Editor’s note: When Lillian Erickson worked as global quality manager for MasterControl, she authored this creative post to help other parents who are quality professionals survive and have fun at Career Day.
When it was time to celebrate Career Day at my daughter’s school, she begged me to come talk to her first-grade class. I dreaded it. How do you explain quality and what a quality manager does to 6- and 7-year-olds?
In my eight years in the quality field, I’ve hosted over 200 client audits and faced some of the strictest auditors. I’ve spearheaded six ISO audits, one of which was when MasterControl became one of the first companies in the world to successfully complete an audit under the ISO 9001:2015 standard.
Yet, the idea of talking about quality to elementary school kids intimidated me. If you’re a fellow quality management professional facing the same situation, here’s how I overcame my fear and completed the formidable task successfully.
Presentations for young kids go well if you make them interactive and include lots of visuals. In the following steps, I explain the visuals and craft activity that helped my “speech” be as engaging as possible.
I work for a quality and compliance software provider that caters to the life sciences and other regulated companies. To simplify the concept of quality and compliance, I told the class that MasterControl makes software for medical manufacturers and that using our software helps keep patients safe.
While the idea of audits is too nuanced for a short presentation to first-graders, they can relate to getting on an airplane for a trip. I told the class that part of my job is to travel to England, Japan, and parts of the United States to make sure our software is made correctly. I illustrated the three countries using pictures of their flags.
I made paper airplanes with the class. To prepare, I created a template for each student to use, which included a set of instructions. When I handed everything out, I told the kids to follow the instructions correctly so their airplanes can deliver medicine to people, and if the planes aren’t made correctly, the medicine can’t be delivered.
You can explain that showing them how to make a paper airplane is the equivalent of training in the world of quality.
Below are the visual instructions I handed out to the class.
As you make your paper airplane, refer to this diagram:
I asked the class, “Does your airplane look like the picture I showed you?” Then I told them we will have a quality inspection of their projects. So, they looked at each other’s “product” to make sure it was done correctly and then I also looked at their airplanes for confirmation.
The next time a child in your life asks you to speak to their class about what you do for a living, have no fear! It’s entirely possible to explain your complex quality job in four easy steps and at the same time have fun with the kids.
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