By Troy Patterson

Marina Lander enjoys the difference she makes as an optician by helping people to see better.

“I think many people want to grow up and say ‘I want to do something where I help people,’” says Lander, a dispensing optician and contact lens fitter at The Eyeglass Factory in Thornhill, Ont.

“My contribution lives with them as a pair of glasses they wear. So, for me, it’s important to know it’s not just a pair of frames I select for them or just to fill a prescription, I know that because of what I do, people can see better.”

Lander graduated from university with a degree in sociology, but says university didn’t prepare her for the practical experience needed in a profession.

She stumbled into the eyecare industry by chance in 2009, landing a summer job while in university with a larger chain eyecare company.

That job started her on a path through the optical field, first as a frame stylist and then to becoming a registered optician after finishing a four-year part-time opticianry program at Seneca College.

Lander fast-tracked the program by taking courses through summer to finish in three years.

In 2013, she graduated and fell in love with the vision care field’s broad range of specialties – from both fashion and trends on the aesthetic side of the optical business to the technical and hands-on application of skill for what she says is the most important part of opticianry: the medical consultation expertise that’s needed to ensure a patient’s eyewear works as prescribed.

Lander says educating her patients is a key part of her focus as an optician, giving clients a variety of options while trying to avoid sales pressure.

She says only through consulting can an individual make an educated decision by themselves, which is why she believes opticianry will maintain its place in the market despite online competition.

On the fashion side of eyewear, it’s all about the joy of finding the right look for the customer while keeping in mind what’s on-trend, she says.

“At the end of the day, you could have made someone’s day, or year, or two years depending on how long they’ll be wearing the style glasses I help them select,” says Lander. “But through styling, that’s when relationships are built. It’s not as intense of a relationship as it is with a patient, so that’s when it becomes more fun.”

The technical and hands-on side of the business interests her, as it differs when it comes to working in labs and edging. That’s another part she enjoys about working for The Eyeglass Factory.

Lander says she enjoys her job because she gets to see her customers follow the process from selecting a frame, to the lens being edged and fitted, and helps them along the way.

That way the client is part of the process, beyond just being handed a finished pair of glasses.

“For me it’s just like art, because you’re not just thinking about frames or the prescription, you’re actually applying all the knowledge and the lenses and the whole concept, from fashion, to a medical device.”

She says being honest, explaining and sharing options for customers is important to her and it’s never about the sale.

“A lot of times I say, I don’t want you to buy from me today because it’s a serious decision and I want you to choose something you’ll be completely happy with before you buy and making sure they’re not feeling pressured.”