Published: 27 Sep 2016
Natalie Shoemark-Dyer, CQP MCQI, business quality manager at Aspire Defence Services and chair of the CQI’s Next Generation Network (NGN) reveals the lessons she has learned and how she is reaching her professional goals.
What inspired you to become a quality professional?
As with many of my NGN colleagues I never intended on a career in quality, it found me. I began working as a management systems co-ordinator, during which time I studied with the CQI for a certificate in Quality Management Practices. I found I had a keen eye for detail and quickly learned about process mapping and design. I love problem solving and developed an understanding of root cause analysis techniques. The rest, as they say, is history.
Was there a turning point in your career?
Becoming the chair of the NGN. Quality had been my job until this point but after this it became my life, a vocation and something I am passionate about encouraging others to be part of. Being part of the network has been exceptionally important to me. It has given me a great opportunity to share my ideas and knowledge with others and make some great friends along the way.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned?
Always keep your integrity and don’t give up. As a quality professional we are faced with many different situations on a daily basis where we may have to deliver delicate news and where diplomacy is a real benefit. There may be times when we are challenged and questioned but as long as we are true to ourselves and stick to the standards on which our profession is founded we cannot go wrong.
I am a great advocate of the belief that if you don’t give up on something, you work hard and remain focused then anything is possible. My career in quality is living proof of that.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to speak and represent the NGN at the IRCA Japan Forum in Yokohama, Japan. This was truly an honour but it was an enormous challenge for me. Public speaking is my nemesis, and while I am naturally quite a confident person, speaking to such a large group of people was very daunting. Combined with the additional considerations that speaking internationally brings, this was the most challenging experience of my career to date.
The forum was a huge success and the most incredible experience of my life. I spent the lead up to the conference preparing my slides and practising with friends, family and colleagues until I was clear in my mind on what I wanted to say. I also researched a great deal about the culture and doing business in Japan, which is something that will definitely set me in good stead for business trips in the future. My advice to anyone in this situation themselves is be prepared – the more you know your subject matter and your audience the better you will be.
“When you start to look at the benefits that tools and techniques like Lean and Cost of Poor Quality can provide, then the satisfaction in your work can be endless”
What’s the best piece of advice you have received?
The best piece of advice I have received is to always have a plan. This is something I live by as well as work by. In order to achieve the things you want in life and within your career you need to know how to do this so having a plan is paramount. This has certainly helped me progress to where I am today and will hopefully stand me in good stead for the years to come.
Why should others become involved in quality?
It is a profession that provides tangible benefits and real value to organisations. So if you are looking for an opportunity to add value to a business and see real improvements from the work you do then quality is for you. There are common misconceptions that quality professionals are policemen of internal systems or just those in the department who sort out the documents. But when you start to look at the benefits that tools and techniques like Lean and Cost of Poor Quality can provide, then the satisfaction in your work can be endless.
What advice do you have for those starting their career as a quality professional?
I have two pieces of advice. Firstly, find yourself a mentor – it is a huge benefit when you are starting out to be able to discuss ideas and challenges you encounter. A good mentor can provide you not only a sounding board but can also guide you to good sources to improve your knowledge and continue your own development.
My second piece of advice is get out there and network. Meeting other people who work in quality has been the best thing I have ever done. I not only have a group of people to engage with and a common platform to share ideas, but a great range of people from varying industries to get perspective from. It always amazes me how diverse the profession is and every time I’m at a networking event it reaffirms this. It’s hugely beneficial and inspiring.