Vidya Baliga

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She leads DentaQuest’s managed vision care product with a can do and empowerment attitude.”

In 2011, Vidya Baliga accepted the challenge of growing the eyecare business for DentaQuest, a leader in dental managed care programs that introduced its vision product two years earlier. As vision director of EyeQuest, she has cultivated a hands-on approach to working with clients, developing flexible, entrepreneurial programs that best meet their comprehensive health care needs. Under Baliga’s leadership, she and her team have increased vision membership tenfold in just five years.

“I am passionate about our vision program and I drive myself and my team to deliver excellence to our vision members, providers and clients so we can promote our vision programs on par with our dental programs,” said Baliga. As head of vision operations, she expanded the staff to strategically meet the needs of the growing eyecare client base, and introduced automated processes to increase operational efficiency.

Baliga attributes her success to her ability to see the big picture and to constantly look for new ways to do things. “My team and DentaQuest’s values inspire me to push myself to continuously improve our programs and deliver excellence for our members, providers and clients,” she noted.

Having embraced change in her career and personal life, emigrating from India, Baliga advises women to “chart your own course and be the change you wish to see. Hard work, passion and foresight, and the ability to work well with colleagues, team members and leaders will be rewarded.”

SHE SAYS… “What inspires and motivates me is my dad’s mantra: ‘Change is the only constant in life.’”

Hillary Bliss

National Vision Inc.
Duluth, Georgia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is the go-to person leading National Vision’s CRM efforts to increase customer retention and build customer loyalty.”

Hillary Bliss is a self-described data nerd. Her expertise lies in gathering and analyzing data on consumer behavior that helps to formulate business strategies. At National Vision, she manages the company’s marketing analytics and CRM platform, which drives marketing programs like direct mail and online promotions.

“I’ve worked closely with our brand managers to turn around some very challenging markets and I’m excited to see our efforts resulting in more sales, which means more happy customers,” said Bliss.

Bliss enjoys seeing how her “customer intelligence” translates into programs that improve customer service and communications. “I’m fascinated with measuring and understanding the trends in purchasing cycles, product purchase patterns and consumer behavior that can help us better understand and serve our customers,” she explained.

The greatest challenge ahead, in her view, is keeping up with technology and optical industry changes that impact the way customers interact with brands, service providers and optical retailers. “We need to continue to grow and be there how and when customers want to interact with us.”

Bliss sees women continuing to drive insightful, thoughtful growth in how the optical industry serves its customers. “I think women will continue to push optical companies to be more convenient and relevant in our messaging and execution, which will result in a better experience for customers.”

SHE SAYS… “As a quantitative person, Einstein’s quote inspires me: ‘Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.’”

Tiffanie Burkhalter

VSP Global
Rancho Cordova, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is an excellent student and teacher. She constantly asks questions, is quick to help others and leads a diverse team of people from marketing to finance to technical support. She has the admiration of her team, her peers, vendors and all who come into contact with her.”

Tiffanie Burkhalter has followed a simple philosophy throughout her career—“I didn’t always know what I wanted to do, but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be,” as noted by fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg—and it has led to both professional and personal success for her.

Burkhalter was introduced to the optical field in 2011 upon joining the VSP Global finance team. She spent several years supporting the financial aspects of VSP Global’s special projects and M&A activities, leading up to helping launch the Omni channel line of business in 2014. She had previously worked for Ernst & Young.

At VSP, the company mission and not-for-profit structure are particularly appealing to her because “success is measured by more than shareholder returns” and this type of structure allows VSP to make decisions with both short- and long-range outcomes in mind, she said.

Her passion for the optical industry reached a new level once she joined The Vision Council’s Emerging Optical Leader program in 2016.

In January 2017, Burkhalter was named Omni Channel VP e-Commerce Solutions and took on responsibility for defining and overseeing the company’s online retail presence, which includes Eyeconic, among other areas. Additionally, she’s part of VSP’s Global Business Controlling Office.

SHE SAYS… “I am someone who sees possibilities in both people and business. With people, I focus on potential and am motivated by helping others see who they are becoming. In business, I am passionate about identifying opportunities and working with teams to develop meaningful solutions.”

