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Meet the Experts: Mat Pickering, Regional Director

9 May 2022

Please describe your role within Optegra?

As Regional Director I am accountable for all the hospitals in the north of England – Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford and Newcastle; covering everything from patient care, safety, operational efficiency, staff welfare and more.

I am also accountable for all new openings across the UK as the company continues to grow.

 

Can you give an overview of your career path to date?

I’ve spent all 25 years of my career in healthcare, working across various sectors including optical, dental and natural health. I’ve enjoyed work at companies such as Vision Express, David Clulow, Tesco Opticians, The NutriCentre, Oasis Dental, BUPA and now with Optegra.

This sector is where I started my career, at that point as a lab technician at Vision Express in Cambridge and then into management, firstly at David Clulow. It is the industry in healthcare which gives me the greatest buzz, it feels like my environment. I have loved learning about the industry and developing in it.

I always wanted to return to the otptical sector, and Optegra gave me that opportunity, but now in a hospital setting which is really exciting, challenging and rewarding.

 

Business growth

I have worked with many small companies when they are at the point of growth and have enjoyed the challenge of supporting that expansion, increasing market share. When I joined Tesco Opticians there were 30 practices, as a team we delivered huge growth quickly and when I left, we had over 200. The NutriCentre was similar in that we had 14 stores when I joined, but with the backing of Tesco we had nearly 70 shops or concessions just a few years later.

It is so exciting to now be in this period of growth with Optegra also. And having opened the new Optegra Eye Clinic in Newcastle and spoken to the patients there, I can truly appreciate how important this growth is.

These patients are telling me they were facing an 18 month wait for cataract surgery and were so delighted to be having their treatment within six weeks of referral with Optegra – it meant they could get back behind the wheel of the car, or support a loved one, or have their independence back.

It’s a great driver to be able to do more of this and keep reaching as many people as we can with our hospitals and clinics which patients describe as personal, local, friendly and relaxed.

 

What brings you joy in your work?

To work in healthcare for 25 years, there is an inherent passion for providing care for people. I think this is ingrained in people worked this long in this sector.

But alongside this, personally my passion is about building teams and developing people. To create a strong team, coach and mentor those individuals is really great. As well as motivating them, this enables us to deliver better care, more efficiently.

 

Proudest moment of your career?

2017 was a time when I worked with Oasis Dental Care and it was a time where we created a truly elite team. I’d describe it as a period of industry-leading success. It was great to lead and be part of that huge success.

I’m also really proud of how we at Optegra met the challenges of Covid. As a collective leadership team, we made patient led decisions that strengthened our business and made sure we came out the other side in a great place.

With great leadership from our CEO Peter Byloos, we acted quickly and made decisions when we needed to. I think in 10 years when we reflect back, we will be proud of what we did, we made decisions that have served our patients, staff and business well.

 

Your perfect holiday?

It has to be a holiday where we are busy – no sitting on the beach for me! It could be going to a sports event like football, Formula One or a tennis tournament. A city break is great – we have loved Cuba and New York, seeing something new every day. More locally we love the Lake District and usually go every year.

 

Any unusual hobby?

This may come as a surprise but as a teenager I was an avid stamp collector! To set the context, my nan was massively into stamp collecting and I fell into it. I actually had one of every single UK stamp, even a Penny Black. I just did not have the experience to know not to give the full set away at the age of 16!

 

Quirky recipe you cook?

Truth be told, I am a good cook! I find it relaxing and a lot of fun. Give me a bag of ingredients and I can rustle up a good meal; I love to work up my own creations, and if I do follow a recipe, I go ‘freelance’ and add other ingredients. Anything with pasta is good for me!

Mat Pickering (left) with colleagues Marie Priest and Richard Armitage as the team cut the ribbon at the new Optegra Eye Clinic Newcastle
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