by Tamara L. Payne

Rocky Start

Early mistakes lead a quality manager in the right direction

The early part of my life was filled with mistakes, one after the other. When I was 15, my family moved to a new town, and I was in a new school. By 16, I quit school. By 17, I was married, and at 18, I was divorced with a baby.

I then realized I had to do something. The first thing was to get a job.

My first real job was in a small machine shop in Ohio, where I was a spot welder and grinder. When the tool man walked off the job and left me with a machine in pieces, I was forced to learn setups and maintenance. I remember thinking that it was way too much work.

So I decided to go back to school. With the help of my daughter and new husband, I achieved my GED. Because my strongest subject in school was math, I decided to go to the local college and take correspondence and internet courses. There, I earned my associate's degree in accounting.

But employers were looking for experience. So now what? My experience was in machines, and my education was in accounting.

Interesting work

I began to take an interest in the work I was doing at the machine shop. I realized how neat it was to see a piece of raw material formed into a functional part. I had plenty of questions: How do you know what the customer wants? How do you know what you are doing is right?

When I was 28, my family and I moved to Houston. There, I faced some of the biggest challenges of my life. I began working as a bartender, and although I wasn’t happy there, I gained essential people skills. I learned to deal with different personalities and problems as they occurred. I thought I could deal with any situation.

I used these skills later when I was hired at Intercontinental Machine, a machine shop in a Houston suburb. The company's specialties are the aerospace and oilfield industries, with customers such as Schlumberger, Lockheed Martin and NASA.

Introduction to ASQ

My experience encouraged Intercontinental Machine to hire me as an inspector. There, I was introduced to ASQ and ISO 9001. A new world was opening up for me. I didn’t realize the importance of inspection and quality. I needed training, and I needed it fast.

I became a member of ASQ and started going to training seminars and classes. I took an industrial math class, and I learned about different materials and machine processes. It was awesome.

When I was promoted to quality manager in 1992, I had an opportunity to work with engineers from various companies in the Houston area. I was once personally invited to a NASA quality convention by an engineer I had worked with on a project. The work with NASA was very intense. Meeting with the engineers at the convention made me realize there was more to learn and much more to do.

In 2000, my family moved back to Ohio. My next adventure was working for Hollaytek Inc., a service company that performed different jobs such as bagging, sorting and deburring of various machined, stamped and plastic molded parts.

Learning opportunities

Here, I had new opportunities to learn. Being one of the key people in the ISO 9001 certification department, I became directly involved in writing the quality manual to Automotive Industry Action Group standards. I also achieved my quality technician certification from ASQ in 2004.

Since January 2008, I have been employed as the quality manager with the Pearlson Co., LLC, a metal stamping company. I have had the chance to learn, build and grow with Pearlson, because it is a new company.

So here I am, 25 years after that first day in a machine shop. I have three children and three grandchildren and have been married for 25 years. I refuse to stop here. I recently became the internet liaison chair with my local section, ASQ Section 1009. I am also currently preparing for the certified quality engineer exam and am enjoying every minute of it.

Tamara L. Payne is the quality manager at Pearlson Co., LLC in Montpelier, OH. She received her associate's degree in accounting from NRI, McGraw Hill Continuing Education Center in Washington, D.C. Payne is a senior member of ASQ and a certified quality technician.

I read your article thoroughly and it is truly inspiring . With so many challenges around you , the achievements are fantastic .
--Mack, 04-23-2015

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