We catch up with Catriona Large, Quality and HSE Advisor at CGG, winner of the Emerging Talent category at the CQI’s International Quality Awards 2023.
What was your journey into the quality profession?
Quality is one of these careers that not a lot of people know about – when I say to people outside the profession that I work in quality, they always ask what is involved. I have always had an awareness of quality because of my mum who has worked in the quality profession for her whole career.
I did Business A-Level which I was good at and found interesting. I wanted to get into business management and improvement, but I wasn’t interested in university. I was applying for degree apprentices in business and project management when I saw the business improvement apprenticeship in CGG’s quality department.
It ended up changing to an internal audit apprenticeship but showed me how audit can be a tool to aid business improvement, while also teaching me some fundamental business skills like interpersonal skills and risk management.
What do you think the impact of your win will be on your career?
The award has meant I have gained more recognition for what I do in the business. However, for me, the biggest success since winning has been the response from the business in getting more involved in the initiatives and work we are trying to do.
A new apprentice has joined the team who I now mentor and I feel I am benefiting from the mentoring just as much as I hope they are. As I have a mentor myself, I am a strong believer in the benefit of it for both people. I am regularly looking for volunteering opportunities with the CQI.
I am currently looking at joining one of the CQI’s special interest groups or potentially suggesting a new one for service-based industries like the one I am in.
In what ways do you think that the quality profession can better sell quality as a career, particularly for younger people?
I think what a lot of younger people fear is having a job that is not adding value, or perhaps ending up doing the same thing every day. This is where I feel that quality is a great career for those people who want to add value and work on different projects – selling that aspect of quality would be most effective.
What do you feel are some of the challenges facing the quality profession at present?
Remote working is one of the biggest challenges the quality profession faces. There are fewer opportunities to talk to the teams, meaning that it is more difficult to keep a good standard of quality practices in place and understand where the issues are.
Building a culture of quality is an important aspect of our profession and achieving that with more people than ever working remotely is something we need to tackle.
What do you believe are the emerging risks in your industry?
Within the oil and gas services industry the energy transition and focus globally on carbon reduction in response to the climate crisis has a huge impact. In order to adapt to this, companies need to look at new ways to apply their technology, knowledge and experience as part of the solution, as well as examining new avenues and sectors where sensoring, monitoring, and data analytics could bring benefits, such as pollution monitoring.
How are emerging technologies impacting or changing how you do things in your role and what are you doing to support your organisation in the implementation of new technology?
Technology has allowed me to implement and build systems to improve processes within the business without having to rely on outsourcing and in-house web developers. The ease of implementing applications within the Microsoft Office 365 environment has allowed teams to develop more effective systems that significantly reduce admin, cost and time.
Do you have any ideas for how these could be combatted?
In the quality profession we need to be champions of positive change. The best way to deal with new technology and innovation is to understand where it can bring value, and embrace it by utilising it within your role if possible or promoting its adoption within the business.
"I think what a lot of younger people fear is having a job that is not adding value, or perhaps ending up doing the same thing every day. This is where I feel that quality is a great career for those people who want to add value and work on different projects."
Both the ESG and EDI agendas are key focuses at present – how do you think the quality profession can assist with this work?
ESG and EDI agendas and initiatives are important to the quality profession as they affect the people, therefore affecting the quality of work that is being produced. As quality professionals, we can assist by becoming champions of initiatives that are put in place and helping them to make a positive difference in the company culture.
In my role specifically, I help run and come up with these initiatives as well as support them, and I have just started to lead an employee inclusion group on wellbeing. I have also been involved in rolling out mental health first aider training across the UK, which helps equip employees with the skills to help those struggling with mental health, as well as producing a series of global wellbeing e-learning to spread knowledge and awareness across the company in an accessible way. The topics of these include ‘dealing with anxiety’, ‘overcoming burnout’, ‘non-judgemental listening and ‘importance of sleep’.
What are your professional development ambitions and how do you intend to fulfil them?
The aspect of quality I really enjoy is improvement, whether in the way we run our projects to improve results or how the business looks after its people. I believe a true quality professional can have a positive impact in all areas of a business because everything the business does can ultimately influence how successful it is. I do see myself wanting to pursue roles where I feel I am making a difference on a bigger scale.
To me, getting exposure to new experiences and challenges is invaluable. I hope to do that through avenues like the CQI and by making good working relationships across my business, so I am seen as someone who can help in lots of ways.
What advice would you give to others who are at the start of a quality career?
Don’t be afraid to do something new, even if you think you don’t know what you are doing. Have faith that with hard work you can figure it out along the way. The best part of being a quality professional is that the challenges are never the same and you are always learning. Just enjoy the process, and don’t think you need to be an expert in everything you are doing straight away.
Learn more about another Emerging Talent winner
CQI Board of Trustees member Victoria Derbyshire won the Emerging Talent Award in 2019 and is Catriona's mentor. Read more of her story.
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