Three Things I’ve Learned about Quality Professionals

Quality professionals attending the 2014
 MasterControl Masters Summit take a break 
from educational sessions to enjoy a 
Chinese auction, one of the many opportunities
 to socialize at the annual conference.
Over the past 15 years, as the leader of an organization dedicated to improving the success of the quality profession, I have met hundreds of people throughout the world who have a unique mission:  build greater quality into the things we use every day.  I have often asked myself, what do all these people have in common? What makes someone choose to dedicate his or her career to improving quality?   Who are these people who dedicate their lives to making sure that things are done right, that we don’t skip critical steps?  Whether it’s making sure that you aren’t using yesterday’s version of a work instruction or that you are trained properly on changes crucial to the implementation of a corrective action, quality professionals are ever vigilant about maintaining quality standards and compliance. 
Quality professionals are many things to different people depending on the nature of their business and the size of their organizations.  But there are certain qualities that set them apart.  Here is what I have learned so far about this unique group:

1. Quality professionals are dedicated to their work on a personal level.  They care beyond just having a job to make sure that things get done right.  Sometimes it can be hard to tell if they are passionate or idiosyncratic (usually it’s a mixture of both). They understand that if they don’t do their job right, someone might get hurt (many of our customers work in the life science industry).  They understand that the products they make improve (and sometimes save) people’s lives.

2. Quality professionals are into the detail.
  The truth is that thousands of details must be managed in order for great products to come to market.  More than any profession I know, quality people are meticulous about the detail and they are good at it.  They set up systems and processes and work instructions to make sure that the necessary details are followed.  Then, they have to prove to regulatory or compliance bodies that the details were followed.

3. Quality professionals are social.
  The image many have of quality professionals is that they are often cold and focused on processes and details, not people.  From my experience this is not true.  The quality managers who attend our educational events are great networkers and they spend lots of time together after hours enjoying each other’s company.  They are interesting people with a wide variety of hobbies. They like cats! I haven’t done a statistical analysis but I am pretty sure that quality professionals are much more likely to be cat lovers than the average person. If you have first-hand knowledge or statistics that will prove me wrong, please leave a comment below.
Contribution to Society
It is easy to visualize the contribution to society of some professions.  We can all relate to what a nurse, policeman or firefighter contributes to society.  What is the contribution of a quality professional?  Think of the last time you went to the hospital.  Did you worry about the quality of the screw they inserted in your elbow or the needle used to draw your blood?  Were you worried that the anesthesia you received would contain contaminates or whether the EKG would produce inaccurate results? 

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Most of us don’t even think about these things.  Poor health or an injury is bad enough, imagine if the medicine or device or diagnostic test we needed had higher failure rates?  But we almost never have to worry about these things because the quality profession as a whole is doing its job.  This trust in our medical products is one example, but it extends to many other products we purchase.  This kind of trust is very valuable and quality professionals are a big reason for it. 
So next time you run across a quality professional, thank him or her for tracking the customer complaint that leads to the corrective action to update the work instruction and confirm the updated training for the operator of the wire EDM machine that made the stent that was placed in your coronary artery. Many people are involved in the process of reducing the non-conformance rate for a device like the stent, but you can rest assured that there is a quality professional out there watching every step with an eagle eye.  This person may have saved you a lot of heartache—figuratively and literally!
What skills do you think a good quality professional needs?  Share your thoughts below!
Jon Beckstrand is responsible for the overall direction and vision of MasterControl. Since his leadership began in 2002, MasterControl has enjoyed robust growth, introduced an array of new solutions, continued the company's push for innovation, and advanced its position as a leading provider of quality management software and services for regulated companies.

Over the course of his 20 years in the software industry, Jon has served on the executive team of a midmarket financial services focused software provider and advised software and IT companies on company strategy and mergers and acquisitions as part of a team at KPMG in Chicago and Silicon Valley. A CPA/attorney, he received a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from Brigham Young University.