Tanna Marino, a married mom with four kids, was having trouble making ends meet despite working as an appliance technician. Then Dina Dwyer-Owens, boss at her firm in Cypress, Texas, changed her wages in a decision that brought tears to her eyes and changed her life.
Marino was working for a company called Mr. Appliance, a franchise of the Dwyer Group, an organization that provides repair and maintenance services. In 2011 she was invited to star in a television show pilot, but the show wasn’t what it seemed.
The would-be TV star agreed to appear in a show entitled Don’t Quit Your Day Job. However, it turned out that the program was actually an episode of the CBS program, Undercover Boss. In this series, a top-level manager works anonymously with employees at the bottom of their company. In doing so, they learn all about their employees.
Marino explained the situation to the Houston Chronicle in 2013. She said, “I was told somebody would be working with me for the day. Basically, they would decide if they wanted to go back to their old career, or if they wanted to quit that and do something completely different.”
Marino originally started working as a technician after her refrigerator broke. She had called someone from Mr. Appliance, who then tried to recruit her firefighter husband, Michael. However, it was Tanna, who had been a stay-at-home mom for five years, who was interested in the job.
After applying successfully for the job, Marino began training as an appliance technician. A couple of years later, she was then filmed as an unknown woman shadowed her. The new worker had long dark hair and brown eyes and was introduced as Faith Brown.
It was kept under wraps that the mystery co-worker on those days was Dina Dwyer-Owens, chief executive of Marino’s firm. Dwyer-Owens had changed her hair and eye color so that employees from her own company couldn’t recognize her.
Marino shared her first impression of “Faith Brown” with the Houston Chronicle in 2013. She explained, “She had long fingernails, pearls on and long curly hair. My impression was that she probably came from working behind a desk, definitely not a blue-collar job.”
But the two got on well during their two days working together. Marino described “Faith” as “very polite and very friendly” and even introduced Brown to her husband and four children. It was the conversation they had on this occasion that would change her future.
As a child, Dwyer-Owens’ father had been absent a lot as he developed his company, the Dwyer Group. She talked about this during the filming of Undercover Boss in 2012. She said, “Just thinking back, my father was amazing but he wasn’t home. It was rare that he was home, and we were all still awake.”
So the fact that Marino was considering getting a second job struck a chord with Dwyer-Owens. The undercover boss said, “One of my concerns in listening to Tanna is that her and her husband are working. Now she’s going to take on a second job.” Apparently, she couldn’t let that happen.
After filming, Marino was invited to her boss’s house for the show’s “big reveal.” It was here she learned just who had been shadowing her for days and also what the consequences of those two days would be. And the technician was left “speechless.”
In an emotional scene, Dwyer-Owens’ voice broke as she gifted Marino a lump sum of $25,000, which she referred to “a cash reward for being you.” In addition, $10,000 was provided to set up a scholarship fund for Marino’s children.
In particular, Dwyer-Owens said she admired Marino’s success in a predominantly male field. She made $5,000 available to Marino to create “Women in the Trades,” a program to help women employed in or studying the trades. This fund provides eligible women with money for fees, books, travel or tuition.
On the show in 2012, Dwyer-Owens explained her reasons for taking part in Undercover Boss. She said, “My goal in going undercover was to figure out how we were doing. Are we really living up to the values that my father founded the company on?”
The executive continued with nothing but praise for the now emotional Marino before embracing her in a hug. “You are the epitome of what Don Dwyer would have looked for,” Dwyer-Owens said. “You’re an incredible technician; you’re an incredible mother and an incredible wife.”
Marino told the Houston Chronicle the money has changed her life in “every possible way.” She said, “The cash that was gifted to me allowed our family to get into a bigger home. I work from home now. I have flexible hours and the opportunity to spend time with my kids.”
And the changes didn’t stop there. The opportunity for Marino to showcase her skills and ideas to Dwyer-Owens paid off. She was offered a position as a franchise consultant and is now in charge of the Women in the Trades program.
This means Marino is actively recruiting women into the Dwyer group. Speaking to the Houston Chronicle, she said, “My biggest obstacle now has been trying to spread awareness of the scholarship program. We would truly love to have more women working in all the different brands.”
Although Marino finds it odd that she now gets recognized in the street, her views on the changes in her life are positive, according to her interview with the Houston Chronicle. She said, “My experience as a whole has been phenomenal. I work for a great company doing what I love.”