Before I say anything let me just say my employer is most definitely an equal opportunity employer. They have always been extremely accepting of my hearing impairment and willing to work around it. My hearing most certainly never held me back at my job. I remember way back when I applied for a job in July of 2013 explaining to human resources how I couldn’t do a phone interview without a translator since I couldn’t hear on the phone. They were more than happy to email me a copy of the questions they would’ve asked me on the phone — this may sound simple, but trust me it’s something I have learned is extremely rare and unheard of from most other companies.
I was on a handful of calls prior to getting my cochlear implant. Ask anyone at my work and they will tell you my biggest strength at work falls into one core area — guest blogging/relationship outreach. Sometimes when I find these great opportunities the bloggers or companies want to set up a phone call to discuss different options first. While my hearing impairment made it so I couldn’t hear on the phone and do the calls on my own, I was always able to get a hold of a manager or someone else from my department to help me out and act as a translator for me — again, this is something I am extremely grateful and blessed to have at my current job since I know most companies wouldn’t do this for their employees.
I was never denied opportunities or promotions because of my hearing. My work always encouraged me to reach for the stars and work my hardest. I did receive promotions before ever getting my cochlear implant. This mainly includes being promoted from an Inbound Market to a Social Media Marketer. There has never once been a time when they told me I couldn’t do something because of my hearing. Instead they did everything they could to support me whether it be helping me with calls, speaking more loudly/clearly for me, slowing down and looking at me while they speak, or otherwise helping me.
When it came time to tell my work I was considering getting a cochlear implant, my boss at the time couldn’t have been more excited for me. Actually, excited may not be the best word to use quite yet. I kind of scared him at first. I told him I wanted to talk to him alone for a few minutes after having our weekly department meeting. This is not something common for me to say. I was always almost on the shy side and avoided confrontation at all costs. It wasn’t that I was shy or didn’t like people — it’s just that I couldn’t hear people well — especially my boss at the time, and trying to converse with them was often a difficult and awkward experience. But I have already taken a couple of days off and flex days and had many more coming with pending doctor’s visits, medical tests, and of course the actual surgical procedure and recovery period. I needed to talk to him to let him know what was going on and why I was suddenly requesting so much time off.
My boss was very supportive and understanding. He knew that even if I had to take some time off, I’d get the work done. I always do. I don’t know how much he understood about what cochlear implants are or how they work, but I told him if all went well I’d be able to hear and he was pretty excited about all of that.
As everything started to come together with my cochlear and it seemed more and more likely that I would be able to go through with it all, I began to blog about my journey right here in this very blog. My first entry was on October 27th, shortly after meeting my surgeon for the first time. I began to talk to my co-workers and let them know what I was going through and I shared my blog with them so they could follow along with my experience. I have received many comments on my blog of people saying they love reading about it and asking if I’d write a book (which is a big “yes!” from me!). I am very blessed to have such caring and supportive co-workers.
Recovery from my surgery was a bit brutal. In a perfect world I’d have a very easy recovery that wouldn’t make me sick or dizzy or sleepy and I’d be back to work within two days top. Unfortunately, that definitely didn’t happen. I was in a bit of pain. My medicine knocked me out. I got very very dizzy. Long story short, I missed a whole week of work post-op. But my boss understood and supported me and my co-workers joined forces to help me with my workload and fill in for me during my absence.
When I did return to work, it still wasn’t easy at first. Fortunately, my company was in the process of moving (talk about good timing!) so I was able to work from home most days. Unfortunately, the days when I did have to come to the office could at times be quite brutal. I had no hearing in my left ear at all for a month. When I was in the office it was “social media day” and we almost always had a meeting to catch every body up with what was going on. I couldn’t hear much in meetings before, and without even having a hearing aid in the air and little to no residual hearing left, I really couldn’t hear now. I couldn’t even tell when people were talking. It bummed me out quite a bit. I would talk to the social media managers (I was not a manager at this time — just a social media marketer) and ask them to send me any notes they had or IM me anything important since I couldn’t hear. They were more than happy to oblige.
That month totally sucked, but things got much much much better in time. A month later I had my cochlear activated and that is when I really got to see the benefits of my cochlear implant.
On the second day that I was activated (my first full day of activation), I had a job interview for a new position at my current place of employment. The position was for that of Assistant Project Manager (now called Assistant Digital Marketing Manager). This is a position I have wanted and have been watching out for openings for for well over a year. I couldn’t apply fast enough once I hear they were looking to promote from within for it. I remember legitimately dropping everything and sending my resume/applying the minute I saw the opening.
I applied in December back when we were still at our temporary office on Federal Street. When I had my interview I was so nervous. My hearing was better than it was on day one. I had a lot less of that “baby crying sound”. Voices were starting to become clearer, but a lot of things still didn’t sound natural to me. Naturally, I worried about how well I’d be able to hear my co-workers/future bosses who were conducting the interviews.
I hear every word. I only had to have them repeat something to me once. I knew without them saying anything that I was getting the job. When you know, sometimes it’s obvious. You just know.
Sure enough, my job offer came a few weeks later after we moved to our final location on Aquarium Drive. I couldn’t accept fast enough. My new bosses said they were both very excited to welcome me on the team.
