Dear Fabulous Readers,

I had the great pleasure of working with and mentoring an up-and-coming superstar, Minerva Maldonado, and I wanted to introduce her to you. I first met Minerva at the Opticians Association of America’s Leadership meeting, and I could immediately see that special something about her. She is a delight to be around, a licensed optician with an AS in Opticianry/Eyecare, a certificate in Fashion Design and a competitive powerlifter! I find her inspiring, and I look forward to watching her fly.  May I introduce to you, Dear Readers, Minerva Maldonado:


Ms. Specs: How long have you been doing powerlifting? What is the heaviest weight you have lifted in a competition?
Minerva Maldonado: I have been powerlifting since August of last year with my brother-in-law Jeff, an experienced powerlifter, serving as my coach. I have competed three times. Recently, I competed in Vermont for the 36th annual Can-Am Powerlifting Championships. I lifted my heaviest deadlift of 450 pounds and a squat of 365 pounds.

What made you decide to become an optician?
Originally, I was accepted to an accelerated teaching program at a Connecticut university because I had hopes of becoming a bilingual/ESL teacher and had been working in education. However, the program would require me to take out heavy loans to get my teaching certificate. My sister was working as a vision center manager for a large corporation and convinced me to apply as an apprentice for the company. The goal was to start the opticianry degree program in Connecticut, pass state boards and to have extra money to pay for my master’s in education. However, I fell in love with the fashion and optics side. I was still educating, this time patients and not students. I was still making a difference in someone’s life, just in a different career.

How did you find out about the “Optical’s Next Top Speaker” contest with IOT?
I heard about the contest during the general session at the 2022 Opticians Association of America leadership conference that was being held in Orlando, Fla.


Had you thought about becoming an optical speaker for a while?
Having a past in education and being in front of a classroom is something that I missed. It had been on my mind to become a speaker, but I wasn’t sure how or when to start. Then this contest happened, and I knew it was meant to be!

I was drawn to you as a mentor with your topic of combining optics and fashion… the best part of opticianry! What was your experience like during the contest?
It was a very exciting time and quite nerve wracking because there are all these other magnificent contestants who are extremely knowledgeable. It was a struggle to figure out how to present my content in a way that stood out and was engaging to the judges. The best part of the contest was having an amazing and knowledgeable mentor who was a lot of fun to work with on my presentation. Also, the support of other industry professionals who were willing to Zoom with me for practice presentations and offer encouragement.

How do you feel about your upcoming speaking engagements, at the Professional Opticians of  Florida’s meeting in Daytona and Vision Expo West?
So far, I have done two speaking engagements and keep improving with each one. I feel more comfortable and confident in front of my audience. It’s something I am passionate about and hope to display my excitement about fashion and optics to my audience.

What advice would you give to other opticians who want to become optical speakers?
The best path to become a speaker would be to get an amazing mentor who can walk you through the process of applying to be a speaker and help you develop a class. Also, make sure to have an amazing support system of friends and colleagues. 

Do you have a colleague who you find inspiring? Please let me know, and we could include them in a future interview. In the meantime, keep being the optical rock stars that you are!