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What Was Your Career Path Into Process Improvement?

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums General Forums General What Was Your Career Path Into Process Improvement?

This topic contains 27 replies, has 18 voices, and was last updated by  Marchand 3 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #239645

    Sharmin Saylor
    Participant

    Hi all,

    It’s been a winding path for me to get into process improvement. I’m sure most others are the same way…who thinks they’re going to go to school and then do process improvement for a living?! :)

    I’d love to hear how your career path evolved. Or maybe snaked?

    Here’s mine:

    Engineer > Project Manager > Analyst > Six Sigma Green Belt > Process Engineer/Six Sigma Black Belt

    What’s yours?

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    #239655

    Alberto Brito
    Participant

    1. Process Analyst (most of the time documenting DRP process, for an Energy Producer Company).
    2. Project Manager (small projects, for a company that sells Truck Parts)
    3. Process Analyst (Banking, Collections Management)
    4. Process Engineer (Green Belt, Manufacturing Company)
    5. Process Engineer (Black Belt, Agroindustry)

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    #239664

    Strayer
    Participant

    Many of us end up somewhere we hadn’t thought of going. For me it was a winding path.
    – science/math major in jr. high where I learned FORTRAN (mid 1960’s)
    – English major in high school, interested in becoming a teacher
    – Secondary education major in college (quickly realized I didn’t want to go there)
    – Liberal arts degree with double major in English and philosophy
    – Various low-pay jobs
    – temporary job as teletype operator led to an offer to manage the wire room and automate it, and take night classes at company expense to learn what I needed to know
    – Coordinator data communications and data input control
    – senior programmer/analyst and systems manager (after automating the wire room)
    – IT project manager
    – TQM facilitator for IT and internal CMM/CMMI appraiser
    – IT six sigma trainer, although not a black belt. Employer only gave that to people on management track
    – Global IT quality assurance leader
    – Independent consultant
    – Retired

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    #239693

    Rhb
    Participant

    Maintenance Mgt > Engineering > Production Mgt > Engineering Mgt > Six Sigma BB > Continuous Improvement Mgr all at World Color / Quebecor World > Quad Graphics Priting industry
    CI Coordinator > Six Sigma MBB > Continuous Improvement & Maintenance Mgr > Continuous Improvement Mgr at SRG Global, Inc. automotive supply industry.

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    #239696

    Michael Cyger
    Keymaster

    Love this thread and reading how everyone has started in process improvement. I’m going to tag: @cseider, @mike-carnell and @venerablebede.

    Engineer in school > Nuclear engineer (yes, designing cores and such) > GE engineering leadership program (rotational, functional assignments) > EH&S program manager > Plant manager (Green Belt trained) > Master Black Belt > VP of Six Sigma > eBusiness Manager > Started iSixSigma.com

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    #239698

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    I began life August 8, 1952 in Flower Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. To far back?

    I learned electronics in the Marine Corps. Absolutely zero interest in it. Got a job at Motorola when I got out. Quit. Went to college. Ended up back at Motorola designing and building test equipment while I finished college. I wanted to get into the Accounting Department. I can only imagine what a nightmare that would have been for both Motorola and me. Since I couldn’t get into Accounting, a job as Quality Engineer seemed ok. Met Gary Cone and he convinced me to stay in quality for a while (that was 1983).

    What actually got me intrigued with the job, and I didn’t know what job it was, was when we hired a guy who I believe was Dorian Shainin. We had a product that had been having a problem for 19 years. RF problem in the 80’s was a difficult issue. We had the best RF people in the business but no solution. This guy and a woman from assembly sat at the end of my aisle and worked for 3 days. I had no idea what they were doing at that time but now I believe it was Shainin’s component search technique. Those two figured it out in 3 days. I thought “How cool is that. I want to be that guy that people call when nobody can figure out what is wrong.” True story. Don’t know if it was actually Shainin but mentally it makes the pieces fit together better for me. At the end of the day that was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

    I say my prayers every night and say exactly how thankful I am I was never allowed to be an accountant.

