We celebrated 70 years this year at Phonak. What I find incredible is that I have been part of the history of this company for almost half of this time. Hard to believe? I agree, that’s exactly how I feel.
So how does a woman born and raised in Israel, trained as an audiologist in the US, end up in Switzerland working for a hearing aid company? Good question!
In 1984, about 5 years after my graduation (yes you’re welcome to do the age mathJ) I followed my heart and decided to move to Switzerland. The big question was what would I do there. I spoke a bit of German but not enough to work clinically. So I thought that working for a manufacturer may be an option. At the time, the trade journal Hearing Instruments produced an annual international guide. Anything and everything that had to do with hearing aids around the globe. Under “S” for Switzerland, I found Phonak. Phonak? Never heard of it! At the time, the Phonak products were private labeled in the USA under the Phonic Ear name. There was also Bernafon (wrong city) and Rexton. I got in touch with both Phonak and Rexton and the rest is history.
When people find out how long I have been with the company, I am often asked what has changed. It’s a hard question to answer with one word. On the one hand a lot, on the other hand not much. When I started we were about 150 people working in Switzerland, today we are around 1300. When I started we had 5 models, today I would guess over 100. When I started I was the first audiologist employed by Phonak, now there are literally hundreds of audiologists working worldwide. So the scale has changed. No doubt about that. What didn’t change is the spirit. This is when I realized that companies have their own DNA. It stays even when the originators of the culture are gone and most people don’t know them personally anymore. It is astounding. The hierarchies are flat, the atmosphere informal (considering Swiss culture, not necessarily a given), hard work is expected but there is also always a reason to celebrate, people are really passionate about what they do, and many stay for long periods of time. It’s not just me. All this has remained. What I learned at Phonak is that I can make a difference regardless of my position and title. Good ideas can be pushed through and there is always an open ear.
The most delightful development, from my own perspective, is how much the voice of audiology grew within the organization. Audiologists at Phonak work in Research & Development, Science & Technology, Training & Education, Product Management, Sales and more. This means that the voice of the hearing care professional is present at all the key areas responsible for creating our hearing aids, accessories, fitting software, marketing materials and studies. That is an amazing development. It is no longer possible to imagine moving forward with innovation without the active participation of audiology. This is a great accomplishment that I am very proud of.
So now what? It’s never boring in our field. So many new things coming our way. There are so many opportunities and it is up to us to also look at potential threats as opportunities. There is only one sure thing, change is a constant. The 70 year anniversary is coming to a close. It’s been quite a journey. I am sure the next 70 years are going to be even more exciting. Stay tuned.