At just 21 years old, Taylor McCarthy is proud of her career as a Licensed Optician in Red Deer, Alberta. She works closely with her mentor and boss, Philip Ripley, an experienced Licensed Optician with over four decades of experience. In addition to providing client care and service, they are also working together to advocate for an expanded scope of practice for Alberta-based opticians.
How did Taylor get here? The stars in the Alberta skies aligned, leading her to the profession she was born to do.
Growing up under the sprawling skies of her hometown, Sylvan Lake, Alberta, Taylor fell in love with the world of theoretical astrophysics. She remembers staying up late as a child, to memorize the moons of Jupiter. Her grandfather would phone her so that they could look up at the moon together: “It was a way for us to keep connected, even though we were in different places.”
After graduating secondary school, with the world in the midst of a pandemic, Taylor began studying astrophysics at the University of Calgary. She struggled with the format of online classes, as well as the difficulty to connect with others at a distance. With some regret, she realized theoretical astrophysics wasn’t her true calling.
She decided to take some time off, and work for a year. During this time, she realized how much she enjoyed working with people. She made the decision to pursue a career that not only placed importance on academics, but also allowed her to work closely with customers.
The second we got to do hands-on lensometry, I fell in love.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
With her natural love for science, Taylor set her sights on an optical career. She initially considered the field of Ophthalmologist; however, she came across Stenberg College’s Licensed Optician program, which seemed like a natural first step into the field. The short duration of the hybrid program combined with in-person labs was ideal for exploring this new area of study.
Once classes started, she felt an immediate connection with her classmates and instructors. Falling comfortably into the flow of schoolwork, she was amazed by everything she was learning. It was during her first in-person lab that Taylor knew she made the right decision: “The second we got to do hands-on lensometry, I fell in love. My instructor said she had never seen that many lensometer readings done before the month’s end. I was completely engrossed in it.”
My instructor said she had never seen that many lensometer readings done before the month’s end. I was completely engrossed in it.
Taylor’s classmates and instructors quickly became in awe of her abilities. Her instructor, Raj Mann, says, “Taylor stands out as an exemplary individual who embodies the qualities of a true leader and an exceptional student. She possesses an innate curiosity and thirst for knowledge.”
This sheer passion for Opticianry led Taylor to graduate as a star student, earning a 95% cumulative grade point average (GPA).
During her final practicum, Taylor worked alongside her now-mentor, Philip, at his optical store, Eyewear Experts. Here, she went from star student to star employee and was offered a job upon completing her regulatory exam. Philip says, “Taylor is a remarkable individual who has established herself as a successful employee at Eyewear Experts. Taylor’s dedication, passion and exceptional work ethic has allowed her to really excel in her role.”
Taylor stands out as an exemplary individual who embodies the qualities of a true leader and an exceptional student. – Raj Mann – Instructor
EYES FULL OF STARS
Taylor’s clientele includes some of the most marginalized people in her city, and she works hard to ensure their basic needs are met. She recalls the time a woman came into their clinic wearing old, deteriorated contact lenses. Taylor and her team quickly made an inexpensive pair of glasses to allow the woman to see clearly at her new job. It’s experiences like this which give Taylor fulfilment and reaffirm her decision to become a Licensed Optician.
As for the future, Taylor intends to keep working and advocating to expand the scope for Licensed Opticians. She hopes to serve on the Alberta Board of Opticians after gaining a few years of experience. Her main goal is to keep working with Philip, who will be retiring soon, and to eventually step into his shoes. She also hopes to teach Opticianry one day.
Taylor’s story is a reminder that when you reach for the stars, you may find there is more than one star in the sky for you. For Taylor, the stars have aligned in a profession that she loves and excels at. But the universe is vast, and she remains open to possibilities for future growth. There is no doubt that she will achieve amazing things.