After Heriot’s Blog

Next up on the blog we have Harris Hamilton, a community Optometrist.

Please get in touch if you wish to share your story ‘after Heriot’s’.

Harris Hamilton, Class of 2014

What is your current role?

Co-lead Optometrist – I am a community Optometrist working locally in Boots Princes Street. Currently providing emergency/ urgent eye care along with contact lens fittings and glasses refractions.

How did you get there?

The profession had a certain appeal even from a younger age. Around the time of joining Heriots in P6 I started to become fascinated by the process of an eye exam. This interest stuck with me to the time in S3 when choosing my intermediate 2/ standard grades (showing my age). I decided to take mostly sciences and carried those forwards to higher and onwards. When applying for university I wanted something that combined my interest in technology, science and just generally being sociable. After flicking through prospectus after prospectus GCU’s Optometry stood out for meeting my triad of wants. 2014 was my first year at university and therefore first away from home. It was important to keep a healthy balance of academia and social life to fully make the most of the university experience. Whilst at university I made sure to immerse myself in clubs and societies becoming president of both the Optics Society and Mens’ Basketball Club. While in 3rd year the main larger chains came in to interview for our ‘pre-registration year’ (which is effectively a guided and supervised graduate job with assessments along the way to full qualifications). My priority at this point was a company that was patient focused and valued healthcare above all else thus I was eager to impress Boots Opticians. Thankfully it went well, and I was offered a job. In preparation for pre-registration, I worked weekends with Boots Opticians. It was important then to get my head down and achieve a strong degree. In 2018 I left with an upper second class allowing me to start practicing as a Student Optometrist in my community. I was lucky to have two wonderful supervisor Claire and Jane who helped me navigate through the intense year of exams, full time work and learning. Ultimately, I began to enjoy the exams and gained confidence prior to my final OSCEs (station exams) which went well affording me the title of ‘Newly Qualified Optometrist’. Networking where I could and keeping a steady work ethic while maintain a strong focus on people skills over the years, I was promoted to co-lead optometrist. This was just before the pandemic kicked off. As a frontline worker we kept our doors open to look after any in Edinburgh with eye related issues with uncomfortable yet necessary levels of PPE. I went back to university (all be it distance learning) over the pandemic to complete a university qualification in Independent Prescribing which once I have finished my hospital placement and final exam will allow me to prescribe any medicine relating to the eye to help treat ocular conditions. I was then asked to sit on a panel of 9 Optometrist in Boots which meet once a quarter to discuss with the managing director how best to progress the company and what things are like on a day-to-day level. Bringing us up to today where I now supervise two students of my own; one a pre-reg Optometrist the other a student dispensing optician (involved in the selection and consideration of glasses/lens selection and production).

What re your top achievements?

Everyone has different backgrounds and challenges. Due to an educational failing in my original primary school prior Heriot’s, I had not learned to read by the age of 9. Through the help of Heriots and some personal dedication I managed to catch up and sit higher English with my peers getting a B.

Being selected as the youngest panel members for Boots Opticians on the BV360 group of 9 which regularly meets with top level directors to ask our opinion on operations, marketing, clinical decision, health/COVID issues and has a material impact on the way Boots Opticians is run. Boots uses a paper record card and one of my most proud achievements was designing + rolling out a digital record card in 5 Edinburgh stores.

Tell us two abiding memories of Heriot’s?

The opportunities – with such an expansive range of curricular/extra-curricular activities I didn’t feel limited in exploring who I was and who I wanted to become.

The friendships – I am getting married this year. Alongside me will be Arran Lovell who I met in P6 at Heriot’s and we have been inseparable since primary school. The friendships sown in school really can last a lifetime.

And two ‘takeaways’ from Heriot’s days…

While the topics and information I learned at Heriot’s was for the vast majority of time relevant and interesting. The one undeniable skill that was built was simply how to learn. The studying techniques, habits and problem solving forged in school are universal applicable to any degree, course, or job. This focus Heriots holds on excellence helps with every aspect of life beyond the gates at the front lawns.

Building hobbies whether it be rugby, hockey, basketball, or ballet as a form of release from the usual day to day stresses and strains of life aids moderating a healthy mental well-being.

Any top tips for current pupils when planning their future?

Don’t make a hasty decision, consider many options even some outside the box (for example university isn’t for everyone).

Now more than ever we are facing a global jobs market with the meteorite rise in working from home. Build characteristics that make you indispensable, become the complete package. Join debating to work on your reasoning and wit, join cross country to help with mental resilience, apply yourself in class to nurture a magnificent mind.

Think carefully about how artificial intelligence could affect your chosen field to make sure it will be a sustainable career or at the least will be a role that you develop many transferable skills.

Find something that will make you happy. Focus not purely on money but a healthy balance of what will afford you a comfortable living while enjoying what you do. I love my job, getting to help people every day which makes it easy to get out of bed in the morning and prevent burnout.

Travel when given the opportunity whether it’s for business or leisure it will expose you to how vastly different cultures can be and round you as a human.