Jill Burrowes

Europa International
Buffalo Grove, Illinois

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Jill’s ability to inspire other professionals to strive for success is invaluable. She has an analytical, results-driven approach to business, and her outgoing personality makes working with her an absolute joy.”

“Though I didn’t realize it would be the start of a long-term career, my first job in the industry came at 17 years old, when I was hired at what is still one of the most successful optometric practices in San Antonio,” explained Jill Burrowes. “My mother, Loretta Lemoine, has enjoyed a fruitful career in this industry since I was in junior high school, so I’m proud to be a second generation optical professional.”

“Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from the best in our industry,” said Burrowes. “I learned what makes a successful optometric practice continue to thrive from my first employer, Dr. Paul Darrow, and as a gas perm contact lens rep, Richard Dorer taught me essential sales techniques I still use. The knowledge eventually led me to Europa, where independent thought is encouraged and successes are celebrated. Every day I’m grateful for the support of our executive team.”

Burrowes has been the director of key accounts at Europa since 2012. “As a fascinating hybrid of health care, engineering and fashion, this business provides exciting opportunities for people of varying backgrounds. It rewards those with integrity and a willingness to serve their customers well, and affords countless opportunities for giving back generously.”

SHE SAYS… “Do it with passion or not at all!”

Courtney Dryer, OD

4 Eyes Optometry, a Vision Source Member
Charlotte, North Carolina

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She opened her own practice shortly after graduating, founded Indieeyes Consulting, writes for NewGradOptometry.com and encourages entrepreneurship for new OD grads.”

Courtney Dryer, OD, has been on a fast track since graduating from optometry school in 2011. Following a short stint working as an associate doctor, she opened her own private practice in 2013 called 4 Eyes Optometry, a Vision Source member. She also co-founded and is a partner in the consulting group called Indieeyes Consulting. Its purpose, said Dryer, is to “empower the independent optometrist to open a practice economically, succeed in today’s marketplace and maximize retail sales.”

Dryer believes that being independent in all aspects of her optometric practice is strategically important. “My practice is built around using independent eyewear, labs, and contact lens companies that support independent practitioners,” she said. “I think its imperative that independent ODs spend their money with companies who support us.”

In addition to her consulting business, Courtney writes for the website, NewGradOptometry.com, which provides a platform to educate new graduates on resources they need to be successful in practice and in life. Her advice to new ODs: “With creativity, resourcefulness and innovation, it is possible to graduate optometry school with student loans and still open the practice of your dreams.”

SHE SAYS… “I am passionate about independent business and hope to help encourage other optometrists to pursue their own independent practice goals.”

Brooke Edwards

Brokea Inc dba Pearle Vision
Maple Grove, Minnesota

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is GM of the top-grossing Pearle Vision franchise, motivating a team of 30 professionals and constantly upgrading the patient experience.”

As general manager of the #1 grossing Pearle Vision store in North America for four years in a row, Brooke Edwards knows it takes a team to drive success and accomplish great things. She works closely with her managers to develop employees’ knowledge and sales skills, and to help them achieve their personal career goals. Always ready to listen, she encourages feedback, noting: “My employees are invested in what we do because they have a say in it.”

Edwards entered the optical world at the age of 15 when her mother, a successful frame representative, got her a job as a Pearle Vision receptionist. She developed a love for the business because “every day was different and I was always learning.” After college, she worked at a PR agency handling an eyewear account, and then joined the sales team at Soderberg Ophthalmic Laboratory, eventually becoming marketing manager. In 2011, she assumed her current position.

A career in optical “has limitless possibilities and it’s ever changing,” said Edwards. She is grateful for having great bosses as mentors, noting that they allowed her to grow and encouraged her to take chances.

SHE SAYS… ”What inspires me is seeing my staff succeed, smile while they work and truly enjoy interacting with our patients and one another.”

Linda Fitzgerald

Modern Optical International
Austintown, Ohio

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Linda is a rising star—an innovative mover and shaker. Her passion for the industry clearly is demonstrated on a daily basis. There is nothing that she will not attempt if it enhances the world of opticianry.”

At 14 years old, Linda Fitzgerald knew she wanted to work in the optical field. After her optician made her feel proud of wearing contacts and glasses, showing her how each frame could make her feel different she knew that’s what she wanted to do, and 40 years later, she has succeeded in doing just that.

