VM REPORTS: Influential Women in Optical Rising Stars By Staff Monday, August 10, 2020 12:28 AM RELATED CONTENT #Luminaries Above and Beyond Executive Suite Mentors Innovators Methodology Eighteen Years of Honorees Previous Years Influential Women Reports Alphabetical List of Past Honorees 2003-2020 Betty BarrsSenior Product OwnerVisionWebAustin, TexasCHOSEN BECAUSE… “Betty Barrs is able to listen and learn from the needs of the industry and then translate those needs into software features that she then communicates to a development team to build and execute.” Betty Barrs, who’s been at VisionWebb since October 2017, is a senior product owner at VisonWeb where she plays an important role in the development of Uprise EHR and practice management software. She works closely with developers, customer support, and subject matter experts to build the product roadmap for the development of Uprise EHR. “One of my favorite aspects of my job is working with an array of industry and subject matter experts to create innovative solutions to an ever-changing landscape,” Barrs said. “Working with Uprise, I’m able to help optimize practice workflows and user experience within the EHR software, enabling optometrists to focus more on the patient in their exam lane than on documentation.” Barrs’ journey into health care began in 2013 after graduating from the University of Texas and receiving a Health Information Technology Certification. In 2014, she worked for eMDs where she started her career in product management, designing, collaborating, and creating innovative solutions to improve patient care. “I really enjoyed being challenged and loved learning, so I took on a new opportunity with VisionWeb in 2017,” she said. Barrs said her current role as a senior product owner allows her to act as a bridge between patient care, interoperability, and industry regulation. SHE SAYS… “My goal is to not only create software that is intuitive to use but results in better patient care.”Katja Beier Marketing Manager OGI Eyewear North Minneapolis, Minnesota CHOSEN BECAUSE… “OGI Eyewear is going through a major reboot as a company, and Katja is instrumental in transforming our customers’ experience, adapting new interactive digital experiences, AR and VTO technologies. Her work will set the standard in our industry for efficient and productive B2B business relationships.” With over a decade of experience specializing in digital marketing strategy and brand transformation management for global and multinational companies and a Masters’ Degree in International Business, Katja Beier’s passions for innovation, sustainability, marketing, and customer experience design have flourished in her current role at OGI Eyewear. At OGI, she is working on a total brand transformation and digitalization: reimagining the visual brand with new graphic artwork expressions and leveraging novel digital technologies to develop an efficient, ECP-assisted platform, which enhances the eyewear selection, customization and fitting process. Set to launch by September, the new platform aims to revitalize the customer’s eyewear purchase journey by blending a streamlined user interface with top-tier measurement precision and ECP expertise—balancing the importance of (figurative) human touch in the eyewear purchase process with a need to minimize physical interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beier acknowledges OGI’s chief creative officer David Duralde as a mentor whose vision, professionalism and determination have inspired her. On how women will influence changes to the delivery of vision products and services in coming years, Beier said, “In challenging times, women are more agile and adaptive; thus they will persevere, nurturing teams and customers, leading the eyecare business to a more sustainable and prosperous future.” SHE SAYS… “I make a difference by bringing a positive perspective, extensive digital marketing knowledge, and international business experience from other industries. I enjoy working with people and understanding the unfulfilled needs they express that the OGI Eyewear team can explore and deliver.” Jennifer K. Chinn, OD Co-Owner Dr. Chinn’s Vision Care San Diego, California CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is innovative—bringing creative ideas to improve the patient experience, advocating for eyecare and helping to educate people through social media.” Jennifer Chinn grew up loving fashion, and since her father is an optometrist, she also grew up in the industry. “I realized that eyecare is the only medical health industry where fashion is strongly intertwined with medicine,” she said. “I grew up wearing glasses and never felt confident. It’s now my passion to help people not only see better, but feel confident in their eyewear.” As the managing doctor at Dr. Chinn’s Vision Care, Chinn not only does clinical care, she organizes team training and implements new processes to improve patient care and flow. She’s very hands-on with the practice, and her unique vision has redesigned the company values and the physical space. She encourages all team members to pursue their passions and learn new skills inside