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    #239699

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @michaelcyger we need to drag Darth into this. He had Deming as part of his PhD team. That has to be at least mildly interesting. How about Katie too?

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    #239700

    Katie Barry
    Keymaster

    @Darth @MBBinWI @rbutler — Care to share your story?

    @mike-carnell As for me, well, I’m not entirely sure I count since I’m an editor and not a process improvement practitioner, BUT…

    Political science major (really, political theory — lots of Plato and Socrates) > DC/federal government staffer > marketing specialist for healthcare staffing company > personal staff of Marian Wright Edelman/civil rights leader and president of Children’s Defense Fund > MBA (marketing focus) > editorial assistant for book publisher > editor of RealInnovation and The TRIZ Journal (formerly sister sites to iSixSigma) > associate publisher of iSixSigma > publisher of iSixSigma > editor of iSixSigma

    How about we hear from the iSixSigma Editorial Advisory Board? @poetengineer @joelsmith @cfberardinelli @nbatulis

    2
    #239709

    Robert Butler
    Participant

    Wellll…not counting the mandatory military service I don’t think there’s been any time in my career when I wasn’t involved in process improvement. I started off as a physicist working in advanced optics – the work was a combination of R&D and improving existing systems/processes. One of the groups I worked with had an assigned statistician. I watched what he was doing and liked what I saw so I went back to school and earned my third piece of paper in statistics.

    My role as a statistician in industry was to provide support for R&D and process improvement in specialty chemicals, aerospace, medical measurement systems, and plastics. At my last company our major customer demanded we have six sigma black belts working on their projects. Our management picked three of us to go for training and I was one of them. The end result was I wound up running projects as well as providing statistical support to anyone who needed it.

    Mr. Bin Laden’s actions a few year back got me (along with a number of other people) laid off from that aerospace company so I went job hunting, found a listing for a biostatistician at a hospital, applied, and was accepted. It’s a research hospital but, just like industry, there are process improvement problems so, as before, I work on both R&D and process improvement issues.

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    #239714

    Joel Smith
    Participant

    I came into this on a way different path than most….as a chemical engineering student (undergrad) I had to take a statistics course. The instructor wasn’t purely academic and had tons of real world consulting experience that he brought into the classroom. It completely changed my perspective on quality and improvement. One day he told us there were people called Six Sigma Black Belts who did this for a living, and I knew what I wanted to do after graduation.

    Unfortunately this is not thought of as a career you hire for right out of school (probably rightfully so although I’d like to think a strong analytical person with good communication could be trained into it as they learned the business). I interviewed with one of the large pharmaceutical companies and was very open about what I wanted to pursue, and they were almost confused by it even though it was one of the roles they were hiring for. They directly told me they’ve never had a student apply for that job before.

    So I ended up going to graduate school for statistics, and pursuing the career that way. After multiple roles with Minitab I joined Dr Pepper Snapple three years ago (now Keurig Dr Pepper) and haven’t looked back! Fortunately there appears to be an endless supply of waste in every business to eliminate…

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    #239715

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    @michaelcyger did you see the Chernobyl series yet on HBO?

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    #239716

    Michael Cyger
    Keymaster

    @cseider No HBO, but a friend just told me that I can get free HBO through my AT&T phone service so I have to look into that immediately! I’ve heard that it’s really good.

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    #239717

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    My career began selling car washes, oil, and waxes at the Shell Oil Station. Then finishing college as a chemical engineer allowed me to ironically work at a Shell Oil refinery in Louisiana where I implemented process controls to integrate with process optimizers.

    Next, I had the awesome opportunity to be the project manager for the instrumentation and controls for an entirely new green field latex plant in WI. This is when I first begain to use Minitab @jennatlas! I then became the process control/process engineer for the facility where our first batch made was fully in spec! I then began to get my formal Six Sigma training as a BB by primarily Gary Cone and then moved to our Ohio headquarters to be the division’s MBB and went through more formal training as a MBB under the tutelage of Jim Lambert our OPEX VP and Gary Gone. We then trained many waves of BB and GB and I recruited outside candidates from customers and suppliers who offset any of our direct expenses and certified them after going through the same training and mentoring. I then got disappointed I didn’t get accepted internally for my ideal job so then made a career mistake and got lured away to revamp Champion and GB training for another locally based company in NE Ohio and that ended soon after they got what they initially asked from me.

