My career journey from Graduate Pre-Reg to running my own business
Meet Sejal Somaiya our Optometrist Partner
at Abergavenny and Ebbw Vale
What was your background before joining Specsavers?
After completing my A levels in Kenya, I came to Cardiff in 2004 - to pursue a degree in Optometry. I was always interested in sciences and out of all the healthcare professions, Optometry appealed to me the most. I felt it was the right career choice for me.
Tell us a bit about your career journey at Specsavers?
I joined Specsavers Cardiff as a Graduate Pre-Reg Optometrist in 2007. A couple of years after completing this and being a fully qualified Optometrist, I started thinking – What next? I expressed my desire of joining pathway (the Specsavers programme to running your own Specsavers store) to my directors and they were willing to help me achieve this. So that year, they enrolled me onto the 'HTV's Got Talent' competition – a first of its kind whereby individuals from various stores picked an area of the business which needed to be driven. The project lasted over a period of 6 months. Fortunately, I was one of the 6 finalists. We were flown over to Guernsey for 2 days where we got to experience what actually goes on behind the scenes of this massive organisation.
Next, I was enrolled onto the Specsavers 'Discovery' course which is basically a fast track institute of leadership and management. I gained some top tips in managing and leading a team which still helps me to date.
How has Specsavers supported your development?
My previous directors in Cardiff were very supportive of me and my long-term goals. They supported me by giving me time off the test room so that I could attend the courses and also spend time on the shop floor understanding the retail side of the business.
What clinical advances have you seen lately?
The OCT role out which has been recently announced. Both our stores have registered to have these installed. This will help us as Optometrists to firm up our diagnosis and enable us to refer patients via the right channel if deemed necessary, thereby improving patient care. Having the OCT in practice will certainly relieve pressure in the eye hospitals especially in areas like pre-and post-cataract operative care, amongst others.
How are you driving forward optometry in your local community?
We regularly organise fundraising days to support our local charities. Not only does this help raise money for these charities but we are also able to engage with our customers and inform them of our services. We also engage with our local GP surgeries and attend their monthly partners meetings when possible. This is to keep them abreast with the services we offer at the practice such as WECS and inform them of any changes or advancements within the field e.g. referral criteria.
Where do you think you have made real difference to someone's eye health?
We offer EHEW appointments in store. Our staff have been trained to correctly fill out a triage form for anyone presenting with an acute eye problem and depending on the urgency we always accommodate them into our clinic within 24-48 hours.
We recently had a major shop refit at our store in Abergavenny. We have invested in state of the art equipment from automated phoropters to a brand-new fundus camera and fields machine thereby improving efficiency and quality of care we give to customers.
In regards to training and developing yourself and your clinical teams - how do you manage to stay at the leading edge of your profession?
I attend regular CET events such as the PAC and mini PAC conferences and encourage the rest of the professional team to also attend. We also get together for peer discussion groups at least three times a year. Magazines like Optometry Today and Specsavers Profile are a good way to keep up to date with new advancements in the field and a great way to get CET points.
What makes you most proud of your time at Specsavers so far?
Having started as a Pre-Reg fresh from university to become a partner at 30 years of age does fill me with pride. It is great to be able to influence and take responsibility for the day to day running of the stores.
Describe the Specsavers culture in three words
Caring, Innovative, Buzzing.
What advice would you give someone looking to join Specsavers?
Go for it! It is such a vibrant place to work in – never a dull moment. There is massive opportunity for anyone within the company to progress in the role and make a real career out of it. Hard work and determination pays off.