Today on our blog, we’re excited to highlight Holly Schissel. Holly joined the Starkey Hearing Technologies team in 2000 as part of the R&D team. Today, in her role as Market Roadmap Manager, she is responsible for working with domestic and international leadership teams to ensure our product line meets the needs of the market.
What is your background (education, training, etc.)?
I started in the field as an undergrad majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Syracuse University. I was set on becoming a speech pathologist. After taking an Intro to Audiology class and with encouragement from my advisor, I started working in two of the audiology research labs on campus. I worked in a psychoacoustics lab evaluating contribution of high frequency information to audibility and an otoacoustic emissions lab doing a longitudinal study on emissions in infants. Both experiences, although quite varied, solidified my interest in audiology.
I completed my master’s degree at Vanderbilt University where I continued to work as a lab assistant on several studies. I did my externship at Boston Children’s Hospital, as I always thought I would pursue a career in pediatric audiology. Back in the day when one did a “CFY” or clinical fellowship year, I extended mine to a year and a half so that I could continue to do pediatric research evaluating how RECDs change over time in infants, as well as work in the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center primarily in pediatrics.
How did you get your start in the hearing industry?
You may be wondering how or why I made the switch from pediatrics to working for Starkey. One of my professors from Vanderbilt went to work for Starkey right before I graduated. He invited me to come for an interview in the spring of 2000. I was super impressed by Starkey’s commitment to put “only proven technology” into their product line and I found it really exciting to be part of a team working to provide technological advancements and better hearing to a larger population than I may be able to reach clinically. So, I came to Starkey and worked as part of the Research and Technical Services Team of eight people led by my former professor and worked to evaluate and define requirements for hearing aids and fitting software. This professor, Tim Trine, is now our Chief Technology Officer and runs our R&D department of close to 450 people. It’s been amazing to be part of Starkey’s growth and commitment to not just being a hearing aid company, but being a technology company.
What are your main job duties?
For the majority of my tenure at Starkey, I’ve worked within Research and Development. The last two years, my responsibilities have changed as I now work as the Market Roadmap Manager. In this position I report to Jerry Ruzicka, the president of Starkey, and I work closely with our domestic and international teams to ensure that the needs of their markets are being addressed by our product roadmap. We want to ensure that we provide the right product and feature sets at the right time. Although there are certainly similarities throughout the world, there are also important differences that we need to tailor our product roadmap and offering to.
What has been your most memorable moment at Starkey?
I’m not sure that I can point to just a single experience or achievement at Starkey that is memorable. Most of the memorable experiences revolve around being part of this team that is committed to providing better hearing, whether it be 200 of us sitting in the dark after a power outage for an hour and a half listening to our founder, Mr. Bill Austin, teach us some of the founding Starkey principles or giving tours of our Eden Prairie campus last week and listening to the different department experts explain their contribution to our final product as our guests listen in amazement. Most days give me something to be proud of.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
The most interesting parts of my job are interacting with the customers who fit our products and the patients who wear them. Whether here in the US, at an event in Europe, or at a product launch in China, there is always something we can learn and then we drive those suggestions and requests back into our product plans and roadmap.
How do you address the challenges you face on the job?
The biggest challenge I face is one of prioritization. There are many things that we want to achieve and complete at Starkey. Sometimes we have to lower the priority on something and it doesn’t mean that it’s not important. It just means that it may not be as important as something else we’re working on. That’s a hard concept.
Our Sales, Marketing, and Executive Leadership teams help with the prioritization. We prioritize based on market data as well as customer input. What is great about our leadership team is that they are really in touch with what is going on in our customer clinics and offices. Most times when we are discussing priorities they bring up conversations that they recently had with hearing care professionals that will guide our decisions. This knowledge certainly makes the prioritization easier.
What are some of the most exciting hearing technology trends you see on the horizon?
The most exciting trend I see on the horizon is the connectivity to other technology. I recently fit my mother with our Halo Made for iPhone hearing aids. She is a long time hearing aid wearer and was previously wearing Starkey wireless technology. As I was getting things ready for the fitting, she asked me what was different about these devices. I have to say, I was feeling a little rushed and was considering her “Mom,” not my patient. I responded that they were pretty similar to what she had, but they would connect to her phone. I didn’t go into detail about how truly innovative these devices were. I finished the fitting, gave my children my phone to go in the other room and call their grandma. She answered their call and as she continued the conversation, she began to cry. Never had she heard them on the phone so clearly.
That moment had a profound impact on how I view this technology. I think the ability to integrate with key communications devices like smartphones will truly revolutionize the industry.
Do you have any advice for students who are interested in getting into the industry?
My advice: go for it. The great thing about being in this industry is that you can continue to use your audiology knowledge. There are so many different ways to apply that knowledge and you are able to continue to learn new things throughout your career. The opportunities are pretty amazing: R&D, business, training, sales, etc.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work I enjoy keeping up with my husband and two children, who are 8 and 10. I’ve truly enjoyed every stage, but especially love that they’re old enough that we can do differently activities together. We’ve run several 5Ks together and have enjoyed skiing and snowboarding this winter.