The changing nature of work means that a career move is more feasible now than for previous generations. People are increasingly working in new ways; be it in different roles, more dynamic working environments, changing locations or flexible working hours. While in the past skills and professions were learned for life, education and training is now becoming an ongoing part of a more dynamic working style.
Andrew Phelan, Quality Assurance Specialist with Gilead Sciences, is an excellent example of how changing your career direction can transform your work life and increase job satisfaction. Andrew is an experienced Engineering Technician with a history of working in electronics manufacturing, medical devices and pharmaceutical industries. However, after years working in manufacturing he realised that he wanted to become a Quality Specialist.
We recently met with Andrew to gain an insight into his journey from working in production to quality; what influenced his career change, what his current role involves, and how transferrable his skills were.
For a number of years you worked in production, what did your role entail?
I was a manufacturing technician with a small electronics company. I had responsibility for ensuring products were built to a high level of quality and on time. This included making sure the right tools and materials involved in the assembly process were correct. I conducted all testing and experiments for these products and signed off on the products to certify that they conformed to customer specifications. I ran the production line metrics and held meetings on any product updates. The role involved constant communication with several teams.
Why did you want to move into Quality?
I wanted to work in a Quality function because I was interested in focusing more on the customer. I wanted to gain experience in helping further develop a product that will delight the customer, which would help my company improve its share price and gain significant growth. Even if it means making only small advances in doing so, I believe that over time these changes / improvements to company quality processes will help build better customer satisfaction.
What path did you take to become a Quality Specialist?
After working in production for several years I decided to go back to college part time to achieve my goal of working within a Quality function. I obtained another BSc in Quality Engineering and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. I also worked in multinational medical device / electronics companies where I gained technician experience. I liaised closely with quality engineers and quality management personnel who gave valuable insights into what working in a Quality function would entail.
How have you found your move from Production to Quality?
I am delighted with the career move as I have been working towards this for a long time. Certainly, there are big differences, but I look forward to achieving and learning more on this new journey. It is hugely important now for me to learn about my customer and my company, but I am looking forward to this new focus.
Describe a typical day for you as a Quality Assurance Specialist
My typical day thus far involves a lot of learning about the company processes and how a QA specialist functions within it. I will be doing production board meetings in the mornings with people from all the different areas to discuss where we are at and if we are having any issues carrying out the production of our products. I have a great team and we are in constant communication on any issues and making sure that we are doing our best to make sure we achieve the highest quality for our product and customer.
Do you feel that you had skills that were transferrable to Quality from Production?
Yes, I think I have several transferrable skills. I have had a lot of valuable experiences in multiple functions in many different production companies. I had the opportunity to learn from some great people over the years whom I received very valuable advice from. This helped me achieve my goal of moving to a Quality functioning role.
What are you enjoying most about your current role?
I like the fact that I am putting my previous experience to good use. The role I am currently in is ideal because of this. I feel that I will be able to make a huge contribution to this company because of my past experiences, both educational and working experiences. I really like that whatever I am doing in my current very valuable to the customer and that I am able to work as part of a team and help my company to succeed and achieve any set goals.
The highlight of my career so far is the day I finally moved to the role of QA Specialist. I worked hard for years to achieve this and there is still more work to be done.
Did you have a mentor / person that inspired you to become a Quality Specialist?
I don't have one single person; I have many individuals who I worked with over the years. When I see the integrity and dedication people have and some of the hard work they are doing to push the company further and reach higher standards, that is inspiring. I will mention that I had a mentor for my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt who was an absolute inspiration, a genius. This person really opened my eyes to the importance of quality and the lean way of thinking. The mentality of this person was very inspiring.
Would you recommend working as a Quality Specialist to friends or colleagues?
Yes, I would. I believe that if the person has the right mindset and background it is only natural to work in a role such as Quality Specialist.
Anything else you would like to add about being a Quality Specialist?
There is no denying the role of a QA Specialist, in a pharmaceutical company, is very important. The products are being used for medicinal purposes and are audited by various regulatory bodies across the globe. Therefore, it is very important that processes and procedures are stringently followed.
Fastnet has several quality roles with our Life Sciences clients. If you would like to learn more about our current Quality vacancies, please visit our vacancies page.
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