By Kristin O’Brien, OD, of Sidney, Montana
As I looked ahead at my future and career, I always thought I would live near my hometown in North Dakota and have to pick a career in agriculture to stay in the area. I started on a path to horticulture, studying at a college close to home. On my afternoon off and on the weekends, I spent time working with the family business and ran heavy equipment including bulldozers, loaders, trucks and did surveying throughout dirt contracting projects. I didn’t know of a single other young female who was doing the things I did; these were not common jobs for women at that time. Since then, more women have been stepping into these roles since the last oil boom.
It was my grandfather who first noticed my indecision. Most of my conversations with Grandpa involved just telling me what to do and how to do it. But this particular conversation was different, and it surprised me. He asked me to promise that I would continue my education and not spend my life in construction work.
This conversation also left a lasting impression because shortly after it happened, my grandfather tragically died in an accident in the company shop. I considered my next move to pharmacy, but I ultimately chose to apply to optometry school and was accepted. I was still hesitant if it was the right choice. I deferred my acceptance and continued to work in construction, focusing on truck driving and county and oil field jobs.
As I contemplated my return and if I should attend optometry school, my father reminded me of my promise to my grandfather. Ultimately, I decided to attend Pacific University College of Optometry, and my networking through school led me to a path to practice ownership quickly in Sidney, Montana—not far from the North Dakota border. More recently, I was able to make the office space my own.
The road to get here had some doubt and indecision, and it caused stress as my husband and I pushed forward to complete this business venture. I was embarrassed to admit that I was not on sure footing from the beginning. But now that I’m here with so much opportunity ahead, I owe a debt of gratitude to my Grandpa and Dad for making me keep a promise. I really don’t think I would be where I am without those two short and simple conversations.