At Alcon, it’s our mission to help every person see brilliantly. That ethos is exemplified in two of our business' leaders, Stephanie Waugh, the newly appointed Regional Vice President of APAC Vision Care, and Laura Walker, Vice President & Business Unit Head of Digital Innovation, who were both recently named to Vision Monday’s Most Influential Women in Optical for 2021.
Stephanie received the accolade in the Executive Suite category for her passion for creating a more holistic and equitable eye care ecosystem for aging and emerging populations. Laura was honored in the Innovators category for her role as the driving force behind MARLO, a digital solution focused on keeping independent optometrists connected to their patients throughout the contact lens journey.
We caught up with Stephanie and Laura about their daily inspirations, career highlights and advice for other women in the optical industry.
How did you initially get interested in the optical field?
Stephanie Waugh (SW): Who wouldn’t fall for the art and science of eye care? Optical is unique because it has an incredible combination of people and purpose. Plus, my inner nerd loves all the physics, logic and artistry that’s required to create a nuanced diagnosis and treatment plan. I could ask questions about patient care and treatment options all day!
Laura Walker (LW): Stephanie, that’s a great answer.It’s similar to what inspired me, too.As a small child, my grandmother had cataract surgery, and it entirely changed her perspective on the world around her and of herself. The opportunity to make a difference in someone’s daily life and to positively impact their perception—as it did for my grandmother—led me to pursue a career in eye care.
Fast forward to today, what inspires you about your work?
SW: I’m most passionate about creating a more holistic and equitable eye care ecosystem for aging and emerging populations worldwide through innovative solutions, outreach programs and consumer education. I ensure we focus on patients and their ability to access the best eye care solutions for their condition. I want to keep raising the bar on product efficacy and clearly communicate the importance of great eye care! I’m really excited about joining the Asia Pac team and continuing to deliver great solutions for patients!
LW: For me, it’s also about building, leading and developing a cross-functional, customer-centric and highly diverse team that is fully committed to keeping the optometrists and their patients engaged throughout the eye care journey. In order to do this successfully, it’s been critical to tap into the diverse experience, skills and ideas from across my entire team. Their passion, ideas and commitment inspire me every single day.
What recent project or accomplishment are you most proud of?
SW: For me, one of my biggest career highlights at Alcon was the 2020 over-the-counter (OTC) switch of the Pataday brand right before the COVID-19 pandemic. My team cultivated the earliest idea of a switch, then navigated numerous obstacles to bring the Rx products to the OTC market, ensuring consumers could get relief without a prescription. The launch team grew to more than 150 members, and together we delivered a historical launch, beating the prior OTC switch record with just 17 days from FDA approval to store shelves.
LW: Similarly, we launched MARLO just prior to the pandemic. In March 2020, we quickly pivoted our product and engineering development efforts to provide additional functionality that would allow Eye Care Professionals to meet the needs of their contact lens patients even while their practices remained closed. Despite the long hours, new remote ways of working and the impact of the pandemic on our personal lives, the Alcon team quickly united behind doing everything possible to help Eye Care Professionals stay connected with patients in an unprecedented time.
Finally, do you have any advice for other women who developing careers in the optical industry?
LW: Listen closely to your customers—they will tell you what matters most. Those insights will unlock new opportunities. Then, ruthlessly prioritize the work, experiment to learn and embrace failure. By doing so, you and your team will grow personally and professionally while delighting your customers.
SW: I totally agree, Laura. I'd also add: Take your seat at the table. Maybe you'll get asked to come to the table, but most of the time, you have to take a seat yourself. Raise your hand, raise your voice and volunteer—so that your voice can be heard.