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Any advice for a young quality professional in the aerospace industry?

#1
Hello all,

For about a year, I've been working as the sole quality manager, quality inspector, and management representative for an ISO 9001:2015/AS9100D (design non-applicable)-certified organization. I feel very comfortable with my role as quality manager, in part due to the organization being quite small (there's about a dozen production employees) but I'd like to ensure that my learning doesn't stagnate, and that I'm focusing on my long-term career goals.

For a frame of reference, I'm 20 years old, and the sooner I can develop myself into a worthy candidate in this field and figure out where I want to lead my career, the better.

As for my long-term goals, I'm still figuring that out. I feel that I'm the right fit for quality management; I enjoy everything from document control to continuous improvement to supply chain management, but my knowledge stops at auditing, design/development, risk assessment, project management, and many other associated fields that interest me but are also relevant to quality in some fashion.

I'm not asking to be spoonfed, but I'd appreciate if I could receive some general advice for somebody in my position. How much value does a degree in a discipline like industrial engineering add to a prospective quality manager? Are there any lucrative positions emerging in the field? I'll do some reading on this forum in the meantime.

Thank you all, and I look forward to reading your responses!

Edit: Grammar
 
Last edited:

Coury Ferguson

Moderator here to help
Staff member
Super Moderator
#2
Hello all,

For about a year, I've been working as the sole quality manager, quality inspector, and management representative for an ISO 9001:2015/AS9100D (design non-applicable)-certified organization. I feel very comfortable with my role as quality manager, in part due to the organization being quite small (there's about a dozen production employees) but I'd like to ensure that my learning doesn't stagnate, and that I'm focusing on my long-term career goals.

For a frame of reference, I'm 20 years old, and the sooner I can develop myself into worthy candidate in this field and figure out where I want to lead my career, the better.

As for my long-term goals, I'm still figuring that out. I feel that I'm the right fit for quality management; I enjoy everything from document control to continuous improvement to supply chain management, but my knowledge stops at auditing, design/development, risk assessment, project management, and many other associated fields that interest me but are also relevant to quality in some fashion.

I'm not asking to be spoonfed, but I'd appreciate if I could receive some general advice for somebody in my position. How much value does a degree in a discipline like industrial engineering add to a prospective quality manager? Are there any lucrative positions emerging in the field? I'll do some reading on this forum in the meantime.

Thank you all, and I look forward to reading your responses!
My opinion, from someone that has been in the Quality field for over 30 years in Aerospace, Automotive, and Commercial. The Industrial Engineering degree might have its advantages and/or disadvantages. It might be better to focus your education in Quality Assurance. I believe there are some colleges that have this type of degree program. My degree is in Business Management.

There might be opportunities in the future. So, I would focus on a Business Management, Quality Assurance, or some type of Engineering degree program.

Just my opinion.
 
#3
Business management sounds like a safe bet, in that my education would be widely applicable if I ever consider a career change. I'll have to look at QA programs, as I don't believe I've found much information on the subject in the past, although I do know there are online courses out there for it.

Thanks!
 

Eredhel

Quality Manager
#4
Start browsing indeed and linkedin for jobs for quality management in your state for several months +. Then start looking at the degree requirements they have. That should help you a lot. I don't have a degree and have done well, but I'm absolutely limited when it comes to large companies. If I were your age I'd get the degrees they're looking for and that I would enjoy and find valuable. There are also more and more great online degree options now so you don't have to lose regular working hours. I'm actually pursuing my bachelor's and masters at the moment.
 
#5
That's great! Working out the logistics of full-time quality management and attending a university in person makes the idea sound really difficult. I'm sure online degrees have come a long way since their inception.
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#6
I'll advise you from a different perspective, get your hands dirty and work on the production side a bit. Back when I was in aviation nobody went into quality that hadn't turned wrenches 1st (got their hands dirty so to speak), we'd all been crew chiefs and mechanics, and it helped us in quality to really appreciate the seriousness of what we did. So get out on whatever your production line is and gain a better understanding of the how's and why's.

One aspect of aviation quality we had, that very few quality professionals in aviation (especially manufacturing) get to experience, is that when we signed off an aircraft as ready for flight after maintenance, we had to strap it to our butt and do the test flights with the maintenance pilots (I've got well over 3500 flight hours in UH-1's alone doing just that). You really become appreciative of good quality, parts and workmanship when your life and the lives of others depend on how well you did your job.....Going up is optional, coming down is mandatory.
 

Mike S.

An Early 'Cover'
Trusted
#7
A few random thoughts FWIW from a 30+ year quality guy:

Develop a thick skin, you will need it if you do what you should and not sell out your integrity.

Treat your workers like you would like to be treated, always.

Do what you enjoy doing, whatever that is. If you aren't sure, look into software quality -- there is a big shortage of people in that field now, it will probably only get worse.

Working on the production side a bit as Randy said is a great idea if you can.

Avoid following quality fads like six sigma, and avoid following people who use of lots of Japanese words. Learn the basics from the real deal folks, old and new, like Dr. Deming, Dr. Wheeler, Dr. Ishikawa, Brian Joyner, Davis Balestracci, Tom Peters, and Mark Graban. Keep reading and keep learning.
 

