Erin Adler

Senior Manager of Digital Marketing
Zeiss Vision Care US
San Diego, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She has an attitude of continuous improvement and elevates the existing business offerings with her unique expertise.”

Erin Adler never sought a career in vision care, specifically. As a marketing strategist, she just wanted to work for a brand she could believe in.

Before her optical career, Adler worked for digital marketing agencies around the San Diego area, earning recognition for her specialized expertise in marketing and search engine advertising. After 12 years building her impressive resume, Adler transitioned to her position at Zeiss Vision Care.

“Zeiss has such a rich history of innovation and scientific thought leadership that I’ve become a passionate optical nerd because of the company,” said Adler. “It’s the only place I’ve ever worked where everyone fosters a familial atmosphere—striving for what’s best for the industry, the customer and society above all else.”

In her current role, Adler works on various cross-functional digital business transformation initiatives, including customer portals, eLearning, salesforce/CRM, electronic ordering and web redesign. Most recently, she assisted in the announcement and launch of Zeiss emerging solutions.

As much as she loves bridging the gap between IT and brand marketing, she also enjoys interesting one-off projects, too.

One highlight was the opportunity to research, craft and curate museum pieces for the Kentucky Headquarters and Zeiss’ previous San Diego office. “I was able to dive into the rich history of optics, and it was one of the most fun and inspiring things I’ve ever been privileged to do,” she said.

Reflecting on how far the optical industry has come—and how big an impact the field has on the lives of others—Adler strives to improve all areas of business and customer relationships.

SHE SAYS… “I’ve always believed leading with passion is the best way to have a positive impact—small or large.”

Tara Koch

Senior Director of Sales Activation

EssilorLuxottica Wholesale N.A.
Dallas, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Tara devotes her efforts in the organization to making sure we have complete go forward plans. She spends countless hours making sure everyone in our organization is successful.”

Tara Koch started her career with Essilor nearly 17 years ago, as a brand sales consultant before becoming a distribution sales manager, then national sales manager. She has led teams of brand and lab consultants, now serving as the sales lead of the sales activation team which supports key plans for the sales team working with independent ECPs. She said she loves the idea that what her work represents makes a difference in peoples’ lives.

“I am inspired by the amazing people I have had the opportunity to work with and for at EssilorLuxottica. The passion they have for doing the best for our customers and working hard for the mission of improving lives by improving sight has motivated me throughout my career.

“Be open to change. I have had the opportunity to work for many leaders in a number of different roles and while it was a lot of change, I learned something that was valuable from each leader and role.”

Koch strives to keep the customer, the independent eyecare professional, at the center of what she does in her role. She is also proud to have participated in several charitable initiatives during her tenure including the company’s vision foundation adopt-a-school events where she said, you are quickly reminded of the impact a pair of glasses can have on the life of a child.

SHE SAYS… “I would encourage other women to develop a network of colleagues and leaders who you can learn from and who will support you throughout your career. Think about business decisions from perspectives in the organization beyond your own role to have a deeper understanding of their organization.”

Katie Lauver, ABOC

Chief Revenue Officer

GPN Technologies
Front Royal, Virginia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Katie is a life coach, wellness coach and mentor to women in business and through personal connections. She has been recognized as an OWA Emerging Leader and currently serves on the board of directors as chair of the Website Committee. Katie is committed to supporting women in all aspects of the industry. As a leader she has shown a vulnerability that breaks down walls and allows for anyone who is in her circle to benefit from her experiences and passions. She is surely a rising star in our industry.”

Katie Lauver joined the optical industry in 2012 as an optical sales rep for a private practice in North Carolina. She quickly developed a love for optics and knew this would be her career path. She became a certified optician, rising to optical department manager.

“After opening my own business, The Herbal Spectacle, where I made herbal medicine geared toward eye health and overall wellness, I went part-time in the office. I loved being able to feed my entrepreneurial spirit while still providing patient care; and then, GPN fell in my lap. Working for GPN has been an amazing experience and I love supporting our partners and clients to drive their business forward with our technology.”

In 2018, she joined the Optical Women’s Association where she quickly realized she wanted to be “heavily involved in this group of power-house women.” In 2020, she joined the Professional Development Funding committee in the organization and led their ambassador program. Since then she has moved over to chair the Communications and Website Committee for the organization and has been added to the board of directors.

SHE SAYS… “Seeing women in this industry rise to the top of their companies inspires me beyond belief. We are in a time where women in optometry are taking over. They are crushing goals and having massive success within their companies, and it motivates me to continue to push toward my goals and always go for gold.”

