Kelly Merrill recently made what some might call a bold move: she joined a new company just as she was transitioning out of maternity leave. While many women may not opt to make a big life change while they’re already in the midst of one, Merrill felt confident that she’d find the support she needed at OnDeck, where she’s now worked as SVP of Finance for three months.
“It was a big personal decision — starting something new when you’re going through a transition in your personal life,” she says, adding that the culture and leadership were two of the key factors that led her to join OnDeck. “But I felt immediately supported. The culture here is one that values performance; if you get your work done, you can be flexible. And there are leaders in similar positions who are very open and candid about their challenges, and that’s inspiring.”
OnDeck, a FinTech company that helps small businesses to be successful, is known for having not only a supportive culture, but also one that encourages growth and innovation. Although Merrill’s quite new to the team, she feels like she’s already had the chance to help the business grow and to enhance its financial discipline.
“Day to day, what I see is people are really energized and excited about what they’re doing,” she explains. “They collaborate, they take risks, and they share from their successes and failures. I think that’s an exciting culture to be a part of.”
Merrill recently spoke to Fairygodboss about what she loves most about her work. She offered some actionable advice for job seekers, and filled us in on why OnDeck is one of the best places for women to grow their career.
What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?
First: Have a healthy breakfast, read about the markets/environment/competitors, and look at my calendar (both for the day and the week ahead...planning and prioritizing is critical in my role).
Last: Check in with my team, make sure they are clear on priorities, and make sure I understand what they need from me to be successful!
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or company?
My team has the opportunity to help drive both long-term and short-term decision making using financial information and analytics. As for my company, at OnDeck, I’m surrounded by passionate people who are focused on helping small businesses be successful.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about your company that you think they should?
There’s a strong entrepreneurial environment. The culture supports taking risks, learning from mistakes, and is always focused on what is best for the customer.
What’s something you’re especially good at at work?
Facilitating tough decisions. Finance is often at the center of cross-functional conversations and challenging issues, and you have to be able to make difficult concepts easy to understand, listen to everyone’s perspective and help the group make the best decision for the company.
What about outside of work?
Carrying two children under age 2 while cooking, packing lunch bags and singing songs. I also enjoy playing golf.
What are you trying to improve on?
I’m always challenging myself to be better. Right now, given that I am new to OnDeck, I’m working on developing deep business expertise and understanding the competitive dynamics in FinTech and small business lending.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
Moving to OnDeck. I challenged myself to try something new and different (during a transitional part of my personal life, when I was just coming out of maternity leave). I’m also proud that my husband and I continue to support each with both our careers and family.
What do you love most about your job or your company?
The openness to change and the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to influence business and function during a transitional time for the company. Plus, I love OnDeck’s flexibility. They really understand of the challenges of being a working mom.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
Never settle. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. As Winnie the Pooh says, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
My favorite boss was someone who was always coaching me and creating opportunities to teach and develop me as a leader. What I remember distinctly is that we would never have formal sit-downs; he just integrated it so well into everyday interactions. Whether we were talking about business or soft skills, teaching was part of his everyday dialogue and was always done in a really constructive way. And he relentlessly asked “why,” which forced our business/teams to think about things in different ways.
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