An optician is the person who shapes and fits the lens in the spectacle frame. It’s a predominantly male domain in this country, but Racquel Gonsalves has been doing it for 12 years now.
Currently an optical technician at Lens Craft Optical, she started her career as a salesperson at Da Silva House of Optics. Every time a client picked up glasses for repair, she watched the optical technician work on them and her interest in the field grew. After a while, she held a similar position at Value Eye Wear Optical. There her curiosity took hold and she began to pay close attention to the details of repairing glasses.
Gonsalves said the optical technicians never wanted to share what they were doing with her, possibly out of fear of competition. However, by the time she left Value Eye Wear Optical, she was sure she knew almost everything it took to be an Optical Technician, so when Lens Craft had an opening for this position, she applied. During the interview, she was asked to exhibit her skills and although she didn’t know everything, she knew enough to be hired.
As a novice she messed up sometimes, but she always managed to figure out how to do it right. She realized that people were tougher on her than they would have been on a man, especially since many still believe she has no place in the business. It was no small feat, but she was determined to do her best and some men praised her for starting this career.
She shared that many days she took her work home, not the physical labor, but the thoughts of it. She would do the dishes or some other chore while contemplating the challenge of the day and deciding how she should have approached it. Today, she has come a long way and finds hardly any new challenges; she became an expert.
Gonsalves described how she uses the lensometer, “to verify the correct prescription in a pair of glasses, to correctly orient and mark uncut lenses, and to confirm the correct fitting of lenses in spectacle frames.”
“I was looking through the lensometer to see what is written on the doctor’s prescription. If it matches, and once it’s correct, I have a machine that will take the shape of the frame that the person selects and the machine will cut that lens to fit that frame. After that, the lenses will switch to [lens edging machine] which will bevel the lens to fit the frame. When that is done we have another machine which has a variety of colorful tints. Some lenses are transition lenses or photochromic lenses. These are expensive lenses and not many people can afford this kind of [opt] for the cheaper lens which would be the plastic lens which does not change with sunlight. The machine would put the tint on the glasses to avoid direct sunlight… ”
Some of the lenses she has worked with are bifocal lenses which have lines to allow for two prescriptions and two distances. Today, however, more and more people are opting for no-line progressive lenses, which allow wearers to see near, medium and far.
Gonsalves said some of the lenses are very hard materials and cannot be cut by the machine she uses. These are done manually by a male colleague.
Gonsalves finds great satisfaction in his work. Sometimes she would go out and see someone wearing glasses which she would cut and adjust because she says there is a distinct characteristic in the way she does her job. The beautiful way it adapts to their faces brings inner joy.
“I did a frame transfer once, which is when you want to use the same lens but in a different frame. I had an older wife who came from abroad. She came and she said she had been to different optics around the country and they told her it couldn’t be done. I told her she could sit and wait and I went and I did. At first she didn’t know I was the one who put the lens in the new frame, but when I went back outside and said, “Here [are] your glasses, ”she said“ You did that ”, and I said“ Yes. ”She stood up and shook my hand in front of everyone and said she was proud of knowing that a woman could really do that. It was a motivation for me to keep going, ”recalls Gonsalves.
Lens Craft Optical being one of the leading optical care companies in Guyana, especially because it offers frames and lenses that are not available elsewhere, Gonsalves has its work cut out for it. She pointed out that on the first Friday of each month, the company offers its glasses at a lower price. This offer attracts a lot of customers and as a result its workload becomes really heavy.
Gonsalves said she hasn’t finished learning yet and wants to one day learn how to put the prescription in glasses. The lenses are blank without a prescription, but lab workers run calculations based on what the doctor ordered and add them using another machine. Right now, Gonsalves has her hands full as she is also a single mother of three so time and finances don’t allow it yet, but whenever this opportunity presents itself she intends to take it.
Having taken this path, she encourages women to pursue whatever they want and not be hampered by societal stereotypes that certain jobs are designed for a particular gender. Gonsalves rebuked, “You will have people who criticize you and make you feel like you don’t do a good job or belong in this job, but if it’s your dream, your goal, go- y. Don’t let anyone stand in your way.