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OWA members have numerous opportunities to further their professional growth and network with colleagues from all areas in optical, making some great friends in the process. OWA President Deb Bulken urges all of us to take advantage of the many ways we can support and encourage each other while pursuing our own personal goals. Make the most of your membership in 2022!
Deb Bulken, Vice President of Sales for Luxottica, has been an OWA member since 2011. She became OWA's President in September 2021 after several years of serving on the OWA Board of Directors as Co-Chair of the Membership Committee. Having worked in the optical industry since 1986 in a variety of roles, she is passionate about supporting and furthering the leadership of women in optical through mentoring and other professional development opportunities.
Definitions of "networking" have taken on new meaning and relevance over the past two truly tumultuous years since the pandemic began. Networking doesn't need to be intimidating or formalized; it can be an enlightening, uplifting, and reassuring way to learn, gain new perspectives about yourself, and discover what your work means to you.
As we look out to 2022, this month's OWA podcast will offer you new ways to think about the real value of networking, and all of the new tools and resources now available. For newcomers, managers, entrepreneurs, or seasoned execs, today's networking can bring new relationships and friendships that build trust, confidence, and spur new ideas, regardless of whether they happen online or IRL.
Marge Axelrad is Senior Vice President and Editorial Director of Vision Monday, VMAIL, and 20/20 for the Jobson Optical Group, which includes 20/20 Magazine, Review of Optometric Business, Review of Optometry, and others. The Optical Group is part of Jobson Medical Information, a division of WebMD. She is also one of the OWA's founding members, an OWA past-president, and the 2013 recipient of OWA's prestigious Pleiades Award.
With more than 30 years of experience as an eyewear and vision care market observer, columnist, and frequent speaker about optical industry issues both in the U.S. and internationally, Axelrad oversees Jobson's coverage of industry developments.
In 2008, Axelrad received the Accessories Council's "Hall of Fame" Award, in 2011 she was honored by SUNY's Optometric Foundation, and in 2017, was recognized as Prevent Blindness' "Person of Vision".
Victoria Hallberg, a seasoned senior executive with over 30 years of eyewear industry experience in the areas of retail, sales leadership, and marketing, is OWA's March podcast guest. She is passionate about giving back and encouraging others in our industry. In both our professional and personal lives, we are constantly dealing with change; Victoria coaches others to find their own path of happiness, no matter what the circumstances.
Victoria joined Safilo North America in January 2019 after first serving the company in a consultancy role. As a member of Safilo Group's Extended Global Leadership Team, Victoria currently leads strategic business development within the North American Optical channel. Prior to her current role, Victoria held two additional positions within Safilo NA: EVP, Sales West & Alliances, and Chief Brand Officer.
Before joining Safilo, Victoria served as Vice President of Sales for Marchon, and Chief Merchant & Vice President of Retail Relations for VSP Global. A dynamic, highly motived, market-driven sales leader, she has successfully built brands and delivered strategic business development programs to national retail chains, strategic accounts, and independent sales teams, positively impacting the market.
Many factors contribute to a company's overall success, but for one family-owned business, the people themselves are at the top of the list. Jamie Shyer, co-CEO and COO of Zyloware Eyewear, supports a culture of having talented, diverse people working in roles best suited to their individual skills as the way to thrive and build long-lasting business relationships. This approach has certainly worked well for them — Zyloware will be celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2023!
James Shyer is currently co-CEO and COO of Zyloware Eyewear, the longest continuously running family-owned-and-operated eyeglass frame importer and distributor in the U.S., and an OWA Platinum Sponsor. Jamie, as he prefers to be called, has been working at Zyloware since 1993, and as part of the third generation of family management and ownership, oversees the entire sales and operations side of the business in addition to focusing on its corporate strategic direction and financial performance.
Jamie began work in Zyloware's sales department, soon moving up to the positions of Sales Manager and then Vice President of Sales. His aggressive sales and marketing strategies resulted in continuous growth for the company, and in 2002, he was promoted to Executive Vice President. While still overseeing the sales department, he became more involved with the company's internal operations and human resources; in 2007, he was promoted to COO, followed by a promotion to co-CEO/COO in 2010. Today, Jamie and his cousin, Chris Shyer, own and operate the business together, leading Zyloware to unprecedented growth and success over this past decade.
