Outstanding Opticians: Josie Barlow

Outstanding Opticians: Josie Barlow

Upon completing my GCSE exams I had no intention of continuing into further education but instead had lined up an apprenticeship with a haulage company to train as a HGV mechanic. My father was a mechanic and as one of four daughters I was always the one happiest to assist with dismantling and repairing cars! A skill I no longer utilise but something that was extremely useful at the time.

While waiting for this apprenticeship to begin I needed to find a job, coincidentally a next door neighbour and family friend was looking for someone to come and work for him. Doug Good had started an Independent Prescription House called Glendale Optical, literally from the downstairs bathroom of his house some years before, which as the business grew moved into his garage before moving for a short time to the basement of Knight and Son Opticians now known as TK&S Optometrists. This small lab serviced independent practices in and around Northampton.

I jumped at the chance to earn some money and fell in love with optics and so I began my Optical Career and will be forever grateful to my first boss and mentor.

Having worked at Glendale Optical for a couple of years I decided that I would like to gain qualifications so with Doug’s help we found and applied for me to begin the SMC course which I started on day release at Bunhill Row, London in September 1991 at the age of 19. Once on the course the door to further opportunities was opened and I began to look to my future. Discovering other roles I had never heard of like Dispensing Optician, Contact Lens Optician etc.

I passed the SMC with flying colours and achieved the Benny Lipson Prize in my graduation year for most deserving student as I had funded the course entirely under my own steam. I was even the poster girl for the SMC course for a time and my graduation picture was used on leaflets.

I applied to begin the DO course the same year I gained my SMC and never looked back.

I was lucky enough to find work in both independent and multiple practices gaining knowledge of products as I went. I always funded my optical education independently of my employers, while they supported me by ensuring my day off was consistent to attend college and offering additional training and mentoring support. My academic education culminated with me completing and becoming a qualified CLO.

In 2001 I made the decision to leave practice and joined Cantor & Nissel Ltd as their professional Services Manager, dealing with more complex lenses and found that I really enjoyed training and advising other practitioners and my peers. I then moved to UltraVision International in a similar role where I won the very first Optician Award for Supplier of the Year. I now work from Menicon Limited again as Professional Services Manager for the Speciality Lens Division.

My role is very different to a CLO in practice, and the tasks are varied with no two days being the same. I split my time between writing and developing CET and specific product training. Arranging to go and see practitioners to discuss their clinical needs. Delivering training to individuals and groups. Taking technical or fitting enquiries and traveling to various exhibitions and events in conjunction with ABDO, College of Optometrists etc.

Optics has seen so much change over the 30 years it has been a part of my life some good and some maybe not so good but I have never not loved what I do from making spectacles to training I cannot think of a single thing I dislike, I am very lucky to still be passionate about my industry and I honestly never wake up thinking I don’t want to go to work.

If I were to give any advice and that is always difficult I would say love what you do, feel passionate about it and believe that you can achieve what you want and don’t be afraid of changing your path as you never know where it may lead.

Topic: Outstanding Opticians