Becoming an Assistant Manager was a big and exciting change for me. I finally had the direct constant contact/interaction with the clients I have wanted for the last two years. I think E-mail will always be a preference for me when it comes to contacting clients simply because it’s been my crutch for years. When you HAVE to rely on email because phone calls are not an option, you become naturally pretty good with them. But I had to do a lot of phone calls, too. Working as an assistant manager means that I work under a project manager and offer assistance to him and her. When we do calls, especially when I first started, the project manager is almost always on call and I do more listening than talking a lot of the time. This definitely helped me to become more comfortable and familiar with how phone calls work (don’t make fun of me. I never had much of the ability to hear on the phone — so yes, I am in a lot of ways learning how phones work).
I think sometimes I might have talked a little too much on the phone. I am still working to develop my listening and speaking skills. I am in a horrible habit of interrupting people. I think some of it initially was too that I was so excited to have the option to speak and get my ideas out in the option with the clients like that. But I am getting better. One of the project managers I work under heard me on the phone on my own a couple of months ago when a client called my direct number. He was fascinated with the way I was able to take the call (he knew it was something I could never previously do on my own) and he said I was much better than I was in my earlier days when I had weekly calls with one of his clients. It was a compliment that definitely meant a lot to me. Just as everything else with the cochlear is a process, so to is learning to use the phone.
Ever since I got my cochlear I feel like there has been so many big changes being made with my career. It is so exciting and I know that it all thanks to the grace and glory of God who has bestowed these blessings onto me. I have been getting more and more comfortable in my roll as an assistant project manager. Sometimes my project managers I work with aren’t available. They take a personal day or go on vacation or take a sick day. They can’t be there all the time. However, that doesn’t stop clients from having questions or calling. I have been able to take their calls and rely information to clients in my project manager’s absence. Once I was even able to gather information about a client who recently created an exciting partnership with another company and needed a new website made. This involved changing their contract around — which was a bit of an upsell from the business side of things. I was able to handle this and help make this all go through successfully on my own while my project manager was out. If it was not for my cochlear I wouldn’t have been able to make that call and help get things moving with this.
Today was an even bigger opportunity for me as an assistant project manager. One of the clients I am an assistant manager for came in for a client visit. Per their current contract, they receive a bunch of web maintenance and training each month to teach them how to make updates on their website. Today they wanted to come in and meet us in person for a training session. Of course, I was a little nervous. I mean I only ever met a client in person once before and this was a client that’s been with us for a very long time for a training session on something that is a bit of a weakness for me (Thank god for the web department at my work and the wonderfully talented people who work in it. I would be so lost without them). But I was far less nervous than I normally would have been. I knew I had nothing to worry about too much — I could hear! I’d be able to talk to them! It would be far less awkward than it would’ve been had this happened 6 months ago or so.
The meeting went very well. I didn’t have much talking to do since web maintenance is certainly not my area of expertise, but I was able to take very detailed notes on just about every single word that was said which I think will be extremely helpful especially for my project manager. And towards the end they asked us a bit about the social media audit we did. This was actually something I did as I am now a Social Media Project manager. I was able to jump in here and explain what Google+ was and how it differed from Facebook which helped them out a lot. It was a very exciting moment for me because I know just a few months ago I wouldn’t have been able to hear them at all. Sure, I had the knowledge about Google+ and Facebook 6 months back, but having knowledge isn’t always that helpful when you can’t even hear well enough to realize who is talking or if anyone is talking at all.
Thinking of social media, just two or three months after becoming an assistant project manager, I worked my way up to Social Media Project Manager as well. I am definitely still very much in the process of learning things. I have about 7 or 8 clients now. Not nearly as many as one of the project manager’s I serve as an assistant to, but my client list has been growing and I’ve been learning more and it’s been such an exciting journey being able to fully manage my own clients now. I set up my own calls with just me and the clients (I don’t have an assistant of my own). I answer my own calls. I manage my own team of marketers on the account. I now constantly have social media marketers at my desk asking for advice or questions about tasks for my clients. It is so exciting being able to converse with my co-workers like this. I always had to rely on my instant messenger or email in the pass which is so much less personal. I feel like now I can really connect with and get to know my co-workers for the first time.
And in the process I feel like I am finding my own voice as well. In September I will have been at my job for two years. Most of our employees have not been with us for 2 years, but there are a handful of people I like to refer to as “vets” who’ve been with me since I started and well before I started. It’s so cool to see things progress with my cochlear now.It’s like for years I seen these people in the office and I had many of conversations with them online, but now that I can talk to them in person it’s a whole new world and I think they feel the same way about me. I feel like a lot of people were under the impression that I was shy initially. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. I am anything but shy. I am the true definition of deaf and loud. I have a lot of ideas and thoughts and I can be very sarcastic and playful. But these sides of my personality often didn’t come out especially during meetings because I couldn’t hear and often times had no idea what was even going on in meetings. Now I am always aware of what’s going on and what’s being said. I can offer my thoughts and opinions and I can joke with my co-workers and engage in the occasional small talk. I am finally, after two years, able to connect with and really get to know the people I work with.
My cochlear implant has definitely opened many new doors for me as far as my career goes. It made some tasks easier for me and my overall work experience more enjoyable. I feel like ever since I got my cochlear implant my career has been steadily rising. And the best part of all? This is still only the beginning. It only goes up from here.