Dr. Chioma Michaelson, OD, MBA, LDO, NCLE-AC

Opticianry Program Director

Georgia Piedmont Technical College
Clarkston, Georgia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Her presence is empowering to a diverse student population in the sense of being a desirable role model. She is responsible for the development and implementation of the curriculum for students enrolled in the degree/diploma program. In addition to her effective leadership as the program director, she is the driving force behind much needed capital improvements in the available program facilities.”

For Dr. Chioma Michaelson, becoming an opticianry educator happened completely by chance.

After graduating with an optometry degree in Nigeria, she practiced for a few years there before moving to the UK where she became certified, joined the British College of Optometrists and practiced a few more years.

When she moved to the U.S., she decided to try something different. It was while she was pursuing an MBA and an associate degree in opticianry that her world changed.

“I found myself explaining concepts to my colleagues and to my surprise and joy, they all repeatedly told me that I belonged in the classroom,” she said. “I also discovered that I totally enjoyed teaching them and that simplifying concepts came naturally to me—the education fire was lit in my heart. I decided that given the opportunity, teaching would become my career and mission. When an opportunity presented itself at the local opticianry college, I jumped at it.”

In her role at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, Dr. Michaelson develops and maintains the academic curriculum, in addition to being an instructor. Not only has she increased program attendance and retention, she was nominated for Faculty of the Year. She also won the 2022-23 Georgia Piedmont Technical College Student Club Advisor of the Year for her work with the Opticianry Program students in further developing the Student Optical Society.

SHE SAYS… “I believe I’ve made a difference by virtue of being an effective role model particularly with young women of color. I represent an example of ‘if you can see it, you can be it!’ I encourage my students to chase the highest heights even if they seem impossible.”

Krystal Patterson

Senior Manager of Business Solutions Operations

ABB Optical Group
Coral Springs, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Krystal is a key member of the Business Solutions pillar and helps drive the successful operations of its solutions including Abby, Analyze, Verify and more. As the brains behind much of ABB’s new product, Abby, she is effectively driving implications in our industry that will be felt for years, influencing doctors and their patients to consider different ways to maximize their eyecare through digital commerce.”

Krystal Patterson began her optical journey nearly 25 years ago as a pre-tester while in high school. This love of measuring and tracking brought her to ABB where she took on roles in product development. She is now part of the team that brings the digital commerce platform, Abby to market.

She plays a key role in supporting the company’s business solutions including identifying gaps to improve efficiency in operations, uncovering areas of opportunities to support growth internally and externally for ABB’s independent eyecare professionals, to help maximize and keep the sales in the practice through the company’s digital commerce, Abby.

“I love problem solving and having the opportunity to have influence. The landscape is ever-changing, and we are always facing new challenges, so how we pivot and come up with solutions is what will set us apart.”

She enjoys her role because it allows her to make a difference in the lives of her peers, employees and bosses. She said it has been a privilege to encounter so many people during her career who have helped her understand how to approach obstacles, show grace under extreme pressure and to stand by her beliefs.

SHE SAYS… “Have the vision to view obstacles as opportunities to grow. Remember to get out of your comfort zone and follow where God leads you.”

Erika Plank

Director, Provider Communications

VSP Vision
Rancho Cordova, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Erika is an impactful leader with 20 years of experience in strategic communications, marketing, brand development and management—overseeing communications to VSP Vision’s more than 41,000 network doctors.”

Had you asked Erika Plank how long she’d be at VSP Vision when she joined in 2009, she would have guessed about three to five years. After all, that was the average tenure for her previous marketing roles. But today, 14 years later, she’s still with VSP Vision and going strong.

In 2015, Plank started her leadership journey as a supervisor of provider communications. Today, she leads the team responsible for communication strategy, message development and awareness efforts for VSP Vision’s national network of providers. That work includes over one million touchpoints a year to keep doctors informed, engaged and fully supported in their success.

“I feel fortunate to have worked on so many important initiatives that have helped to move the business forward in my 14 years with VSP,” she said. “One thing I’m most proud of is building a team from five individuals focused on running business communications to a team of 13 that provides strategic communications that ladders directly to the business strategy.

“Through collaboration with each other, business partners and our stakeholders, the team has transformed the way we communicate.”

Plank also played a critical role in the rebranding of the VSP Premier Edge program in March 2023. Her understanding of the doctor audience helped ensure the program better reflected the offering’s evolution and how it continues to give a competitive edge to private practices.

She’s been a member of the Optical Women’s Association since 2015 and currently serves as the vice chair of the Connections & Enrichment Committee.

SHE SAYS… “I feel strongly that mentors and advocates are critical to professional success, which is why mentorship is a key attribute of my leadership style.”

Gwendolyn Plummer

Senior Associate Editor

Vision Monday
New York, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “During her five years at Vision Monday, Gwen has become an integral part of the Vision Monday editorial team. Her ease at juggling social media postings, overseeing and writing VMAIL product launches and editing and writing VM’s e-newsletter, The Independent Eye, is nothing short of impressive.”