Cha-Ling Delgado

Luxottica North America
Port Washington, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Cha-Ling is influential because she mentors all of those around her. She takes initiative to complete tasks that benefit the entire team. She is motivational and helps others grow.”

Cha-Ling Delgado has been in the optical industry since 2010, working for Luxottica first as Los Angeles-based key accounts manager. In 2015, Delgado was promoted to director, key accounts U.S. and added key accounts Canada in 2016. “As a premier manufacturer and supplier of eyewear, I am lucky to have landed at Luxottica to start my career in the optical industry,” she said.

Some of her personal highlights with the company include being awarded “Key Accounts Manager of the Year” in 2012 and 2014 and being a member of the inaugural group of President’s Circle recipients with recognition from 2012 to 2014.

Delgado believes the optical industry provides a wealth of career options. Career advice she’d give to women entering the field would be to find your passion. “It’s up to us to push ourselves to learn and become experts in whichever field we decide to focus on,” she said.

Along with this mindset, Delgado believes in constantly challenging yourself to learn and grow. “It is also essential to pass along these best practices to help develop the next group of women, who are entering the optical industry, to be successful as well.”

She added, “Although most people would consider sales and account management to be an individual endeavor, team synergy and support among your peers are key elements in building engagement within an organization. It is rewarding for me to be in a position that helps make a difference in the career development of my team members.”

SHE SAYS… “Adding value is a key motto in which I work and live by. No matter what I do in my career and life, it is important for me to bring value to an organization and to the people I work and spend time with.”

Jaclyn Frumkin

Eye Q Eyewear
St. Petersburg, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “In just a few years, Jackie has become a highly visible executive in the frame end of the industry. She is recognized by customers and competitors as strategic, credible, honest, capable and dependable. She has an intense curiosity about the business, both its past and any changes coming in the near future.”

Jaclyn Frumkin credits her dad, a longtime executive in the industry, for introducing her to the optical business. “You could go as far as saying that optical is in my blood. I have loved eyewear since the minute I started wearing it,” she said.

In her second job after college (more about her first job shortly), Frumkin moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., and began her career in optical. She’s now been in the business for about six years and is a key executive with Eye Q Eyewear, a small, family-run organization specializing in quality frames at affordable prices.

Frumkin spends much of her time traveling to visit key customers and suppliers, and also working to develop new products. She’s also attuned to the importance of establishing a plan, setting expectations, breaking down projects and measuring the results—a philosophy that she’s learned from mentor and friend Steve Horowitz of De Rigo REM.

“These are all things that I am consistently working on, and things that I try to inspire others to work on,” Frumkin said. “How do we define success if we don’t have a benchmark for it?”

What about that first job? After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Frumkin worked as a brand ambassador/hotdogger and driver for the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. This experience, she said, “continues to be my best fun fact and coolest job ever.”

SHE SAYS… “I love getting to be part of a family business and working with my dad and brother, but sometimes it’s challenging to draw a line and not bore the rest of the family with discussions of frames while we’re eating dinner.”

Jessica Goebert

De Rigo REM
Sun Valley, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She has built a remarkable network from her years at both Luxottica and at De Rigo REM, with the capacity to reach every corner of the fashion media world. She has helped build the reputation of these brands, collectively lifting the company’s reputation. She has done so through her diligence, intellect and personality.”

Though Jessica Goebert has been in the optical industry for only four years, her resume boasts credits such as dressing Michelle Obama and Octavia Spencer for the White House State Dinner and the Oscars (respectively) while she worked for Tadashi Shoji.

While at Luxottica, Goebert oversaw public relations for the wholesale business in North America as the senior PR manager. She was also nominated for a BeLux Award in North America for excellence in press coverage achieved for the relaunch of Giorgio Armani.

Now, in between event management duties, Goebert oversees all PR and social media in the U.S for De Rigo REM’s brands as well as the digital and print advertising aspects of the company and she is the main point of contact for internal communications. Goebert is thankful to her mother for teaching her about working hard, being kind and the importance of not losing sight of her dreams.

