I've always been interested in astronomical optics, and began my meaningful involvement as an amateur telescope maker (I count that as meaningful). In New Zealand, as is the case in most other places, there are no tertiary institutions offering degrees specializing in geometrical optics. I had the great good fortune to meet Norman Rumsey, a retired senior Scientist from the New Zealand Dominion Physical Laboratory, at an ATM convention. Norm decided I wanted to be his "apprentice" and I went along with it.
So glad I did, with Norman I got a thorough grounding in optical design and aberration theory, from a person who started designing optics when "computers" took tea breaks (teams of people with slide rules). Norman was an early student of Hans Buchdahl, while Buchdahl was still at the university of Hobart in Tasmania. This early interest in optics has led to a very interesting and diverse career; I've traveled to most corners of the world working on telescopes (which means that I spent most of my time in these interesting countries in the dark on top of mountains).
From my first professional posting in the NZ Govt. Lab founded by Norman in the 1940's (now known as Kiwistar Optics), I moved on to EOS Space Systems in Australia (and EOS Tech in Tucson), working on a variety of large telescope projects, instrumentation and satellite laser ranging to space junk. The most fun I had there was in leading our company's successful bid for the Thai National Telescope Project (successful in spite of the military coup that happened around the same time we were finalizing the contract).
From there I moved to Tucson, where I already had a number of friends and professional acquaintances. I spent my time there working on the Large Binocular Telescope, a truly awesome piece of hardware, and a position full of challenges and rewards.
Now I work for the European Southern Observatory, helping to develop one of the next generation of ground based telescopes, the E-ELT.