My Sterling Journey: From Development Chemist to NPI Manager

24th Jan 2023

Helen Smith: From Process Development Chemist to NPI ManagerName: Helen Smith

Current role: NPI Manager

Joined Sterling: November 2013

Since joining Sterling in 2013, Helen has had the opportunity to develop her skills in various roles and departments within the company, leading to her current role as New Product Introduction (NPI) Manager. Read more about her Sterling journey here.

What was your background before joining Sterling?

I studied a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at the University of Glasgow before going on to complete my master’s degree in Pharma Analysis at the University of Strathclyde, also in Glasgow. I then returned to Glasgow University to study for a PhD in Organic Chemistry. My thesis was titled ‘Novel organic materials for photovoltaic devices’ which was quite unique because rather than just one topic within organic chemistry, I studied multiple under one thesis.

How did you start your career at Sterling?

After my PhD, I joined Sterling in the labs as a Process Development Chemist, where I worked for four and a half years. As a Process Development Chemist, I was responsible for the transfer of customer processes to the plant and communicating updates to the customer on a regular basis. Working alongside the Process Engineer, Plant Coordinator, Process Manager and Analytical Chemist, I would develop and optimise the process to ensure it was the most efficient for production. Once into production, I would provide technical support to my manufacturing colleagues.

In 2018, Sterling’s New Product Introduction (NPI) team was expanding and I was offered a position within the department. This was a great opportunity as although I loved working in the labs, I knew I wanted to move into a more project management focused role at some point in my career.

In my role as NPI Manager, I am responsible for project delivery and customer interaction. For new products coming to site, I will coordinate all of the activities on site between a variety of functions across the business, to ensure a safe and compliant transfer of the process. I am also the point of contact for the customer and will lead internal and external project meetings. Through the course of the project, I am responsible for monitoring progress and tracking against key milestones, providing updates to internal stakeholders and customers.

Shortly after starting this position, I had the opportunity to expand my role further and work as a Partnership Manager alongside my NPI position. Although I really enjoyed both the commercial and NPI side of the business, I felt the NPI role was really suited to my skill sets and strengths. That’s why in March 2022 I decided to solely focus on the NPI Manager role.

How did you find moving roles within Sterling?

Although I enjoyed my time in the commercial team, I found my strengths mainly lay with the NPI side of my job, I enjoyed the more technical side of the role. It’s very busy, but I enjoy the variety, challenges, and extra responsibility I now hold.

I had a lot of support with my role changes; I took part in a project management course which helped me both as a Partnership Manager and as an NPI Manager. This gave me the tools and background to help transition into the roles smoothly. Everyone at Sterling is very supportive, so I never found it difficult to work within new teams as there was always someone there to help if needed.

What do you enjoy the most about working at Sterling?

The people across the sites are all great. Everyone is experienced in their roles and very good at their jobs. There’s a real feeling of togetherness and everyone is willing to help one another and take the time to do so, it’s a very collaborative place to work.


Dudley, Northumberland, UK


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