My Summer Plans? Visiting a Prison-Run Call Center

Have you watched the iconic movie When Harry Met Sally? The most memorable scene in the film happens when the two main characters are eating together in Katz’s Delicatessen. I’ll spare you the details, but after some incredible acting by Meg Ryan, a woman at the table next to them says very matter of fact to her waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

This is precisely how I feel about moving on in my career.

Let me back up a moment and tell you why.

I’ve had a tremendous career at Avaya. I actually began as a college intern for a government contractor that was eventually bought by Avaya. I worked my way up to head of Internal Communications. I was able to work from home along the way, which allowed the flexibility I needed to raise my family. I can’t imagine the time and money I’ve saved by not having to commute every day to a corporate office. I will always be grateful to my forward-thinking managers who understood that both companies and employees benefit through flexible work arrangements.

One of these managers led the internal comms team at Avaya for several years and I had the good fortune of learning from and working for her. We were quite the dynamic duo, until she left for another opportunity last year.

She went to a company called Televerde. Avaya had been a customer of Televerde’s so I knew about them and their business model. In business, we tend to throw around the term “purpose-driven,” but very often it doesn’t truly apply. Televerde is an exception. To me, they are the real deal–the epitome of purpose-driven.

As a B2B sales and marketing company, Televerde works with some of the world’s most well-known brands to accelerate their sales pipeline and drive revenue growth. That’s fairly standard in the B2B world. Here’s where it gets interesting: they have nine call centers around the world, five of which operate inside correctional facilities in Arizona and Indiana and are staffed entirely by incarcerated women. Incredible, right?

And the model was created with the intention of empowering this community. Interesting story: while at Episcopal Prison Ministries, Televerde’s founder was challenged by the issues he had reaching inmates. From this, the idea to create a business behind prison walls was born. The company officially launched in 1994 with a six-person call center running out of an air-conditioned trailer at a minimum-security prison in Arizona! (Learn more about the history of Televerde in this video short.)

Don’t you just love it? Imagine the opportunity to work for a company that is built on the belief that a person’s worth should not be determined by the worst decision they made on the worst day of their life. I couldn’t pass it up.

Televerde trains and educates incarcerated women in the basics of sales and marketing. Sometimes referred to as a “mini MBA,” the company teaches callers how to be consultative business partners for clients.

All agents are trained in the most cutting-edge technology on the market, as well as the hard and soft skills needed to close deals, communicate with c-suite executives, and collaborate with Televerde clients’ sales and marketing teams.

Through this model, they’ve generated more than $8 billion in revenue for clients like Microsoft, Dell, SAP, Adobe, Marketo and Pulse Secure. (You can hear this directly from CEO of Pulse Secure, Sudhakar Ramakrishna.) Since Televerde’s inception, 3,000 women have been through the Televerde program with less than 10 percent recidivism. Compare that to the U.S. national average. Televerde is operating as a force for good and that, to me, is good business.

My previous manager went to Televerde and, as any good millennial would say, she’s living her best life. I’ve followed their journey since Avaya was a customer and have been consistently impressed with the work they’re doing: they’re positioned for growth, and they’re changing the world, one woman at a time. So, when the opportunity came for me to join her, I enthusiastically said, “I’ll have what she’s having.” (Not in the Meg Ryan way, but you get the idea.)

I am thrilled to join a company that is doing meaningful work and impacting the lives of women who deserve a second chance in life. Stay tuned, friends…I’ll share about my Televerde journey along the way, including my first trip to our prison-run call center in August! Until then, learn more about Televerde and their mission, meet these incredible women, and follow us on social media to be a part of the #TeleverdeEffect.

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