Trueline Spotlight: Reading People While Making the Calls 

Reading Time: 3 minutes

While there may be no scientific or medical evidence to show that boxing helps an assistant content coordinator manage a hectic flow of as many as 100 calls daily, Michael Gardner knows how to roll with the punches—and give a few too!

Gardner, a Chicago-area resident who joined Trueline in November 2021, boxed in college while earning his bachelor’s degree in research psychology (and minoring in neurobiology and behavior, and Spanish). He’s also tried his hand at stand-up comedy.

“I do have a stand-up joke about getting my degree,” he says. “I say I spent $200k to learn how to train a dog.”

While he’s exaggerated the cost of his UConn education, Gardner says his biggest success in his major was nearly getting a visualization study funded, and the employment prospects for his degree led him to pursue other ventures.

Those ventures included a year in Cadiz, Spain, where he served as a cultural ambassador for the Spanish government and worked with school children ages 6 to 8 as well as trade school students who ranged from 16 to in their forties.

While he helped teach students about American culture, Gardner says he was discouraged from speaking Spanish—which also happened as he grew up in a family that had emigrated from Mexico.

But his year in Cadiz also allowed him to absorb Spanish culture and become friends with a French roommate who spoke no English and a bit of Spanish. They learned to communicate by posting lists of words on their apartment wall, Gardner says.

The experience also allowed him to see Europe, and Gardner is also known to drop everything for long road trips in the U.S. Those began during the COVID-19 pandemic when gas was historically cheap. There was always a twist as he and his companions liked to get close to tourist destinations out West, then take a dirt road just to see where it got them.

That’s best done with at least a quarter tank of gas, Gardner advises.

Gardner, who’s no relation to Managing Editor Kate Gardner, is likely the only Trueliner to be mentioned on a Joe Rogan podcast, too, although he says his name wasn’t used.

Again, that revolves around boxing and a street exhibition organized by comedians (if we can leave the location out that would be great!) where Gardner jumped into the ring on a whim. All the safety equipment was provided, but no amount of headgear and gloves prevented him from separating his shoulder—and then waiting for someone to call an Uber so he could go to an emergency room for treatment. While Rogan didn’t mention his name, Gardner did get to meet the comics who organized the exhibition and his shoulder has healed.

But for all his wanderlust, Gardner has also been the companion and caregiver for relatives in Chicago and says his work at Trueline accommodates those responsibilities well.

And taking punches aside, his education and experiences are well suited to reaching out to people for Blueprint features.

“I like reading people,” he says. “In the first 30 seconds I can tell the tone of a person. I like the social interaction, and I like having people tell me I sound like I know them.”

While his call volume reaches triple digits in a day, Gardner says success comes in being invested in every call and adds Trueline provides both the training and inspiration to maintain his enthusiasm.

“Haj and Jason Williams are the best for being open and encouraging,” he says. “I always feel better after chatting with them and I want to do better for them and the team.”

Gardner Gleanings:

Pets: Gardner just got a puppy that’s a German shepherd and Belgian Malinois mix.

Favorite cuisine: “I love Indian food. Not just the chicken dishes, but saucy and spicy ones with rice, too.”

Favorite comic: “Big Jay Oakerson for being funny at the drop of a hat. Shane Gillis for his jokes.”

Most unique job: Selling landline phones in the cell phone era.

Greatest job skill: “Haj and I are working on a theory about the length of my beard and my success with calls. I’ve been letting it grow and now Jason Williams calls me the James Harden of Trueline.”