Gwen Plummer, who wanted to be an editor for as long as she could remember, came to Vision Monday as an assistant editor in 2018. She said, “I think it started as a tween when I would tag along to the grocery store with my dad so I could beg him to buy me a copy of Bop or J-14. I attended Skidmore College and majored in English, all the while getting as much editorial experience as I could through internships, on-campus magazines and online writing.

Today, as a senior associate editor for VM, one of her major responsibilities is writing, editing and overseeing our VMAIL LaunchPad department which spotlights three new eyewear or eyecare products every day.

“Because one of my biggest responsibilities is managing VM’s LaunchPad feature, I like to think that I’ve helped smaller, independent eyewear brands get their hard work in front of more eyes. I’ve also worked hard to make VM a supportive and collaborative space for independent ECPs—I love hearing from independents, and I love giving them a platform to show off their life’s work,” she said.

Plummer is also VM’s social media maven, who single-handedly manages all of our social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. She is currently helping VM launch its newest e-newsletter, Going Green, which will explore sustainability trends and tactics for ECPs.

Vision Monday is lucky to have such an energetic, dedicated and invested writer/editor as part of its staff.

SHE SAYS… “Everyone is nicer than you think. I have found myself feeling intimidated and overwhelmed by how experienced, smart and just plain cool the people in our industry are—but I’ve found that everyone is kind, welcoming and happy to talk. This is a tight-knit but ever-expanding industry, so ask questions and get to know as many people as you can. You will be thankful that you were brave.”

Tyjia Sherman, LDO, ABOC, NCLEC

Licensed Dispensing Optician, Vision To Learn
Director, Opticians Association of America

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She has successfully brought DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) to the forefront of the Opticians Association of America and other associations. She leads breakout sessions, educates the board of directors and is working toward traveling and educating opticians on DEI at the national level.”

Tyjia Sherman’s interest in the optical field developed while teaching in a marginalized school district where reading, writing and using computers were among the tasks children were expected to perform. “There were many instances where children would attempt to do the work with unsatisfactory levels of efficiency,” she recalled. “Although visual screenings were provided by partnering organizations, this demographic of children was left with untreated vision problems with little to no access to a comprehensive exam. This experience left me wanting to change the narrative for future educators and students.”

While studying for an opticianry degree at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, Sherman was recognized for her management skills by the Opticians Association of America, which awarded her its National Leadership Award in both 2017 and 2018. Upon graduating in 2019, she tapped into many sectors of optical work from management, consulting, educating, mentoring and advising.

“My active involvement in industry organizations is a huge contributor to my personal growth and development. This helps to establish and improve professional experiences not just for me but for future generations,” she said.

Currently, Sherman sits on the boards of the Opticians Association of America (OAA), Vision of Hope (VOH) and the Opticians Association of Georgia (OAG). She is the Diversity Equity and Inclusion chair of the Opticians Association of America (OAA) and the second vice president elect for the Opticians Association of Georgia (OAG).

SHE SAYS… “What sets you apart is also what makes you great. Keep developing yourself and becoming the best version of you. Find your purpose and pursue it.”

Cristin Sullivan

Director of Business Development

PERC and Opti-Port
St. Louis, Missouri

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Cristin has taken over a sales team and vendor relationships for the PERC/Opti-Port team. Sounds easy enough, but she has enhanced prior relationships as well as helped grow and lead into new ones. She has strong relationships with vendors and her customers. If there are any significant issues, Cristin can be counted on to solve the issue and help to strengthen the relationship.”

Cristin Sullivan, director of business development for PERC/Opti-Port, didn’t have to look very far for a mentor to jump-start her optical career that began in 2008 at Doctors Vision Center following her graduation from the University of Florida.

“In the first few years of my career, I had the opportunity to work with my father, Buzz Hollis. My family owned and operated Doctors Vision Center and I took a temporary position in the fall of 2008 when jobs were limited after the financial crisis. As a very green college grad my father allowed me to have a safe space to ask questions, make mistakes and fostered collaboration between all levels of the organization. I never aspired to join the business but after several months of contract work, I loved what I was doing.”

Currently, Sullivan handles all integration and operations for both PERC and Opti-Port. She also heads up vendor relations with major vendors.

“The primary purpose of my role is to lead, strengthen and grow PERC and Opti-Port through effective planning, strategic analysis and management of both the sales team and vendor network channels. I am most proud of what our team has been able to accomplish in the last two years,” she said.

SHE SAYS… “It is important to me to pay forward the kindness, mentorship and ‘safe-space’ environments that gave me the opportunity to learn and grow.”