Specsavers Audiology’s Professional Recruitment Manager Julia Hewagama joined us last year just before we launched our audiology offering to Australians. Her task? To recruit talented and passionate audiology professionals, tell our story to the industry and help integrate the audiology offering into our existing stores. A year on, we chatted to Julia about why she joined Specsavers Audiology, what she’s learned thus far and what’s ahead.
1. Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in the UK, studied law for both my undergraduate and masters and specialised in Public International Law. In 2011 I came to Australia on a working holiday visa, like a typical Brit, and nearly eight years later I am still here in Australia and would not have it any other way.
I worked for Emirates Leisure Retail Australia when I first came to Australia, employed initially in human resources before moving into franchise recruitment for its Hudsons Coffee brand. After four years I had an opportunity to join Bakers Delight leading its franchise recruitment. After two years there I made the move to Specsavers. That was a year ago.
It may seem strange to have spent so many years studying law and then to work in recruitment, but franchise/partner recruitment is an interesting niche area. It requires me to utilise a wide breadth of skills, including those that I have picked up from my studies to achieve positive outcomes for brands.
2. Thinking about previous roles and years in the industry as a backdrop, what prompted you to join Specsavers?
My move to Specsavers was unexpected; I wasn’t looking to leave Bakers Delight but I was approached by Mike [Protopsaltis, Head of Retail for Audiology], who I knew from industry events. Before I knew it, I was sold and I’d handed in my notice. Mike explained the issues the industry was facing, and I learned about the seemingly unethical practises that had been occurring and the lack of regulation protecting vulnerable people.
Looking at the March 2017 ACCC report, Issues around the sale of hearing aids, I was convinced. I joined Specsavers because I believe that Specsavers Audiology can positively impact people’s lives by changing the audiology industry for the better.
The ability to invoke and be a part of meaningful change is something that my previous employers simply could not compete with. Whilst I am not an audiology professional, I am sure that that sentiment would resonate with many.
3. Why is a JVP with Specsavers a good model for audiology?
The JVP model is an amazing model for the industry here in Australia, because it creates an opportunity for audiology professionals that hasn’t existed before.
It opens a door to business ownership, which had locked out most audiology professionals until now. JVP also allows for talented, hardworking and ambitious audiology professionals to go into business for themselves but not by themselves – as they have the support of Specsavers behind them in partnership.
4. Having joined, can you describe your thoughts about Specsavers Audiology and the role the group will play in the industry?
At Specsavers, we talk a lot about our big, hairy, audacious goals and I love that, it means that we don’t just aim for the moon, we reach for the stars in everything that we do.
When you look at our support team and you look at our partners, we are a very driven and motivated group of people. So, what is the relevance of this to the role that we will play in the industry? It is everything. I strongly believe that we will change the industry, because we are passionate, driven, ambitious, and more than anything we care about what we are doing and the impact it will have on everyday people.
5. What is Specsavers Audiology’s approach to professionalism and clinical practice?
I am not an audiology professional, however the Head of our Professional Services and Product, Nick Taylor, is. We have some outstanding audiology professionals working within our team, including Kathryn Launchbury (Professional Services Manager) and Melissa Chandler (Operations Support Manager), who are focused on our professional standards and clinical practice. We do not strive to be like everyone else, we strive to be better, to be the leader in the industry – setting new bars for professionalism. Again, not just reaching for the moon – but reaching for the stars.
6. What would you say to audiology professionals considering a JVP with Specsavers?
It’s an amazing opportunity, don’t let it pass you by.