and outside of the eyecare industry. Not surprisingly, Dr. Chinn’s commitment spreads far beyond the office. After hours, she donates her time to providing eyecare services to underserved communities both locally and abroad. She’s also a passionate advocate for eyecare and education, regularly mentoring pre-optometry and optometry students, and helps educate people through social media, videos, blogs, radio shows and live presentations. She serves as a trustee on the local San Diego County Optometric Society and leads the San Diego Chapter of Young ODs of America. She was recognized as one of EyeCare Business Magazine’s Game Changers in 2019 and was a Transitions Brand Ambassador Award Finalist in 2020. SHE SAYS… “I’m always open to change—never satisfied with the status quo. This helps me learn from my mistakes and find new paths to success. My advice to others: build your network and stay true to your passion.” Jessica Connor Director, Member Marketing & Operations EyeMed Vision Care CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Jessica is influential given the breadth of her role, but more importantly how she manages many competing demands and priorities into a single vision for EyeMed members. She demonstrates this daily and just this year, she has managed to not only keep EyeMed members informed about COVID-19 challenges but also delivered a number of key digital steps forward during this challenging time.” Jessica Connor has been in the vision industry for almost seven years, all of which have been at EyeMed. She is currently a director and is managing a team of marketing, operations and digital experts who work to constantly enhance the member experience. “My goal is to always ensure our members are able find the information they need, when they need it and make using their vision benefits seamless and easy,” she said. She feels a special bond with eyecare because she was born with strabismus and had to have surgery to correct her right eye when she was two years old. This resulted in many follow-up eyecare appointments throughout her childhood. She recalls, “I always had very fond memories of watching the light with cartoon characters bounce before my eyes and getting to yell out letters on a chart. As an adult, I was lucky to be able to collide my love of vision care with my passion for digital technologies and marketing.” Looking back, Connor says she also feels blessed to have had two strong mentors during her career. The first was an executive vice president at her first job out of college. “He saw a talent in me and helped me grow immensely.” Later in her career, she was fortunate to find mentorship in her current supervisor, Matt MacDonald, senior vice president of operations at EyeMed. “His sound advice and level-headed approach to tackle any obstacle has guided me through various situations in my career,” she said. SHE SAYS… “Women are in one of the most challenging times of their lives right now trying to work from home while taking care of children and keeping their families safe during the pandemic. Many women are having to make the difficult choice to leave the workforce right now. Stay the course and don’t give up.” Stacey Curcio Regional Vice PresidentUnity Contact Lenses Harmony, Pennsylvania CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Stacey’s at the forefront of promoting and selling a brand new line of products. She’s applying her incredible work ethic, leadership qualities and strategic thinking to get this new product off the ground in an extremely competitive market.” For Stacey Curcio, what started as a simple response to a job ad has turned into satisfying 20-year career in an industry she loves. After beginning her career as a brand consultant for Essilor, she later joined VSP and moved up the ranks before landing in her current leadership role. As VSP’s regional VP for the Eastern half of the U.S., Curcio leads a team of sales professionals who are responsible for the promotion and sales of VSP’s newly launched Unity contact lens products. Their goal is to educate doctors and staff on VSP’s proprietary contact lens that’s unique by being exclusive to the VSP network doctors and not sold online. With COVID-19, she’s had to pivot strategy and lead her team to work remotely while still achieving sales goals set earlier this year. She believes that having a winning team boils down to trust. She leads with honesty and transparency—nurturing and celebrating people’s strengths rather than looking for weaknesses. She also knows the power of teamwork. “Success is never a result of one person. We’re all in this together,” she said. “I’ll never ask my team to do something I’m not willing to do.” Her insightful leadership has paid off. “I feel fortunate to have helped build some of our industry’s fastest growing brands in history,” she said. She’s a proud member of the Optical Women’s Association and a VSP Optics Group President’s Club winner. SHE SAYS… “What inspires me most as a manager and coach is watching a team member go beyond their comfort zone, learn, grow in their confidence and thrive—both personally and professionally.” Jill Eldridge South Central Regional