See your career at Specsavers: From optical assistant to store manager and more

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Meet Marc who wears a few hats at Specsavers. He started his journey with Specsavers 18 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Read on to find out why…

My name is Marc Barton-Farmer, and I have been with Specsavers for 18 years, currently working in the Professional Development team as an Accredited Courses Coach. Prior to my current role I worked in the Maesteg store in Wales where my primary roles were Store Manager, Dispensing Optician and In Store Trainer. I recently qualified as a Low Vision Specialist. I am also the Co-chair of Prism: Specsavers LGBTQIA+ Network, and first Diversity and Inclusion community established.

What was your background before joining Specsavers?
Before joining Specsavers, I had no optical knowledge, nor did I actively seek any. I had moved to Cardiff for university and after not finding the right course for me I gave up. I spent a few years working in retail with little to no interest in a career and no direction really given by my employers. I would say during that time, I felt resigned to the probability that my education success stopped at 16 years old and that so long as I could hold down a job to pay the bills, I would be “fine”. However, it started to become clear that “fine” wasn’t enough for me, and many of my positions would not last longer than six months. Looking back, I think that I was restless in my work life and knew that something bigger and better could happen given the right opportunity.

Tell me a little bit about your journey at Specsavers?
I applied to Specsavers as if it were any high street vacancy. I had my interview (which was my ultimate cringe moment as when the Manager offered me her hand to shake, I gave her my drenched umbrella!) and somehow got the job as Optical Assistant. From that moment I realised there was more to optics and Specsavers than I had ever experienced. Suddenly I found myself working with a large team from different backgrounds, skills, qualifications and abilities, but each of us felt relevant, supported, and valued. It was a culture I had not experienced before, and I felt part of something for the first time. I also was listening to many successful Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians talking about their journey of how they started where I had, and how I could do the same if I put the work in.

How did Specsavers help and support your development?
This was where Specsavers first prepared the foundations for my career: they showed me that opportunities are possible, and education is available to allow myself to grow and build from the very beginning to where I am currently. My first big development challenge was to become a Dispensing Optician. The biggest obstacle that I faced was my own self-doubt: “Sure, these people could do it, but what about me?” This dialogue did not last for long, as I found myself to be looked after by my peers who wanted to see me succeed, as well as my supervisors who had taken this very same journey and understood that doubt. After three years, I managed to complete the degree version of the course, become a Dispensing Optician, and finished with a first-class honours. My younger self would never have imagined this could be possible, but with the hard work, as well as the consistent mentoring from Specsavers, it became a reality for me, and I became the first student to have their dissertation published for Optician magazine.

After qualifying I found myself with a taste for development and wanted to achieve more to further my career, but also to be the best version of myself for the company that saw something in me. What I did not expect was how many opportunities were possible, as well as the flexibility to add skills depending on interests and store specific requirements. I chose to compliment my Dispensing Optician role by becoming an In Store Trainer using face to face training, as well as online resources, achieving a gold standard. And when I became Store Manager, I strengthened my knowledge by completing the ILM course online.

What gives you pride in your role?
For me, pride comes from being able to be my authentic self in the business, which Specsavers fully facilitates in two ways: firstly, no matter what direction in my career I wish to venture, Specsavers are there to nurture and encourage. But also, I can be myself on a personal level. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community I have been in employment where I did not feel proud of who I am. However, in Specsavers my uniqueness and identity are celebrated as it is with all employees. It is our individualities that gives Specsavers the upper hand on its competitors: having a mix of ideas, beliefs and backgrounds truly makes the business as alive and colourful as it is.

What have you learnt during your time at Specsavers?
That they call it a job opportunity for a reason. Opportunities give people the chance to make a job a career. Many jobs may have these opportunities, but there are very few out there that are so fully formed as in Specsavers. Every single opportunity that exists comes with training, support and resources that mean you don’t just go into the role, you BECOME the role.

What would you say to encourage someone thinking about applying?
If you apply, you are not just working FOR Specsavers, you are working with Specsavers. Every member of the business has a voice and an individual character that is seen, heard and celebrated. Whilst the business may seem big, it really does have family values at its core. Specsavers truly believe everybody is somebody, and with resources in training, wellbeing, community groups, and forums available for all, there really is not a reason not to apply.

Why do you love working at Specsavers?
No two days are the same. I feel very lucky that I am working in a company where it really doesn’t feel like work: it feels like I am making a difference for customers, colleagues and even the business as I get to provide feedback on new ideas and innovations. I love working for Specsavers purely because I feel that I am a part of it, and in my 18 years working here, I have seen nothing but dedication and passion from my employer to ensure the business as well as myself are the best they can be.

What one word would you use to describe the Specsavers culture?
Nurturing. Every seed that is in the business is well looked after, and every idea that the team come up with is listened to and considered. No matter who you are as an individual, your identity matters because YOU matter.

Finally, tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am a cat dad of three and a keen runner having competed in the Cardiff Half marathon in 2019. I also enjoy hiking gardening, and being outdoors. I write music in my spare time and play keyboard and guitar, and like to geek out on video games. Finally, I recently started learning Greek, as it is my favourite place to visit.

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