Industry profiles, Ophthalmic Careers, Optometrists

Specsavers Stories – Adam Chen

specsavers Adam Chen

When people decide to work at Specsavers, they’re joining a company with a purpose to change lives through better sight and hearing – hence why more Australians and New Zealanders choose the optometry provider over any other.

As one of the largest employers in the ANZ optometry sector, Insight sits down with an employee each month to hear about their growth trajectory within the company.

Specsavers experienced optometrist opportunity

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Name: Adam Chen
Current position: Optometrist
Location: Craigieburn, Melbourne
Years within the business: 6 years in Feb 2024

Why did you pursue an optometry career, and how did you enter the profession?

Coming out of high school, I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do as a profession or career. I knew I enjoyed science subjects, and I was a people person, so naturally I ended up in a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. As I chose subjects that I enjoyed and came to know myself a bit better I knew that I wanted to do something in the allied health field. I wanted to make a difference and help people. When the opportunity came, I decided to pursue a Doctor of Optometry and quickly fell in love with optometry. After one year, I knew that I had found my place.

In my second year of my optometry degree, I started working as an optical assistant at Specsavers. During my final year, I sat to interview for an optometrist role at Specsavers and there was coincidentally an opening at my current store that I worked for. I am grateful my directors decided to hire me, and I have worked at Specsavers Craigieburn as an optometrist since February 2021.

How did you come to work at Specsavers, and what attracted you to the business?

Every year at the University of Melbourne there is an optometry student conference. During my second year there was a Specsavers booth with ambassadors running mini-games and answering questions about the business. They were also inquiring if any students wanted the opportunity to work as optical assistants at Specsavers. I wanted to get my foot in the door in the industry and used that opportunity to get an interview at Specsavers in Craigieburn. Both Keon and Rahul (the directors) interviewed me and showed me around the store. It felt like a great fit and I found out soon after that they had decided to hire me.

Word of mouth from my peers that already worked in optical businesses generally said that Specsavers was very well structured and had a lot of support. The range of equipment available and the accessibility of eye care (fully bulk-billed tests) also really resonated with my ideals as an aspiring future optometrist at the time.

What was your first role within the business, and what did it entail?

I started my journey at Specsavers in 2018 as an optical assistant while studying my optometry degree. Being a customer facing role, I would be present to greet any customers entering the store and then I would be responsible for helping with their needs or any part of their customer journey after that. This could include doing their pre-tests or visual field testing, helping with frame selection, processing of payments, collection of glasses and general repairs or cleaning of glasses.

It was actually a great way to see how many different areas of the store ran and I think it really helped to gain perspective on what everyone’s roles were and what it took for the store to function. This helped me when becoming an optometrist at Specsavers as now I had that extra understanding of how the retail and optometry sides of the business functioned and worked together.

Since then, what growth opportunities have presented themselves

Specsavers is a wonderful company where, if you seek growth opportunities, most times you will find them.

During the COVID period, I had the pleasure of being invited to speak to the final year students at the University of Melbourne virtually over Zoom. After that opportunity, I put my hand up to say I was interested in doing it in-person in the future if the chance arose. I was then invited to speak in-person to the final year students at the University of Melbourne as an ambassador in early 2023. After this, I was also invited back to film a ‘Day in the Life of a Graduate’ video for new graduates to watch at the Support Office.

As part of the Graduate Program at Specsavers I successfully ran an in-store project. This gave me great insights into what it takes to initiate change in a store and gain some leadership and management experience. I cemented this further by commencing and completing the Pathway program in 2023 which set me up with further skills and leadership qualities to eventually become a director and own my own Specsavers. After successfully completing my Pathway journey, I was invited to come back as a Pathway Mentor for a later intake of Pathway candidates.

2023 was also the year that Specsavers decided to pilot the Early Career Optometrist (ECO) program as a subsequent program to the existing Graduate Program. I had the pleasure of being the Victorian representative on the ECO Advisory committee. We participated in monthly meetings with the other state representatives and acted as a voice and advocate for our fellow optometrists. I am proud to have been part of the process in shaping the program with the other representatives and Support Office team and the ECO program has now become a two-year recurring program to follow the Graduate Program.

As part of the ECO program, I also had the opportunity to present a case study on amblyopia at a networking event for the first time. Later I was also asked to be an ‘On-Demand Speaker’ with this case for the Specsavers Clinical Conference (SCC) 2023. Despite feeling like a fish out of water, my video went on to become the most watched On Demand video of the conference.

Can you outline your top career highlights since joining Specsavers?

If I had to give a top three for my career highlights, I would start with successfully starting and completing my Pathway journey in 2023. It was an amazing experience with a lot of personal growth and knowledge and skills gained. I was also happy to be recognised by being invited to return as Pathway mentor afterwards.

My next highlight would be my contributions towards the Early Career Optometrist program and successfully helping and shaping it through its pilot year. I am probably many years premature to be talking about legacy but helping to create a recurring two year program that will be used by future Specsaver early career optometrists is something I am very happy to have been a part of. Just knowing that it will help future generations of optometrists coming out of their graduate program fills me with joy and fulfilment.

The final career highlight for me would be being an ‘On Demand’ speaker for SCC 2023. It is surreal to me that I could go from attending the conference one year to presenting content for it the next year. It really shows that anything is possible.

What is your most interesting clinical case? 

One interesting case that I came across was a female patient in her 40s who presented for a general routine eye examination. History was normal and refraction was unremarkable as well. However, when I went to look at her OCT scans, there was a very fine symmetrical hairline tear through her macula on both eyes. It looked a lot like solar retinopathy to me and I chanced asking her if she had ever stared at the sun or a solar eclipse before. This shocked the patient and she had admitted that when she was six years old and overseas, she was with her family witnessing a solar eclipse. She had been given a bit of X-ray film to look through to protect her eyes, but being a curious six-year-old she peeked out from the film to look directly at the eclipse. She mentioned that no one had ever asked her about it until that day. I thought it was just cool that with the technology and equipment we have available now, we could determine something like that about the patient.

What excites you most about turning up for work each day?

For myself every day is an opportunity and that brings excitement. Due to the higher volume at Specsavers, you never know what will walk through the door. Variety through volume is how I would describe it. There is an opportunity to improve my optometry craft, whether it is clinical skills and knowledge, people skills or product knowledge. There may be situations in-store to act as a leader or mentor somebody. I also feel a lot of fulfilment from knowing I have made a difference to a patient’s life or was able to help solve their problems. In that way, I feel like I can constantly look to improve myself while gaining fulfilment from helping my patients every day.

More reading 

Specsavers Stories – Amy Yu

Specsavers Stories – Emma Ingram

Specsavers Stories – Jolene Cheah

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