    Then I moved to North Texas and was hired to be a Six Sigma trained guy who could implement TPM at a local aseptic packaging plant. We got 2 awards/certifications from JIPM and my next move was turned down by myself–I didn’t want to go to Singapore for personal reasons. This allowed me to truly understand how Lean and Six Sigma truly are integrated as Lean Six Sigma.

    Then I had the most fabulous opportunities with @mikecarnell and went to do material development, training, mentoring, and some projects for clients initially in South Africa but then for other clients in North America, Asia, and AUS/NZ region. I got to see the “only” plant for various products such as Triscuits and Vegemite. This happened for many years and then for personal reasons went to work for a neat chemical plant that had many new processes for me to learn.

    Initially, I was brought in to debottleneck the plant and we increased lbs produced by 100% within one year while partnering with safety to reduce operator efforts and reduce accidents and was enjoying myself to be working on such a well managed team. At the chemical plant, I led the division’s efforts and set up standards for OEE reporting since we were starting TPM and I had much experience in this from past efforts. Focus changed with management changes above me so I left that facility for family issues and now just occasionally do consulting.

    Enough about me…what about you?

    Thanks again to Mike and Gary for the growth…and I don’t mean just my belt size LOL.

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  Chris Seider.
    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  Chris Seider.
    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  Chris Seider.
    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  Michael Cyger. Reason: Requested by cseider
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    #239721

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    Yea, I heard it got even better ratings than GoT! LOL.. @michaelcyger

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  Chris Seider.
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    #239723

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    @joelsmith Small world….I was a chemical engineering student also and first learned THE HARD WAY about DOE’s with Box, Hunter, and Hunter. Where was Minitab back then?…oh wait, we were lucky to have IBM XT’s and Mac’s!

    I was going to edit my “personal history” but isixsigma sets a limit on when I can edit or max number of edits? @michaelcyger :)

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    #239724

    GPS1111
    Participant

    @mike Carnell – no, 1952 is NOT too far back! To me it was a very good year (Dec 16)! My journey to LSSMBB was through the military. They were using a lot of the lean and 5S concepts when I enlisted in 1972. We had to do them but no one knew they were real concepts or had names attached to the different processes. We just learned and did them but, hey, that’s the military. When I retired from the Air Force in 1994 I formalized that military training through college and up through the belt system. LSS schools of thought were beginning hold in places like Boeing (“officially” went lean in 1994) and other major manufacturers (Airbus in 1998) and I caught on to the dragon’s tail and used what I learned to help bring companies out of the dark ages. Over the years I have had major implementations from developing complete lean six sigma systems for companies or sections of companies, complete facility redesign for optimized flow and resource use, moving a machining company to a new building five miles away with layout done to minimize wait and queue time while maintaining machine operating time, to the common elimination of unnecessary steps and improvement of the ones that are left. All were at smaller aerospace companies except for Genie Industries.

    It helped that my dad worked in similar circumstances long before there was a formal Lean Six Sigma title to anything. They were simply common sense tools then. He did a short stint with Western Electric and Bell Labs so he definitely knew the Deming way. As that was in the early 1950’s he may have even met Deming at some point. He passed away a dozen or so years back before I could ask. It was less important than what he knew. Whether he knew it or not, how he did things away from work had that influence on me and I saw it at a very early age even though I had no clue what it was. But it became my common sense. So I had the double whammy introduction route into the process improvement world.

    My company uses me as a “full time internal consultant” with primary focus of bringing new/chnaged programs and systems for manufacturing on line and it uses all of the tools. I am currently implementing AS9145. For those not in aerospace it is the aerospace adapted equivalent of automotive APQP-PPAP and is completely Lean Six Sigma driven. Shewhart and Deming live on!