Sales Manager ClearVision Optical Hauppauge, New York CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Jill has always been revered by others as strategic, driven, and incredibly customer-centric in her consultative approach.” Jill Eldridge is a seasoned professional with 23 years of optical industry expertise, including the last 13 with ClearVision Optical. She’s a savvy businesswoman, who proudly represented the Arizona/Nevada territory as a sales consultant until being promoted to regional sales manager in August 2019. Today, she’s responsible for hiring, training and coaching 17 sales consultants and developing their territories in 15 states. As a competitive athlete and a half-marathoner, Eldridge has always been a natural coach, challenging others to do their personal best. For years before assuming this sales leadership role, Eldridge was looked to by others for best practices and would groom junior talent based on her recipe of proven results. “Over 23 years of knowledge, a highly diverse skill set, trust in teammates, performance under pressure, willingness to be coached and achieving goals both individually and as a team are all the qualities that enable me to excel as a sales manager,” she said. By challenging others to seek top performance for themselves and helping to foster sales capabilities, Eldridge encourages her team of sales consultants to successfully open new accounts, maximize territory development, sell programs, and surpass sales goals. Being a competitive individual with a warm heart, Eldridge makes it easy to approach her and seek her perspective. She is known amongst her peers for being an intelligent, caring person who always has a positive attitude. As a President’s Council member, Eldridge has emerged as a trusted advisor to many colleagues across the industry and generously shares her insight to help others succeed. SHE SAYS… “Leading by example, I inspire my team to be the best people they can be and perform their jobs more efficiently and successfully.” Brooke Hargrove Co-Owner Empire Optical Tulsa, Oklahoma CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Brooke and her husband have put together a very forward-thinking retail optical experience in Tulsa. From the build-out to the experiential-based layout, Brooke definitely has an eye on moving things forward.” Brooke Hargrove gave up her nursing career 15 years ago to work with her husband in the retail optical world—joining a third-generation family business that’s 55 years old. She’s not only a co-owner, she also wears the hat of HR, marketing specialist, bookkeeper, staff scheduler and staff encourager. “My biggest strength is my sense of humor,” she said. “I find a way to laugh—and more importantly, make someone else laugh, or at least smile, every day.” Behind the scenes, Hargrove is involved in everything from frame selection to overseeing sales and service. Empire Optical is a very large shop—complete with its own very high-tech surfacing and finishing lab—and Hargrove is always looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve and ahead of her competition. Her intelligence and creativity serve the business well. Among the store’s numerous awards, last year her 6,000-square-foot retail store won second place in Invision magazine’s ranking of best stores in the nation. No doubt, Hargrove’s personal philosophy plays a role. She tries to give every customer a fantastic experience that doesn’t feel like a doctor’s office or an online transaction. She welcomes guests into her store like she would into her home. She treats staff and customers like friends. She hosts numerous events to keep the retail optical world relevant. And most importantly, finds one good thing about each and every person she encounters. SHE SAYS… “Think WAY outside the box. Why say no if you can find a way to say yes?” Mollie Tavel Kaback Director of Growth Initiatives & Community Engagement Dr. Tavel Family Eye Care Indianapolis, Indiana CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Mollie dedicates herself 100% to supporting practices, products and nonprofits that help people in need access vision care.” As the child, niece and grandchild of eye doctors, Mollie Tavel Kaback has worked on and off in optical throughout her life, realizing her passion for vision and eyewear as a young adult during stints in the lab, reception and dispensing for the Dr. Tavel group of 22 Indiana eyecare offices. After college she moved into health care marketing and public relations, supporting sight-related pharmaceuticals and consumer education initiatives, counting Transitions Optical and Essilor of America as clients. Tavel Kaback was then recruited by Essilor to support Transitions lenses and broader product initiatives, followed by her current role at Dr. Tavel where she melds communications expertise and optical insight. Her responsibilities include creating community-focused partnerships throughout Indiana to help Hoosiers see better, and directing Dr. Tavel’s internal and external communications including their “Eyes on Safety” initiative, which promotes ways to keep eyecare practices and their patients safe during the COVID