I pick up my phone and dial the west-coast number listed for Vanessa Mering. It rings a few times, and I am welcomed by a cheerful greeting. Vanessa and I share a few pleasantries as we talk a few details about everything we’ll get to discuss. I adjust my rudimentary phone-recorder that is carefully balancing on a large conference table. The small room I’m in has cables and papers thrown about with a small cleared area where my laptop cautiously sits. I set levels and begin recording our conversation.
To introduce her, Vanessa Mering is a marketing strategist with 15 years of experience at leading audio technology companies. Over the course of her career, she has played a key role in launching a variety of industry-shaping innovations—from democratizing music creation at M-Audio/Avid, to defining the future of live sound with HARMAN. In her current position as Marketing Manager at HARMAN Professional, Vanessa spends her days introducing new products and planning campaigns for ten world-class brands including JBL, AKG, and Soundcraft. Passionate about seeing other women succeed in the industry, Vanessa is also the leader of the HARMAN Women’s Network chapter in Northridge, California. In this role, she’s dedicated to supporting the professional and personal growth of women at HARMAN, as well as attracting new talent to the company. In her free time, she’s active in other groups dedicated to building community and expanding professional opportunities for women.
“I know I sent you about 900 questions…” we both chuckle. “…but we’ll play it by ear.”
What was your first job in the audio industry?
“So, funnily enough, my first job in audio was a random temp job at Alesis while I was studying at UCLA. I was helping support administration within HR during a summer break. I do, however, remember distinctly sitting across the wall from the marketing department and hearing how much fun they were having. I got to witness them being creative and collaborative, and that was my first time thinking that marketing seemed like an awesome profession.”
I respond, “It’s actually kind of hilarious how you end up in these random positions that can change your life. You have an entire career in audio technology because of a fun group of individuals on another side of a wall at some temp job one time.”
“It is so interesting,” Vanessa says. As we both get further into the conversation, you can begin to hear the relaxation in our voices. “I admire people who have a specific vision for their career from an early age, but that just wasn’t me. All I knew was that I loved writing and being around creative people, so I let my curiosity and interests guide me. It was a total coincidence that I came right back to the audio industry by landing my first full-time job at M-Audio a couple of years later! But I quickly fell in love with the creativity of my coworkers and our customers. I’m so grateful to that team for supporting me as I discovered my passion and started building my career.”
I’ve read about some of your work with the HARMAN Women’s Network Northridge Chapter. Can you tell me more about the organization and your lead in it?
Absolutely! HARMAN has campuses all around the world, and each campus has its own Women’s Network leader. So there’s a lot of autonomy in the role. I can drive initiatives that are exciting for this campus, and at the same time learn from what other women are doing on other campuses. I’ve brought in a couple of guest speakers to help with personal and professional development. I’ve focused on a lot of soft skills, like having a mindfulness meditation instructor come in.
“Ooohh!” I interject.
“She talked about the brain science behind mindfulness and how it can reduce stress and increase cognitive function, and all kinds of other health benefits. One of my favorite things I learned is that practicing mindfulness enables you to appreciate music even more. I’ve gotten to grow so much from this initiative, and have really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with women across different divisions, departments, and campuses. And men too! It’s awesome to bring everyone together to drive change.”
Tell me about your early days at M-Audio when recording really started to change.
I came into M-Audio at a really exciting time, when high-quality recording gear could finally be produced at an affordable price point, and that was changing how music was being made. It was all about mobility. You could be on the road, be on the tour bus, be in a hotel room, be in your bedroom studio, and make really good quality music. So, it democratized the whole process. You didn’t have to have this massive budget to be heard. It was a really fun, exciting time to start in the industry and that’s a lot of what I fell in love with. We were enabling people to express themselves without a huge budget.
I was curious, other than democratizing music making, were there any other projects that were super memorable for you? Projects that really stick out in your mind.
Vanessa chuckles a bit before listing off a myriad of amazing projects she’s been a part of, but one in particular stuck out…
There was a time when I transitioned from running the M-Audio content marketing team to acting as marketing program manager for several different brands at Avid. The Eleven Rack guitar recording and signal-processing system was the first launch that I did in my new role. This is where I was looking at the entire marketing plan and program and putting it together from top to bottom, overseeing a whole launch. The experience was really gratifying for me on a lot of levels. Professionally, I got to stretch into a more significant leadership position than ever before, and collaborate with a ton of different teammates to make everything happen. And personally, I’ve always loved guitar-driven music, so getting to reach guitarists was really fun for me.
Are you a musician? Do you play any instruments or anything?
“A few years after that project, during my time working at Line 6, I finally picked up guitar. It was really cool, they had free guitar lessons on campus, so I would get to jam with my coworkers once a week. It gave me a much deeper appreciation for my customers’ and colleagues’ dedication and skill… it wasn’t easy for me! But I’m so glad I got a chance to learn.”
If you had a few pieces of advice for your younger self or young women in the field, what would they be?
“I often see women, myself sometimes included, hesitating or apologizing for asking questions. It’s important to put yourself out there, ask questions without apology, and get the information that is going to help you grow. Earlier in my career, I felt a lot of pressure to know all the answers or figure everything out on my own. Having the freedom and confidence to reach out is important. It builds community and team. And connecting with others is what makes life a lot more fun, so go for it!”
We thank each other for the time and conversation, some 40 minutes deep into discussions. We share a few more laughs, thank each other again, and hang up. I take a few minutes to simply digest everything we’ve gotten to chat about. I walk away realizing just how far-reaching audio technology goes. Before this interview, I never considered a marketing management position, but now it seems so obvious. There are a lot of ways to take part in music and audio. Never think you’re stuck in a certain position. There are women out there blazing trails and helping make monumental differences in this industry. And, It’s so great to hear that HARMAN and Line 6 are trying to not only be inclusive for women and personal and professional growth, but they also offer ways to connect to customers even more.
Samantha Potter: Samantha is an IT Media Supervisor and Audio Engineer for the largest Methodist Church in the US and a Production Manager for Funk Syndicate located in Kansas City. Working closely with IT, Producers, Coordinators, and Musicians, Samantha oversees audio and other media technology while mentoring and training women in STEM fields. Additionally, Samantha is the Chapter Head of the SoundGirls KC Chapter.
About Samantha: A lover of coffee and R&B music, Samantha is a classically trained musician with a particular interest in technology. While getting her professional career started in studio work, the calling of Live Sound and Event Production was too great to ignore. She can be found with a mug of coffee, a pair of converse, and listening to Jazmine Sullivan during load-in.