QP • www.qualityprogress.com
Quality in the First Person
Lack of formal education doesn’t stop one man’s career pursuits
when i was 18, I started my career on a production line at my father’s place of employment. Up to that point, my father, an engineer, had always shown me how things were made and how they could be better. We would take apart my toy cars and look at the casting, molding and assembly. He taught me always to ask why and to try to see things from a different viewpoint.
Because of my attention to detail, I eventually moved to visually inspecting completed assemblies, and I made a leap into quality. That was 18 years ago—a long way back as far as my professional and personal lives are concerned. Little did I know back then that I would eventually be a senior level manager of quality assurance at 36.
An atypical education
At 16, I decided to forgo a high school education and instead I pursued my GED. Although I could not actually receive the diploma until I was 18, I held the document to prove I passed the test, and with that I entered community college. I was unable to attend a four-year college due to the lack of SAT scores and high school transcripts.
I never graduated, attended or enrolled in any high school, and I never graduated from that community college.
I have attended some of the finest colleges Massachusetts has to offer but never graduated from any. I have spent countless hours in professional and personal development seminars, classes and workshops. I have read article after article, column after column, book after book, and ingested volumes of information—and I continue to do so.
My career path has taken me from working on an assembly line to working as a quality control inspector, quality assurance auditor, lead quality technician, quality engineering technician and finally, to a quality assurance manager.
This has given me a variety of experiences from which I continually draw and add to. While I gradually transitioned from working on an assembly line to working in quality, emotionally and mentally, I had known for a long time a quality career was something I wanted to pursue.
It begins with a conversation
This career trajectory began with a chance conversation with a friend’s father. We spoke of my current job, what it entailed, my likes and dislikes, and where I hoped it would go.
It just so happened he was an engineer for a major home audio component manufacturer that needed a small group of inspectors to work on a new project. For the project, I became the voice of the quality group and met with engineers from my employer and the supplier.
Working in larger companies afforded me great technical experiences, in-depth training and many opportunities smaller companies could not provide.
On the other hand, I have made larger advances in smaller companies that have the ability to take more chances on individuals, as there is less red tape. Working at a combination of large and small companies at pivotal points during my career largely contributed to my advancement and success; I hope it will continue to do so.
No holding back
I don’t feel there was ever a defining moment in which the lack of a degree was cited as preventing me from getting to the next level of my career. There have been positions in which I was in contention with degree-holding individuals, but my experience, training and interpersonal skills outweighed the other candidates. Because I cannot rest or rely on a degree, I must rely on my past results to achieve greater results, professionally and personally.
I have assembled, disassembled, reworked, repaired, inspected, tested, packed, shipped, sold, planned, designed, accepted and rejected product after product from just about every industry. I have earned my “degree” in a way many of my peers haven’t and even fewer ever will in the future.
While my lack of education was never a professional hurdle, it was an emotional one when I was younger. In my 20s, after several years in quality, watching graduates from local colleges come through as quality engineers was not easy.
Being behind the curve is no fun, and it does not bode well for one’s ego. What it does is feed a desire, motivate, push and give the strength to persevere.
Perhaps it was at that point in my life where I found the drive and came to the realization that I was, indeed, as worthy, if not more so, than others within my field. The stigma was mine to hold—and mine to let go.
Today, my labels are leader, change agent, mentor, motivator and provider. I am a proud parent, an entrepreneur and a success. I am financially solid, and I will not be too old to enjoy retirement. I will not stop clawing and climbing, and I will not let life pass me by without grabbing it by the horns.
I am educated. I am worthy. I am proud. I have just begun. QP
I will not stop clawing and climbing, and I will not let life pass me by without grabbing it by the horns.
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October 2008 • QP