Published: 28 Feb 2020
Samantha Jackson, PCQI, and Quality Assurance at Uniper, speaks to the CQI about her career in quality and how Uniper is helping to bring more gender diversity into the energy sector.
Why did you choose to work in the quality profession?
Samantha Jackson: I entered the quality profession by chance, whilst working in Training Support at Uniper – an international energy firm – where my main responsibilities were managing the bookings for health, safety and environmental training.
I was approached by our former Quality Manager who was leaving to relocate. She had previously been a key stakeholder in my role and recognised that I had the attributes needed to work in quality management. My initial thoughts were, “I can’t do this”, as I found the scope of the role to be quite a step up and almost intimidating in comparison to what I had previously done. Nevertheless, I was successful in my application.
What would you say is the biggest achievement in your quality career so far?
SJ: When I look back at how far I’ve come, and considering how much this role has taught me, it’s impossible to name one significant moment. There are so many big and small achievements that have led me to where I am today.
If someone had told me four years ago that I would be working for a major global engineering consultancy, and that I would be responsible for developing new quality management systems and managing all aspects of the businesses accreditations (including three UKAS laboratories), I would have thought they were crazy. The variety that comes with quality is what I enjoy most of all, and the fact that I have made a positive contribution, gives me a great deal of satisfaction.
What was your hardest challenge and how did you overcome it?
SJ: Uniper is an organisation that recognises the importance of accreditation in our industry and the value that it can add. However, like many large organisations, our people have busy roles and it’s not easy sometimes to get all employees who are not directly involved with quality on board. A key part of my job has been to build up good relationships with my colleagues and help to educate them about the process and what’s involved with accreditation, so that they understand my role and why I am asking for their input.
How will Uniper be celebrating International Women’s Day to raise the profile of gender equality in the workplace?
SJ: Uniper are committed to diversity and inclusion, and it has set out a plan of action to address gender diversity, which is a part of is wider diversity programme.. Every year, we celebrate International Women’s Day globally by running events and articles on our corporate intranet pages. We are in the midst of planning for IWD 2020 and expect to run interviews and articles on some of the inspirational women working at Uniper as well as some of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) based activities in our local community.
Has or will Uniper be putting any projects in place to attract more women into the organisation and the quality profession at grassroots level?
SJ: Uniper in the UK set up a STEM Task Force on 1 January 2020 to formally engage with local schools from primary upwards. Our STEM Ambassadors will carry the message of gender equality in the energy sector and teach the younger generation about technical career opportunities available in the industry such as qualitymanagement or engineering..
Are there any role models in quality who have helped you progress in your career at Uniper?
SJ: My biggest supporter is my line manager, Jonathan Bentley (MCQI). I wouldn’t be where I am without his ongoing support. Despite being based at different Uniper locations, we work very closely together, which is fundamental to our success.
He has encouraged and challenged me throughout my quality career and given me the confidence to work at all levels within the business and across various customer sites including Uniper’s international operations.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
SJ: I’m really passionate about the work I do and I’m extremely focused on achieving mine and Uniper’s goals. I see myself growing further within the business and representing quality in a senior role, potentially on an international scale, where I’ll be able to use my skills to support and influence others.
I’m currently completing my CPD and hoping to achieve Chartered Quality status at the CQI. I’m keen to achieve these goals and eventually work towards CQI Fellowship. This will give me the opportunity to mentor by sharing my knowledge, skills and experience to assist others on their quality journey.
What advice would you give to other women in quality who are looking to progress into more senior roles?
SJ: Look for opportunities to work on cross-functional projects that support your current role and development. Complete additional training in a skill you wish to acquire; remember you don’t need to formally be in a role before you take on the responsibilities required of that position. By demonstrating that level of competence, you will start to build up a track record of skills and results that will allow you to take that next step in your career.
I would also strongly recommend registering for the CQI mentoring programme. The programme is a great way to connect with people outside of your current network. From my perspective, it has allowed me to share and gain insights, give and receive advice, and develop my expertise as a quality professional.