Dr. Mikel Harry February 24, 2004
Please bear in mind that Six Sigma (per se) is not a career. Although certain roles have been well defined (such as Black Belt, Green Belt, Champion, and so on), these positions are not permanent jobs or career positions. They are temporary assignments for those classified as being “high potential.”
Having a degree in business and minor in mathematics constitutes a favorable academic background for any one of these roles, but the lack of experience should be pause for concern. Generally speaking, a Black Belt candidate should have at least 3 to 5 years of related work experience before applying (or being considered) for such a role.
If possible, you should seek your Six Sigma training somewhere other than a local community college – for reasons that should be obvious. First, it is a community college and not a university. For the most part, community colleges are designed to provide a wide array of educational experiences (such as associate degree programs). Seldom are they equipped to provide globally oriented, corporate-driven, application-specific types of training (such as Black Belt training). While the role of a Black Belt is fully dependent upon “training” and “education,” its primary focus (i.e., application projects) is more related to the benefits of training than to that of education.
Second, it is generally well know that a world-class instructor (of Six Sigma) does not usually work through a local community college. Most generally, those that possess the know-how and experience (for deploying and implementing Six Sigma) are already quite gainfully occupied or otherwise consumed by a corporation or consultancy. However, if a recognized world-class university is united with a world-class consultant (i.e., instructor and mentor), the result could be very synergistic – for the student, the university, and the consultant.
Although the personal lure of “certification” is great, try to avoid this form of credential – it can backfire in the long-term. Do not overvalue its worth. For example, if you are perceived by management to be a career Black Belt, you could be pigeonholed as a “mercenary,” ready to jump ship for more money and a bigger budget. Furthermore, it is doubtful that such a certification carries much value in the eyes of senior management. For example, how many “certified quality engineers” currently hold top positions in a corporation? Do business executives view such a certification as a leadership credential?
If you have successfully served as a Black Belt in a commercial or industrial enterprise (and can document this fact), this is all the certification you need to be recognized as having “strong leadership potential.” Document your business achievements, not your quality knowledge. This point cannot be overemphasized.
In closing, you would be well advised to conduct a personal due-diligence – perhaps on the Internet or by personal interviews. Doing so might shed some unexpected light on the topic. Hangout on iSixSigma.com for a while and you will come to learn a lot. But always bear in mind – when you ask a hog farmer to interpret the economy, he is likely to recite the price of bacon.