Mentors

By


Linda Atwood


CO-OWNER
Eyecoach Lab and Training Center
Mesa, Arizona

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Linda co-created Eyecoach Lab & Training Center because of a dream of hers to give back to her optical community. At Eyecoach she has different classes to meet the need of just about any situation.”

Linda Atwood came into the optical industry 43 years ago in what she thought would be a temporary job as a receptionist. Her main goal at the time was to save enough money to go to college, but after learning about opticianry and how opticians help people better their lives, she was hooked. Her employer noticed her love for teaching others and gave her the opportunity to create a training program for the practice.

Forty-three years later, Atwood co-owns Eyecoach Lab and Training Center, a finish lab and active training center. The company has trained and assisted nearly 300 people to become certified and state-licensed practice consultants and has also assisted doctors with systems to help them grow their practices and maintain patient care.

Atwood cares about every person she works with and wants them to be as successful as she has been and to be passionate about what they do. She believes in partnering for success through education and inspiration.

SHE SAYS… “The last 10 years have seen more and more women obtaining roles in management, ownership and technical research. These are roles that previously were dominated by men. Especially on the lab side we are seeing more and more leadership roles filled by women.”


Robyn Crimmins

SENIOR DIRECTOR, MARKETING & COMMERCIAL OPERATIONS
VSP Optics Group
Rancho Cordova, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is a true example of what women in leadership should look like. She is warm, smart, supportive and leads by example.”

Robyn Crimmins joined VSP in 2006 and has held a range of positions including director, VSP Global marketing and director, business development. During her 11 years, she’s worked on marketing and brand initiatives for all of VSP Global’s lines of business including VSP Vision Care, VSP Optics Group, Marchon and Eyefinity, and she has led marketing programs for all three VSP audiences including members/consumers, doctors and clients.

In her current role, Crimmins sets marketing, branding and communications strategy for VSP’s proprietary lens and lens enhancements products and laboratory services. She leads a team to develop commercial and sales programs for Unity, TechShield, SunSync and Ethos proprietary lens products, the VSPOne laboratory network, which includes 15 optical laboratories across the U.S., and the uUniversity online education platform. She’s also a part of the VSP Optics Group Commercial Strategy Leadership team.

She said, “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a network of generous mentors and colleagues. Their belief in me inspires me to pay it forward by mentoring young women today. I also count myself lucky, as I have a fantastically supportive family and husband who encourage and nurture my career aspirations every single day.”

Crimmins added, “As a member of the board of the Optical Women’s Association (OWA), I am passionate about furthering the leadership role of women in the optical industry.”

SHE SAYS… “Take risks and try new things. Ask to be put on that project team that interests you, and maybe even scares you a little bit. Remember that failure can be a gift, because there’s so much to learn in the process. Don’t sit still.”


Nancy Dewald

NATIONAL MANAGER OF TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
Eye Recommend
Calgary, Alberta

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Nancy is an inspiration. She inspires everyone, in her own unique ways, to thrive and succeed. She is more than happy to be a shoulder, a voice, a confidant, a friend.”

Nancy Dewald started in the optical field 20 years ago when she was hired as a manager for Luxottica retail. In her 10 years at the company, Dewald worked in various departments, including serving as a regional and performance trainer for the company’s training department, as eyecare director for their Canadian market, and as regional manager, before joining the Eye Recommend team in 2013.

As the national regional manager of training and development, Dewald believes that leaders require expertise and insights from others in order to be successful and cannot be afraid to surround themselves with people who are smarter.

In her role at Eye Recommend, Dewald is already seeing an increase in young women ODs who are taking steps to become partners and are starting their own practices. She believes women will continue to expand their horizons beyond the roles of ODs and identify niche opportunities in areas such as vision therapy and dry eye.

SHE SAYS… “In all I do, I try to leave people in a better place than before I have encountered or worked with them. Sometimes it is giving them hard to hear feedback, a sincere compliment, training or simply someone to listen to them. The simple things can make a huge difference.”


Liz Friedfeld

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
ClearVision Optical
Hauppauge, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Liz literally grew up in the optical industry, as a second generation member of the Friedfeld family. She is a strong internal role model, as a working mom, a savvy businesswoman and a leader.”

Liz Friedfeld got her start in optical at the age of nine helping out with the family business. “After a 20-year hiatus, I happily found my way home,” she said.

“When my father passed away, Dr. Neil Gailmard offered very comforting words that our parents live on through our values and our children,” and those values that her parents instilled inspires Friedfeld each day.

When it comes to her personal philosophy about optical, she believes that to be successful, many ECPs must evolve to present a new consumer experience, while connecting with a younger audience that behaves differently from previous generations.

While one of her greatest challenge presents itself in finding that balance among family, work and personal development, Friedfeld considers one of her biggest strengths to be her optimism as well as her “desire to help others, treating everyone as a close friend with whom you want to know more.”

She believes women starting out should not only take risks and learn from others and their own failures but also have a sense of curiosity and be comfortable being uncomfortable.

SHE SAYS… “I take great pride being part of the legacy my parents and brothers created, sharing ClearVision’s culture which has made it one of the best companies to work for.”


Jennifer Jackson

SENIOR REGIONAL SALES MANAGER
Tura Inc.
New York, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She has sharp, incisive analytical skills, a clear focus on goals, and a very fair, reasonable approach to the stickiest sales situations. She inspires loyalty, trust and a desire to excel because she is honest, fair and truly committed to her team.

Jennifer Jackson has been in the optical industry for over 20 years and was also a 2013 Most Influential Women in Optical in the Mentors category.

In her current role at Tura Inc., Jackson oversees a direct reporting group of sales consultants and develops members of the leadership team. “I have two district managers and a regional manager that I coach, develop and mentor. It is rewarding to share in their success. Over the years, I have managed individuals that have gone on to be promoted in their current organizations and new companies as well,” Jackson said.

