Sarah Voice was recently appointment as Mimi’s new Chief Operations Officer (COO), the first woman in a C-Level role at Mimi Hearing Technologies. Sarah is 32 years old, is originally from a tiny suburb in mid-Michigan (Midwest, USA) and moved to Berlin four and a half years ago.
1. How has your career evolved since starting at Mimi?
My career has evolved across many different roles since starting at Mimi in March 2017. I first joined the team as a Senior Data Analyst. After 9 months in this position, I moved into a Product Manager role, tasked with helping to launch the Android Hearing Test. For the next 12 months I was also involved in the health side of the business, utilizing my past experience in health care tech to help build and develop this business function.
I eventually made the decision to focus on one chapter rather than working across two, and as I had a deep understanding of the product and health use case, I moved into the position of Head of Research. A large part of this role was developing and managing the research roadmap and the research team. I still hold this role, alongside my new positioning as COO, which was officially announced in December 2020.
2. What are some key things you want to achieve in 2021 in the new role of COO?
The biggest thing I want to work on is our strategic framework. A robust strategic framework will help us be explicit and transparent about our goals, and allow the teams to focus. I also want to ensure everyone is easily able to measure success and track progress. A big part of this is connecting the commercial and product functions of the business more closely together, as we continue to grow.
3. What attracted you to Mimi?
It was a combination of passion and interests, linked with my past work experience and studies. As I am passionate about Music, Tech, and Health Care, and Mimi provided the perfect opportunity to work for a company that sits across all three, in a lean and agile environment. The work we do as a team is meaningful, and we develop a product that helps people.
4. What do you like most about working at Mimi?
The culture of the company is very unique, particularly in contrast to working in the USA. Mimi is very employee focused. It has found a great balance of being a fast-paced startup with a lot of work to complete and goals to hit, while still taking care of it’s team.
5. Do you have a personal connection to audio or hearing loss?
Music is a huge part of my life and I am very passionate about it – I started playing violin when I was 5 years old, and I strongly believe in the power of music to connect people.. Music and audio as a source of connection became even more apparent to me when my Grandfather started to lose his hearing. He started to withdraw from conversations, refused to wear hearing aids, and was overall much less social and engaged with those around him. He was embarrassed by his hearing loss, and too proud to ask for help. This is why I love Mimi’s approach to hearing as a topic – we strive to offer people solutions using devices and technologies they already use in a joyful and non-judgmental way.
6. What have you learnt about yourself working at Mimi?
I have always struggled to pick one area to focus on career wise – I studied engineering and music in university, then switched to healthcare and tech, and then moved halfway around the world for a new challenge. What Mimi has taught me is that this curiosity is a strength, not a weakness. I can use my breadth of interest and knowledge to connect disparate concepts or areas of the business to get the best results.
7. What influenced you to pursue a career in technology?
My love of math and science. When I graduated from college in 2012, tech companies were on the rise and I wanted to be a part of it. My dad also influenced my interest in technology. He was always tinkering with new technologies and buying the latest products – I remember having a computer in my house well before the rest of my friends did thanks to my dad!
8. What is it like to be a woman working in technology for you?
I have always worked in male dominated fields. When I was studying engineering, the course was one third women – which was actually quite high compared to other universities! It is tough, and in so many ways women have a harder time proving themselves and rising their way up in the industry.
I think it is great seeing more women in tech being provided with safer spaces to feel heard and understood about their struggles in the workplace, but what would be even better is for more women to get a seat at the table, without this being seen as ‘niche’. I want to provide a safer and more inclusive environment for women, but I would love for women to not be seen as an anomaly.
There are so many instances where I have walked into an office and realized immediately that women weren’t considered in how the space was designed. One of my old employers had a room that was designated as a place for women to breastfeed or pump, but then they decided to also use it as a space for people to pray and meditate, AND the area for sports classes – not exactly inviting to breastfeed in a place that smells like gym shorts. And people who want a place to practice their religion privately probably wouldn’t be too happy to share the space with a breastfeeding mother. Another place I interviewed literally only had a men’s bathroom!
I really appreciate that at Mimi we are striving to be better here – we have an inter-disciplinary committee working on diversity and inclusion, and we are constantly evaluating how we can be more welcoming to people from all walks of life.
9. What advice would you give to a woman considering technology as her career?
Just do it. I see the future being in technology and women should be a part of it. Educate yourself and get the degree that you want and don’t wait for others to give you permission. We will need to be the change we see in the industry and that requires participation.
10. Who are your career role models?
My mum. She is a lawyer and when she had kids, she took some time off from working to raise us, because that is what she wanted to do. Then afterwards got herself back in the workforce and landed her dream job. She didn’t let having kids stop her from aiming high and achieving what she wanted in her professional career. She advocated for herself and landed where she wanted to be.
11. What makes a Mimian to you?
A Mimian is someone who is curious. We have people in the team who have all kinds of interesting hobbies, especially since we have been in lockdown for a large part of the past year. It’s really inspiring to hear what people are working on outside of work – our Chief Commercial Officer, for example, had a past career in film, and produced an amazing video highlighting the team and our successes in 2020. Everyone is constantly learning and curious about the world.