We had the opportunity to chat to Hazel Huxham, dispensing optician and practice manager at Specsavers Launceston about what initially attracted her to Specsavers, what she likes most about her role, and how her team have managed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hi Hazel, could you tell me a bit about your background in optics?
I started working in optics in 2008. Before that I worked in retail, so I didn’t really have prior optical experience. I wanted a career change, so I applied for a role as a dispensing optician. I got the job and started my DO degree 6 months later and qualified with FBDO BSc Hons 3 years later and finally qualified. I worked for my previous employer (an independent opticians) for 10 years before moving to Specsavers (as DO) two and a half years ago. When I joined Specsavers, I started the in-store trainer course, I completed the ILM 2 and ILM 3 and then went from being a team leader, to a practice manager at the store in a really short space of time.
How long were you a team leader prior to becoming a practice manager?
Only a few months, I started as a team leader here literally a week before lockdown which was a bit odd for me! I was promoted to practice manager last week.
How has your job changed since you took both the team leader and practice manager roles?
I’ve taken on a lot more responsibility. Specifically, looking out for the welfare of the team, making sure everyone’s ok, which has become even more important now due to the pandemic, making sure people are staying safe and happy is very important.
Have you enjoyed it?
Yeah, I’ve loved it! There’s been great support as well, Samm and Rachel [the store partners] have been brilliant with helping me understand the role, it’s been intense but great.
What kind of support have you had?
The guidance I’ve had from Samm and Rachel has been great. They’ve taught me how to deal with certain situations and the best way to do it. Obviously different people need different levels of guidance and support, and they adapt this for each person. They’ll say “why don’t you try this?” – they use their experience to discuss options and solutions which help everyone.
How has business been in your store?
It’s been constantly busy! Even straight away after the lockdown it was busy, I also stayed in the store and worked during the lockdown, so I have been busy throughout which is great, I prefer it when I’m busy!
What are some of the main challenges you’ve faced?
I would definitely say the pandemic has been the biggest challenge. Because for me, the virus hit as soon as I started this new role, so I’ve really had to hit the ground running – but there’s a great team here and everyone wants to pull together and get through it. I’ve been learning as I go, how to deal with the impact of the virus has been a great learning experience if anything.
What attracted you to a job at Specsavers?
I wanted to develop myself and my career, I wanted to go into management, I knew it was the career path I wanted to go down. Where I was working before, they had about 9 managers and there wasn’t enough managerial work for all of those managers – so there was nowhere for me to grow through the company. I wanted to go into more of the retail side, so I asked myself “what could I do to change that?”. I looked at Specsavers, as it is known to have great career development prospects; people that I knew who worked at Specsavers from my DO course told me this was the case, some of them have even gone quite far through Specsavers themselves so that was my aspiration. I then had my interview and on the same day I got the job, so it was all very quick. it was really good.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about going down the same path as you?
Just do it. Don’t hesitate, just do it. It is the best thing I’ve done in my career and for my personal gain as well, just do it. I was scared, because I had been working for other opticians for 10 years where I knew the job, the team, it was like a home from home because I had been there for so long. They were also quite anti Specsavers, so when I left it didn’t go down very well, but I thought if I don’t go for it, I’ll never know, and so I did. I would definitely say, just do it.
What’s been a highlight for you in this role?
I would say, the career progression, but also the time I’ve had with the patients, really helping the patients and making a tangible impact on their lives. When customers are happy and grateful, it’s great knowing you’ve made such a difference. We have quite a lot of different patients, we had one lady that had really bad anxiety, to the point of not being able to come in, but after we put certain steps in place for her to be able to come into the store she gave us flowers, gave me flowers! Having come from a place where people thought Specsavers wasn’t focused on customer satisfaction – to actually having someone bring flowers because of the friendliness and support they received! That’s what it’s all about. That for me is the highlight of this job really.
If you could describe your Specsavers journey so far in three words, what would they be?
Exciting, fulfilling and rewarding.