Pay It Forward

Anyone can invest in a culture of quality

by Govind Ramu

In the summer of 2004, I received an email from the chair of the ASQ Ottawa Valley section inquiring about my interest in teaching a refresher course for ASQ. We had previously met at section meetings, during which he recognized me for having earned six ASQ certifications. When we met on a weekend at a Tim Hortons doughnut shop in downtown Ottawa, Ontario, to discuss training logistics, I had no idea that it would be the first of many connections I would make within my region, my organization and around the world, all centered around the common goal of promoting a culture of quality.

Within days, I obtained approval from my employer to set up a class in the organization’s meeting room, order training materials, teach some topics and arrange for ASQ members to teach others. Finally, the exam day came. I was as anxious as my students, but when the results came in, it was great news: a 100% pass rate for my first group of 10 students (all ASQ members).

Section-level volunteering responsibilities followed: treasurer, membership chair, acting section chair and section chair. I also volunteered at ASQ for various steps in the certification development process. Earning six ASQ certifications, teaching ASQ members and organizational employees for different certification exams, and reading questions about certification exams from active discussion forums got me thinking. Although there were good resources available, there was still an opportunity to help new exam takers.

I delivered a presentation for my local section and subsequently distilled my certification advice in the QP article, "Test Run."1 Four years later, I continue to receive feedback from those who benefited from my tips.

Hundreds of people from around the world have sent me emails and LinkedIn messages requesting my guidance on certification preparation. Helping these professionals improve their careers gives me a sense of fulfillment. In some cases, these certified professionals pay it forward by becoming coaches and mentors for new certification candidates.

Charity begins at home. The same mindset applies to volunteering. Think about employees within your own organization, starting with your direct reports and the colleagues you see every day. This is where every ASQ member can make a difference. My individual A3 plan at work includes the following action every year: "Provide guidance and training for extended quality staff on obtaining ASQ certifications."

Of course, management support is vital. I am fortunate to have received strong support from management at organizations that valued professional development and continual learning. They did not express trivial worries such as, "What if these employees build their résumés at our cost and leave the company?" Managers knew that just one good business decision or one product risk mitigated using the certification body of knowledge paid the certification cost incurred by the organization many times over.

Helping quality professionals through their certification journeys requires a significant time investment. But you don’t have to launch a training initiative or commit to answering questions for study groups to make a difference in your organization. There are many ways to share the value of ASQ. There is a treasure trove of resources in ASQ’s online Knowledge Center and staff members who can help you research knowledge and information that you can apply on the job. ASQ site membership gives all on-site employees access to valuable knowledge resources.

Subsequent to introducing ASQ membership models to my organization, one of our major sites in the Philippines became a site member. With my organization’s support and resources from ASQ, I am looking forward to more progress in building a culture of quality.


  1. Govind Ramu, "Test Run," Quality Progress, January 2010, pp. 40-48.

Govind Ramu is a director of quality assurance at SunPower Corp. in San Jose, CA. Ramu is a licensed professional mechanical engineer from Ontario, Canada. An ASQ fellow, Ramu is an ASQ-certified manager of quality/organizational excellence, quality engineer, Six Sigma Black Belt, auditor, software engineer and reliability engineer. He is co-author of The Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook (ASQ Quality Press, 2008) and and a contributor to The Lean Handbook: A Guide to the Bronze Certification Body of Knowledge (ASQ Quality Press, 2012).

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