Young Professional Feature: Cole Mercier, Communication & Engagement Strategist, Dakota Supply Group

Written by: Brady Drake

Cole Mercier is a member of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Network, a networking group that exists to bring together the leaders and influencers of tomorrow.

Q: Tell us about yourself and your current role.

A: I was born and raised in a small town, Glenwood, MN. I had a great support system with my family, friends, and teachers. I was always involved, taking leadership opportunities seriously and dedicating my time to being a high performer in academics, the arts, and other activities. This laid a foundation for my current involvement and passion for the community.

I have been in the metro area since 2019. I absolutely love living, working, and playing here! I focus on internal communications and change management in my current full-time role at Dakota Supply Group (DSG). We doubled in size in the last three years and only have more growth on the horizon. I develop strategic messaging, manage corporate communication campaigns, and administer culture-driven initiatives that engage our thousand or so employee owners across eight states.

Q: How did you become involved with YPN?

A: I moved to the area after graduating from the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) in December 2018. I knew no one except my wife (then girlfriend), who was wrapping up her senior year at Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM). The summer prior, I had interned with the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and became quite involved with their young professionals’ program because of it. If I wanted to optimize my network and create meaningful relationships, I knew I needed to be present, familiarize myself with every aspect of the community, and challenge myself to learn something new (or meet someone new) every day.

Q: What motivated you to choose your current career path?

A: My educational background is non-traditional, to say the least. With a theatre degree in one hand and a psychology degree in the other, and having graduated in just three short years, I had to be nimble and openminded about how I could apply what I learned in school to the business world.

My passion for storytelling and hands-on collaboration, combined with my study of human behavior and being data-centric and analytical, was a well-rounded fit for the field of marketing. So, I went old school and cold-called two marketing agencies in town and asked if I could shadow them to learn the trade. They took me up on it.

Swim Creative and Flint Group were wonderful resources during my last semester and helped me land the first “real” job I ever applied for; I got the opportunity of a lifetime at Aldevron in Fargo. The timing of being there could not have been richer with experience. Ellen, my incredible leader, opened doors for me to learn and grow, exploring nearly every discipline of modern-day marketing and communications in a period of exponential growth. I eventually found my niche in internal communications and change management; the rest is history. DSG was a natural career progression a few years later, and I have been able to develop these focus areas even further since I started in 2022.

Q: Can you share a significant challenge you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame it?

A: My biggest hurdle early on was establishing credibility and marketing myself, as entry-level job titles, internships, and diplomas only get you so far. I was constantly asking myself, “How do I make this work?” I had to discover a formula that balanced marketing transferable knowledge and skills, establishing my work ethic and character while being genuine and truthful. It became more about getting my foot in the door, telling my story, and demonstrating initiative, ambition, and application rather than relying on the credentials on paper alone.

My advice to young professionals who relate to this is to promptly exit your comfort zone and step into the shoes of those you aim to influence. What do they want? What motivates them? How can you apply yourself, add value, and solve their problems using your talents? Q: How do you stay updated and continue to grow professionally in your field? A: I attend conferences, listen to podcasts, read books, watch courses on LinkedIn Learning, and engage with peer groups and discussion forums online (always take notes!), but, most importantly, I continue networking with and asking questions to successful people who are 5, 10 , sometimes 20 years ahead of me in their careers. When you find a niche, learning from others’ real experiences and life lessons is as important as, if not more important than, what you hear from well-polished “official” sources. My other personal strategy is being brave enough to fail but learn from it. A lot of communication and business comes down to human interaction and perception, which can be messy and subjective, so always be willing to experiment, make mistakes, and continuously improve your practices along the way. Q: What has been your most rewarding experience with YPN so far? A: I served on our leadership committee as a memberat-large for a two-year term before being elected by my peers to vice chair. In that role, connecting our members to meaningful volunteer opportunities and introducing them to nonprofits and charitable causes that impact real people in our community was very rewarding. Q: How has being a part of YPN impacted your professional network? A: Jordan Harbinger, a podcaster and professional development coach I subscribe to, often says to dig the well before getting thirsty. YPN gives you a shovel—that opportunity—to plant and nurture a quality network early in your career. The relationships I built early on have led me to gain more perspective, career development opportunities, and leadership experiences.

Q: Can you share a memorable connection or opportunity that arose through YPN?

A: I have countless memorable connections and moments from the past five years, but one aspect that comes to mind is knowing I had people rooting for me from Day one. It says a lot about the community and about the Chamber. Being 21 when I joined, I was among the youngest and among the first Gen Z’ers in YPN. I felt welcome even though I was an outsider on multiple levels, having grown up in a smaller community, having graduated college on the opposite end of Minnesota, having an arts and science background instead of a traditional business upbringing, and being young, even for YPN. Having supporters early on gave me the confidence to apply and get accepted into Leadership FMWF. It also led to more volunteer leadership opportunities in other organizations to make a difference. That is the power of networking and building an informal personal board of directors!

Q: Where do you see yourself professionally in the next five years?

A: In five years, I see myself continuing to learn and grow as a leader. I am passionate about uplifting those around me and ultimately delivering industry-leading excellence in communications and organization. I like being in an environment that is experiencing growth, controlled and uncontrolled change, and establishing forward thinking practices and programs that help executives and employees win together!

Q: Any final thoughts or messages you’d like to share with the community?

A: Business gets people here. Art makes people stay. With a strong economy and business-friendly environment, everyone benefits from this, and by supporting local nonprofits, charitable causes, and the arts, bringing people together, we maintain what we call a thriving community. Oh, and you can catch some of that community by visiting me on the weekends pouring craft beer at Junkyard West Fargo!

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.