I am a typical middle class child of the ‘70s. We were taught hard work was the only way to “get ahead.” My parents were the perfect role models of this principle; Dad had his own carpentry company, and Mom had a career. 

So my sister and I learned very young that we would be expected to get jobs as soon as we were able. As teenagers, we had multiple jobs, babysitting, washing cars, mowing grass, helping our grandmothers. The pay consisted of lots of attention and love.

I began my optical career as a teenager, unsure of a career path to take. I’d had a few jobs, but nothing gave me satisfaction; until a friend told me about the busy optometric practice where she worked. I stayed at that practice for many years, went on to work for two more, and 38 years later, my career has been a privilege.

Working in private practice, my days were the same as most ECPs — very busy, occasionally to the point of being chaotic. But the busy days each brought something different, and the years flew by. I found each new task exciting and I loved the “hands on” physicality of opticianry. 

My “retirement” began in January 2017, and has proven that every professional situation I faced during my nearly four decades has made me the person I am today. Those day-to-day encounters have given me the conviction and strength to speak candidly to optical professionals on every level now.  

Make no mistake; my success would not have been possible without team effort. A cohesive team is the only way a practice will thrive. It is never easy to have many personalities combine. Everyone has ideas; if they don’t mesh,  a team can become dysfunctional. Everyone feels the conflict — team members and patients. 

Now, I share my professional experience through lectures. It’s become the highlight of my career, and I’m fortunate to help people make the most of their optical profession. 

I began lecturing by chance. Speaking at the weekly office meeting, I shared my skills and experience of all things optical. But I have not always felt at ease speaking in public; I conquered my fear by speaking about what I know. It is sometimes tough to teach optical proficiency and communication skills, but it’s necessary. Building successful practices only happens with teams that have optical and communication skills. Our patient communication dictates the atmosphere, and directly affects their impression of our practice. Team interaction that enjoys the same straightforwardness may encourage — as it did for me — a possible leadership role within the practice.

I look back on a wonderful career without regret and appreciate my many teammates. I would not be where I am today without their help. Thanks to them, the many facets of my optical career have evolved over the years, and I will forever be grateful and proud to be a part of this hard working profession.    

It is truly a transformation from the teenager I was 38 years ago. I am no longer intimidated by crowds and relish the opportunity to build new teams by sharing my experiences.

Tami Hagemeyer, ABOC, a member of the National Academy of Opticianry and the American Optometric Association, is a trustee for the Opticians Association of Ohio and lead consultant for The Lens Butler. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


This article originally appeared in the October 2017 edition of INVISION.

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