QUALITY IN THE FIRST PERSON
Oh, the Places You’ll Go
ASQ certifications open doors to new opportunities
By William O. Newcomb
In 1988, after I had been working in the quality control department of a major alkaline battery producer for 10 years, I had the opportunity to move to the quality assurance department.
In my new department, the manager handed me a booklet from the American Society for Quality Control—that’s what ASQ was called in those days—and told me I was going to become a member. I remember thinking, "Why not? The company is paying for it and who knows? I might learn something."
The first of many
Becoming a member turned out to be the single most important step in my career, especially because joining ASQ allowed me to pursue certifications.
In the subsequent year, one of my company’s main objectives was to have its employees become certified. After a lot of studying, praying and losing some hair, I passed the certified mechanical inspector exam, which is now known as the certified quality inspector exam.
I became a believer in certification.
After passing the exam, my work and certification schedule got interesting. I began preparing for the certified quality technician (CQT) exam, which ended up taking a few years to complete.
During that time, because I was the company’s only ASQ-certified employee, I was assigned to plan, furnish, set up and carry out procedures, and supervise a calibration lab and system that contained more than 3,000 pieces of measuring equipment based on ISO 9001. I completed the project with assistance and information from ASQ and members of the local ASQ section.
The next year, an ISO-approved auditor inspected the facility—and we passed. Afterward, the company learned that it was because of the calibration program and help from ASQ and its certification programs that the facility succeeded on the first try.
On the road
During the next few years, I passed the CQT and certified quality improvement associate exams. It was not easy, but it felt good to pass them.
My quality education didn’t stop there. In 2000, I was chosen as ASQ’s Inspection Division’s International Inspector of the Year. This was humbling, and I appreciated it because the award came from my peers.
Also in 2000, I retired from the battery business. I took my certifications and hit the road as a consultant, teacher and contract worker. In the places I visited, I was able to see how items were made and meet a variety of people.
After traveling as a consultant, I went to work for a Japanese-owned company. It was a great experience—I had first-hand training and hands-on experience in processes such as 5S and lean. I traveled around Japan and returned to Europe, seeing places and meeting people I would not have seen or met if that manager had not handed me the ASQ booklet more than 20 years earlier.
Lending a hand
Currently, I work for a company that builds nuclear power plants. Although I have stopped my personal certification activities, I now help other ASQ members obtain certification and encourage them to become their local section’s certification and recertification chairs. It is especially important, in light of the current economy, to be prepared and up to date on training and new ways of doing things; certification can help with this.
If you already have all the certifications you want, be a mentor to those seeking certification. Help and encourage others, and leave a little of yourself behind so others can benefit from your knowledge.
I challenge those who are in management positions to encourage those who report to you to become ASQ members and make it an objective for them to become certified. There is no better way to improve employees, quality departments and companies. It will become a value-added continuous improvement process.
William O. Newcomb is a quality engineer and specialist at Westinghouse Electric Co. in Rock Hill, SC. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management at Limestone College in Gaffney, SC. Newcomb is a senior member of ASQ and a certified quality improvement associate, mechanical inspector and quality technician.