Executive Team

Denise (DeeDee) DeMan

Founder, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

With an indefatigable, pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit, DeeDee has taken Bench from its founding in 1974 to its eminence today as one of the most successful companies “shattering” diversity ceilings bringing women, people of color, as well as those who “think” and “do” differently to leadership roles in life science companies. In 2009 DeeDee was the first executive recruiter to be named “1 of the Top 100 Most Inspiring Leaders” by PharmaVOICE Magazine, and is a Hall of Fame Inductee of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).

DeeDee built Bench International from a single-person executive search and advisory firm to a global firm with unwavering commitment to, “One Global Team, One Budget, No Borders, No Boundaries,” mitigating any internal competition, thus providing Bench’s clients with Best in Class “Athletes” who bring them closer to changing the course of diseases.

Being cause-motivated and giving back is critical to DeeDee, and she has devoted decades to serving as a member of multiple non-profit boards.  She is a founding board member of Learning Forum International (LFI), Making Great Kids Greater through student and educator programs that contribute to the mastery of learning and life skills by today’s youth.  Recently, DeeDee was appointed to the Advisory Board of BIOCOM, in an effort to bridge BIOCOM’S impact beyond San Diego County and to create a strong state-wide alliance.  DeeDee is also a board member of The Maple Counseling Center (TMCC), a non-profit organization committed to providing low cost comprehensive mental health services for individuals of all ages, couples, and families, as well as providing training for interns and counselors who are working towards licensure in the mental health field. DeeDee’s prior non-profit board commitments have included founding the Forum for Global Pharmaceutical Diversity and Inclusion (FRXDI), serving as a member of the board for California’s Chapter of the Israel International Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), Family Promise, Member of the Board, Murrietta Genomics, Member, Corporate Directors Forum and founding board member of Healthcare Business Woman’s Association’s (HBA’s) Europe Chapter.

DeeDee holds a double Masters of Science degree, Auditory Pathology and Speech Pathology.  Prior to founding Bench, DeeDee served as a Research Fellow in a joint research program sponsored by National Institute of Health (NIH) and Siemens Corporation, the University of California, San Diego, State Diego State University and the San Diego Speech and Hearing Center.

J. Christopher Giffin

Senior Vice President

Chris’ career in biotechnology has spanned 20 years, including 16 years with biotechnology pioneer Amgen where he held roles in research, human resources, product licensing and corporate development. During his tenure in human resources, Chris led the company’s recruitment activities during some of the company’s most dramatic periods of growth as it evolved from a biotechnology research and development organization into a fully-integrated pharmaceutical company. As a result, his recruitment responsibilities spanned the spectrum of the company’s operations including research, clinical development, manufacturing, and commercialization. As a business development executive with Amgen, Chris played a leadership role in the evaluation and negotiation of multiple corporate collaborations and partnerships focusing on both product and technology opportunities. Following Amgen and prior to Bench, he held executive management positions with two privately held biotechnology companies, where he played a leadership role in business development and financing activities. Chris holds a B.S. degree in microbiology from the University of Oklahoma, and an M.S. degree from the University of California, Riverside.

Natasha Allen

Global SVP & Europe Region Head

Natasha joined the Bench team in 2006, bringing her extensive experience of recruitment, gained across a variety of clients and industries. During the past 11+years, Natasha has gained a significant reputation in the Life Science and Consumer Health sector as a trusted and insightful executive recruiter, possessing great industry wisdom. Recently, the firm promoted Natasha to Global SVP and she will lead in a dual capacity as General Manager for the UK. It is Bench International’s intention to retain its presence in the United Kingdom to continue to provide recruiting support to all Life Science companies prior to and post the full enactment of Brexit. Natasha is known as both a tenacious recruiter and a faithful, trusted extension of the clients Bench International serves throughout Europe and the US, with her deep involvement throughout the business, from candidate management and recruitment, through business development and client management, to exceptional candidate recruitment and management. Educated and living in the UK, Natasha’s network and focus is highly visible in Europe, however, her global reach brings her onto serving as a key member of the firm’s senior recruiting team working across the US. Natasha’s recruitment experience covers the complete value chain of drug and consumer product development, from discovery/research through commercialization and Life Cycle Management. Natasha’s client leadership experience encompasses clients from biotech to small, medium and large Pharma and further extends to the OTC, cosmetics and FMCG industries.

Thomas M. Murphy

Senior Vice President

Tom Murphy has dedicated the last thirty years of his career recruiting exclusively for healthcare and life science companies. He is motivated by and passionate about the life changing technologies, cures, therapies, tools and technologies that have been developed over the years. He’s had a hand in building some of the most talented and successful management teams along the way. Tom worked his way up the retained executive search business, starting in top tier global firms with multiple practices, but he gravitated to the nascent biotechnology space early on. He relocated to his home town of San Diego and joined client company Advanced Tissue Sciences as their Recruiting Manager. Working internally for the next several years proved an invaluable experience because he gained a much better understanding of the trials and tribulations of a tissue engineering technology developing life saving treatments. Tom returned to executive recruiting where he led two boutique bioscience practice groups over the next twenty years. His clients think of him as a partner they can trust, who goes the extra mile to find the best leaders and cultural fit for private early-stage and large public companies.

Tom has deep roots in the San Diego community. Over the years he has served on the board of directors of Voices for Children, San Diego Social Venture Partners (Chair), San Diego Venture Group, La Jolla Youth Baseball, and the Foundation of La Jolla High. Tom spent several years in Washington DC working as a political appointee in the Reagan administration and on the staff of US Senator Pete Wilson. Tom is a proud graduate of the University of California.

