The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Vanessa Mering, Marketing Manager, HARMAN Professional
By Leslie Buttonow
Chances are, if you’ve ever attended a concert or other live event, or gone to a club, you’ve seen or heard a HARMAN Professional product in action. One of the driving forces behind 10 of the company’s world-class brands (JBL, AKG, Soundcraft, and more) is marketing strategist Vanessa Mering.
Having also previously worked at several other leading audio technology companies, Mering is well-versed in the world of audio, and credits a strong support system and several mentors along the way. In response, she now leads the HARMAN Women’s Network chapter in Northridge, California, which supports the professional and personal growth of women at HARMAN, as well as attracting new talent to the company. Below, Mering shares some useful insights, advice and resources for all young women starting out in the audio industry—which are also serve as good reminders for those who have already established themselves.
To learn more, visit pro.harman.com.
The WiMN: Tell us a little about how you first came to the music products/audio industry.
VM: My very first experience was a summer temp job at Alesis while I was still in college—it was brief, but I remember really liking the people and the creative atmosphere. Then after graduating from UCLA, I connected with M-Audio via a friend. I feel so fortunate to have started my career with such an inspiring team. They gave me the opportunity to experience many different facets of a marketing department—from editing and copywriting, to supporting artists, events, and much more.
The WiMN: Do you have any sort of musical background?
VM: One of the fun things about working at Line 6 was the free guitar lessons. I’ve always loved guitar-driven music, but hadn’t picked up the instrument before then. I found it really challenging—in a good way! After staring at a computer screen for hours, it was a great change of pace to practice with my coworkers.
The WiMN: What do you like best about your current role?
VM: I really enjoy that I still get to do a lot of different things. My role recently expanded from marketing live performance and recording products to the entire HARMAN Professional portfolio (which also includes video, lighting and control systems). So one minute I might be reviewing designs for our NAMM show booth, then the next I’m working on a campaign for architectural lighting. I’m continually learning about new technologies and customer groups, and finding ways to connect the two!
The WiMN: Have you faced any challenges along the way being a female in a traditionally male-dominated industry? If so, how did you handle them?
VM: Most of the time, I’ve been part of awesome, inclusive teams. But I think sometimes I held myself back from professional connections and relationships because I identified myself as being different, when in retrospect I don’t know that others were thinking of me that way—or that it really mattered even if they were! So for me, a lot of the challenges have been internal, and I’ve grown in my confidence of what I bring to any team.
The WiMN: Did you have any mentors along the way you’d like to give a shout out to?
VM: Absolutely! I’m forever grateful to Adam Castillo, Kevin Walt, Jeff Burger and the many others who supported my career from the very beginning. Beyond professional skills, they taught me so much about how to take care of people and work as a team—and we’ve had so much fun!
I’d also like to thank Karam Kaul, who’s been a great mentor and support to me during my time at HARMAN, and Katy Templeman-Holmes, who’s a fantastic role model for women in audio. And of course, Bryan Bradley—in addition to being a great leader, he’s a strong advocate for the HARMAN Volunteer Committee and Women’s Network, which I find incredibly inspiring.
The WiMN: Speaking of which, please share some background on the HARMAN Women’s Network chapter that you lead.
VM: The HARMAN Women’s Network was created to empower women to succeed both personally and professionally, as well as attract more women to HARMAN. I love that the group is open to both men and women, because it takes everyone working together to drive change. I’ve had a lot of fun bringing in different kinds of speakers—like a coach on how to identify and articulate your unique abilities, and a mindfulness meditation instructor to help with stress reduction. It’s an honor to support the Northridge campus in this role.
The WiMN: What are some other resources, groups, or tips you’d recommend to young women starting out in this industry?
VM: I’m impressed by SoundGirls and Women’s Audio Mission—and of course I love what WiMN is doing to connect and celebrate women in audio! However, I would encourage women to reach out wherever they find themselves. More often than not, when I’ve asked for support, I’ve found those around me more than willing to share their time and wisdom. Don’t feel pressure to have all the answers—ask questions!
And of course, LinkedIn and other online resources make it fairly easy to get in touch with people you admire, or identify women with careers you want to emulate. When someone I don’t know contacts me for advice, I find it flattering, and am always eager to help in any way I can. So don’t be afraid to reach out—you may be surprised at the connections and relationships you build when you take a chance!
The WiMN: Any words of wisdom you’ve learned that you’d like to share with others who are new in their careers?
VM: Stay open and let your interests guide you. I started my first job with a sense of what I was good at and certain activities I enjoyed, but I didn’t know exactly how that would translate into a career path. I was eager to try things, take on new challenges, and therefore learned a lot through trial and error. Whether you’re recording the next big hit or designing and marketing the next hit product, there are a lot of different ways to be part of this industry. You might start with one goal, but stay open to the possibilities and see where life takes you! While it might have been easier if I knew exactly what I wanted to do from a very young age, I’m ultimately glad that I got to discover my path with a group of talented, creative, supportive, and fun-loving men and women by my side.