Laura Angelini is the North American president of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, which Jacksonville area residents historically have known as Vistakon.
It’s a role she began in September 2013, moving to Northeast Florida 10 months ago.
A native of Italy, Angelini joined Johnson & Johnson there, becoming responsible for introducing 1-Day Acuvue brand disposable contact lenses to the Italian market in 1994-95.
Her 24-year career with Johnson & Johnson has taken her throughout Europe and Eastern Europe, working in Italy, then Hamburg, Germany, and Russia. She moved to the United States in 2012 when she relocated to New Jersey.
Angelini, 51, focuses on leadership and teamwork. Her passion is serving customer needs, creating a culture of competitiveness and meeting market demand.
Johnson & Johnson Vision Care is one of Jacksonville’s largest employers, with about 2,000 jobs at its Deerwood Park manufacturing plant in Southside. It now is working on its Phase 7 expansion there with the help of city and state incentives.
Johnson & Johnson Vision Care also operates a plant in Limerick, Ireland.
You’ve been in Jacksonville for 10 months. How do you find the business culture in Northeast Florida?
Being a native of Italy, very honestly, I didn’t know much about Jacksonville. Our idea of Florida is usually about Miami. I came here very curious, very open-minded and really not knowing what to expect, and found the business environment very vibrant and very diverse and really very welcoming. I’m having a lot of fun.
Johnson & Johnson Vision Care has a long history in Jacksonville and it’s one of the largest manufacturers in the area. What do you see as the company’s role in the city?
A very important one. For Johnson & Johnson companies to be really involved in the city and the community where we operate is very important and really at the heart of our values.
Our people are very engaged. They operate in several charities, they are very active in supporting the community and we have special attention on our educational programs.
Johnson & Johnson Vision Care is sponsoring the advanced manufacturing and engineering programs with some of the local schools to make sure the students of Jacksonville understand the business opportunities that Vision Care can offer them and really help them to have a better and brighter future.
Vision Care’s research and development center is in Jacksonville as well. What can you tell us about any new product or research?
We just launched two new products here in the United States and globally. We are very excited about that. The first one is a product that is called 1-Day Acuvue Moist Brand Multifocal. Presbyopia is probably the only medical condition that inevitably every single human being will end up having. With age, we all will become presbyopic.
For the first time, the company and the scientists here in Jacksonville, Florida, have charted the changes in the pupil size that have happened over time with age and have been able to design a lens that has been optimized through the change in the pupil over time. For every patient there’s going to be a lens that has been optimized for his or her own pupil size. That makes this lens so effective.
We have launched the new lens first in the world here in Jacksonville with 20 of our best eye-care professionals who are based here in the city.
You mentioned a second product. What’s that?
We like to say this product will be in a class of its own. It’s called 1-Day Acuvue Define. It’s a contact lens that really brings vision and beauty together.
It’s not a color contact lens, but it’s a contact lens that really enhances the natural beauty of the eye. It’s going to make your eyes look wider, brighter and look healthier and younger. And patients love them.
You recently spoke to group of Jacksonville University students, including your son, as part of the school’s CEO Speaker Series. You emphasized that the students will be working in a global marketplace regardless of where they are based. Do students understand this?
I think they do. Actually, I am very positive and incredibly optimistic about the next generation of leaders that are coming out of colleges and schools right now. It’s a very bright, vibrant group of individuals. I think they do understand the challenges and the opportunities of the global world that is going to be much more connected.
It’s going to require a much more significant, higher degree of agility and flexibility. I find the students very optimistic about the future and very much willing to make an impact and work in the global environment. I think they know what is required from them.
The how is probably something they will have to learn along the way as we all did, right?
You also spoke about leadership in general. What would you say is the top suggestion you made to the students, and what do you wish you had known at their age?
I talked to them about the importance of leading in a global environment and valuing diversity and different cultures and how that will impact their business lives and their leadership style. What I would like to have known is probably the importance of leading through others. You know at that age you tend work a lot on your self-development and self-awareness. I think with the age-old wisdom that I have reached by now, you understand much more how critical it is for a leader to win and succeed through others. It’s really the legacy you leave behind you.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I am a pacesetter. I really like to take the best out of people and to help them understand that it’s much better what we can all do collectively if we can work together. I’m a visionary leader. I like to believe we can all work together for a better world and for a better result, and therefore I’m always raising the bar a little bit higher.
