CQI Practitioner Sarah Ball reveals how you can develop your skills and knowledge through recognised continuing professional development activities.
My name is Sarah Ball and I’m a Practitioner of the CQI. Even though I’ve worked in quality management for four years I still consider myself as being ‘new’ to quality. Working in such a diverse and innovative profession means that there is always more to learn, which is why my continuing professional development (CPD) is crucial to my career progression.
I’m part of a small team at a medical instruments company that is responsible for developing the organisation’s business management system (BMS), incorporating quality, information security, health and safety, and environmental management. When I started my career in quality I felt it was important to join the CQI (as an Associate member) so I could benefit from the Institute’s valuable CPD offerings, such as its regional branch meetings and Quality World magazine. It wasn’t long before I decided to transition up to the next grade of membership and, by undertaking a variety of CPD activity, achieved Practitioner (PCQI) status in April 2014. I achieved this using a five-step plan:
- Swotting up – in order to make the move into a larger company, and progress at the CQI, I felt it was important to demonstrate my understanding of quality management in a formal way – ie via qualifications. I completed my CQI Level 3 Certificate in Quality Management in 2013 and I’m planning to earn my CQI Level 5 Diploma qualification. My CQI Level 3 Certificate gave me an essential introduction to the fundamentals of management system models and monitoring techniques.
- Meeting like-minded individuals – there are a variety of opportunities to learn outside the formal qualification route. For example, I’ve attended some engaging CQI branch meetings on Annex SL and a good understanding of this framework is important as I will be directly involved in my company’s transition to the new quality and environmental ISO standards – ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015. Whenever I’m tackling a new challenge or looking for guidance on a specific ISO standard, I always reach out to the CQI community for advice and support.
- Gaining context – the quality profession is changing and it’s important quality professionals understand how and why it is evolving. The CQI’s Competency Framework outlines the competencies quality professionals need to do their job effectively and has helped me identify the core skills I need to develop, such as identifying and incorporating all stakeholder requirements into the BMS. It has effectively helped me plan the next stage of my CPD.
- Self-learning – I’m a voracious reader and have found books on the future of the quality profession and business management really insightful. Two titles I felt particularly helped me to develop my skills in change management – which I believe to be key to moving quality into the boardroom – are 'Who Moved My Cheese?' by Spencer Johnson and 'MBA in a Day' by Steven Stralser.
- Social media – online platforms are a great way to network with quality professionals all around the world and are a really engaging form of CPD. I regularly contribute to the CQI’s LinkedIn group discussions on a variety of issues, most of which are thought provoking and relevant to my career aspirations. I’m also using these platforms as another way to work closely with colleagues experienced in ISO 27001 so I can broaden my understanding of information security management. It’s crucial I develop my knowledge of using a risk-based approach to management systems as this method underpins the 2015 versions of both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
So, where will CPD take me next? I’m working towards my objectives so I can (hopefully) achieve a promotion within my company and gain the status of Chartered Quality Professional with the CQI.
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