Nova Diop

SVP & Co-Chair DE&I

Nova joined Bench International in 2020 and is leading the expansion of Bench’s footprint in Boston. Nova has six years of experience in executive search and ten years of combined experience in hospitality operations in the UK and strategy consulting in Boston. Throughout her career in executive search, Nova has developed a strong expertise in business development, client management and search execution with a focus on Life Sciences serving pharmaceutical, health tech and medical device clients. Prior to joining Bench, Nova was a Managing Consultant at Korn Ferry, managing full life-cycle searches execution and working with executives across leading pharmaceutical, emerging growth biotech and medical device companies.

Prior to joining Korn Ferry, Nova opened and led a retained boutique executive search firm in Boston and has a track record for completing US based assignments for international companies headquartered in over 20 countries across numerous industries, including Life Sciences and Industrial.

Nova has lived and worked on three continents, in five countries and has developed a local and global network of Life Science executives. Nova has consulted pro-bono for the Community Consulting Team (CCT) in Boston for over five years. Nova is fluent in French and earned her MBA from Brandeis University on a global leadership scholarship. Nova’s undergraduate degree, a BA in Hospitality Business Management is from the University of Birmingham, UK as well as a Technology Degree is in EE & CS in France.

Kim Mittemeyer

Senior Vice President

Kim joined Bench International in 2017. She has over 20 years’ experience focused in human resources, administration, and infrastructure build out, with 9 years dedicated to retained executive search. At Bench, Kim is leading the expansion of Bench’s footprint in San Diego from our newly launched local headquarters. Kim partners with clients and internal teams to successfully execute targeted search strategies, including identifying and developing candidate pipelines and managing projects, as it relates to full life-cycle recruitment. In addition, she is a founding member of our Animal Health practice. Kim has been active in the San Diego Life Sciences community throughout her career, holding positions at Advanced Tissue Sciences, Aurora Biosciences, Senomyx, and Kalypsys. She attended San Diego State University.

Linda Sierra

Senior Vice President

Linda Sierra is Bench International’s SVP Business Development. With more than thirty years of experience in the Life Sciences industry, Linda spent the first eighteen years in Human Resources with five biotechnology companies in both the San Diego and South San Francisco biotech hubs. Linda transitioned to executive search in 2010, with the first seven years as a top executive recruiter, and she has led business development since 2017, focusing on VP and C-Level executives, as well as Board Director assignments nationally. Linda maintains a deep understanding of the industry having hands-on experience in all stages of companies.

As a Latina, and many times the only one at her company, Linda is passionate about Diversity Equity & Inclusion and has held several symposia on the subject to raise awareness. She is also an unapologetic advocate and ally for people of color and women in executive leadership. Linda is heavily involved in her community and sits on the newly formed BIOCOM Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force, LifeHR Network board, is Co-Chair of the MANA de San Diego Advisory Council and a member of Women in Bio and Women Give San Diego. She is proud of being a founding member of MANA de San Diego’s Latina Success Leadership Program which was created in partnership with The Center for Creative Leadership and National University which has had more than 250 women go through the career development program.

Linda has a Certificate in Human Resources which she began at UC Berkeley Extension and completed at UC San Diego Extension.

Astar Lambert

Vice President, Project Management

Astar joined the Bench team in 2014 and is responsible for end-to-end project management. Astar and her team ensures each client has real-time metrics relevant to each project for which Bench is entrusted. By leveraging her skills as a change agent, Astar commits to designing and implementing process improvement projects, learning lessons from each project and taking pride in optimizing the efficiency in the operations of an organization. Astar is a key member of Bench’s Board Advisory and Board Consulting Project Team. Her diverse work experiences from freelance designer to in-house project manager have allowed her to develop partnerships across functions and levels of organizations to lead procedure optimization initiatives. Astar is passionate about supporting at-risk youth. She began her career as a Dormitory Manager at a therapeutic boarding school and her passion for at-risk youth remains today. Astar holds a B.A. in Communication from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Kathrine Pierson

Vice President, Recruitment

Kathrine brings over twenty-five years of search experience across multiple industries and functional specialties. Prior to joining Bench International she was a Managing Associate in the Pharmaceuticals Practice within the Global Life Sciences division of Korn Ferry based in New York City where she worked for seven years.

Previously she served eight years at Heidrick & Struggles as a senior associate and practice associate coordinator for the Americas Information Officer practice as part of the firm’s Global Information Officer practice. Her earlier career included working for a boutique search firm based in Connecticut and previously she was a senior recruiter with a leading national IT recruiting firm.

Kathrine’s retained search career began in 1996 with a boutique search firm in New Canaan, Connecticut where she was responsible for IT search at an executive level. Her initial involvement with the firm began in 1992 and included quality assurance testing and developing standards and protocols for a new recruiting database. Kathrine attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned a BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Ashley Finney

Vice President, Recruitment

Ashley is passionate about helping people and has spent the last 10+ years in the life sciences industry, placing executives who are helping to shape the future of medicine and improve patient outcomes for generations to come. In 2020, Ashley joined Bench International as the Vice President, Recruitment. Prior to joining Bench, Ashley spent 5 ½ years with a boutique retained life sciences search firm, Ashton Tweed, as the Director of Executive Recruitment. During this time Ashley recruited senior leaders from Director level to the C-suite for both small and mid-sized pharma and biotech companies. Prior to Ashton Tweed, Ashley worked with a start-up recruiting firm also focused in the life sciences. Ashley earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences, with a minor in Psychology from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.