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How I got here

An Express career

Vision Express’ learning and development manager (registered optical professionals), Neil Retallic, shares his journey from optometrist to professional services

18 Apr 2017 by Emily McCormick, Laurence Derbyshire

When I began exploring what course to do at university, I knew that I wanted to do something that led me straight into a job. I also knew that I wanted a career in a profession that involved helping people and within medicine.

As a student, I completed work experience at an optician – I loved the way the staff interacted with their patients, as well as the different stages that they were involved with in helping the patient choose their glasses.

I also went into a hospital to experience the clinical side of optometry, which certainly appealed to me and made me think about how we see and the visual processes that are involved. I enrolled in optometry at university and the rest, as they say, is history.

What I have always really enjoyed about optics is that it’s constantly evolving. I also like the interaction with customers and the impact optics has on people’s lives.

From a career perspective, optics offers lots of different progression options, making it a very varied and interesting industry.

"I always like to get involved in lots of new and different things, and I feel like there are exciting times ahead in optometry"

It was during university that I was first employed by Vision Express and I’ve been with the national optical retailer ever since. During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to work across various roles – between several stores, including some of the busy flagship ones such as Manchester’s Trafford Centre.

In 2010 a position became available at Vision Express’ support centre within its professional services team, which was my dream job – it gave me the opportunity to contribute to the Vision Express training programme.

Alongside my role at Vision Express, I also teach in a university setting. l am really passionate about teaching; I love watching people progress and nurturing future talent. This experience has been great for my personal development too, and has been key to my current position as learning and development manager.

Vision Express has a fantastic apprenticeship and pre-registration optometrist programme, plus very rigorous training processes for new employees, and I am very lucky to be part of the team that gets to train and recruit new individuals into the company.   

One of the most exciting opportunities I have experienced in my career so far was travelling to Ethiopia on a training programme with Vision Aid Overseas. I took the trip soon after I qualified and it really took me out of my comfort zone. It was challenging to provide that level of service with the language barrier and in the environment that you are in.

It gave me so much more confidence because I learnt that when you are in situations that are outside of the norm, you can still deliver what you need to.

There haven’t been any specific setbacks in my career, just challenging situations. I really relish the opportunity to help people- whether by advising a patient with a complex eye health need or supporting a student who is struggling. 

I am very ambitious so am always looking to get involved in new and different things. At Vision Express there is always an exciting new initiative to help with, and within optics I’d like to get more involved with industry-wide discussions.

My Plan B

My second choice would have been with in the health and fitness industry. I enjoy training at the gym so to help others with achieving their fitness goals would be an appealing alternative career choice. 

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