“Growing up, I was always an avid reader. My favorite novels would involve the heroine overcoming some seemingly impossible challenge,” Marlesha Ross wrote in a testimonial for Newark’s Weequahic Family Success Center. “Little did I know the past year of my life would become a story for someone else to read, and hopefully, be inspired by.”
The year ended happily for Ross, as she landed a job on our Customer Care team, but a challenging series of events led her to Audible. In the fall of 2018, Ross found herself without a plan or permanent housing when she chose to remove herself and her four-year-old daughter, Siani, from an unstable living situation. Moving from shelters to churches to hotels with the assistance of local organizations like the Family Success Center and the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN), Ross and Siani would spend over two and a half hours on a series of different buses every day to make it to daycare and work. “Sometimes I think about that time period and I don’t know how we made it,” she reflects.
It was Siani’s boisterous personality (“she marches to the beat of her own drum,” says Ross) that attracted the attention of an Audible recruiter who was volunteering with the Interfaith Hospitality Network. Ross started chatting with the recruiter and opened up about her struggles; the recruiter thought Ross would be a great fit for our Customer Care team. “I told her my dream job was a job in Newark, with Monday to Friday daytime hours, competitive pay and benefits,” says Ross, though she remembered thinking at the time, “Newark doesn’t have those type of jobs.”
By the time she completed the interview process with Audible, Ross had made a decision: “If I get the job, I stay in New Jersey; if I don’t, I leave.” Her back-up plan was to move in with family in North Carolina. When she received the call with an offer, “it was just the biggest sigh of relief,” she says. “I felt like I had been holding my breath for months and now it was going to be okay.”
Ross was on-boarded through Audible’s Hire Local program, which identifies qualified Newark talent for positions in Customer Care, explains Sheena Person-Byrd, Audible Engagement and Operations Manager. One in four of Audible’s customer care employees are hired through community organizations in Newark.
A year into her tenure at Audible, Ross says the thrill of working here hasn’t worn off. Before Covid-19 had us all working from home, every time she walked into Audible’s building she would “get this sense of pride, like ‘I work here and I’m a part of it,” she says. From her inspiring colleagues to the inclusive culture, Ross sees herself “here for the long term.”
The feeling is mutual. “Marlesha joined the Audible Customer Care family last August and her outgoing and positive energy has been contagious. She is not only passionate about literature, but takes customer obsession to a new level,” says Parris Brown, Customer Care Team Manager. It’s evident, Brown says, that Ross “genuinely cares for our customers, eagerly seeking to resolve their issues while building a connection with each of them.”
Audible’s Live Local program, which provides a $500 per month housing subsidy to incentivize employees to live in Newark, has also drastically changed Ross and Siani’s lives. “I have a closet apartment, but my daughter says, ‘Mommy, I like our house.’ I can’t tell you what that feels like,” Ross says. With the extra income and added stability, Ross is volunteering with some of the programs that helped her prior to Covid-19, including assisting other parents at the Weequahic Family Success Center. She continues to collect personal care and household products for those in transition and says that the donation box “has never been empty.”
Initially reluctant to share her story, she says she’s changed her mind. “I’m a regular girl living in Newark, a single mother. We all go through things and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If my story encourages somebody, it’s worth it.”
“Audible is my new village. I know where I’m going now. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a clear vision for myself,” says Ross, who hopes to work on Audible’s community engagement team one day. “Making people’s days, words of encouragement, that’s what I love to do, and everything I’ve been through has prepared me to be an example.”