My favorite question to ask of fellow quality professionals is how they came to work in the industry. The answers are so variable and interesting, because it’s rare for folks to start their career journey planning to work in quality. Personally, I started out working in natural history collections, but today I work in document control in the life sciences industry. I was only familiar with quality assurance as a career path because my father worked in the industry for most of his career, but my first full time job in quality seven years ago was more by chance than anything else. I’ve heard from quality professionals who started in engineering, bench science, education, and manufacturing. I think these variable journeys into quality give us the advantage of diverse perspectives.

This also makes it difficult to recruit, or merely locate, young professionals in the quality industry. Quality is present in all sorts of industries, which makes it a vibrant and interesting field, but also presents a challenge when looking to find new professionals to bring into the community. But if we want to maintain a strong and passionate quality community, we need to engage and support these young professionals; they’re the future of the community, after all. I am chair of the American Society for Quality’s NextGen Global Committee, a committee by ASQ formed in 2021. It is a committee led by NextGens (folks under the age of 40, or new to the quality industry), focused on engaging NextGen ASQ members, creating programming targeted at NextGens, and acting as a sounding board for ASQ’s NextGen initiatives. We’ve held multiple Virtual Networking Socials, where a guest speaker presents on a topic pertinent to NextGens, such as publishing or leveraging social media, followed by breakout rooms. We’ve met with ASQ staff to give feedback on outreach strategies. We worked with ASQ staff to create a NextGen community on myASQ, the online social platform maintained by ASQ, to give NextGen professionals a hub to connect with one another.

Q-cast logo

Creating a Space for NextGens

Deb IafrateHow did you get started in quality? And how do we bring more people to the field? Claire Hopkins was only familiar with quality assurance as a career path because her father worked in the industry for most of his career, but says her first full time job in quality seven years ago was more by chance than anything else.

Listen to more Quality podcasts.

And at the recent World Conference on Quality and Improvement in San Diego, CA, ASQ hosted a mixer just for NextGens. It offered a wonderful in-person venue for NextGen professionals to connect and socialize. All of this is to say, ASQ offers many opportunities for NextGens to connect and engage. One of the best aspects of my work with ASQ has been the opportunity to connect with other young professionals. Being a quality professional can often feel isolating, due to being in a small department or not having a robust local quality community (in my case, the latter). One of my favorite aspects of my member leader work with ASQ is catching up with colleagues and making niche jokes that only fellow quality nerds will understand.

Outside of the NextGen committee itself, ASQ offers many resources and opportunities for NextGens. Many of my peers have found it immensely rewarding to be involved in their local section or a technical division, taking on leadership positions, volunteering, or assisting with events. I’ve utilized ASQ’s extensive resource library in my own day-to-day work, and I’ve recommended their Career Pathing tool to young professionals multiple times to help find direction in their career. The latter is particularly valuable to folks without an existing mentor, or if they’re generally unfamiliar with what a career in quality can look like. Additionally, the sister committee to the NextGen committee, the Mentoring Committee, also offers a mentorship program for young professionals. Interested mentors or mentees can find more information from ASQ.

Every ASQ member I’ve worked with, as well as ASQ staff, have been so friendly and eager to support NextGen ASQ members. I first joined ASQ in order to acquire a certification, but I’m so glad that I was encouraged to become involved as a member leader, both on the NextGen committee and the Technical Program Committee for WCQI. I’ve gotten project management and speaking experience, and acquired new friends and mentors. My main piece of advice for fellow NextGens looking to get involved would be to reach out to a section or division, and see what opportunities they have. I’m sure they’d be thrilled to have you!

If you’re a NextGen interested in joining the NextGen Global Committee, reach out to [email protected].