Fitzgerald works full time as a sales representative for Western Pennsylvania and Western Ohio, exhibits at their state, national and regional shows and is now the president of the Opticians Association of Ohio.

After being a dual licensed optician in Ohio for more than 30 years, Fitzgerald mostly saw a male dominated field and realized that she would make a good optician. For women just starting out, Fitzgerald’s advice to them would be to educate yourself to the best of your ability and pass it along.

“Women have worked hard and are at the forefront of our marketplace demonstrating dedication and success,” she said.

SHE SAYS… “I believe that we should mentor the younger generation helping them attain the most education possible, making them the best educated person they can be. We have to be the absolute best in our profession and help others to do the same.”

Colleen Galanti

Opticians on Facebook
Pascarella Eye Care & Contact Lenses
Newtown, Pennsylvania

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is the lead optician with loyal patients at Pascarella Eye Care, and she is the creator of Opticians on Facebook, a growing social media network.”

In 2013, optician Colleen Galanti created the first closed social media network for opticians, called Opticians on Facebook. The group provides members with an online forum to share experiences, seek advice, provide helpful information and just vent. To date, over 2,000 opticians from novices to seasoned professionals have joined the blossoming network.

The inspiration to create a web-based social group came after Galanti searched the internet without success for an online portal to obtain professional advice. This underscored the need for a network that would link opticians across the country, enabling them to communicate easily and quickly. Opticians on Facebook filled that void. “A member will post a situation and within seconds, they are given useful information that may have taken hours or days of researching on the internet.”

Galanti has been an optician for over 29 years, working in a variety of optical settings including private and corporate practices. She joined Pascarella Eye Care in 2012 as optical manager of the practice’s dispensary. “In the last 10 years, I am seeing many more women as optical managers and successful business owners,” she said. “When I started in 1986, it was a male dominated field and now that has completely changed. There are no closed doors for women in optical today.

SHE SAYS… “Life is too short to wear ugly glasses.”

Patrice Leslie, ABOC

Carl Zeiss Vision
Winnsboro, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Patrice is an early adopter of new technology. She’s an excellent trainer who leads the Zeiss sales team to develop iPad skills, and its ‘Go Digital’ initiative.”

A decade ago, while still a college student, Patrice Leslie volunteered at a Medicare/Medicaid optometric office in New Orleans. Following graduation, she began studying at the University of Houston College of Optometry while working at an optometric office as an optician and optometric assistant. Although she embarked on a career in education, including a brief stint abroad, she returned to the U.S. and began working again in an optometric practice.

After becoming an ABO-certified optician, she joined Carl Zeiss Vision and has spent the past four years fulfilling different roles on the company’s sales team. Most recently, she moved into a new role as senior content manager, eLearning, responsible for producing content for web-based trainings that benefits everyday activities of opticians and other ECPs.

“As a former educator, I know the value of exploration and discovery. I provide a variety of innovative tools to help engage learners. I have an affinity for technology and enjoy finding new ways to employ it, but others are not the same way. By offering a variety of solutions, users are able to explore the tools and discover the way to employ them that suits them best. We all know that everyone learns in their own unique way, the same is true for selling and training.”

SHE SAYS… “The transfer of knowledge and confidence are two of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon someone. How this is achieved may vary greatly, but when the two go hand-in-hand, it often has the greatest impact on a person.”

Sarah McGee

Pearle Vision Division of Luxottica
Mason, Ohio

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Sarah, a passionate and driven professional with seven years of experience in the communications field, joined the brand in late 2012, quickly immersing herself in the fields of retail, optometry and internal communications.”

“I have always had a passion for challenge and helping others become educated about their health,” said Sarah McGee. “When I learned of the business transformation taking place at Pearle Vision I knew I wanted to be a part of the brand’s journey forward. The brand’s clear strategy for success in a complex, competitive market, coupled with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of optical patients was the perfect fit.”

Less than a year with the company, McGee was promoted to director of communications, added to the general manager’s direct team, invited to formally join Pearle Vision’s leadership team, became a manager and was asked to help lead one of the brand’s learning and strategic development initiatives.