era. Colleague Kent Iglehart calls Tavel Kaback’s efforts to drive culture and engagement “essential to our organization’s success,” highlighting her use of social media to build meaningful connections with other influential thinkers. Tavel Kaback, a Transitions Change Agent and member of The Vision Council’s Emerging Optical Leaders committee, excels at developing synergistic relationships and empowering others to bring their visions to life. She continuously seeks opportunities to build upon the 80-year reputation established by the three Doctors Tavel, with effectual projects that serve the greater good: “As the third generation in the family business, I aspire to make an impact at least as great as theirs.” SHE SAYS… “Persistence is omnipotent, and passion helps me excel. I am fueled by a personal connection to my business and a persistent commitment to address unmet need.” Melissa Kiewe Vice President of Marketing, North America (at press time Melissa Kiewe was promoted) CooperVision Victor, New York CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Melissa is a rising star: committed to discovering new ways to contribute to the industry, expanding her scope, and most importantly, bringing innovative, actionable solutions to customers to help them grow their businesses and benefit the entire optical community.” Melissa Kiewe, who was recruited to act as a change agent, is the chief liaison between CooperVision’s U.S. corporate accounts sales organization and its marketing team. She has spearheaded innovative customer marketing programs, marketing initiatives, and high-profile product introductions to meet the industry’s growing needs and help customers grow their businesses. She strives to be a valued advisor and partner for customers, helping to guide them through their decision-making process, resulting in enhanced category management and growth. Prior to joining CooperVision in 2016, she spent more than 20 years in both optical and consumer product goods companies including B+L, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. Kiewe is also a graduate of the LEAD Leadership Program from WOMEN Unlimited and has acted as a mentor and a coach for emerging women in leadership. Kiewe feels her impact in the optical industry comes from her commitment to keeping CooperVision’s customers and patients at the core of everything she does for the company, as well as staying connected to the pulse of change in the business world. SHE SAYS… “This has been particularly important in recent months, as practices are facing unprecedented challenges triggered by the COVID-19 global pandemic and are searching for new ways to reignite their businesses. Now more than ever, customers need partners to help them capture exams and purchases as omni-channel demands and integration of technology grow.” Erin Meyer Director of Marketing Opti-Port/CLX St. Louis, Missouri CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Erin brings a unique combination of qualities that make her an asset to all the teams and projects in which she is involved: a strong work ethic, a commitment to teamwork, an entrepreneurial ‘can-do’ mindset, and a focus on continuous learning.” Since joining the optical industry in 2013, Erin Meyer has proven her leadership and management skills at Opti-Port and CLX. Meyer, who studied journalism at the University of Missouri, was hired in an entry-level marketing position, but quickly displayed the skills and know how that allowed her to take on additional responsibility. She’s worn many hats at Opti-Port and CLX in marketing, events and product management. Meyer, who currently directs and leads a team on execution of marketing strategy for the Opti-Port alliance and the CLX System, has many accomplishments under her belt. This includes establishing and leading a marketing study group and an annual marketing conference for Opti-Port member practices, leading the CLX System’s marketing strategy to define and communicate CLX’s contact lens capture strategy, and working alongside CLX’s product development team to optimize the system’s patient contact lens marketing features. When it comes to the optical business, Meyer’s personal philosophy is “Think about the patient every day.” SHE SAYS… “Not working in a practice, you have to actively make an effort to remind yourself regularly of our shared goal in this industry: to help people see better. Keeping this top of mind both motivates me and makes my day-to-day feel much more meaningful.” Amy Moore Vice President of Product Development The McGee Group Marietta, Georgia CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Amy has enjoyed a successful career path in the optical industry since her start at B. Robinson in 2003. Each company move, strategic to her growth, allowed her more responsibilities and opportunities to further her development. She is a mentor to her team, and an inspiration to those she worked for.” Seventeen years ago, Amy Moore responded to an ad in Women’s Wear Daily. It was for an associate director of product development at B. Robinson, and specifically asked for candidates without prior eyewear experience, but who had