SHE SAYS… “This speaks to every avenue of the optical industry: From the factory floor to the retail and online experience for the end consumer, women are and will continue to be an integral part of the supply chain. Years ago, they were more behind the scenes and I think we will continue to see more and more women stepping up in major leadership roles.”

Kristin S. O’Brien, OD

Vision Source of Green Valley Ranch
Denver, Colorado

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “In addition to seeing patients at the practice she founded, Dr. O’Brien serves nationally on The Vision Council Attendees Advisory Board, Young Professionals Advisory Committee, and Allergan Jumpstart Ambassador Program.”

Dr. Kristin O’Brien knew she wanted to be in the optical field from a young age. After being relegated to work in her optometrist’s office as punishment for lying about needing glasses while in the third grade, Dr. O’Brien fell in love with the work and knew she wanted to be an optometrist back then.

She later went on to get her doctor of optometry degree from the Michigan College of Optometry and has training in working with mentally or physically disabled patients, pediatrics, low vision as well as specialty contact lenses.

Dr. O’Brien has participated in optometric missions to Guyana and Mexico to provide eyecare to the underprivileged. She leads the Vision Source Mentor OD program with the goal of providing resources to students most interested in private practice. Dr. O’Brien has made it her mission to encourage students to practice in the mode they desire most.

SHE SAYS… “What’s best for the patient is best for business. I subscribe to providing the highest quality care to my patients which requires the latest technology equipment in office as well as advanced ophthalmic options in the optical.”

Laurel O’Connor

Think About Your Eyes
Alexandria, Virginia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Laurel stepped into a role that did not exist and started the public relations efforts of Think About Your Eyes from the ground up. Through her work in the campaign, Think About Your Eyes has reached an audience of 452 million, with a social media audience of more than 50,000.”

Laurel O’Connor’s background in the PR agency field provided her with a solid foundation for her current position at Think About Your Eyes, overseeing all public relations and social media efforts for the campaign. When she joined the organization in 2015, the national public awareness initiative was focused on educating consumers about the importance of vision health and annual comprehensive eye exams, mainly through advertising efforts. “Coming from a background of working with a variety of consumer-facing brands, I’ve seen different communication tactics at work and bring that fresh perspective to Think About Your Eyes.”

Through O’Connor’s efforts, the campaign’s Facebook audience has grown from around 6,000 likes to over 50,000, with posts reaching more than 100,000 people. “For the past two years, we’ve created videos that show people what different situations are like with vision impairment. Capturing their honest reactions and highlighting how vital our sight is to our everyday life has really shown that our message is relevant to everyone,” she said.

O’Connor considers the Think About Your Eyes initiative a “game-changer for the vision industry. Encouraging someone to take control of their vision health and protect their sight is both vital and empowering,” she said.

SHE SAYS… “At the end of the day, we are enabling people to live their best lives. I know the hindrances vision impairment can have on even the simplest things. Helping people live with vision impairment, and protect and maintain the vision they have, is a priceless gift we can give.”

Christina Perraud

Vienna, Virginia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Christina Perraud joined MyEyeDr. in 2013 as the director of purchasing and planning for 50-plus locations. As MyEyeDr. has grown, her role has quadrupled and Christina now oversees all frame buying and product acquisition for what is now 320-plus locations. Her leadership and oversight ensures the frame distribution center supplies all offices with the ideal assortment to exceed patient expectations.”

Christina Perraud joined MyEyeDr. in 2013, and in 2015 she was promoted to director of inventory planning. Earlier, she held positions at Bloomingdales and Gate Gourmet in retail and inventory/supply chain management, which provided an opportunity to be customer-facing and operational. “This created the perfect foundation to transition into my current position, allowing me to better understand the full life cycle of our products, from buying to distribution to patient satisfaction,” she said.

In her role at MyEyeDr., product strategy is her primary focus. “We want to be sure that selection by office ranges from designer to performance brands, [and] pricing for everyone’s budget and style that ranges from classic to fashion forward.” This becomes even more important as MyEyeDr. moves into new markets and tries to match the assortment to each new stores’ demographics.

The challenges of her role as a buyer are tied closely to the company’s overall success: preparing and executing for the unknown, and predicting and forecasting sales for a company that is experiencing very rapid growth.

