Since graduating from American Career College’s optical technician program in 2017, Abdulati Sbeta has been pursuing his profession at Costco’s optometry department as well as teaching at ACC.
Originally from the city of Tripoli in Libya, Sbeta draws from his experience working at his brothers’ optical businesses since 1994.
“I remember when I was a kid, when I finished school, I would go all the way to the store. I got the skills of sales – for the frames, the sunglasses – before we had the telescopes and all that kind of stuff. I grew up with all of that,” he said of the experience.
In 2005, Sbeta started his own optometry business, owning and running two stores back in Tripoli. However, when he immigrated to the United States in 2014, he had to find a way to translate his optometry background into a new career in a new country.
When did you decide to come to the US?
I decided in 2014. You know the instability in Libya? It wasn’t safe and I felt like it’s time to leave. It’s better for my family. It’s better for my kids. I’m always paying attention that they get a good education. So yeah, I said, “Hey, it’s time to leave.”
And what was that experience like — moving to a whole new country to start a life there?
It’s a different culture, a different language. It’s difficult with my age. It’s not like I’m coming when I’m 18 or 20 years old, you know? I started working with some friends but with a very low income, as a kind of surviving. You have bills … they need to be paid.
I was a branch manager from 1994 until 2015, and then I was an owner from 2005 to 2013 before moving to the US. I had gained all that knowledge of sales, customer service, vendors, lens material adjustments, all that kind of stuff. The knowledge came with me. I said, “Why not get an official degree from the US and start a career?”
When I joined ACC, it supported my capabilities and my self-confidence to go to the American optical market. And I gained my license. After I graduated from ACC, within two months, I got a job with Costco.
What are some of the main differences you’ve noticed between working in Libya and working in the US?
The biggest challenge was learning the laws and regulations, and the trends in the American society – what kind of frames do they like – because it’s two different cultures. Now, I can tell you what people over here like.
I think the quality of the lenses is a little bit different. Over here, there’s much better quality. Although, over there it’s much cheaper. Most of our stuff in Libya is from Italy, Spain, England, Germany. Most of our stuff is from Europe because it’s very close and we have a much longer relationship.
I even shared with my instructors some of the things I knew from my country. Maybe it’s new over here. When you get diversity in the classroom, you gain a lot.
What are some of your favorite parts of the job?
I love dealing with customers. In this past year, in the Costco location where I work, I am number one in sales. Because when I deal with my customers, I don’t deal with them as an employee, I deal with them as if I were the owner of the store — and everything you do is going to reflect on the store. It’s not “Do the job and that’s it.”
As an instructor you also recently celebrated your students’ graduation. What does it feel like knowing that they are about to enter the workforce?
You can see yourself mirrored in them. Whatever you give in the classroom is going to reflect. This is what I believe: Failure is the mirror of the instructor, not the student.
If a student doesn’t understand what I am saying, I should give him more time to let him understand the subject. Either they can come during my office hours or even outside my office hours. The main goal is that I help the students understand what is going on – and they should love the subject that they are going to get a job out of. In real life, they should love their job so that they can be better professionals.
Is there anything else you want to say to our ACC students?
I want to give them one piece of advice: the way you treat your customers is going to reflect on you. If the customer asks you to explain something, do it with a good face. If the customer is not happy, don’t give them a cold face. The customer is not a number.
If they don’t buy right now, they may come tomorrow, or they may tell some friends to come to you. If you treat the customer badly, believe me, it’s going to transfer like fire. They’re going to tell their friends, “Don’t go to that place, don’t deal with that guy.” Nobody wants to be in that position.