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  GPS1111.
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    #239727

    Michael Cyger
    Keymaster

    @cseider I’ll private message you to debug.

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    #239728

    Joel Smith
    Participant

    @cseider Oh, I got to learn the easy way on Minitab 12! There are lots of continuous improvement professionals that came up through chemical engineering…I think it gives people a process mindset to begin with, and typically involves processes with a certain amount of uncertainty so the statstical aspect feels more natural.

    1
    #239750

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @katiebarry Not a SS practitioner? Seriously? you run a website that has been pretty much the epicenter of SS world wide for about a decade. Like it or not you are one of us. I knew you had a pretty cool background I just wanted other people to see you as more than an editor.

    @gps1111 1952 doesn’t feel that long ago until you are doing like those surveys and they ask what age group you are in and you are checking the last box.

    @cseider It was happy to have you along for South Africa. Definitely some of the best times of my life. I am not sure if you were there when Archbishop Desmond Tutu came to visit. How cool is that when you are involved in something that a Nobel Peace Prize winner says “hey I want to go hang out with those guys for 3 days and see what they are doing.” There are a lot of wicked smart people down there doing some pretty cool stuff. Loved South Africa “It gets in your blood.”

    1
    #239755

    Carl Berardinelli
    Participant

    I am reminded of the Beatles tune… Long and Winding Road.
    My continuous improvement journey started very early in my career. My first job out of school was that of a Field Engineer in a small startup where I would need to make software and hardware work at the customers site, Alpha and Beta level which might have limited test time. The president of the company started me down the path with his go to comment; Prove it to me. From there I moved on to consumer electronics where I was involved in test and automation. I was introduced to SPC and Taguchi and used these leanings to statistically set my tolerances based on customer requirement (PIX quality). In the mid ’80’s we had processes running (final assembly level) single digit PPM. From Consumer Electronics I moved to Automotive Electronic were I was offered formal college level, but without the degree, statistical training (6 semester stats and DoE and 2 semester reliability). Those of us that got to go through the training were running “Six Sigma” projects before Six Sigma was popular. Later, I got the opportunity to go through Six Sigma, Robust Engineering, DFSS Shainin Red X and Lean training and certifications. When the automotive meltdown happened, I moved to healthcare with Mayo Clinic and was able to do a lot of transactional work not only at Mayo but with other major healthcare organizations including the Joint Commission. A few years ago, I returned to automotive where I work both transactional and technical problems, teach and mentor practitioners. Yes, all the learning has been transferable to other areas and industries.

    1
    #239764

    Jessica
    Participant

    Love this! 💖

    It’s so cool to see everyone’s different path to quality. These stories are engaging and inspirational.

    Here’s mine:

    * Associate degree
    * Floor administrator
    * Assistant manager
    * Ops manager
    * Six Sigma Black Belt
    * Happy OPEXer!

    1
    #239772

    Robert Tripp
    Participant

    “I want to fix business processes using problem-solving tools and data analysis!” said no child, ever.

    CI just isn’t one of those occupations that people dream about early in life like being an astronaut, fireman or, in the case of my son when he saw the Times Square ball drop for the first time, a confetti engineer. So I think pretty much everyone who finds themselves in this environment arrives here by a fairly indirect path. And for those of us that stay here because we’re good at it (or at least we think we are) we are among a community that is a little like the island of misfit toys. And that isn’t a bad thing. In fact it’s a prereq – we have to be misfits to be any good at this and we have to be energized by existing on the fringe. This vocation requires thrill-seeking non-conformity, especially in the way we perceive our environment, process our observations, and communicate our ideas. Add a visceral discomfort for waste with an activist’s impatience to drive change and you have basically pegged most of the people (whom I am proud to say that I know) who have either contributed or been tagged in this thread. And behind all of that is the spirit of an entrepreneur that creates order from ambiguity, relentlessly selling ideas to bring value to customers – no matter how many times they are knocked down – whether they find their value space in a large corporate CI deployment, pound pavement as an independent consultant, or create new avenues for people to convey their wisdom (Cyger). To be sure, there is no shortage of pride and arrogance on this island but it’s mostly deserved (now that’s a self-fulfilling statement!) because being an observation that is unusual enough to pull a mean to the right of the interquartile range in a large population is not easy – but it sure as heck can be fun!

