HEARing their calling: how two grads found their career path, and each other, at Douglas

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications

During his time at Douglas, Mike Zacharias learned early on that a bad grade could actually be a good thing. In fact, doing poorly on a quiz in one of his first classes led him to meeting Sam Costa, his girlfriend, coworker and fellow graduate of the Hearing Instrument Practitioner diploma program.

“Our meeting was purely coincidental,” says Mike. “We’d both done poorly on our first quiz. I asked her if she’d like to study together and she said yes. Eventually studying together turned into becoming a couple. So just because you don’t do well on your first test, don’t give up, kids!”

Read more: Attend an upcoming online information session to learn more about the Hearing Instrument Practitioner Diploma program.

Get involved, get experience

Not only did finding a study buddy improve their respective grades, but both Mike and Sam excelled in the HEAR program and found gigs in the industry before they even graduated. To build her resumé, Sam did testing for NexGen Hearing – a hearing health provider in B.C. – and Mike also performed hearing tests, but at an ENT practitioner’s office.

“The program prepared us really well for work in the hearing health field,” says Sam. “We learned all the components necessary to do a good job in the clinic for the clients. It was fun, interesting and made me excited to start work.”

Read more: Psych nursing student seizes early opportunity for valuable work experience

Both Sam and Mike really enjoyed the challenge of their course work during the two-year diploma program, but they agreed what really made the program stand out (other than meeting one another) was being able to meet and interact with industry professionals. Particularly at one networking event organized by members of the Faculty of Science and Technology.

“Industry day was our most memorable experience at Douglas” says Mike. “It was really great to meet with employers and manufacturers just as we’re about to graduate, and ask them our questions about working in the industry.”

Read more: How this music alum found his calling in film and television

Using transferable skills

While they ended up in the same program – and currently work as Hearing Instrument Practitioners for the same company – Mike and Sam came to the HEAR program from very different backgrounds.

Sam had worked in the health care industry as a care aide at a long term care facility. She was drawn to the HEAR program at Douglas because she wanted to further her career helping people, and it stood out as one of the only Hearing Instrument Practitioner programs with hands-on learning opportunities and face-to-face instruction. Being from Pitt Meadows, she was also happy that going to Douglas meant staying close to home.

Mike on the other hand, travelled a little farther for school and a chance at a completely new career.

“The forest industry in Prince George, where I was working, had basically collapsed. I wanted to find a new career with stability,” says Mike. “I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people and I am an avid techy. The hearing industry is great for both those things.”

Right place, right time

Toward the end of their program, Sam and Mike attended a graduation dinner sponsored by Connect Hearing, where serendipity struck once again.

“During the course of the evening we chatted with the manager of human resources and the topic of where we’d like to work once we were certified came up,” says Mike. “Connect Hearing needed two full-time Registered Hearing Instrument Practitioners on the Sunshine Coast, and three days later we were offered the positions.”

Now, Mike and Sam have started their careers as Registered Hearing Instrument Practitioners on the Sunshine Coast, where they have been living and working for a year and a half. They’re enjoying their unique work at the clinics – Mike in Gibsons and Sam in Sechelt – so much so that they recently purchased a townhouse there.

“The lifestyle here is a little slower than the Lower Mainland, which is something we both appreciate. We’ve worked really hard and have been incredibly fortunate to end up where we are.”

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