Kyle Geary — The Hale Center For Journalism
Every week I profile individuals active in the entrepreneurial community. This week I sat down with Rachel Hack Merlo. She is Google’s Community Manager for Kansas City, and was recently selected as one of Kansas City’s most influential women of 2014 by KC Business Magazine.
Who is Rachel Hack Merlo?
“I am a lifelong proud Kansas Citian currently living in the Union Hill area with my new husband, Matt, and our dog, Glint. I have been with Google for 2 1/2 years, and before that enjoyed working with some great local trade associations. I serve on the boards of directors of Central Exchange, Guadalupe Centers, Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association and the Women’s Center at UMKC. My brother and sister are two of my favorite people, I like good food — both cooking and going out — and am looking forward to my first trip to Italy later this year.”
What is your role with Google, and what does that entail?
“I am Google’s Community Manager – Kansas City. Our local presence centers around Google Fiber, and my job is a little bit of everything [except] directly constructing or selling the product. I am the point of contact for local governments and other partners, work cross-functionally with divisions of Google Fiber to keep the Kansas City work on track, and oversee local community affairs. Our community involvement primarily focuses on digital inclusion, STEM education, and entrepreneurial/startup community engagement.”
What brought you to work in this field?
“Before Google, I was the president of the Software and Information Technology Association of Kansas, which has since become KCnext. When Google announced Kansas City as the first location for Fiber, and later announced they were hiring a Community Manager, I was excited for what this could mean for my hometown and thought the job description sounded like a perfect fit. In the past 2 1/2 years, I’ve learned a lot about the technology behind Fiber, deployment of networks, digital inclusion and community engagement.”
What is the biggest obstacle that you see in your field today?
“There are many ways to consider my ‘field,’ but for this I will focus on Internet access in general. Helping new users join our digital community to narrow the digital divide is a great challenge. Google Fiber has played a role in this locally, with opportunities like the Digital Inclusion Fund, Community Leaders Program, and a product offering that makes getting online in homes feasible for more residents. But digital inclusion is a significant issue for our community, one that requires input and effort across many stakeholder groups. I hope leadership across Kansas City will make this a priority issue of our time.”
What is the most exciting part of your work?
“I work with brilliant, talented people. Our team develops on products and services that impact an industry and the way people live [their] day-to-day lives. We are challenged to think big every day, which is invigorating and pushes me to grow. I love what I do.”
What do you think the future has in store for the local entrepreneur community?
“The community is fortunate to have great buzz happening right now. I hope the next step is greater access to capital to help startups and scaling companies advance to the next levels. And I hope some of these entrepreneurs are working on game-changing apps to take advantage of gigabit connectivity.”