You’ve been promoted and relocated within the company around the world. How do you transfer your leadership skills in such diverse circumstances?
I always try to remain genuine and authentic. Of course there are cultural differences in the markets I’ve operated. You need to adapt. You need to learn about the diversity and really start appreciating the value of the diversity and the richness it brings to thinking and frankly, when you do that, it’s fun.
What tips do you have in adapting in another culture?
In the beginning I ask a lot of questions and I keep challenging people. I keep always asking why. That brings a much better outcome when you understand the why.
What were some of your first questions about Jacksonville?
I have asked the people here a lot about the customers in the business. I’ve asked a lot about the company’s performance. And then a lot about the environment here. They explained to me that this is not really Florida. This is Northeast Florida. I learned the difference between the two, which I clearly was not aware of before.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be an actress of theater onstage. But if you would have asked this question to my mom she would probably tell you that she knew I would end up to be more or less doing what I’m doing today for two reasons.
First of all, I was always having a passion for travel. In fact, I have a university degree in foreign languages so my passion for some sort of international environment was there since I was a young kid.
And I was always an organizer, so this idea of me directing others or being in a leadership role would certainly not come as a surprise to my mom.
Do you have any advice for Northeast Florida community leaders?
Stay connected with the world. Be agile and flexible. Continue to have that learning spirit and that curiosity about how to do things differently and how to do different things. The world is changing at a very rapid pace.
Do you see any particular challenges that are facing your industry?
It’s a very healthy industry. The category in the United States has been growing at a constant 5 percent to 6 percent over the last four years, so it’s vibrant.
At the same time, one thing I have observed, especially coming here to the U.S. from Europe is the fact that the actual number of contact-lens wearers has not changed dramatically over the last 20 years. So the growth of the industry has predominately been coming through new products, more technologically advanced products.
What do you do for fun?
I do a lot of a lot. I play golf; I am in the paradise of golf right now, living in Jacksonville. I swim. I walk. I’m wearing one of those fit bands, so I’m tracking the number of steps I do every day. I’m a passionate reader.
And I’m still a mom, so even if my son is in college I still take good care of my son when he’s back home on Sundays. I cook for him and do the laundry. In fact, we call our entertainment our lunch and laundry.
What else would you like to share?
I would like to close by sharing how proud Johnson & Johnson is that we are based here in the city of Jacksonville. We have this phenomenal legacy of having this contact lens that was invented here and became the No. 1 lens used in the world. The most well-known global brand of contact lens is Acuvue. It’s a great pride for us to be here in Jacksonville to continue to operate here. We really have conquered the world with this lens. And it’s a legacy we will not forget.
President, North America and Global Franchise Development, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, starting Sept. 23, 2013. She leads the business in the U.S. and Canada and serves on the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Global Management Board.
Joined Johnson & Johnson in 1991 as marketing manager for Ethicon in Italy, progressing through sales and marketing leadership roles, including as the Vision Care Marketing Manager responsible for introducing 1-Day Acuvue Brand Contact Lenses to the Italian market in 1994-95. She has held sales and marketing positions with progressive responsibility since joining the company. In 2012 she was named vice president of Global Strategic Marketing at Ethicon and in 2013 took her current role.
Italian, English, French, German and the basics of Russian.
In the automobile industry
University degree in foreign languages and literature
Husband, Davide Foschi, who owns a car dealership in Rome, and son, Andrea, 20, student at Jacksonville University
Semi-professional stage actor for two years. “I learned a lot in theater that I reapply to the business world, especially in terms of public speaking and how you connect with audiences and how you really communicate.”
Working with other cultures
I try to understand and adjust, but never change because remaining who you are and bringing value to the table is very important.
It is always most important how we perform as a team and how we create diversity on the team so that we can really complement each other.
Advice for business adaptation to globalization
Globalization is something we all have to take into consideration. Your competitors will be coming from all over the world. Hire people that have the ability to work in a diverse environment. They bring that agility and that quick learning capacity that is going to make your company fast and flexible. That’s the mantra for the future — that agility and adaptability.
First Coast Success: Laura Angelini
The Daily Record interviewed Angelini for “First Coast Success,” a regular segment on the award-winning 89.9 FM flagship First Coast Connect program, hosted by Melissa Ross.
The interview is scheduled for broadcast this morning and will replay at 8 p.m. on the WJCT Arts Channel or online at wjctondemand.org.