy and Research intern was the catalyst into my advertising career.
3. What inspired you to become a part of DEI?
People and inclusivity is what initially inspired me to become a part of our DEI efforts. I was originally part of the LGBTQ pillar, and I’m thrilled to see how significantly that team has grown and the wonderful initiatives coming from that group. I’m also part of the Seat At The Table (SATT) Mentorship Program. Being able to be a leader and coach to others to ensure they are growing in their careers and enabling them to be a part of establishing a company culture is what energizes me in my role.
As anti-semitsim in the United States was on the rise again this spring due to the most recent conflict in the Middle East, as a Jewish man, this struck me personally and emotionally. I felt that I needed to help magnify the voice of my Jewish peers and to help support a world in which I’m raising my Jewish children. And as I joined the Interfaith pillar, my first meeting was a beautiful discussion filled with emotion, passion, and tears as peers from both the Jewish and Muslim faith discussed the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Teammates from other religions involved themselves into the conversation and what we ended up creating was a community of supporters to promote awareness, understanding, and celebration of various religious cultures and beliefs throughout Merkle.
4. To date, what has been your biggest learning or teaching moment?
I’ve been so fortunate to have many positive influences in my life both professionally and personally that I can’t pick just one moment, but the sum of many that has defined the person and leader I am today. I still have so much to learn even at this point in my life and career, but what’s gotten me to where I am today is my ability to be receptive to being coached. If I can offer any advice to those reading this, be humble enough to stay coachable.
5. What is a moment in your life that defined or shaped who you are today?
There are many, but none greater than becoming a father. On my desk is a picture frame of my kids and I holding hands on the beach with the quote “Walk a little slower, we’re following in your footsteps”. To experience that love is so indescribable and to be responsible in helping to shape their futures drives every life decision I make.
6. What inspires you about your workplace culture?
The foundation of every great team starts with a shared culture, and within that, creating a sense of community where teammates are helping each other to reach their shared vision to success. That’s exactly what happens at Merkle.
7. If you currently weren’t doing what you do today professional, what would you be doing?
I once considered majoring in child psychology, but it felt like too much schooling and classroom learning which isn’t my thing. I was a camp counselor for many years growing up and always enjoyed working and playing with the kids. So I’d be in a profession where I could support kids’ growth, development, and happiness.
8. What was the first concert you went to?
Neil Diamond when I was about 10 years old. My parents gave my brother and I the option to go with them to the concert and miss school the next day or stay home and go to school. We chose to miss school.
9. Rapid fire:
a. Favorite food
Depending on where you get it, it’s either called Chinese Pizza or Scallion Pancakes
b. Favorite TV show/movie
Movie- Top Gun
TV Show- The Wire (I lived in Baltimore for 15+ years)
c. Favorite hobby/activity
Finding ways to make my kids laugh and Apple Fitness+
d. Favorite book
For business, Adam Grant’s Give and Take, but for pleasure, reading Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! to my kids.
e. Guilty pleasure
Sour Patch Kids and dad jokes