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    Q&A: Michele Andrews, OD—Senior director, North America, Professional and Academic Affairs, Cooper Vision

    Opening a cheese shop, communication, and fearful ODs

    Where did you grow up?

    I grew up near Rochester in Greece, NY, which sits right on Lake Ontario. My father worked in a kitchen cabinet manufacturing company, and my mom was a nurse. Neither of my parents graduated from college, so the message to me and my two siblings was, “We don’t care what you do, just go to college.” I was the only daughter, and my mom said, “Don’t be a nurse or a teacher because they’re the only two choices I had.” I would have been a great teacher, and I gravitate to teaching moments in every role I’ve had.

    How did you go from communications/journalism to optometry?

    I was in undergrad studying communications. In my sophomore year, I couldn’t see the board in biology class. I had never had an eye exam. So, I got my first eye exam and fell in love with the process. I asked my biology teacher if she knew anything about optometry. It turns out she was the school’s pre-professional adviser. So, I shifted gears from that eye exam in my sophomore year of school.

    What drew you to industry instead of a private practice?

    When I finished optometry school and my residency, I did go into private practice. I worked with a number of ophthalmology groups and built my practice within theirs. The journey to industry was a long one—I didn’t have my eye set on industry or had that target. You find yourself in different places across your career, and the opportunity presented itself. It was a great opportunity at the right time to see if I could bring my knowledge of the profession and my knowledge of practice to a manufacturing company. It’s been a great fit.

    Related: Q&A: Chris Lievens, OD, MS, FAAO—Chief of Internal Clinics at The Eye Center, Southern College of Optometry

    What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?

    When I retire, I would love to open a cheese shop. Cheese is my favorite food. I think that would be fun. Many years ago, I traveled with my husband to the UK, and we visited an amazing cheese shop in a little town in the countryside. It stuck with me. I decided then that when my career in eye care was finished, that would be something I would love to do. The other thing they don’t know about me is that I’m fascinated with home remodeling. With all the HGTV shows that I’ve watched and all of the different homes and apartments that I’ve lived in, I think I’ve got one more build in me.

    What’s the best thing about working at Cooper Vision?

    Definitely the people and the culture. To be able to work in an environment with people who are so supportive and focused on the right things—getting the best product to our customers, treating our customers right—the people I work with invest a lot in doing what we can to do it right. Being affiliated with a group that has that first and foremost has been extremely rewarding.

    How does working remotely from corporate HQ affect staying looped and productive?

    It has worked out extremely well. In the first year I was with Cooper, I spent time on the road at corporate offices in Victor, NY, and Pleasanton, CA, as well as meeting with customers and groups, getting to know people and what they liked about Cooper, and what they were looking for Cooper to do for them. Once you establish those relationships, it’s easier to continue the conversation remotely. You do miss things at the water cooler. But you have a responsibility to get caught up and make sure you’re connected to those conversations however you can. The worst thing you can do is take those things personally. The stronger the relationship you have with the folks who you work with, the more likely they’ll draw you in and make sure you have that information.

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