“My major accomplishment has been facilitating the development of my department to successfully manage the addition of over 250 new locations in less than four years,” she said. “In April 2016, we relocated our distribution center from Vienna, Va., to Greensboro, N.C., all while growing by 100 locations and overhauling our supply chain processes.”

SHE SAYS… “I had a door opened to me by Sue Downes, CEO of MyEyeDr. Having a mentor like Sue, who has built MyEyeDr. from one location to over 320 today has been incredible. She shares her knowledge and insights, contributing to my professional and personal development.”

Sheree Rajan

Essilor of America
Dallas, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is a go-to person within marketing, leading the Essilor Experts program and changing the way Essilor delivers key support to independent ECPs.”

Sheree Rajan has achieved an impressive track record of marketing “firsts” in her 10 years with Essilor of America. As senior director of Marketing Initiatives, she recently launched the Essilor Experts initiative, an innovative approach to helping independent ECPs assist patients in selecting the best lenses for their vision needs and personal style. Nearly 1,700 ECPs have participated since its start in 2016.

Prior to this position, Rajan led Essilor’s Crizal brand to double-digit growth, launching Crizal Prevencia and the UV product portfolio, and introducing Crizal’s first consumer advertising campaign.

Rajan credits her achievements to her positive attitude, passion, perseverance and a commitment to teaching and coaching others. She said, “My successes have come from my ability to effectively leverage and apply my strengths, but more importantly, my willingness to invest in and build a strong team to help deliver those results.”

Helping others is a strong motivator for Rajan, whether it’s helping customers, consumers or colleagues. “I work for an industry and for a company that makes a true impact on improving peoples’ lives by helping them to see well.”

Her advice to women entering the optical industry is: “Don’t hesitate to ask for a seat at the table. Come prepared with a fact-based point of view and be prepared to stand by your convictions.”

SHE SAYS… “I am inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words that ‘the task ahead of you is never as great as the power within you.’”

Lindsey Ruhe

The Vision Council
Alexandria, Virginia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Lindsey’s commitment to The Vision Council members is phenomenal. She is always available to help and give advice if needed, going above and beyond her responsibility. Through her extensive media outreach activities, she reinforced and reshaped the importance of protecting the eyes from hazardous UV rays and how digital eye strain affects one’s eyes and body.”

Though Lindsey Ruhe didn’t know the vastness of the eyewear industry when she first started five years ago, she has managed to integrate the necessity of eyewear without compromising its fashionable aspects.

She is the brains behind The Vision Council’s Eyecessorize campaign, which garnered 8 billion media impressions in 2015 and 2016; the National Sunglasses Day/UV campaign, which made its way to former Vice President Joe Biden’s Instagram page in 2016; and the digital eye strain campaign which welcomed over 3,000 people at the official health lounge at South by Southwest (SXSW).

In her role at The Vision Council, Ruhe derives inspiration from her team of six staffers, The Vision Council’s members who are passionate about their products, and the impact of the Council’s campaigns. Ruhe believes that every project offers room for individual as well as professional growth.

SHE SAYS… “I always do my best to bring a positive ‘we can do this’ attitude to every project I am working on, no matter how much of a challenge the project may be.”

Amanda Sabin

Costa Sunglasses
Daytona Beach, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Influencing others is what Amanda does each and every day. Thanks to her hard work and ability to connect with others, Amanda finds out what causes different communities have heart for and brings that knowledge back to the Costa team.”

Not many people can say that their first job was their dream job, but for Amanda Sabin that was the case.

Sabin’s worked for Costa for seven years, starting out managing their Pro Staff and conservation initiatives and then transitioning into a role as offshore community leader. She was recently promoted to core community manager and now leads a team of leaders in each of the major fishing disciplines.

“I‘ve been fishing my entire life and have a deep understanding and connection to the angling community. It’s what I’m most passionate about and I bring that passion to work with me every day. I’m a fierce conservationist and love that Costa values preserving our resources so much that it’s woven into every fiber of what we do as a company.”

One of her major accomplishments was lobbying for a big change in the Gulf of Mexico related to raising the minimum lengths of marlin in tournament regulations. The change that Sabin helped to bring about was a “huge win for billfish conservation and a commendable accomplishment for all Gulf of Mexico anglers.”