experience in design or product development. She got the job—and has become an integral member of the optical community ever since. Today as VP of product development for The McGee Group, Moore is responsible for designs under Badgley Mischka, Vera Bradley and Life is Good brands, and she manages the product development and design team at the Group. Moore felt at home in the optical industry right away, and that hasn’t changed. She said, “The optical industry is an amazing industry, filled with members that continuously support, lean on, and learn from one another. I have a high level of gratitude and respect for this industry, and how we continue to look out for one another.” Moore goes above and beyond—and makes sure to lead by example for her team, both in terms of hard work and in respect. She explains, “As a manager of a team of six, I work hard to make sure that I lead by example. I strongly believe in the simple adage ‘treat others as you would want them to treat you.’ Also, understand that your actions have everlasting effects, and the chances are high that you will one day come into contact, in some way, with others from your past.” SHE SAYS… “Grab every opportunity you can! If there is an event within the optical industry, such as a class offered at one of the wonderful trade shows, take it, no matter how close it directly relates to your current position. There is always something more to learn and more great people to meet.” Alexis Nyiro Manager of Product Development WestGroupe Montreal, Quebec, Canada CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Over the last 11 years, Alexis has continued to grow, not only as an eyewear developer, but as a core member of the WestGroupe management team. She began her career at WestGroupe when our product development department was a one-woman operation and we did not have an internal marketing department. Alexis has been involved in, and was instrumental to, the evolution of our product and marketing departments. Her keen eye, love for fashion and eyewear, and her natural leadership ability make her one of the most influential WestGroupe managers.” For Alexis Nyiro, success in the optical industry boils down to three things: being creative, working hard and choosing your attitude. Nyrio fell into the industry while looking for a marketing career that would allow her to be creative—it was working with Beverly Suliteanu, WestGroupe’s VP of product development, that helped her grow. Having experienced how impactful mentorship is firsthand, Nyiro works hard to go above and beyond as a leader herself. She explains, “creating a successful and respectful team atmosphere is critical in the success of any organization. Team members must be able to adapt and collaborate in order for everyone to thrive together.” To do this, Nyiro leads with passion, kindness and gratitude for her work. She said, “I believe you should lead a team with the intent to support and educate, while listening to their ideas. I also choose to start each day with optimism and positivity as I believe it breeds success. “Seeing people in everyday life, wearing a frame that I helped design and saying how happy they are is flattering to say the least. Coupled with the success I was having within my own career and the recognition being shown to me, I just got hooked and have enjoyed every minute.” SHE SAYS… “There is no limit to how much you can learn and how much you can teach others.” Dawna Owens Director, National Accounts and Government Sales Topcon Healthcare Oakland, New Jersey CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Dawna’s hard work and perseverance has landed her with much responsibility and she continues to be successful and strive for more.” Over the past 22 years, Dawna Owens has worked her way up from studying optical engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology, to becoming a clinical trainer at Zeiss, then on to getting her own sales territories at both Zeiss and Topcon Healthcare, and now she holds the title of director, national accounts and government sales. In this role, she manages a team of six national account managers. Owens is also actively involved in each account from the ground up. She educates them on best-in-class equipment to provide doctors and patients with the best eye exams and specialty testing. She’s involved with everything from day-to-day repairs, to major equipment contracts, and serves on committees for new and innovative products. “I love being able to provide best-in-class capital equipment for early detection and prevention, enabling doctors to provide proactive treatments and solutions for patients. It’s an honor to help doctors provide comprehensive eye exams, changing the lives of thousands with a quick scan and refraction to help them see clearly.” Owens is a very effective leader, and has a wealth of knowledge from her years of experience in the industry. She has excellent communication and organizational skills and has built relationships and gained the trust of key customers throughout the industry. In fact, working closely with Topcon’s VP of sales, Owens helped to secure the largest Maestro OCT contract in the