Unexpected Outcomes

by Don Goolsby

The career path you start on isn’t always the path you stay on

My quality journey began when I attended a six-month training and technology school for nondestructive testing (NDT) at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, TN.

I took a position as an NDT inspector in the oil industry in west Texas. My responsibilities included X-raying welds on pipelines and in fabrication shops and oil refineries, and I quickly discovered that I liked ensuring the weld quality was up to standards to avoid breakdowns in the field.

From there, I became an NDT inspector at an Arizona nuclear plant that was under construction. The quality requirements were significantly higher for stainless piping and containers.

I then had an opportunity to work as an NDT inspector in the aerospace field for military applications. The position was interesting because I inspected high-precision parts consisting of unique alloys.

At this point, my interest in quality was rising. I wanted to take my capabilities to the next level, so I acquired a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology and manufacturing from the Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville.

My degree allowed me to take a position as a supplier quality engineer for an automotive parts organization. I enjoyed the challenge of addressing quality issues and working with suppliers (and the purchasing department) to help develop their quality systems. I ensured the organization received conforming material from suppliers. I had no plans to go beyond this point in management when I took the job. But after serving on various project teams in this capacity, I realized that I enjoyed the challenges that encompassed the bigger picture of quality, including process quality and working with customers.

These experiences led me to an opportunity to serve as a quality manager for an automotive parts manufacturer in a startup operation. I found this challenge intense as I led our team effort to build the quality systems from the ground up to meet the requirements of our first original equipment manufacturer and tier one customers.

The most valuable resource to me at that time was ASQ. Attending local chapter meetings and exchanging advice with members proved to be invaluable. As I continued my tenure with the automotive parts manufacturer, project management became an important responsibility for me as I led various multidisciplinary teams on quality improvement initiatives.

I then determined that I needed to take the next step in my career and obtain an MBA. I was interacting more with business executives and felt I needed to be able to interface my technical quality capabilities with their strategic business approach to have the best chance of successfully promoting quality initiatives.

As I continued my career journey, I also became a certified lean Six Sigma Black Belt to further enhance my approach to problem solving in a team environment. The subsequent define, measure, analyze, improve and control projects have yielded successful outcomes.

When I started my career in quality, it wasn’t my intention to become a quality manager. As I grew in my experiences and the eagerness to lead proactive quality efforts, however, it led me to the quality manager role I am in today. I have gained an appreciation for all quality disciplines—as well as working with multidisciplinary teams to achieve quality assurance for the organization. I continue to learn and grow through my connections with ASQ.

Don Goolsby works in quality management in the automotive industry. He earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix in Nashville, TN. Goolsby is a member of ASQ, a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and a Baldrige Examiner.

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