By Troy Patterson

Opticianry carries a feather in its cap from peole like Carrie Gagnon, who credit its welcoming and cooperative professional atmosphere to the often over-competitive professions that might suck the fun out of a position.

Gagnon, a full-time optician with Thornhill’s the Eyeglass Factory told Optical Prism Magazine the support from peers and coworkers makes for a growing, healthy work environment where personal growth and education take front seat alongside solid customer service.

“I know someone always has my back, and I have someone else’s back,” Gagnon says. “It’s nice that I can reach out to people like those I went to school with. To me I feel like everyone tries to help eachother to find a solution.”

Gagnon came to opticianry after first developing a career in early childhood education. In 2007 she decided on a career-change and, being a glasses and contact lens wearer, she took to opticianry to pursue her intest in vision and optics.

An honours student from Georgian College’s opticianry class of 2007-2009, she credits her co-op placement with Luxottica at Sears Optical with getting her career going, allowing her to switch gears in her second year and try her hand working for a local optometris, where she learned to edge lenses and fit various types of contact lenses.

After graduating she managed an office and dispensary for five years in Newmarket, before getting back into the optical business in 2015 at The Eyeglass Factory in Thornhill, where she works currently as a full-time optician.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from the job because here, we start with a patient right from scratch. I can ask them their needs and personalize it from there.”

The company does its own edging and customers can follow the process through until they pick up the finished product, allowing her to work with them start to finish.

“I really enjoy when people pick up a lens that’s been personalized for them. There’s such a wide variety of lenses we can choose from for the patient. For some people it’s a life-changing thing.”

She says the ongoing education that comes with the career gives her a chance to continue growing professionally and share her knowledge with her peers when she’s learned something new. She can also pick up some new skills from colleagues who will often offer up something something she hasn’t yet learned.

Being that every customer is different, Gagnon enjoys her ability to personalize the customer experience for frames or contacts lenses.

“Some people have a certain perception of contact lenses, and there’s so much out there now that’s available to people. Maybe they have never tried contact lenses? Or maybe it’s been years?

This gives her a chance to educate clients on the newest technology available to them. And picking up the latest information each year at convention education events like Inside Optics, she can bring what she learns back and use it with her clients to build the trust that’s required to have clients come back time and again.

“The more information you give a patient, not only does it increase their trust in you, but they’re also able to know exactly what they’re wearing.”

And maintaining that trust is important in opticianry, as word of mouth for key in businesses of all sizes to keep customers coming back, and bringing their friends and relatives.

“That way we get a lot of different people that trust in us.”

Building and maintaining the trust of client becomes common place when it becomes a routine. Being an outgoing personality who likes to talk to people, but also has an interest in health adds a level of enjoyment for Gagnon that’s also complimented by the challenge that comes with the hands-on and technical side of the job.

“I’m really proud of myself when I can adjust or fix someone’s frame or something a patient thought was completely broken. That gives me a lot of satisfaction.”

It’s a satisfaction comes naturally from the range of responsibilities expected of opticians, which also helps the career-choice thrive.

“There are so many different things you can do as an optician… it’s not just down to one, mundane job.” says Gagnon. “Whether it’s edging lenses, taking measurements, fitting contact lenses discussing options for patients, it’s just a growing field and I’m constantly learning. It’s a growing industry for sure.”