Starting a job in a pandemic and during Ramadan
The first day
I’d like to start with my first day at Merkle which was very different to any previous work experiences I’ve had. It was a new job, with new people and a new company, but because I was working from home due to Covid, there was no travelling to the office, getting a feel for the office, or opportunities for randomly bumping into anyone whilst there. When I started, I didn’t get to experience the benefits of having such a short commute (only 15 minutes by walk), which in truth, was a huge selling point for wanting to apply for the role. Instead, I found myself in my room having my first team meeting at 9am on a Monday, over video on Microsoft Teams.
For the marketing team, daily morning check in meetings at the start of the day have become a staple since lockdown began and everyone started working from home. I quite liked the idea of taking a small bit of time at the start of the day and just catching up on what’s coming up that day and how everyone is feeling. Without in-person interaction, this felt like a good way for everyone to stay connected. For my first meeting, our vice president of marketing, who leads the meetings, had invited our chief marketing officer to join us, to welcome me and the other new joiner, Emily Duffy, our senior communications manager.
Fortunately, I had met the team, my manager, and the VP during my interview process, so as daunting as it sounds doing all of that within the first thirty minutes of starting a new job, it really was every bit as inviting as one would hope for. We did a round of introductions and spent the time hearing about people’s priorities for the day as well as catching up on each other’s weekends.
When I started at Merkle I was one week into the month of Ramadan which in hindsight, may have been a shaky decision since I was fasting from sunrise to sunset. At this time of the year, that was usually 18 hours, give or take without food or water. When I was told that I’d got the job, I was more focused on starting than realising that Ramadan was round the corner. I said I could start on the 19th, completely oblivious to the fact that it was one week into Ramadan, a point brought up by my friend seconds later. I’d be okay I figured, just hungry, tired, sleep-deprived and needing caffeine which sounds like the perfect way to start your new job! The fasting can leave one feeling slightly worn down, but regardless of the fatigue, it is a month of spirituality and connecting with oneself and one’s faith which allows for a sense of clarity that can sometimes benefit the workspace.
My journey to Merkle
I joined Merkle in April 2021, over a year into the pandemic. I had some previous experience working in marketing as an SEO analyst for a marketing start up before my degree and I’d chosen that role because at the time, I truthfully had no clue as to what else to do and I was hoping to learn some new things. Fortunately, the learning opportunities were abundant, but more than anything, I came away from that role knowing I wanted to pursue a career in marketing. I went to university for the following three years, studying Marketing and PR, and each passing year really helped me to solidify my decision to be in this field. With this certainty in my mind, even before graduating, I came across quite a comprehensive online application for Merkle and after that, I found myself taking part in my first-ever three-stage interview.
Due to covid, each stage was online with the first involving a series of pre-recorded questions I needed to answer. The following two stages after that however, had me face-to-face with two of the managers from the team, Holly and Jenni. Oddly enough, being online didn’t alleviate any of the nerves or anxiousness felt during these stages, despite the fact that I was fairly comfortable at home throughout it. The only minor setback, which may have led to a wave of terrified panic was realising that Microsoft Teams doesn’t quite work as efficiently on a Mac (fairly obvious, I know). Luckily, nothing got in the way so much so that I couldn’t carry on and in the end, after a slightly daunting interview with our VP, Claire, I later learned I’d secured the role. I knew to apply for Merkle just purely from having researched the work the company did as well as researching into the scope and breadth of information and knowledge there was to pick up. It was the interview stages, having spoken to Jenni and Holly, that had me reassured just that little bit more that, if I get this, I could be shaping the Marketing career I’ve been wanting up to this point.
Starting my new role
Initially, I wasn't completely certain what my role would entail, something that I grew to understand much more as I progressed. I had learnt prior to starting that Jenni Gill would be my line manager. This meant I would be supporting the marketing strategies for our Analytics and Strategy and Transformation practice areas, as well as supporting Jenni in her role overseeing all our marketing content. As time progressed, I started contributing towards content creation, taking responsibility for different areas in which we produce marketable content from podcasts, to awards, social platforms as well as a mixture of other things.
I’ve also taken on responsibility for the UK’s awards process, ensuring that we are meeting award entry deadlines and submitting the best possible entries. Awards are an important part of our marketing strategy and they help demonstrate the breadth of services we offer our clients and that we are delivering work to a market leading standard. I’ll then liaise with our teams across EMEA, coordinating our regional entries for our reports to our global CMO at Merkle to also be shared centrally across the entire organisation at dentsu.
Whether I am building some type of content, doing some form of analysis or just being helpful in general in whatever my team may need, the role is definitely varied and has shaped up to be exactly as advertised.
In terms of the overall structure for a role like mine, the meetings throughout the week are quite consistent and Jenni and I have our one to ones that allow me to better organise my time and tasks. Jenni is based in Edinburgh, so that’s definitely very different to any normal manager and employee interactions. It hasn't been an issue in the slightest, since the pandemic has given everyone enough time to get used to the idea of communicating online, taking meetings on Teams is fairly second nature by now. As the months have gone on, there has always been new people to meet, even when I'm simply in the background of a meeting with Jenni and taking notes. An advantage of working for a company like Merkle is that there is no shortage of people you will get to meet or work with and for myself, having come from working for a team of five, it really was a welcome change.
Six weeks into my role, as Covid restrictions started to ease, I finally had the chance to head into the office a couple of times to meet the team in person. Having a little get-together in a social sense, getting to know colleagues, especially face to face and creating a friendly atmosphere is what the Merkle culture is about. The first time around I had a new joiners lunch with Claire, our VP and head of our UK marketing team and our EMEA marketing activation strategy. We met at the office for some tapas with Emily and Will Banister, another graduate, who joined a few weeks after me. Our offices are opposite the Tower of London and backing onto St Katharine’s Dock so the views at either side of the office are spectacular.
It’s definitely a lovely location and as obvious as it might seem for some at first glance, I struggled quite a bit finding the office since I was walking around St Katherine’s Docks looking for a completely non-existent building, the now shut Arc House office. Luckily, no such struggle occurred after that, but it wasn’t my proudest moment.
I feel a great sense of fulfilment in having worked my way into the marketing space and finally finding an opportunity to understand the field and the work in a way I didn’t initially think I could.
I chose Merkle because the role and company represented all the various elements I sought after based on what I’d learnt from past experiences. My new role at Merkle has been a tremendous opportunity since I started, and I look forward to all the many things my Merkle experience has to offer.