This week I (and PlastiCert) celebrated an engineer that does not even work here, at least now. One of our former engineering interns from Winona State University that went on to graduate and go into the workforce. Huy posted on LinkedIn that he had achieved his ASQ certification as a Quality Engineer. Well done young man!
It is common to talk about continuous improvement of the inanimate: processes, equipment, operations. I am also a big believer of continuous improvement of yourself. Continuing to learn and grow throughout your career. Rather than the education/certification route Huy chose, I opted for new responsibilities. For the first 2/3 of my career, my average company tenure was 2 ½ years, 12 company moves (one repeat in there). The 90’s economic boom meant start-ups grew fast and each startup I joined was a different company in just a few years. Each move offered me a new and different opportunity to add to my knowledge and experience base. From Quality Engineer to Manufacturing Engineer, new product development, then some refinement of those like Software Quality Engineer, Reliability Engineer, ISO Auditor/Quality Engineer, Supplier Quality Engineer. The latter led me to jump over to the business side of engineering, like program management, business unit management, sales. Every move added significantly to my knowledge base.
This week is also the 19th year since my father passing away. The first 12+ years of my career drove him crazy. He spent 41 years at 3M, pretty much in the same sales position and MN territory with long established durable goods manufacturers. He used to complain to me, quite regularly, about my career path. His primary emphasis was I should just pick a company and stay there for a while. Then because he was VERY good at what he did, he was coerced into taking a transfer from his long time MN territory to Silicon Valley, California. There he got thrown into the craziest high tech growth environment of all. Companies would pop up, he would call on them, within months they were changed, dissolved, merged. He met new people at existing companies and old contacts at new companies, his head was spinning the first six months. After he was established, I went out to visit him and he looked me in the eye and said, “I get it now. I understand all the moves and changes. You were reacting to opportunities to learn and grow and join in on exciting new things. I am really proud of all you have done”. He did not get to see my last career move. The culmination of all my efforts, putting all my engineering, program/business unit management and sales experiences to use, in managing and then buying and running PlastiCert. All that started 2 years after he passed. I like to think that he knew I was destined to reach this pinnacle.
So yes, I am an advocate for continuous improvement. A proponent for change, for always looking forward with purpose. Only not just for a person’s area of responsibility, but for themselves as well.