Shelley Sterling: Not boxed in
Sacha Walters-Gregory, Staff Reporter
No pun intended, but as Shelley Sterling said, she has never been restricted by a box.
Sterling, general manager for Corrpak Jamaica Limited, manufacturers of corrugated packaging - cardboard boxes that is - said seldom has she had professional hindrances because of her gender.
"Rarely, I've had people who don't want to deal with me because I'm a female," said Sterling on International Women's Day last Thursday, a day celebrating the achievements of women in all spheres of life.
"I've always been very fortunate to have very open-minded bosses who have helped me grow as a person and provided me with guidance, and given me the room to try new things." And new things she has certainly tried, Sterling, whose bachelors and masters degrees are in the marketing field, has stacked up a good résumé, which has led to the general manager position.
"I've tried to get broad-ranging experience to do things where my brain cells won't die," she said. Leading Corrpak, which will be six in May, is one of her proud challenges.
"We are the youngest player in our industry and we are the largest player in the local industry, and we are loving it," said the 46-year-old about Corrpak, where she has worked for five of its six-year existence. She attributes the company's growth to the business being built on the bases of service, quality products and quality relationships with customers.
For most people, little thought is given to a cardboard box, but Sterling said once you think about the various packaging uses, the relevance becomes rather clear.
"We supply a very broad range of industries, I don't know if there is anything you can name that can go in a box that we don't supply boxes for," she said. From food items, display boxes, boxes for paper, the list is exhaustive.
"We do design as well," she said, explaining, "so if you come in with your widget and you want a box to put it in, we can design and print it for you," said Sterling. The company keeps its processing method as environmentally friendly as possible, by exporting its cardboard scraps overseas, where they are recycled.
"So we are not filling up the dump," she said.
The team of approximately 95 employees consists mostly of persons from diverse working backgrounds who have all learnt about the industry on the job. Currently, the company serves approximately 415 customers and plans to diversify its products and expand.
"We're actually in the process of getting International Standards Organisation (ISO) certification, so I hope in another two or three months to have ISO certification," said Sterling who believes wholeheartedly in the power of manufacturing.
"I know that a lot of people say manufacturing is dead, but it's not," she said, indicating that there are a number of small manufacturers in Jamaica who are making a difference, many of whom they serve.
Sterling, who has worked mostly in the manufacturing industry, in companies such as food producers Seprod and producers of industrial and medical gases Jamaica Oxygen, has a personal commitment to the industry as, she believes, it's the way out of economic instability for Jamaica.
"I firmly believe that we have to produce our way out of this very ugly hole that we are in," she said. I don't think we can distribute our way out of it, I don't think we can samfie our way out of it. We have to produce our way out of it," she said.
As a wife and mother of two daughters, Leann and Sarah, she believes in striking a balance between work and family.
"I come from a very close family and we look out for each other," said Sterling, a focus her husband, André, shares.
Sterling lives in Stony Hill, St Andrew. She also grew up in Stony Hill, but in a different community.
"We had a very simple life. We'd walk to the river and catch janga and ticky-ticky, pick guavas, and come back full of grass lice," she said with a laugh. "My sister and I were very active," said the Immaculate Conception High School past student, who said she attributes many of her skills to her teachers and friends, many of whom are still in her life.