company’s history in the U.S. SHE SAYS… “Communication is the key to success. Share your visions and don’t be afraid to make your voice heard.” Danielle Richardson, OD Optometrist Zak Los Angeles, California CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Danielle’s patient treatment arsenal includes the latest optometric technologies like digital device lenses, computer progressive options, specialty contact lenses, and blue light protection to ensure comfortable and clear vision even after staring at screens all day.” Living in the digital age presents unique challenges for our eyes and Dr. Danielle Richardson understands an evolving world requires evolving eyecare. As a glaucoma-certified therapeutic optometrist at Zak, she spends time understanding each patient’s unique visual demands and provides a personalized eyecare experience. Dr. Richardson is licensed in New York, Texas, and California and has a wealth of experience in several optometric settings. She’s certified by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry to treat and manage ocular disease and she specializes in LASIK surgery co-management and modern eyecare issues like contact lenses, dry eye and digital eye strain. In addition to practicing at Zak, Dr. Richardson is a consultant for Johnson & Johnson Vision and is also an active speaker and advocate in the industry, most recently moderating the EYE2EYE Series, Taking Steps to be an Ally of Diversity & Inclusion. In her free time, Dr. Richardson runs a holistic wellness company, Fierce Clarity, where she hosts wellness retreats, yoga classes, and pop-up events to help professional women manage stress and avoid burnout. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has conducted yoga sessions through Instagram Live to stay engaged with her followers. She’s also a Transitions Change Agent, and has been featured in industry publications on subjects of work-life balance, holistic patient care, and stress reduction techniques. “I’ve taken a non-traditional path professionally, but it has allowed me to refine and be intentional about my optometric career,” she said. SHE SAYS… “I always want to inspire and empower others to forge a path that feels most in alignment with their truest self.” Jenna Slater Head of Strategic Growth Anagram Inc. Santa Monica, California CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Jenna outworks everyone and still finds time to make everyone around her better. She cares deeply about the success of her clients, the industry, and the entire sales team. She goes out of her way to mentor and support other female sales reps, both at Anagram, and in the software industry at large. She is truly the definition of a rising star.” Jenna Slater was the fourth employee at Anagram Inc. (previously known as Patch), which has grown to over 50 people in 3 1/2 years. “I was the company’s first salesperson, although I had no real sales experience or vision industry knowledge,” she said. “I simply loved the problem Anagram was solving and I convinced my executives that sales and vision care could be learned, but that passion cannot be taught.” In college, she studied social justice and worked with women in prison, which inspired her senior thesis (published in 2013), and she received scholarships to present the research at conferences around the world. This led to her initial work in health care. “I took part in fundraising, political activism and research before leaping into tech. I realized that helping doctors get ahead of the many issues facing health care, specifically insurance, gave me a better opportunity to instigate change than debating policy in think tanks. I’d never have guessed my journey would lead me to optometry but I’m so grateful that it did!” SHE SAYS… “I believe in brutal honesty and that, as a woman, you can go so far by simply asking hard questions and giving hard answers. I don’t tell people what they want to hear because that is not how progress is made. I may be an altruistic millennial at times but if we are going to build a better future—in optical, in health care, in the workplace—we have to do it together and pleasantries slow things down. I also think my relentless sense of humor has served me well in this industry. ECPs love to laugh and I love to make people laugh.” Leigh Ann Vanausdoll Executive Director Illinois Optometric Association Springfield, Illinois CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is not only a known lobbyist in our State Capitol, but she’s taken our organization from being in the red to one that has enough money to pay for a complete remodel of the office to bring it up to code—all in a matter of three years.” As executive director, Leigh Ann Vanausdoll oversees the optometric association for the entire state of Illinois, representing over 1,200 doctors of optometry. In her role, she serves as the visionary change agent for the organization, implementing the strategic plan, promoting public policy to advance and protect the profession. According to her peers, the Illinois Optometric Association is more respected since she came on board in 2017. “During my tenure with the association, I have