John Predmore

Involved In Discussions
#8
JOKE: There once was a cardiologist who took an auto-mechanic class because he was bored with medicine. The doctor received the highest grade on the practical exam. The other students asked why the doctor deserved the highest score when they all diagnosed the problem and fixed the engine. The instructor explained the doctor fixed the engine while it still running, and performed all the repairs through the tailpipe!!


I had a problem-solving coach who explained there are 3 types of engineering jobs in the manufacturing world: engineers who design stuff, engineers who build stuff, and engineers who fix stuff.

Design engineers have to know a lot about materials and forces and tolerances.

Manufacturing engineers have to know almost as much as Design Engineers about materials and forces and tolerances, but they also have to know how stuff is put together, plus fixtures and tooling and measurement and controls.

Engineers who fix stuff have to know all of the above, but they also have to understand wear and variation and reliability and be able to predict the future from a sample. The guys who fix stuff have specialized tools to take stuff apart without ruining it even when it is not designed or made to be taken apart, and specialized knowledge to discover knowledge the other engineers were not able to see, and even be able to find the cause and fix stuff while the assembly or the factory is still running!

Clearly, engineers who fix stuff is the highest calling.
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#9
JOKE: There once was a cardiologist who took an auto-mechanic class because he was bored with medicine. The doctor received the highest grade on the practical exam. The other students asked why the doctor deserved the highest score when they all diagnosed the problem and fixed the engine. The instructor explained the doctor fixed the engine while it still running, and performed all the repairs through the tailpipe!!


I had a problem-solving coach who explained there are 3 types of engineering jobs in the manufacturing world: engineers who design stuff, engineers who build stuff, and engineers who fix stuff.

Design engineers have to know a lot about materials and forces and tolerances.

Manufacturing engineers have to know almost as much as Design Engineers about materials and forces and tolerances, but they also have to know how stuff is put together, plus fixtures and tooling and measurement and controls.

Engineers who fix stuff have to know all of the above, but they also have to understand wear and variation and reliability and be able to predict the future from a sample. The guys who fix stuff have specialized tools to take stuff apart without ruining it even when it is not designed or made to be taken apart, and specialized knowledge to discover knowledge the other engineers were not able to see, and even be able to find the cause and fix stuff while the assembly or the factory is still running!

Clearly, engineers who fix stuff is the highest calling.
Yep without a doubt.
Me on 188.jpg
 
#10
I'll advise you from a different perspective, get your hands dirty and work on the production side a bit. Back when I was in aviation nobody went into quality that hadn't turned wrenches 1st (got their hands dirty so to speak), we'd all been crew chiefs and mechanics, and it helped us in quality to really appreciate the seriousness of what we did. So get out on whatever your production line is and gain a better understanding of the how's and why's.

One aspect of aviation quality we had, that very few quality professionals in aviation (especially manufacturing) get to experience, is that when we signed off an aircraft as ready for flight after maintenance, we had to strap it to our butt and do the test flights with the maintenance pilots (I've got well over 3500 flight hours in UH-1's alone doing just that). You really become appreciative of good quality, parts and workmanship when your life and the lives of others depend on how well you did your job.....Going up is optional, coming down is mandatory.
Although I did work some general labor jobs for a couple years prior to assuming this position, they weren't directly production-oriented (QA inspector/fork truck operator for a concast iron foundry, asphalt plant ground guy). In other words, I'm not shy to "turning the wrench" so to speak, but I'm not familiar with any jobs around me where you have to trust your own work enough to strap yourself in and hope you did everything right, nor the training/schooling/qualifications required to do so.

I have considered learning (hands-on) about machining and fabrication, so I have a better idea of the processes themselves and how to apply said knowledge.

A few random thoughts FWIW from a 30+ year quality guy:

Develop a thick skin, you will need it if you do what you should and not sell out your integrity.

Treat your workers like you would like to be treated, always.

Do what you enjoy doing, whatever that is. If you aren't sure, look into software quality -- there is a big shortage of people in that field now, it will probably only get worse.

Working on the production side a bit as Randy said is a great idea if you can.

Avoid following quality fads like six sigma, and avoid following people who use of lots of Japanese words. Learn the basics from the real deal folks, old and new, like Dr. Deming, Dr. Wheeler, Dr. Ishikawa, Brian Joyner, Davis Balestracci, Tom Peters, and Mark Graban. Keep reading and keep learning.
A thick skin is important. I was made well aware of this when I took the position. I didn't believe I'd need it until I started hearing, "That's the way we've always done these." and, "You can't get it any closer than that." and, "It's right on the money," when it clearly wasn't.

Aside from that, I have a mutual respect for everybody in the shop, and I believe that it works to everybody's advantage. Not only that, but after conducting some AS9100D training, the employees all have a better idea of how their work impacts the QMS, how they interact with it, and the importance of having integrity.

I have taken programming courses in school, but I know nothing about software QA. If it requires a deep, low-level technical understanding of programming, I don't believe it would interest me, but I haven't done any research about it so I can't make any assumptions.

Aside from reading the standard, reading into the literature is good advice.

Thank you all for your responses! Very insightful.
 
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