Originally published on March 5, 2019.
Today is my last day as an inmate at Perryville prison in Arizona. I didn’t plan to write a goodbye and good luck letter to commemorate my last day. After all, I’m continuing my career with the company that enabled me to begin rebuilding my life on the inside: Televerde. All the women I’m leaving are in a sense coming with me. I’m just changing my office location, right? But I suppose that after more than six years with Televerde, I have a few things to share. So, instead of goodbye, I want to highlight the importance of seizing and making the most of the Televerde business model and every opportunity we’re given to rebuild our lives.
Where It Began
I first learned of Televerde in 2005 while in county jail prior to the start of my prison sentence. I was intrigued immediately because the incarcerated women who work for them make good money. But after I arrived, I thought the position was just not for me, so I passed and spent my first seven years working elsewhere on the yard.
Flash forward to 2012. I was finally convinced by a fellow Televerdian to apply. The application process for the job I was applying for included an Excel test, which I was confident I could pass since I had more than 20 years of experience in reporting and analytics. I failed.
I realized then I needed to make a change. I really believed I had a lot to offer and I wasn’t going to allow this one failure to defeat me. I reassessed, and I applied for the next position opening for a calling agent.
I got the job, but I wanted to quit after the rigorous boot camp training and then my first assigned campaign. I did not feel comfortable talking with strangers on the phone (the irony of a self-proclaimed “talker”). I’m so grateful that my manager at the time did not accept my resignation after 18 days on the job.
Instead of giving up I decided to research other departments within Televerde. I shadowed various people in different roles and began to refamiliarize myself with the basics. I spent my free time relearning every part of Excel and submitted my resume in hopes that a new opportunity would surface.
Everything moved quickly but I was ready for it. Almost seven years later, I’ve had the chance to work in several departments at Televerde, learning virtually every area of the business. As my roles changed, I brought my learnings with me and adapted to each new adventure. I know I can learn anything and Televerde supported me through it all.
Televerde is more than a job. It’s more than a paycheck. It’s more than a company name on a resume. Televerde truly provides unbelievable opportunities that most people in prison would never have access to.
In the Televerde environment, we’re given tools, resources and a network of support to help us absorb the knowledge of business processes, technology, hard/soft skills, and even grow our professional and personal networks. Many of the women have never had a paying job in their lives before becoming a part of the Televerde team. Many didn’t graduate from high school but completed their GED while inside specifically to meet Televerde’s minimum education requirement. It’s an impressive business model to anyone who learns about it, but to those who have been through it, it’s a game-changer. Televerde is giving us an identity in prison, in addition to arming us with marketable business skills that will change the trajectory of our lives and careers. I want everyone in prison to never take for granted this opportunity and to deeply immerse yourselves in the jobs you’re doing every single day.
I keep hearing how society has changed since I came to Perryville. I guess I’ll find out today, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the basic concept that if you put in hard work, it will pay off in the end. I am responsible for what I choose to do or not do. My choices going forward will lead me to a future now brighter than I ever imagined.
For most people, it’s challenging to step outside our comfort zones and break free of old habits. I’ve learned that many people stay in a stagnant space because we fear discomfort and the unknown. This just can’t be. You cannot be a part of Televerde without taking chances, learning from every experience, being accountable for your actions, and becoming a better person personally and professionally.
As much as Televerde supports us, we need to keep in mind that change is fast and constant, not personal. Televerde is a business. We are its biggest assets, but not their only. Yes, working with Televerde is a different way of “doing time”—it’s meaningful, valuable, purposeful; life-changing—and it’s not to be taken for granted. Move every day with a sense of urgency to grow the company’s success and yours. You won’t be sorry with the outcomes.
As I leave you today, please take every opportunity and run with it. Master it. Make it better. And don’t look back. I know I won’t.
No goodbyes. It’s just geography.