Throughout Jamie's tenure at Zyloware, he has remained closely involved with The Vision Council and serving in various capacities, including Chairman of the Board of Directors, Chairman of The Vision Council's Eyewear and Accessories Division, and Chairman of the Show Committee. He is a board member of Prevent Blindness America, an OWA Individual Contributor, and actively supports many additional optical industry associations.
Jamie currently lives in Charlotte, NC, where he and wife Sara, his high school sweetheart, are raising their five children. He spends his personal time traveling, staying active, and supporting animal rescue organizations.
OWA's May podcast guest speaker, Dr. Anne-Marie Lahr, shares stories of career diversity for women in optometry. Whether delivering patient care as a practicing OD, teaching, lecturing internationally, or exploring research and corporate options, opportunities are available to spark anyone's passion! You'll also hear about the new technology involving "liquid lens" or vectorial refraction. Better one or two?!
Dr. Anne-Marie Lahr earned her Doctor of Optometry degree at The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 1991. She completed a primary care residency at The Eye Institute at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Philadelphia, as well as an international teaching fellowship at the Hogeschool van Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Dr. Lahr dedicated the early part of her career to teaching, twice earning the Clinical Science Teacher of the Year Award and the Educator of the Year Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. She entered the field of industry education as the Director of Education at Hoya Vision Care, and then as Clinical Specialist for IScience Interventional, proctoring ophthalmologists to master a micro-invasive surgical procedure. Dr. Lahr has lectured extensively within the United States and abroad. She is currently the Director of Professional Development at Essilor Instruments USA, an OWA Platinum Sponsor, and a proud OWA member herself!
It began with a simple post on the company portal, an invitation to join a meeting, and soon after, an interview followed. Now Susan Larsen is off to the races alongside some amazing women to form National Vision's first Employee Resource Group dedicated to enhancing the lives of women.
Susan Larsen has enjoyed a 33-year career in the optical industry. She is ABO and NCLE certified, and has worked in both retail and laboratory settings. For the past 22 years, she has been with National Vision, Inc. Susan has worked in many roles, including store manager, multi-unit manager, and corporate trainer. She has worked in 17 states for the company and says that "no two days are ever the same!" Most recently, she was selected to co-lead National Vision's first Employee Resource Group, Women@NV. She has served her community through groups like Lions Club and LULAC, is a past president of a Lions Club chapter, and was on The Women's Board for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Susan has been married to Gregory for 16 years and they have two adorable dogs named Franklin and Truman. In her off time, Susan enjoys spending time with family and friends and cooking up big family meals.
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us all to rethink how we work together, and how our behaviors and actions can impact others. Speaking from first-hand experience, Bidisha will share her story on why soft skills and humility are the key drivers for attaining true diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Dr. Bidisha Rudra is the Senior Managing Director for Essilor Transitions and has been with Essilor for 16 years. She has enjoyed a variety of roles, including Market Research and Analytics, Managed Care Sales, Business Development, and Corporate Strategy, with the latter two stints out of the Asia Pacific headquarter in Singapore. Bidisha earned a Ph.D. in Applied Economics from the University of Georgia, Athens, and an M.A. in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics, India. When she is not busy working on achieving sales targets, Bidisha spends her time chauffeuring around her thirteen-year-old twin boys to various after-school activities, which is no less challenging!
Ashley Mills is CEO of The Vision Council, the industry association serving as a global voice for eyewear and eyecare that represents companies in diverse segments of the optical industry. In this month's podcast, she will discuss The Vision Council's efforts to foster a sense of strong community within the industry, curate opportunities for members to connect and forge new relationships and ultimately, promote industry growth.
Additionally, as co-owner of Vision Expo, The Vision Council is busy preparing for Vision Expo West, taking place September 14-17, so listen for highlights of what to expect! Mills also shares her own personal story — how she got started in the industry and at The Vision Council — and her advice for those just launching their careers.
Mills brings over 20 years of progressive communications, philanthropy, and trade association experience to The Vision Council after several years in both consulting and association roles with major associations, including the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and the Council on Foundations.
After serving as The Vision Council's Director of Marketing and Shows from 2003–2006, Mills returned in January 2016 to lead The Vision Council's International Vision Expo shows. Mills has been named one of Vision Monday's Most Influential Women in Optical, and serves on the board of the Optical Women's Association, chairing the Finance Committee.
