Margaret Stephens loves being the customer experience manager at CATA.
“I make sure our customer service representatives treat all CATA customers with respect and provide an excellent experience for them,” she said. “We want to treat each customer with dignity and get them where they need to go. It’s corny, but I’m one of those people who really loves my job.”
It’s not corny at all, especially considering the unusual path that brought Margaret to CATA.
Margaret grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and, due to a family situation, was homeless for the last half of her senior year in high school.
“If there was one thing I’d do differently it would be to go to college right out of high school, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around where I was going to sleep the next day, let alone go to college.”
The mother of a childhood friend let Margaret move in, with the understanding that she’d move out upon graduation.
“I took the city bus to my high school graduation, walked across the stage, got my diploma and took the bus back to their home,” she said. “I knew I needed to find a new place to stay, and I needed to get a job.”
Donna, another close family friend, took her in. Donna’s husband, Junior, owned an electrical contracting company – the first black-owned business of its kind in Ohio.
“Junior gave me my first job,” she said. “He paid me $200 a week, and he made me learn everything there was to learn about doing business. Payroll, reading blueprints, being on time to work.
“In a way, that was my college. There was so much he taught me in the two years I worked there that I knew for the rest of my life I was going to be OK.”
Margaret moved to Michigan, taking a job with Michigan Bell. Through the company’s tuition-reimbursement program, she went to the Detroit College of Business, then Washtenaw Community College, and ultimately earned her bachelor’s in business administration from Eastern Michigan University.
“In those college classes, they covered so much of what Junior prepared me for,” Margaret said. “All those classes made sense – even English, because Junior made sure everything that left his office was professional and grammatically correct.”
When she turned 50, Margaret told her family and friends that she wanted to work with the public. “Without community outreach organizations throughout my life, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” she said.
Serendipitously, a recruiter contacted her about a customer experience job with CATA.
“Right away I said, ‘Yes, set me up for an interview,’” she said.Today, Margaret is stationed in the CATA Transportation Center, helping people get where they need to go. Junior has since passed away, but their families have remained good friends through the years.
“I didn’t realize it until recently the impact he had on my life,” Margaret said.
She said she enjoys working with younger people who are starting out on their own life journey at CATA.
“I want to be able to influence them the way Junior influenced me.”
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