This month marks 12 years since I completed final classes and exams and embarked on my career as an Audiologist. In that moment, I never would have anticipated the path that my career would take to bring me into my current role as a Product Manager at a global hearing solution manufacturer, Unitron. And I certainly never would have predicted that I would ever be working from home (entirely) due to government orders to help limit the spread of a virus that quickly became a global pandemic. I’ve witnessed and experienced the gradual waves of changes in the hearing care industry, but nothing compared to the tidal wave of change and disruption caused by COVID 19.

When I started my first job as a clinical Audiologist, the iPhone was still in its infancy. I didn’t have to be a tech expert – understanding and troubleshooting Bluetooth® and several types of smartphones like hearing care professionals must today. The biggest challenge, as a new Audiologist was figuring out which cable to use to connect hearing instruments to fitting software. ‘Cable pain’ was shared universally amongst all hearing care professionals until the industry innovated a solution – wireless fittings. What I didn’t realize at that time was that there were teams of people working for different manufacturers who had come to understand the customer pain points cause by cable fittings and were working with cross-functional talent to design a solution. These teams of people were Product Managers and they were responsible for representing the voice of the customer. And equally responsible for ensuring that this customer voice was driving product strategy, innovation and development decisions.

12 years later, here I sit, a Product Manager with Unitron. I’m responsible for guiding products from concept through development and eventually into the market. Unitron, like many other companies employs a design-thinking methodology to product development. The starting point for design-thinking is empathy. Understanding the needs of our customers, listening intently and ‘walking a mile in their shoes’ enables us to define, prototype, iterate, and ultimately launch meaningful products. Because the most successful products are the ones that solve a problem, user need, or a pain point.

Understanding the customer and representing their voice during product design is what I love most about being a Product Manager. But, how do we make this happen? There are formal ways, for example focus groups and surveys. And more informal ways, such as clinic visits, industry events and trade shows, as well as online forums and social media. While I was able early on to bring my collective experiences as a clinical Audiologist and a field trainer to the team to represent the voice of the customer, three years later, having been out of clinic, irrelevant. And now I always look for opportunities to learn from active hearing care professionals and consumers about the problems they experience and how we can work to solve them.

Today more than ever before, I am witnessing new problems and pain points faced by hearing care professionals and clients as we navigate this uncertain time. There is anxiety about what the future will hold for us as we transition to a new normal. It is impossible to predict the future, but by listening to your collective voices, I can better focus our work to ensure that we listen, understand, and innovate solutions that will help us all thrive on the other side of this crisis.

During this time, staying home, I’ve re-committed to speaking directly with you – the customer, to ask a lot of questions, to listen intently and empathize with your situation to make sure that our future innovations support your future success. So, if you are finding yourself with some free time right now, I’d like to hear from you. Reach out to me at leah.vusich@unitron.com and let’s talk.