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Then and Now: A Journey Through Changes and Constants with Employee #1

Then and Now: A Journey Through Changes and Constants with Employee #1

Then and Now: A Journey Through Changes and Constants with Employee #1

Qlarity Access was founded in 1997 as Communications for Research (CFR), a telephone research recruitment company, by Jim and Beth Steber. Tonya Alvey was the first employee - and she’s still here! Both company and employee have gone through some amazing transformations over the years, and we wanted to highlight these changes through Tonya’s eyes. 

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1. What made you decide to work for Qlarity Access, then Communications for Research? It was a new company then, so why make that leap?

After leaving high school, I became curious about working in the technology field, so I attended a business college and obtained an Associate’s Degree in Information Processing/Computer Operating. For a short time after graduating, I went to work for a company that specialized in building custom MS Access database systems. In my brief time there, I gained some valuable introductory programming experience, and also supplemented with some additional computer courses. The position at CFR seemed to be an interesting opportunity to learn a new skill set and additionally offered a much shorter commute (20 minutes versus 1 hour). I remember it being mentioned during my initial interview, that the type of programming needed would be supplied through on-the-job training. It piqued my interest, seemed to be an opportunity for growth, and was closer to home. It was exciting - a fresh start in a brand-new company, and one that would not only utilize all of the skills I’d obtained thus far, but add to them.

2. What made you stay all this time?

After about 3 and a half years of working with CFR, I had my first child. The pregnancy had become very complicated at about 3 months, and I was put on bed rest. It is an understatement to say that it was a very stressful time in my life. Thankfully, Jim and Beth were flexible, and allowed me to work from home during the remainder of my high-risk pregnancy. At that time, no remote positions existed within the company. Initially, I did have plans to return to work at the office in a full-time capacity. But I ended up not being able to tear myself away from my new son, and instead chose to dedicate myself to being a stay-at-home mom. After about 2 and a half years, I discovered that CFR needed another programmer, and I needed to go back to work. This time Jim offered me a fully remote position. It was such a rare opportunity - to work and stay home with my children, and it has been an incredible blessing for our family. I now have three children, and often joke about how over the years, I’d hold and feed them with one arm, and type with the other.

3. What is the most dramatic change that you've seen or experienced with the company since you started?

Two major things stand out - 1) the implementation of EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) within Qlarity Access and 2) the fact that all employees now work remotely. When I returned to CFR, I was the only employee working remotely, so it definitely created a unique working situation. EOS has helped to create a closer-knit working environment. It amazes me that even though we all work remotely now, we are all able to stay connected and productive in a way I’ve never experienced before.

4. What did your role look like when you started and what does it look like now?

In the beginning, it was just the three of us - Jim, Beth, and myself. I was not only the first employee, but also the first programmer. After going through the initial CfMC (now Survox) training, the bulk of my responsibilities revolved around programming, but included a little bit of everything else. I can remember it being very hands on, and just filling in wherever help was needed. Aside from programming and software support, I can remember a variety of things from helping to train interviewers and supervisors, writing user guides, assisting in setting up phone booths, backing up the server, and even having one-on-one discussions with some of our clients (for programming purposes). In the earliest days, I can also remember having a beeper with me to handle after-hours emergencies.

5. You have been here a long time and worked on many things - you're definitely an expert here! What is your favorite role or project that you have been involved in? 

In the early days, I remember putting my database skills to work in creating an interviewer timekeeping and reporting system utilizing Microsoft Access. I had fun doing this, as it was also part of my coursework for a class I was taking.

Recently, I’ve been involved more with Qlarity Access’s panel database, and assisting with creating a process around utilizing panel data points in our programming.

6. What is your most memorable moment while working here? 

Definitely the Computers for Marketing Corporation (now Survox) training conference that Beth and I attended early on – it was in New Orleans, in the French Quarter. It was my first time on an airplane (yes, I took pictures from my window seat). I can recall a lot of memorable sight-seeing with Beth – the Audubon Aquarium, the New Orleans Wax Museum, Jackson Square, and Café Du Monde (yum), to name a few.

7. Which of the company values do you relate to the most and why?

Get to the root. I am a digger, and that is how I generally operate in other areas of my life as well. Whether it is figuring out a solution for work, continuous recipe testing, or engagement in other studies I pursue - I continually seek and evaluate, and let the findings guide me. And then most likely, dig some more.

8. And finally, what advice would you give someone who was new to the workforce/their career?

Maintaining a healthy balance between work and family is so important! It is good to have meaningful work, but not at the expense of other areas in your life, namely your family. Additionally, many more have said this before me, but money really does not buy happiness. I would not pursue a job or career only for financial reasons. Think long and hard about the ‘why’ of what you are doing. Time really does fly – goes by in a blink. The only other thing I can think to add is that it is important to be others-focused in your work, no matter what you are doing. Truly care. It’s not all about you, and what you do affects everyone around you (so don’t be selfish). And challenges help you to grow, which is important (so don’t be afraid of them).

Qlarity Access may not be the same company it was when Tonya first joined, but the spirit of connection, hard work, and flexibility to work anywhere has persisted. From being the first and only employee to now one over 75 people, Tonya has seen it all and we are lucky to have her on our team. We cannot wait to see what the future holds, both for us and for her!

Looking to join the Qlarity Access team and witness our next phase of change? Check out our open employment opportunities.

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