Lucky Break

An accidental career in quality

by Wendy Vissers

When I was in college, attending classes day after day, I knew exactly where I wanted to be when I graduated: working in a lab somewhere doing groundbreaking research.

Two months after receiving my bachelor’s degree, I was anxious to get a job—any job. When an offer came from an employer who didn’t hold my lack of professional experience against me, I was thrilled.

I packed up my belongings and moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to a rural fishing community to start my career as a quality assurance technician with Acadian Seaplants Ltd., in Charlesville, Nova Scotia.

There was a problem, though. I knew next to nothing about what a quality assurance technician did or about the company’s product—cultivated seaweed for the Japanese food market.

Starting from scratch

In the beginning, it was a bit of an information overload. I was on a steep learning curve and was inundated with new faces, concepts and procedures on a seemingly daily basis. My youth and inexperience seemed woefully obvious; I either asked endless questions or sat back and quietly tried to take it all in.

Now, a year and a half later, I continue to be grateful to my boss for taking a chance on a young applicant with no working experience in the field. In my time with Acadian, I have not only learned about the business, but also about the roles a quality assurance technician plays.

I have become an ASQ member, and, through the organization, I have completed my quality technician certification. This experience was invaluable for learning about the concepts and tools used on a daily basis by a quality professional. As time goes on, and as I gain more on-the-job experience, I look forward to completing additional ASQ certifications.

Getting comfortable

When I started with Acadian, the company was taking part in the National Quality Institute of Canada’s Progressive Excellence Program. I quickly became involved in activities to help us move through this program. The achievements made to date make me proud of the company for which I work.

What I originally thought would be a job for only a limited time has quickly grown on me, and my confidence has grown with it. I am now comfortable giving my opinion on issues that arise, and, better yet, I find that people have started to ask for it.

The amount of responsibility given to me has greatly increased over time, indicating that my co-workers and superiors have gained confidence in my abilities, which also makes me proud. All of these things have made me realize I truly enjoy working in the quality field, and I now see this as a great career option.

Considering quality

A career in quality was something I had never considered during my time as a student. I had never met someone involved in the field, and it is not a career option that is widely promoted, like medicine or teaching. Because of the opportunity I was given, I discovered the unexpected. It turned out to be an area I quickly discovered I enjoy immensely.

The problem solving and detail oriented nature of a job in quality assurance suits my personality. As such, I am thankful the quality field did not remain an unexplored path for me.

In the future, I hope more and more young people are exposed to everything the quality field has to offer, to ensure a continuous interest and flow of new ideas into the area. And who knows? Maybe they, too, will find their dream career where they least expect it.

WENDY VISSERS is a quality assurance technician at Acadian Seaplants Ltd., Charlesville, Nova Scotia. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Vissers is a member of ASQ and holds a quality technician certification.

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