She values the importance of leveraging people’s strengths to help them work on their opportunities and counts one of her strengths as people and team development. “I excel in these areas because I am great at assessing people and helping them be the best they can be.”

For other women starting out in optical, Jackson’s advice to them would be to find a mentor to help navigate the industry.

SHE SAYS… “As in any business, I believe in the Golden Rule. Treat others as you want to be treated. Respect, honesty and genuine concern for people’s well-being will always make you successful.”


Heather McHale

SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL HUMAN RESOURCES

Marchon Eyewear Inc.
Melville, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Heather has been instrumental in upgrading and developing Marchon’s and VSP International’s talent pool. She is a trusted advisor to individuals from all levels and regions that rely on her.”

After spending years in investment banking and consumer products, Heather McHale found her passion in the optical industry. She joined the Marchon team in 2009 with no intention of going back to a full-time career.

“I’d taken a break from the work force for a few years to focus on my then three small children and a daughter who was newly diagnosed with autism. I never thought I’d ever be able to figure out how to balance it all. Marchon changed that very quickly.”

What McHale believes makes optical the perfect place for women is the ability to combine fashion, innovation, technology, manufacturing and health care.

Through her work leading the human resources team for all five lines of VSP Global businesses internationally covering the company’s interest in over 100 countries, McHale said that her biggest contributions come in the variety of ways she’s able to proactively influence the culture and capabilities of the organization.

McHale believes her strength is her passion for continuous improvement. “Every day we are all going to make multiple mistakes—some big some small, but those failures cannot be what define us. It can’t be what crushes our spirit or stops us from trying again. Failures are how we learn.”

SHE SAYS… “My personal philosophy for everything is that tomorrow can always be better than today and each of us has the power to make it so. Take the risk and move out of your comfort zone.”


Deborah Rich

VICE PRESIDENT OF KEY ACCOUNTS

Marchon Eyewear
Marin County, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “With over 30 years’ experience in the optical industry, Deb has been influencing both customers and team members throughout her career in sales. The respect for Deb comes from her unstinting quest for every experience to be first class and to lead her team by example.”

Deborah Rich entered the optical industry when she was 20 years old. She joined Marchon in 1990 as a sales representative. Since then, she has conducted trainings and held the role of brand specialist before becoming responsible for the key accounts in the U.S. for the company.

Rich’s love for the optical industry is evident in her accomplishments. She has been in Marchon’s President’s Club for years, and she has received many awards from Marchon including Rookie of the Year, Top Performance in Sales and the Lone Ranger Award.

Rich believes that “strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle,” and has been fortunate to have leaders in her career who have supported her through the ups and downs. At work, Rich attributes the success of her five-year-old department to her great team.

SHE SAYS… “When I first started in this industry, there were very few women. This has changed over time and I believe that women will continue to lead this industry, as they remember to just ‘Lean In’ as Sheryl Sandberg says.”


Ann Small

DIRECTOR OF SALES OPERATIONS, INDEPENDENT DISTRIBUTOR DIVISION
Essilor of America
Dallas, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is a pioneer and an advocate for independent labs. She consistently works to develop new processes and materials to ensure their continued success.”

Ann Small has been with Essilor for 11 years, dating to May 2006 when she joined the company as director of finance for the Independent Distributor Division (IDD). After five years in finance, she moved to sales operations because of her desire to work more closely with the sales force and Essilor’s independent lab customers.

She says this move was, at the time, considered a career risk, but it has ultimately paid off with a more rewarding and challenging role with the company.

Among her responsibilities are ensuring the IDD sales force has actionable sales and product information to best serve customers and to act as a liaison between independent lab customers and the various Essilor departments with whom they interact.

Small became interested in optical at an early age. As an “early myope,” she tried her first pair of contact lenses at age 8 but was never really happy with them. “I ultimately gave up on at the age of 19 and immediately became transfixed by the world of spectacle lenses, frequently spending money on the highest-end frames and lenses. When I saw the job posting at Essilor, I knew it was my ideal job,” she said.

At Essilor, Small believes her key attribute and strength is “being able to make order out of chaos. I excel at what I do because I believe in and I am committed to Essilor’s core mission of improving lives by improving sight.”

SHE SAYS… “It sounds cliché, but nevertheless true: don’t be afraid to take risks and do what is right for you. Of course, sometimes risks don’t pay off, but there is value in those experiences as well.”


Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO


Founder
Lakeline Vision Source
Austin, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Laurie is a successful doctor with a passion for sharing the secrets of her success in an incredibly selfless and tireless manner. She now serves as director for practice management for Vision Source, providing practice management training for doctors and staff through Insight, the online community of Vision Source.”

Creating a “wow” experience for her patients is of paramount importance to Laurie Sorrenson, OD. That begins with having a positive impact on everyone she interacts with. “‘Act Like Somebody.’ This is what my mom used to say to me every day,” said Dr. Sorrenson. I always took this to mean make a difference each day by Acting Like Somebody.”

Dr. Sorrenson has taken her philosophy of making a difference to serve as a positive influence for up-and-coming ODs. In addition to serving as an adjunct professor at her alma mater, University of Houston College of Optometry, where she teaches practice management to fourth-year students, Dr. Sorrenson was honored as the school’s 2002 Distinguished Alumna, and with its Bill Pittman Leadership Award in 2006. Dr. Sorrenson also was named Young Optometrist of the Year and Optometrist of the Year by the Texas Optometric Association, and received its 2017 Distinguished Service Award.

SHE SAYS… “I try to help students and other doctors create better work experiences and patient experiences so that they can love optometry as much as I do.”