During her years with the brand, McGee has taken on its communication challenges with a high sense of ownership, great attitude and utter professionalism. For the next three years, she has been tasked with developing and executing the brand’s culture and recognition programs.

“As the optical industry looks to the future, it’s critical that our care, services and products align with the values and needs of this audience.”

SHE SAYS… “If you’re not innovating, you’re falling behind. If we don’t create the experiences and solutions our licensed operators and patients seek, someone else will.”

Meghan Murphy, PhD

The Shop @ VSP Global
Sacramento, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She represents a new wave of rising stars whose background and experience extends beyond the traditional optical fields and is helping change the way the optical industry as a whole is perceived.”

At 26 years old, Meghan Murphy is the youngest PhD among all 6,000 employees at VSP Global. She earned her doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of California, Davis in 2014 while completing an initial internship with VSP’s innovation lab, The Shop. Murphy now works full-time at The Shop, developing sensor-embedded eyewear and the acquiring and translating biometric data obtained from the head.

“I was excited about the efforts underway within The Shop to create consumer-focused technology designed to improve health in the population,” she said. “I am very interested in the unique position of the optical industry at the intersection of health and consumer products and the potential to harness links between eye health and systemic health.”

Murphy’s primary focus is helping to develop VSP’s Project Genesis, a sensor-equipped eyeglass frame. She aids in the development of software algorithms for activity recognition and, when necessary, even serves as a human test subject for various incarnations of the frames throughout the beta testing process. Murphy works side-by-side with the software development team on how the health information gets displayed to the end-user. She also spearheads and leads the relationships with academic partners for Project Genesis, including the most recent collaboration with USC’s venerable Center for Body Computing.

SHE SAYS… “I believe it is critical that as females in the industry, we continue to promote early STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) education and mentorship opportunities for females to ensure their continued presence and growth in the field.”

Janelle Pauli

Austin, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Working her way up from marketing assistant to marketing manager in just over three years, Janelle has been instrumental in the development of innovative programs that allow VisionWeb to deliver useful content to the industry.”

Janelle Pauli has spent her entire career in optical with VisionWeb, quickly rising through the ranks to become marketing manager, responsible for the company’s blog content strategy and managing social media pages and trade show preparation.

She also became leader of the company’s internship program, bringing on talented students. “Being able to pass on the knowledge that I have learned while also learning a lot from the students in return has really been a great experience,” she said.

Here creative spirit and competitive nature have served her well in her position. “I get bored in the comfort of a routine. Doing something new and creative every day helps keep me on my toes and always looking for the next big thing,” she said. “I’ve learned to be in competition with myself to be better every day, or do something better than I did it the day before. A little healthy competition is a great way to empower women.”

A three-year member of the Optical Women’s Association, she currently serves on the Digital Marketing Committee for the organization.

SHE SAYS… “I have been lucky enough to have managers and a team that believe in creativity, fun and thinking outside the box…and outside of our industry. Creative freedom is a big reason why I love my job and is what inspires me to accomplish my goals.”

Jennifer Smith Zolman, OD, FCOVD

Draisin Vision Group
Charleston, South Carolina

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Jennifer has helped build Draisin Vision into a multimillion dollar operation. She serves as chairman of Special Olympics screening and initiated the InfantSEE progam in South Carolina. She hit the ground running.”

Although Jennifer Smith Zolman, OD, has received many accolades, it is her love of optometry that really shines through everything she does. “I started shadowing a husband and wife optometry team as a freshman in high school and fell in love with optometry…I knew that when I grew up, this is how I wanted to spend my life.”

Zolman was honored as the Southern Council of Optometrists (SECO) Young Optometrist of the Year in 2013. In addition to her duties at Draisin Vision, she is a clinical adjunct professor and residency supervisor for several colleges of optometry. “I love to teach the future generation about our wonderful profession and to help the students develop an understanding for organized optometry, such as the AOA and legislative issues.

“I feel that I make a difference in my state by pushing for what is best for our profession as a whole. This wonderful profession has given so much to me and I feel it is my duty to give back to it and protect it.”

SHE SAYS… “To see the successes in vision therapy, to see one of my patients ‘see’ depth and 3D for the first time, to see a child find self-esteem after completing vision therapy…that is why I do what I do every day.”