Two Days in Stäfa [en]

As the founding editor of Phonak’s community blog “Open Ears” (now part of “Hearing Like Me“) I contributed a series of articles on hearing loss between 2014 and 2015. Here they are.

A few weeks ago, I spent two days at the Phonak headquarters in Stäfa, near Zurich. If managing a blog and writing for it can be done remotely, meeting people can’t.

Phonak headquarters Stäfa

People are sometimes surprised that I value face-to-face exchanges so much when I am such a “digital” person. Well, I do — you get something out of spending an hour in the same room as somebody that is very hard to reproduce at a distance. I sometimes wonder if it has anything to do with my hearing loss: I need to see people, probably because in my 38 years without hearing aids, I’ve relied a lot on non-verbal communication. I don’t like talking on the phone with people I’ve never met or don’t know well (close friends is another story, I can talk on the phone for hours with them). And as for video conferencing… give me good sound quality and high-quality video which doesn’t freeze or lag, and I might start taking it seriously.

For my third visit, Vincent had set up meetings with various people inside the company, as well as a guided visit of the production centre. I could have stayed in there the whole day, actually — the geek/engineer in me just loves big machines and production chains, obviously.

Robot Arm Electrodes

I was amazed at how much machinery goes into producing the tiny devices that we wear behind (or in) our ears. I also learned that some of the machines used in the process are actually made by Phonak, too. So not only does the production centre contain machines that build hearing aids, it also contains a tool shop that produces machines needed to produce hearing aids. See the idea?

The discussions I had with Kurt, Ora, Katharina, Solange and Jean Anne made me dream about the future (some insights on what’s around the bend, like distance fitting and 24/7 aids — already there in fact) and reconsider some of my assumptions (on device pricing and fitting strategy).

From the first time I set foot in the Phonak headquarters in December, I have to say I really liked the feel of the place. My initial impression was that I had entered a university rather than a company building (it’s a compliment in my book). It’s very open, light, with running water in the lounge — very welcoming. It feels more like a place for research than for commerce, and I like that.

Phonak Stäfa Inside

The people I’ve met so far are all very enthusiastic regarding this blog project. It’s extremely encouraging! We haven’t “launched” officially yet, but the news is spreading word-of-mouth, and we bump into people who say “I heard a rumor… is it true? :-)”

As I digest everything I heard and saw during these two days and create blog post drafts in WordPress, I’m concentrating on the next step in my mission: find motivated bloggers, internal or external, who want to share their stories here!