SHE SAYS… “If a woman can find her niche or passion point in this industry there is no stopping her.”

Shauna Thornhill, OD

Amarillo Vision Specialists
Amarillo, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Shauna’s story is inspiring for many reasons, one of which is how she has managed to overcome the circumstances of her childhood to become the success that she is today. Everything she does in her practice is born out of her desire to give back to others, supporting the people of Amarillo the way they supported her.”

Shauna Thornhill, OD, has a favorite quote, from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.” The quote, which Thornhill has shared with her children, is on the wall in her office. “I get up every morning thinking about how I can play a part in making their world better. This drives me not only to try and succeed financially, but to be the kind of person that would make them proud,” she said.

Growing up in poverty, Thornhill said she always wanted a career that included caring for others. She zeroed in on optometry after working at Wal-Mart Vision Center during college. “I knew I would be able to interact with people on a daily basis, and make a difference in their lives,” she said.

Thornhill is a CooperVision 2017 Best Practices Award Winner, and the 2006 Student Research Award Winner for the AOA: Contact Lens and Cornea Section. She was the 2016 Walmart Divisional Doctor of the Year, and a Regional and District Doctor of the Year for 2014 and 2015.

SHE SAYS… “Know your value and speak up about it! Try to develop a network of women, and be a support system for each other.”

Sarah Wells

Eyecare Partners/Clarkson Eyecare
Ballwin, Missouri

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Sarah embodies the professional attitude and mission statement of the corporation, which begins with “We help people...” and are always at the core of her motivation. I see only bigger and better things from her in the future—her attitude inspires us all.”

Sarah Wells has spent her entire 17-year optical career at Clarkson Eyecare. She started out in a single office, learning the basics of optical care. After graduating from Truman State University with a BA in Communication, she managed several locations, worked in a Clarkson LASIK surgery office and sold proprietary practice management software to optical providers. Over time, she became a district manager and advanced into her current role as regional VP of operations.

Today, Wells oversees daily operations for 75 offices in three states, including Clarkson Eyecare Optometric offices in Missouri, Illinois and Florida, Clarkson Eyecare LASIK and Panhandle Vision Institute in Pensacola, Fla. “Other than the operational, financial and business day-to-day responsibilities, the most exciting part of my job is supporting our acquisition and due diligence process, and being able to welcome more doctors to our team,” she said.

“Working with very established and excellent optometrists helped instill in me a strong work ethic, with a commitment to providing service at a very high standard. I carry that commitment with me today in everything I do. To understand the details behind what creates an exceptional office employee and doctor experience is fundamental to running exceptional office operations.

SHE SAYS… “Many professional women I’ve met thrive on challenges, and this is a multi-faceted, high-challenge industry in which women have been blossoming for years. This is truly evident today with the considerable number of women in leadership positions leading remarkable optical companies.”

H. Lindsay Wright, OD

Armed Forces Optometric Society
Louisville, Colorado

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is on the front line for shaping the policies of optometry at a federal level.”

Dr. Lindsay Wright’s childhood experience with vision therapy influenced her career choice. “At a young age, I was diagnosed with convergence insufficiency and started vision therapy,” she recalled. “I saw first-hand what a difference an optometrist can make in a young child’s life and wanted to have that impact on others.”

Today, Dr. Wright is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs and strategic plan of The Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS), the affiliate of the American Optometric Association (AOA) that represents all federal service optometrists including those in active duty and reserve military (Air Force, Army and Navy), Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Service and Public Health Service.

Her other key duties include advocacy, membership, planning of continuing education events and sponsorship. “Not only am I advocating for and serving optometrists, but optometrists in the service of our country. It is truly a rewarding and fulfilling role,” she noted.

In addition to her role with the AFOS, Dr. Wright operates a practice in Louisville, Colorado, a rural community north of Denver that was previously without an optometrist. “I believed that starting a new practice in a previously unserved area was one way that I could expand the health care opportunities to the residents of that community.”

SHE SAYS… “What inspires me are people who will stop at nothing to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. Optometrists are doing this every day as they take care of their patients and change lives of those they encounter.”