worked hard to update the entire organization from top to bottom—doing a complete reorganization of positions, internal policies, marketing, creating new programs and structuring the Board for success by implementing a new strategic plan and mission,” she said. Vanausdoll’s previous experience working, for the Illinois Department of Transportation and several other state agencies, has prepped her well. “I take great pride in being able to build bipartisan relationships in the political arena,” she said. “Being able to build relationships with lawmakers is essential when taking on optometric battles and fighting to protect the profession of optometry.” To achieve her goals, she leads by example and strives to leave the profession better than she found it. For her, that means making sure that the organization’s opportunities are open and inclusive to every member. SHE SAYS… “I’m continuously inspired by members’ passion to move their profession forward and to make it better for generations to come. It’s their energy that fuels my fire and inspires me to fight for their profession and their patients.” Victoria Whitman, OD Director of Operations Art of Optiks East Wayzata, Minnesota CHOSEN BECAUSE… “In addition to being an outstanding optometrist, Dr. Whitman has also learned all facets of the eyewear side. She lives the adage ‘I don’t expect you to do anything that I couldn’t or wouldn’t do,’ and employees respect her enormously.” Like many other ODs, Dr. Victoria Whitman studied pre-med as an undergraduate, where a “science of vision” class opened her eyes to the eyecare field. After working in corporate offices and Chicago Public Schools, she now enjoys wearing many hats at Art of Optiks. Success in meeting her main goal—to make patients into their customers, and customers into their patients—has resulted in organic growth and earned recognition for the practice at the city, state and national levels. Dr. Whitman noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, women have been ever more resilient and adaptable. Citing “doing it all” and rarely saying “no” as top challenges, she focuses on setting priorities, tightly scheduling her time, and investing in team curation. She names COO and owner Stephanie Haenes as a mentor, and credits Art of Optiks’ ownership team as a whole with entrusting and empowering her to successfully take on a leadership role in addition to patient care. Given this opportunity, her interest in the business side of the practice has quickly grown to match her passion for optometry. For women developing careers in the optical industry, she asserts: “Step up! Find and observe those who align with your mission; take ownership and do the job you want before you have the title, and that will then manifest itself.” SHE SAYS… “Human connection inspires me. I connect with patients on both their systemic health and lifestyle, and I also learn something from everyone I meet, which keeps me growing and excited for each day.” Maria Beard Director, Strategic Planning & Analysis Vision Source Houston, Texas CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Maria has provided great leadership to her team and helps each person grow within and beyond their areas of responsibility.” With 11 years of experience, and more than four in the optical industry, Maria Beard knows that for many companies, strategy and financial goals are often disconnected from operations—which can lead to unrealized strategic objectives. At Vision Source, she helps to ensure the opposite. She oversees the daily management of business partnering, so that she can help doctors create and execute strategic planning into their daily operations. She manages a team of three analysts who support the day-to-day sales and vendor operations, executive leadership planning and forecasting P&L revenue and expenses. These responsibilities have put her in a position to not only influence goals, but company outcomes, too. “I help find opportunities to assist our members in delivering the best results for their business, and thereby care for their patients,” she said. She also helped Vision Source’s external sales team realize their potential by running analysis on potential opportunities and used this to gauge quotas that are aligned to realistic business outcomes. Ultimately, Beard’s contributions have helped Vision Source achieve not only sales goals, but many other strategies, as well. Among them are increased influence, plus financial gains for the company and the IECP industry. Among Beard’s many accomplishments, she helped create the concept and launch the new program “Vision Source Next” to help independent optometric practices maintain fiscal strength, competitive profitability and independent status. She also provided opportunity analysis for more 1:1 network support, which helped Vision Source members engage in solutions to help drive business success. SHE SAYS… “Strive to provide assistance that matches your key strengths and talents. Be willing to listen, and constantly look to get advice and seek mentors along the way.” *At presstime, Beard is on a leave of absence and has moved into a consulting role for Vision Source.