My Sterling Journey: From Analytical Chemist to Quality Control and Analytical Services Manager
08th Mar 2023
Name: Chris Shaw
Current role: Quality Control (QC) and Analytical Services Manager
Joined Sterling: January 2011
Since joining Sterling in 2011, Chris has had the opportunity to develop his skills in various roles and has also had the opportunity to move across to our Cary, North Carolina facility to further support the business. Read more about his Sterling journey below.
What was your background before you joined Sterling?
Before starting university, I took part in a year in industry programme working as an Analytical Chemist at a contract testing laboratory. Apprenticeships in this field weren’t so common back then, so this was the next best thing. It really helped me to get an idea of the industry and ultimately, helped me secure a job after university due to the extra level of experience I had. This role involved working with many of the common analytical techniques used in the API industry including high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), which is one of the primary techniques utilised by analytical chemists to separate compounds.
After my year in industry, I studied a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the University of Manchester and had the opportunity to spend a year of my degree studying abroad in the USA. I spent my third year at Arizona State University where I conducted a year long project in environmental chemistry.
Once I finished university, I decided to move to Edinburgh, where I got a job as an Analytical Chemist working for Almac. I then joined what is now Sterling’s Dudley site, which at the time was Shasun, as an agency worker in January 2011, before being made a permanent employee in July 2011.
Can you tell us a bit about your time at Sterling and your current role?
As Sterling expanded its operations, I was promoted to Senior Analytical Chemist in 2016, and in 2020, I was seconded into an Analytical Manager role within the quality control department, which ended up becoming a permanent move for me.
In 2021, the opportunity arose to support our Cary facility as a Quality Control (QC) and Analytical Services Manager, as the site continues to grow. Initially I worked remotely whilst waiting for my VISA application to be approved but then, in April 2022, I moved across to North Carolina in the United States. I had previously spent three months at the Cary site in 2019, when Sterling first acquired the facility, to help support its integration into the Sterling family, so I was already well acquainted with the Cary team and how they operate at the site.
In my current role as QC and Analytical Services Manager, I manage both the QC and analytical services teams. The QC team work on testing raw materials and finished products, while the analytical services team develop new product and early phase analytical methods.
My role involves a lot of internal collaboration with our chemistry research and development team, and the production operations team. We also work closely with our colleagues at our Germantown and Dudley facilities, which provide the capacity as we scale projects. We also provide raw material testing to support our Germantown colleagues on projects sited at Cary during the earlier phases of development.
The team and I collaborate closely with our customers too, holding weekly or biweekly meetings with them to provide project updates. Everything we do is customer focused, so we like to maintain as much transparency as possible with them, through visits and progress updates as their projects develop with us.
How did you find not only moving roles, but moving to a different site?
Everyone at Sterling, no matter which site you visit, is very welcoming and so this made the transition really smooth.
In terms of moving roles, it felt like a very natural career progression, reflecting my development and career goals. All my previous positions were within analytical but had a slightly different focus and more responsibility as I progressed within the business.
The biggest shift for me was probably when I became a Senior Analytical Chemist, as I then had the added responsibility of being a manager which was new to me. I received management training when I worked at the Dudley site which proved especially useful during my transition to analytical manager at Dudley, and then during my move to Cary. It’s interesting working in a management role as you learn how different people respond to different management styles, and over time you evolve within the role.
Due to it being a smaller scale facility, my role at Cary has slightly different responsibilities too. I have more involvement in the technical side of things and the finer details, which I really enjoy, but I’m also involved in some of the budgeting and financial processes which is very interesting to experience.
Due to the fact I’d lived in the US during my university course for a year, and spent time in the US when Sterling first acquired the Cary site, I didn’t find the transition to a new site and country too hard. Even after being here for almost a year, it still feels like being on holiday with a full-time job due to all the new life experiences I’ve been able to have here.
What do you enjoy most about working at Sterling?
When I joined Sterling back in 2011, I was on a six-month contract and due to the nature of agency work I thought I would end up eventually moving on to something new. However, I’m still here 12 years later, and the reason for this is definitely the people. Sterling has developed a great culture, with a really strong team working mentality. It’s a great company to work for and it really looks after its employees, supporting them to succeed.