    Wow, that was cathartic.

    BS Biochem>MBA Finance>Financial Analyst>TQM Trainer>Ops Manager>BB/MBB>Controller>Outlier Developer since 1998 (with humble appreciation for inspiring guidance from Carnell, Cone, Cyger, Seider and many others)

    And yes, after 5 continents and 21 years, South Africa is the one place that compels me with an addict’s inexorable desire to return. Maybe it’s the surprise encounters with cobras (I’m sure Seider rejects that hypothesis), maybe it’s the biltong…or maybe it’s the dawn of humanity. Whatever it is, it’s profound – and eerily magnetic. Thanks to Carnell for that ride.

    1
    #239780

    Dave100
    Participant

    Design Eng/NPD,Quality Supervisor, LSSGB, LSSBB, CI/QA Eng, LSSBB, Project Eng, VSM, COE Leader, MFG/Ops Leader,Plant Mgr

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    #239842

    Ddelisle
    Participant

    Wow, all this is very interesting…

    My path:
    – Public Accounting
    – Chief Financial Officer
    – Apparel Sourcing
    – Apparel Manufacturing
    – Closed company and
    – Now in process of completing my Black Belt ( I believe that many apparel companies are in desperate need for this)

    This truly is a great forum!

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    #240203

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @Darth How about your beginnings? You don’t have to do it on parchment as you did when you began.

    @venerablebede That ride isn’t over yet. We still have stuff coming in South America and Asia

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    #240467

    Anthony S.
    Participant

    My path:

    • B.S. Health and Wellness (wanted to be in sports medicine for a professional sports team…though I don’t watch sports)
    • Logistics officer in the army (got out as a captain)
    • Production supervisor in manufacturing (earned my LSSBB with @mike-carnell and  @venerablebede as two of my MBB mentors)
    • Quality Engineer (manufacturing still)
    • Quality Department Manager (manufacturing still, completed my M.S. Industrial/Organizational Psychology)
    • Operations Manager in software development (leading my first wave of GB training now)

    Really awesome question and proud to be associated with so many outliers!

    1
    #240488

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @cfberardinelli I like the Beatles quote. I did an article for Quality Progress a few years back and threw in a similar quote from The Greatful Dead – “What a long strange trip its’s been.”

    @cseider and @venerablebede Have to agree South Africa was an amazing experience for us all. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    @ddelisle Yes this is a pretty amazing place where the honest can get some serious quality help for free. You missed the food fight days of the Usual Suspects where we averaged 40 posts per day. It was pretty wild back then.

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    #240490

    Marchand
    Participant

    Undergrad English Lit & Political Science major > terrible LSAT scores led me to (wisely) reconsider law > various low paying wage slave jobs > grad school in international relations (yes, seriously, what was I thinking — although I loved it) > various temp jobs in DC until a wonderful VP at a wonderful place said, “What are you doing here at 7 pm making copies for me if you have a master’s degree?” > FIRST BREAK WHEN HE HIRED ME PERMANENTLY! > many years at the first wonderful place where they opened up a Process Improvement group > I get wind of the Six Sigma magic but being no math whiz (see undergrad major) I am intimidated and don’t pursue it > Corporate Training > offered another chance to pursue Six Sigma > Yellow, Green and most painfully for me, finally, the Black Belt – gawd, the math! > Go the second wonderful place (federal contractor — yes, seriously) > meet new boss, the Visionary Boy Genius > “Let’s create a ‘Teaching Hospital-type place’ where we can train people on these tools,” he sez > 12 years later I’m still here, teaching others a home-grown SSWB and SSYB curriculum, incl. intro to Visio and process mapping, root cause analysis, FMEAs, pareto charts, VOC,  etc. > many have gone on to other SS certificates and jobs > so proud > although it hasn’t all been beer and skittles, it’s the best decision I ever made!

     

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