Fung Institute Industry Partner: Starkey Hearing Technologies

The Fung Institute embarks on a new industry partnership and learns how the CTO of Starkey Technologies, Achin Bhowmik, plans to use engineering to change people’s lives.

As of Fall 2019, Starkey Hearing Technologies is a founding partner of the Fung Institute Industry Partnership Program (FIIPP). The Fung Institute Industry Partnership Program fosters meaningful industry collaboration as we train the next generation of technical innovators and leaders. This program allows companies to gain unique access to Berkeley Master of Engineering students representing seven engineering disciplines and undergraduates working at the intersection of health and technology.

“We are really excited to partner with a company like Starkey who is using cutting edge technology to improve people’s lives. Our students are always looking for opportunities to create a big social impact and Starkey is a great match for them,” says Julie McShane, Director of Career Development & Alumni Relations.

We interviewed Achin Bhowmik, Starkey’s Chief Technology Officer, about the company and advice for future engineers in industry.

Starkey Hearing Technologies is in the business of “making lives richer by empowering individuals to reach their full potential in life” through hearing devices. Can you elaborate?

“Our focus has always been on connecting people with people. Starkey’s interdisciplinary team of scientists, researchers and clinicians is working on a future where hearing aids can: create presence, so that phone calls feel as if the person is right next to you; break barriers in speech translation, by translating languages in real time; and sense brain waves, so hearing aids know and can automatically focus on what the wearer is paying attention to.

In what ways are you growing as a company?

There is a technological revolution going on that is transforming hearing aids as we have known them. Starkey is pushing the boundaries with advanced sensors, signal processing, artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies. In the future, our hearing aids will be the gateway to the internet of things, allowing the wearer to search, shop, and control their world with unprecedented ease. And we’ll take advantage of the ear’s link to human physiology, to create technology that can monitor our health and well-being more precisely and predictably than ever before.

Could you share some challenges you face as a company? How do you approach them?

No matter what, there are always going to be disruptors in any industry and competitors that are trying to claim a bigger share of the market, but that’s ok. It makes us better. We can’t be complacent. We’re in the business of helping people. At the end of the day, we get to change people’s lives, and that’s what drives us here at Starkey.

What’s your north star?

Our north star is our purpose: So the World May Hear. That isn’t a catchphrase. We take this mission seriously. We’ve challenged ourselves to make the impossible possible. If it’s impossible, we believe, it just takes a little bit longer.

Atchin with a group of MEng students surrounding him in conversation.
Atchin with a group of MEng students surrounding him in conversation.
Achin Bhowmik speaking to MEng students and the UC Berkeley community in our McLaughlin classroom.

You spent 17 years at Intel. What inspired you to transition to Starkey?

We’re not in the hearing aid business. The business we’re in collectively is to help improve human communications. When you enable humans to communicate, you remove the barriers and enable a healthier society. At Starkey, we’re in the business of helping people lead better lives. For me, the satisfaction from making machines a little smarter to seeing smiles on humans when you help them hear better has been quite amazing.

As a CTO of Starkey Hearing Technologies, what do you want future engineers to know? What advice would you give?

As human beings, we are amazing machines ourselves with sensors likes eyes, ears, touch, smell, and taste. Plus, we have an amazing computer in the head. The future is about understanding how those human sensors can work together with artificial intelligence to improve the human experience.”

Learn more about Starkey!

Berkeley Master of Engineering

Content hub for UC Berkeley’s Master of Engineering Program. Explore the many ways our students, alumni, and faculty are contributing to thier field.

Berkeley Master of Engineering

Written by

Master of Engineering at UC Berkeley with a focus on leadership. Learn more about the program through our publication.

Berkeley Master of Engineering

Content hub for UC Berkeley’s Master of Engineering Program. Explore the many ways our students, alumni, and faculty are contributing to thier field.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade