Published: 6 Mar 2020

Natalie Shoemark-Dyer, CQP FCQI, Head of Quality at Aspire Defence Services Limited in Tidworth, UK, explains how she has climbed the ranks and achieved great milestones in her quality career.

How have you championed quality within your organisation? 

Natalie Shoemark-Dyer: By raising the profile of my team through internal articles, which includes information on our World Quality Day activities and how we became finalists in the ‘Quality Team of the Year’ category, at the International Quality Awards last year. I have also championed quality by delivering training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) sessions. We have worked hard to be known across the business and to be the ‘go to’ people in support of business initiatives. 

I think the most important part is supporting the business. We have spent a lot of time demonstrating how our team can add value and provide support through their knowledge and expertise. We approach every opportunity with enthusiasm and always look for opportunities to learn new skills. We are very passionate about what we do. 

What is your biggest achievement in your career so far? 

ND: I have been incredibly fortunate to have been presented with some fantastic opportunities during my career, and I would urge everyone to whole heartedly seize every chance to do something they wouldn’t usually get to do. 

There are two achievements that I am particularly proud of. In 2016, I was a speaker at the IRCA Conference in Japan. Along with Estelle Clark – then Executive Director of Policy at the CQI – I was one of the first female speakers at this conference. This was one of the most daunting experiences of my life, but equally one of the most rewarding. 

In 2019, my team were finalists at the CQI’s International Quality Awards in the ‘Quality Team of the Year’ category. This was a huge achievement and an enriching, learning experience for us. 

What has been your biggest challenge in your latest role and how did you overcome it? 

ND: In my early career, I have often been the youngest quality professional at an event, and often the only female. On some occasions, I’ve also had to work hard to prove my credibility. 

To overcome this, I’ve continued to work hard to raise my profile, which I hope will inspire others to do the same. 

On a more personal level, I have become a mother in the last year and this has been a huge challenge. Having a work-life balance is hard to maintain, because you have guilt of not spending time with your child and the work guilt that you aren’t delivering as well as you could be. 

As women, we are our own harshest critics and we just need to cut ourselves some slack. You can have it all, you just need to ‘eat the chocolate elephant’ one piece at a time. Working mums are superwomen! 

Could you tell us more about the all-female team that you head up at Aspire Defence Services Ltd? How have they driven results? 

ND: They are the most amazing ladies I have met. We are a work family, which I believe is incredibly important as I spend more time with them than anyone else each day. I have a huge amount of professional respect for them, as well as working well with them on a personal level. I have a team with a mixture of personalities and that has really helped me, as we get a lot of different ideas and perspectives. 

In my team, I have two quality assurance managers and a quality apprentice. They each have varied roles. Those roles are more than just quality, and cover other compliance areas such as data protection. On a day-to-day basis, we look after Aspire’s business integrated management system, deliver the company’s audit programme and manage any results coming from these activities. In addition to these responsibilities, we spend time training and supporting improvement projects for the business. 

Our apprentice, the newest member of the team, is learning a lot through on-the-job training and we are looking to broaden her knowledge through activities with the CQI this year.

My team have driven results through engagement and their systematic approach to every task they deliver. They are dedicated and truly believe in the value we can bring to the business. I am incredibly fortunate to work with them and I hope to do so for many years to come. 

In your opinion, why do we need more women working in quality management?

ND: I believe that diversity is needed in the quality profession. It’s not just more women. It’s more about having the right people to do the right jobs, some of whom will be women, some will be young people and the like.

I feel that this is really important because with diversity comes different opinions and viewpoints that challenge the status quo, which is a cornerstone in driving improvement across businesses and the CQI. 

There are many career paths for those working in quality. The profession provides a valuable opportunity to learn so much about a business, which allows you to shape your role to suit your personal circumstances. For example, there are some who can travel the world or others who can work around family life. This in itself makes it a great career choice for women to pursue. 

What advice would you give to women who are looking to progress into more senior roles in quality?

ND: Set yourself a plan. This was the most important single piece of advice given to me and the foundation on which I have built my career. You must be clear on what you are looking to achieve; the roles, the life goals, and from this, outline the steps you need to take, with timeframes to allow you to achieve them. You can’t succeed if you don’t know where you are going. 

Raise your profile through social media such as LinkedIn, through local business networks, and get involved with the CQI as it will give you invaluable resources and a network to support you in what you are looking to achieve. 

Go for it, be persistent, and don’t settle for anything less.