Project Possible: How this employee answered a CEO’s call during the pandemic

December 28, 2020 | By Ann Herrera

I have a very particular set of skills — not necessarily in a Liam Neeson-in-“Taken” kind of way. I can't break into a fortified compound with a pen and some shoelaces, but with my Google search marketing certifications, I can help you break into the top 10 on Google. Don't judge me, but I follow Google algorithm updates like other people follow their favorite celebrity on Instagram.

During the first wave of COVID-19 cases this spring, our CEO, Ajay Banga, asked for 50 employees to join Project Possible, a new effort to support high-priority initiatives to help customers and cardholders through the crisis. I immediately wanted to sign up but wasn’t sure if I would be the right person for the job.

And yet, as he laid out his vision and priorities on a companywide call, I felt compelled to volunteer. The work included promoting touch-free in-store transactions, helping banks handle the wave of refunds following mass cancellation of travel and flights, and working with governments to easily get stimulus and aid money to the neediest.

In hindsight, with a preschooler and toddler at home and my husband working for a hospital, it may have sounded a bit crazy (or at least overly optimistic), but those who know me would expect nothing less. If life is a buffet, I always tend to overfill my plate.

In part, I was motivated because Mastercard is a such great place to work and has been so supportive of me throughout my time here. I felt it was important to pitch in as we faced COVID-19 as a company. It would also be a return to my digital agency roots working directly with customers. I currently lead digital marketing for Mastercard Payment Gateway Services, which makes accepting payments online safe, smart and simple.

My job is incredibly rewarding, though sometimes I get the itch for more projects that directly connect to customers. After all those years, the "focus on the customer" mindset is ingrained in me. Project Possible seemed like a perfect opportunity to meet new people within Mastercard, keep my digital skills sharp and learn something new about our business and our customers.

I've built my career around focusing on contributing anywhere I can, so I jumped on the opportunity and quickly sent an email to Ajay. I'm not going to lie: I was nervous hitting that “send” button. It was like a college application process all over again.

I quickly discovered my nervousness was unfounded. Not only did I get assigned to a Project Possible team, I got assigned to two Project Possible teams within Mastercard Data and Services. In the first, I worked on a search engine optimization training project and usability study for one of our issuing partners to improve its online acquisition efforts.

The second was just as exciting and offered a big stretch for me: building e-learning modules and training videos for three of our bank partners to help their employees learn about the latest regulations and rules safely at a computer instead of at an in-person meeting where social distancing would be a challenge.

As my Project Possible assignments begin to wind down, I feel the entire experience has been better than I imagined. COVID-19 has made this year a real challenge. Schools have been closed. Events have been canceled. Lives have been impacted. Some days it's really difficult to see a silver lining.

However, when I look back at 2020, I see the new relationships I've cultivated at Mastercard with fantastic colleagues in Data and Services and with our customers. I'm proud that I took this opportunity to give back and stretch outside my comfort zone.

During COVID-19, exploring what's 'Possible'

In special minisode of Mastercard’s ‘Inside the Circles’ podcast, which shines a light on the future of work and the topics of now, host Latoya Bennett-Johnson chats with employees Ann Herrera and Jared Bieschke about Project Possible, Mastercard’s COVID-19 response initiative – what inspired them to sign up, what they learned, and how they’ve harnessed the experience in their primary roles.

Ann Herrera