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An Express career: Vision Express' learning and development manager (registered optical professionals), Neil Retallic, shares his journey from optometrist to professional services as he rises through the ranks of the multiple.

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 opticians--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. 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.

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 flagships 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. I am really passionate about teaching; I love watching people progress and nurturing future talent. This experience has been great for my own 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 programme, plus very rigorous training processes for new employees, and I am 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 programme with Vision Aid Overseas. I took the trip after I qualified and it took me out of my comfort zone. It was challenging to provide that level of service with the language barrier and in that environment, but it gave me confidence and I learned 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 advising a patient with a complex eye health need or supporting a student who is struggling.

I am very ambitious so I am always looking to get involved in different things. At Vision Express there is always a 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 within the health and fitness industry. I enjoy training, so to help others with achieving their fitness goals would be an appealing alternative career choice.

Career development

If you would like to share your career journey with OT, email emilymccormick@

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Title Annotation:HOW I GOT HERE
Author:Retallic, Neil
Publication:Optometry Today
Date:May 1, 2017
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