Richmond Plant Manager Adrienne Smith on “Doing the Work”

To highlight how common values help grow and scale the company, Novolex is featuring a regular series focused on how our employees embody our values. This month, in honor of National Manufacturing Month, the series focuses on the Novolex value of “Approaching every task with a commitment to excellence and a winning, entrepreneurial mindset.”

Adrienne Smith doesn’t take shortcuts. She isn’t afraid to jump into hard work, use her voice, and prove her point, even if her peers tend to be mostly male. Just short of 100 miles from the nation’s capital, in Richmond, VA, Adrienne exercises her eye for organization and execution as plant manager. She oversees 131 employees and is joined by three women supervisors, a number she is actively trying to boost as she works with HR to recruit and empower women on the front line, in leadership roles, and even those just starting out in the manufacturing industry.

To get to know Adrienne and get a full picture of how she’s been successful in her role at Novolex, it’s important to understand her background. Adrienne grew up in a small rural town on a farm, which made working with her hands and jumping in on difficult work feel like second nature. She prides herself on being goal-oriented\ and always willing to commit to hard work.

One of her favorite things about working in the plant has been the support of all of her peers. “Novolex gives equal opportunity. It’s not just women, but anybody who wants to do the work. They’re welcome here,” said Adrienne. For her, it has been the swath of incredible people from over the years that gave her the support she needed to rise to plant manager.

With that said, Adrienne wasn’t always sure of what to expect when entering a male-dominated industry like manufacturing. On her first tour of the Novolex plant, she remembers only seeing a handful of women. It was then that she realized she could take on a new challenge—to play a role in bringing balance to the industry, starting right in Richmond.

“I had to prove myself, but that’s what I like to do. Women can do this, we can run these machines, we can do the physical labor, we can do it.” In just a year since that initial tour, Adrienne heard the chatter across the plant—her peers were putting in special requests, asking if she could join their team.

For other women interested in pursuing manufacturing, Adrienne advises women to be confident, assertive, and say what they need to say—respectfully. If you have to prove yourself, then see that as a challenge. She encourages her peers to do the work, have the data to support what’s being said, and prove your point to the disbelievers. Once you back up your vision, there’s no stopping you.

Today, Adrienne is focusing on reinvesting in her community and peers through mentorship. She recognizes the vital role mentorship opportunities played in helping guide her through her undergraduate degree and perfecting her craft in manufacturing. Now, she wants to be that helping hand for employees navigating challenges, inside and outside of work.

“I’ve been encouraged by Novolex employees that they have my back,” shared Adrienne. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from so many skilled people and have them be part of my journey.”

Whether she’s at brunch, with her beloved dog, or jet setting on her latest adventure, Adrienne brings her infectious energy with her. She represents one of many employees at Novolex that uplift other women, motivate their fellow employees, and, in turn, elevate Novolex as a premier employer where all individuals can find fulfillment through challenging work in a collaborative environment. That, at its heart, is what sets Novolex apart.