A graduate of the University of Maryland, she and her husband, Jeff, live in Bethesda, Maryland, with their two children.
Having worked on financial transactions with business development in the OD and MD space most recently, Anne Kavanagh of Kavanagh Consulting, LLC has significant experience with finance and Wall Street. Having served on various boards over the years, her podcast also includes a discussion of board membership from a female perspective.
Anne Kavanagh is a financial and strategic advisor with CEO, business development, investment banking, and board of directors' expertise. She has demonstrated significant success in leading, managing, growing, financing, restructuring, and undertaking strategic opportunities for publicly and privately held companies.
Major focuses include retail, consumer products and healthcare. Ms. Kavanagh and Team represent clients in all areas of health and vision care consolidation, completing several hundred transactions for doctors navigating the transaction process with the best financial and strategic advisement. Kavanagh Consulting manages the process for the doctor/owner from beginning to end negotiating, maximizing value, and overseeing the entire transaction. Additionally, Ms. Kavanagh has represented numerous companies through the acquisition process.
Anne Kavanagh is a long time OWA member and corporate sponsor, and a loyal NYC resident who loves spending time with fur babies Jagger and Farrah.
Amy Hendrick, GPN Technologies, emphasizes the necessity of good communication skills, especially when it comes to needs-based selling, in this month's podcast. Her previous roles in client-facing sales provided her with the experience that is so crucial in working with optometric practices.
Amy Hendrick is the Business Development Manager for GPN Technologies and EDGEPro. Her 15 years' experience in the optical industry began at a LASIK surgery center, where she found passion in educating patients on the surgery process, easing their fears, and facilitating their life-changing surgery. She went on to work in a private practice for 8 years, learning the business and filling almost every role at some point during her tenure. She found joy in educating patients about their eye health, giving personalized care, and making them feel seen and heard. This experience led to her current position with GPN Technologies, where she helps doctors and practice managers clearly understand business trends and areas of opportunity for increasing revenue. In her downtime, Amy enjoys the Virginia Beach coastline with her family and two beloved doggies.
As one of 2021's Most Influential Women in Optical, Dr. Valerie Sheety-Pilon has a rich heritage and background with Optometry and Ophthalmology. Dr. Val joins OWA Talks to chat elevating eye exams and strategic initiatives she is working on with VSP and the industry. She will be joined by VSP teammates Tatiana Stewart, Corporate Communications, and Mary Beth Richardson, Program Manager.
Dr. Valerie Sheety-Pilon is Vice President of Clinical and Medical Affairs at VSP Vison where she helps drive strategic initiatives aimed at raising awareness about vision, eye health and its connection to overall wellness, while providing insight into medical advancements that seek to benefit patient care. With more than two decades of experience as a Doctor of Optometry, she has dedicated much of her time to clinical research across numerous ophthalmic subspecialties and has an established history of helping patients through novel therapeutic agents and clinical adoption of transformative technology in the areas of digital health, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices.
Prior to joining VSP Vision in 2019, Dr. Sheety-Pilon served as Adjunct Clinical Professor at Illinois College of Optometry, held various executive positions within the eye health industry, and built extensive experience managing and practicing within an ophthalmology and optometry practice. She was recognized by Vision Monday as one of the Most Influential Women in Optical in 2021.
Sara Osculati embodies the entrepreneurial spirit that has helped Thélios become a major luxury player in the eyewear market. Thélios is the eyewear expert within LVMH Group (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), World leader in Luxury with a portfolio of over 75 luxury brands.
Sara Osculati, a graduate of Bocconi University in Milan, has been working in the eyewear industry for almost 20 years. She has held various leadership positions managing large teams, including Eyewear Department Director for Dior from 2012 – 2017. As head of the Dior Eyewear department, Sara's achievements placed eyewear among the central categories in the Maison's strategy, federating all stakeholders from creative direction to retail, on the importance of this category as a powerful tool in business development.
As Chief Brand and Product Officer for Thélios since 2017, Sara is counted among the founding members of Thélios. Along with the co-founders, she built the company up from scratch, bringing her unique expertise in the luxury eyewear industry. Sara has responsibility for a large team that encompasses brand management, design, communication, retail management and product development. Additionally, Sara oversees the partnerships with all the Maisons in the Thélios portfolio.