I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA. I spent 16 years in quality engineering management before taking an 11-year career break. After looking at current job postings in my field, I felt my skills were really outdated and knew I would need a thorough education in LEAN Manufacturing techniques in order to be hired.
I took an online class in Six Sigma and an eight-day course in LEAN Manufacturing held at a manufacturing firm. This was a course engineers are sent to by their companies. So it was expensive. It was one day a week for eight weeks. We did some simple projects in that factory. At the LEAN course, I made a big impression. I was the only one with time to do homework! I asked the director of manufacturing, a fellow attendee, if I could do a few projects for him, for the experience. I did a LEAN value stream map with time studies for incoming inspection. I presented this to the managers and planners, walking them through the exercise of identifying waste. Most importantly, I had an actual lean project I could speak about in interviews.
Additionally, I went on every plant tour I could, via the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership. I went to meetings of three professional organizations - the Society of Women Engineers, the American Society for Quality, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. I attended the Northeast Shingo Conference that focuses on the latest developments in lean practices. Finally, I read LEAN blogs and about 10 books. The whole process took about nine months.
I found I was really able to carry my side of a conversation with all this exposure - so it wasn't my experiences I was talking about, but something new I had seen or heard about.
Lastly, I called an outplacement firm a neighbor had used during a layoff. I asked him if he ever worked with individuals. We met four times. He rewrote my resume, found value where I hadn't, and gave me strategies and tactics for dealing with salary discussions.
After three interviews, I was hired as a Business Process Improvement Specialist at MKS Instruments in Andover in a temporary position. I had been watching this company, since someone I hired 15 years ago and with whom I had worked prior to that, works in management there! Then I sat next to their new VP of Quality at an ASQ professional association meeting. So I sent the VP my resume and I got an interview."
Note: Six months later they bumped up Loraine's pay and made her a permanent employee, and two months after that, Loraine was promoted to Senior Quality Engineer.
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