This month's question

I am new to the quality profession. How can I improve and grow my knowledge base, and provide evidence of that knowledge?

Our response

The news that someone is new to the quality profession is awesome! It’s imperative to improve your knowledge throughout your career, and I think you’ve gotten to the heart of a challenge many of us face: how to provide evidence of that knowledge.

It can be difficult to highlight the knowledge you have, especially if the person you must convince doesn’t have a complete understanding of what you do. This difficulty was seen with some of the earlier ISO 9000 requirements, which required people to objectively convey that their training was effective.

There are two main approaches to providing evidence of that knowledge:

  1. Organizational training. Some organizations either have an internal talent development program or outsource talent development education, which provides you with a talking point to express what you’ve learned.

It’s important to understand what kind of talent development the organization provides. It may have a program that consists of required classes that all new hires must attend in a certain amount of time, it may provide a list of optional third-party training (on or off-site), or it could have an internal training program specifically designed to help train new hires through their transition into the workplace.

This third type of program often involves a new hire making a commitment to the organization while in college, usually after an internship. Those who are successful in their internships can often convert it into full-time positions after graduation, which includes the training development program.

Typically, the development program has a new hire rotate through various jobs in the organization so he or she is exposed to different disciplines and roles. This gives the new hire and the organization the opportunity to find areas where the new employee will thrive. Along the way, there are interactions with operational areas and leaders of the rotational program. The program gives the new hire the opportunity to learn new skills while demonstrating these learnings to management. At the end of the program, the new hire usually lands in a department where he or she will excel, provided there is an opening.

Another type of in-organization development program takes a similar approach in terms of rotating new hires through different jobs, but with a focus on building future leaders. The organization I work for has adopted a program like this called Boom Lab. This type of training program works not only to rotate new hires through different positions, and typically different clients—exposing them to a variety of industries—but it also puts the junior talent on teams with more senior consultants and leaders, enabling them to learn through experience and from more experienced consultants. A program such as this can help new hires gain invaluable experience quickly.

  1. Professional certifications. Not all organizations offer training development, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide evidence of your knowledge. You can obtain professional certifications, which give you physical proof of your knowledge. This approach is great because the organization, association or group doing the training documents what you’ve learned.

A great example of this is ASQ’s learning offerings. I’ve taken a couple courses through ASQ and was impressed by not only the information taught, but also the processes in place to document that knowledge for myself and any third party that may have questions. The rigor around content, coupled with the process to pass the class, is all captured by ASQ.

In fact, I took a thorough certification prep class through ASQ for my certified quality engineer certification, which enabled me to pass the exam on my first try. I recommend obtaining a certification such as this because it illustrates you’ve taken the time to build your knowledge base and are a certified quality professional. Additionally, organizations recognize the certification and salary surveys show these certifications pay off.

Taking a training course through an organization such as ASQ can not only help you build your knowledge, but also helps you make connections, even after your course is complete. For example, I am still involved with my local ASQ section even though I took my training classes years ago. Participation in these meetings provides me with a great opportunity for continual learning, and I receive credit toward recertification.

This response was written by Keith Wagoner, business initiatives consultant, Wells Fargo, Charlotte, NC.

--Robert Dillard, 01-03-2020

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