By Opticians Association of America

As a service to OAA Members and Opticianry Associations, the Opticians Association of America is pleased to announce our Legislative Boot Camp. The focus of the OAA Legislative Boot Camp is to equip your state organization with effective ways to learn about legislation, lobbying, advocacy at the state level, and grass roots advocacy.

Cost: The Boot Camp is free to all OAA Members in good standing; however, you must register, and the event is only open to the first 40 registrants.

Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel
5300 N River Rd.,Rosemont Illinois


Meet Jason Sharpe!

Lab Guy, President and CEO of Eye-Kraft Optical in St.Cloud, Minnesota

OAA - Can you tell us what you do within the profession of opticianry?
JS - I’m the CEO of Eye-Kraft optical, and independent wholesale lab in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I consider myself only fractionally an optician. We know lenses and frames and building solutions for patients inside and out, but the piece that happens with a patient sitting on the other side of a dispensing table is a huge part of the profession and one we don’t experience much in the lab.

OAA - You have chosen to concentrate your opticianry efforts in the lab, what was it that attracted you to this?
JS - I was an Air Force communications officer for the first 7 years of my professional life, with zero experience in the optical industry. The Air Force went through a reduction in force and offered us incentive to separate, and I went through a junior officer hiring fair for transitioning service members. I interviewed with at least 25 companies from various industries, and when I met with a large multinational optical company hiring officers to train to be lab managers, we just clicked.

Coming from the service, doing something in the civilian sector that helped people was pretty important to me, and helping people see seemed like a great way to carry that sense of service over.

OAA - Can you outline a typical day for us?
JS - My days vary greatly. Some days I’m tied behind the desk doing strategic planning for the lab, building goals and capital expense outlines. Some days I’m on the road all day, visiting customers and fostering relationships. Some days I’m traveling out of state attending conventions or board meetings for various groups. There are quite a few days when I’m still on the production floor helping with issues or troubleshooting difficult orders.

OAA – How would opticians who are interested in this area pursue this and is there much availability?
JS - In terms of being a qualified optician in a lab environment, there are a few different approaches but lots of opportunity. Just making the switch from wholesale to retail is a big first step. Look for customer service roles, pre-production jobs, and sales opportunities with labs. With office manager experience, look for supervisor or managerial roles. If individuals are looking for executive level roles, look for smaller independent labs

Another interesting possibility is to get a few friends and investors together to make something of your own. Right now labs are in great need of leaders with optical experience. Just calling a lab and asking to speak with a hiring manager will likely lead to an interview, or at the very least a serious exploratory discussion.

OAA - Any advice for those interested in making the lab their home?
JS - I love working in the lab because our customers are opticians – they’re highly trained and competent professionals who know the business. Working with patients directly is the artform part of the job, and I have great respect for those who can do this successfully. My advice is to leverage this experience in a lab sales or customer service role. Opticians enjoy working with other opticians for the very same reasons I do.