QUALITY IN THE FIRST PERSON
Value of Certification
Pursuit of knowledge elevates one man’s career opportunities
by Scott A. Laman
In 1986, I began my career as an engineer in the research and development function of a large global chemical company. Eight years later, I took a job with a plastic products company as a senior process development engineer. Throughout this time, I received excellent on-the-job and external training that gave me a feel for quality thinking. However, I was unaware of careers in the quality field, despite an increasing use of quality tools.
In 1998, I heard about ASQ’s certified quality engineer (CQE) exam. Finding out about the exam was one of the most significant events of my career. I embraced certification wholeheartedly, passing the CQE and certified reliability engineer (CRE) exams in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
Becoming a volunteer
Shortly after earning the CQE certification, I was invited to participate at ASQ exam development workshops in Milwaukee. I have been an ASQ volunteer ever since. The workshops have been excellent experiences, as peers from various industries and geographic locations come together to form a team for a few days. The opportunity to apply critical thinking and to consider every conceivable point of view has been important to my professional career. The team environment also taught me humility and patience.
My company thoroughly supported my certifications and exam development activities, and I began to more systematically and intentionally use quality, facilitation and statistical tools. The results were satisfying, as I had the opportunity to be involved with companywide statistical process control implementation and problem solving training.
In 2001, with aspirations for management, I studied and passed the certified manager of quality/organizational excellence exam. This exam added knowledge and skills related to leadership, management and quality systems to my toolbox. Then, in 2002, I acquired a Six Sigma Black Belt. With Six Sigma knowledge, I was fortunate enough to complete many visible projects demonstrating yield, productivity and quality improvements.
In 2003, I had the opportunity to become the exam chair for the CRE exam and joined the ASQ Certification Board. In addition, with certifications and growing professional experience, I was upgraded to ASQ’s senior membership. Achieving the distinction of ASQ fellow has also entered my mind and now seems attainable, although still extremely challenging.
The Certification Board experience has greatly benefited my career. I have had an opportunity to participate on a erse, remote, cross functional team consisting of bright and motivated individuals. The strategic planning and leadership techniques could be applied directly to my job, which has provided an edge over those without comparable experience. The firsthand exposure to the exam development process also opened doors to give lectures, enhancing my exposure, network and presentation skills.
To complete the set of certification exams that were directly relevant to my job, I obtained the certified quality auditor (CQA) designation in 2004. By that time, I had been performing supplier and internal quality audits, and the CQA certification allowed me to put my arms around the body of knowledge I was practicing. Also, the exam filled in gaps where I lacked direct experience.
On the Certification Board, I had the opportunity to become new exam chair in 2005, immediately following my term as CRE exam chair. The new exam chair position has allowed me to be involved with many interesting groups that were in the process of proposing and developing ideas for new exams. I thus became an advocate for several groups who were sponsoring exams. There was an opportunity to learn and apply salesmanship skills and to interact productively with erse people.
Having the qualifications
In 2005, I began work at a medical device company. The job change was facilitated by my certifications, as the advertisement to which I responded stated, “ASQ certification and Six Sigma training/knowledge preferred.” I accepted the senior quality engineer position and was immediately able to use knowledge from each certification. The circumstances ultimately led to a management position.
The benefits of certification continue to be important. My organization has just come under new ownership, and the certifications have increased my value in reorganizations. For all these reasons, it is difficult to overestimate the value of certification. It would be wonderful to continue as a volunteer and advocate of quality, and give back to ASQ some of the benefits I have received.
SCOTT A. LAMAN is the manager of new product development quality engineering for Teleflex Medical in Reading, PA. He earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Syracuse University. Laman is a senior member of ASQ.