Maidstone 2018 pre-reg optometrists - Jag & Indi

Two’s company – a closer working relationship than most pre-reg

It’s great to have a close working relationship, but these pre-registration optometrists have a closer relationship than most.

Specsavers founders Doug and Dame Mary Perkins may be the company’s most famous married couple – but they’re not the only one.

Indi Singh and Jag Kaur married 11 years ago, studied optometry together, and are now doing their pre-registration year at Specsavers’ Maidstone store.

Working together isn’t every couple’s cup of tea, but it works for them. Indi, 41, says: ‘Whatever I’m doing, it’s always nicer doing it with Jag. She’s my best friend.’

Jag, 35, agrees. ‘He’s my best friend as well. Lots of people say they couldn’t work with their partner, but we know how each other works and we work together well.’

The couple, who are Sikhs, had a traditional arranged marriage. Indi says: ‘A mutual friend of Jag’s mum and my mum introduced us and it went from there. We got married in December 2006, nine months after we met.’

When they first met, Indi, who had previously studied orthoptics, was a manager in an optical practice at Bluewater Shopping Centre. Keen to develop his career, he began studying for the Fellowship Dispensing Diploma at ABDO College in Godmersham, Kent.

‘Whatever I’m doing, it’s always nicer doing it with Jag’

Two years later, Jag, a psychology graduate then working as an assistant psychologist, was made redundant and began working as an optical assistant. Shortly afterwards, she also enrolled at ABDO College, on the BSc course in Opthalmic Dispensing. She says: ‘I did overlap with Indi, but we didn’t see each other at college as we were doing distance learning courses while working full-time.’

In September 2016 the couple made the move from dispensing to optometry, which they felt would give them more flexibility in their careers. They moved north and began studying for a BSc in optometry at the University of Bradford, which allows GOC-registered dispensing opticians to graduate in one calendar year. It would be Jag’s third degree!

Indi says: ‘I wanted to experience university life again, only this time with Jag. And it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience – really intense, a lot of learning, but so stimulating.’

Returning from Bradford in September 2017, the couple started their placements at Maidstone the following month.

The busy store, which has 14 optical testing rooms and two audiology testing rooms, offers them plenty of variety, with a wide mixture of ages and pathologies.

Indi says: ‘Maidstone is a really good, well-run store. Meticulous attention is paid to clinical protocols and customer service. The sheer volume of people coming through the door means you get the opportunity to see things you might not see in a quieter practice.’

Jag agrees: ‘I’ve seen 2-year-olds and 90-year-olds. Sanjay Patel and Ruth Warren, the directors, have a good team and we have access to so many optoms we can ask advice from.’

Experiencing the placement together, they say, is incredibly helpful. Indi says: ‘Going through the process together helps with stress. And simply talking about what we’ve done that day reinforces knowledge.’

‘We know how each other works and we work together well’

Jag agrees that working and studying together is hugely beneficial. She says: ‘Indi absorbs things quicker than me, so I can go to him with stupid questions and he breaks the information down.’

When it comes to studying, the pair have very different habits. Jag is happiest working quietly at a desk, while Indi prefers to sprawl on a reclining chair with his feet up. Jag says: ‘We tried studying together at Bradford, but we learnt that we work better independently.’

Their different working styles reflect their different personalities. Indi says: ‘Jag is attentive and picks up on the smallest cues, possibly because of her psychology background. She’s also the most patient person I’ve ever known, and I think that’s the secret of her success at work.’

Jag says: ‘Indi is more outspoken; I’m the opposite. He gets people on-side and can build a rapport with anyone.

‘We are very different personalities, but our direction in life is the same.’

The couple are looking forward to qualifying and hope to stay at Maidstone. Unsurprisingly, they are already planning their next academic challenge. Indi says: ‘Sanjay is happy to develop us with IP (Independent Prescribing) Registration, although we can’t start that until two years after we qualify. We’re interested in continuous development. We’re smitten with the bug!’

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