From Germs, Petri-Dishes and Microscopes to Lead Auditor

After specialising as an industrial microbiological analyst investigating microbiologically influenced corrosion, I progressed into laboratory quality management. To prepare me for this extra responsibility I studied for a level 5 certificate of higher education in Quality Management through the University of South Wales Professional Academy and the Chartered Quality Institute. After completion of the course I decided to take the plunge and move away from science into a management systems role. This decision was not taken lightly as I had worked for the small specialist company I was with for 9 years, I knew my job inside out and I had spent my 17 year working life in a laboratory environment, very much as a hands-on scientist at the laboratory bench.

Starting on my Alcumus Journey

December 2017 – I started with Alcumus as a Management Systems Assistant – assisting Karl Mrosek, Group Systems Manager with the management of Alcumus’ Integrated Management Systems. I was keen to gain more auditing experience so, when Karl asked me in my first 1-2-1 what training I would like to receive I suggested an ISO 9001 (Quality Management System) Lead Auditor Course

April 2018 – Jul 2018 – I completed an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor Course, plus ISO 27001 (Information Security) and ISO 45001 (Occupational Health and Safety) Internal Auditor courses in the Manchester office and in Milton Keynes. This training was delivered by the ISOQAR Training Academy. The trainers were engaging and their enthusiasm for the subject matter was infectious. After listening to the stories of their experience gained as Lead Auditors I started to think that Lead Auditing would be a career I would enjoy. 

Taking the Initiative

Sep 2018 – I approached Mark Burgess, Operations Director of ISOQAR to inquire about accompanying a Lead Auditor to witness an ISOQAR audit. And so it was arranged for me to witness an ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 audit of a company that designs and manufactures electrical control panels. It was clearly evident just how much the auditor, Phil, enjoyed his job. Phil has been an auditor for over ten years and was totally at ease with the clients. After the witnessed audit Phil and I carried on communicating via email.

October 2018 – I plucked up the courage to contact Mark Burgess to enquire about becoming a Lead Auditor. Mark was due to visit the Cardiff office, so we met for an informal chat. After providing Mark with my CV and chatting face to face, Mark agreed to put me through my Lead Auditor Training. I was elated and excited to get started, but before I could start my field-based training I had to attend a few courses and pass a few exams!

Preparation

October 2018 – Dec 2018 I attended ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001 Lead Auditor conversion courses. I crammed the courses into two months, during which I passed three exams, had a lot of fun and met lots of external delegates and other ISOQAR people including Steve Blackwell, Amanda Spedding, Sam Barnes, Darren Shorney, Sue McCallum, Norbert Wilfer and Olivia Pearce. 

December 2018 and January 2019 – These were very busy for Group Systems as we had our first migration audit with BSI to ISO 45001, and surveillance audits for 9001, 14001 and 27001 and OHSAS 18001. In addition to carrying out my routine duties I was also working with April Jackson in IEX to develop a new audit tool and environmental performance tracker for Group Systems to improve our internal processes. In December 2018 I was also appointed as a trustee for Groundwork Wales, a charity that helps communities across Wales create better neighbourhoods, build skills and job prospects and to live and work in a greener way. 

It was during these months that colleagues efficiently made the necessary arrangements prior to me commencing my field-based training.

Meeting the Team

The Alcumus Group staff conference in the Celtic Manor in January 2019 provided me with the perfect opportunity to meet the my new ISOQAR team (South West Auditors), managed by Marie Robbins. I was welcomed to the team by Marie and introduced to Andrew Payne, Chris Wright, Darren Shorney, Diana OSullivan, Gerry Staunton, Gregory Middleton Kevin Bayliss and Phillip Goodland. My new team were friendly and encouraging and put any nerves I felt about starting my field-based training at ease. When I retired to my room I was greeted to a bottle of prosecco and box of chocolates left by Marie as an extra welcome!
Amy Shaw, ISOQAR Field Team Administrator, co-ordinated an official ISOQAR induction for me to meet Client Services, Technical and Sales Teams in Manchester. These overview sessions were invaluable to me gaining more of an insight to the ISOQAR processes.

Hitting the Field

Feb 2019 – I attended 7 audit days in Bristol, Hereford, Crickhowell, Port Talbot, Cwmbran and Cardiff at engineering, plant servicing, online secondary education providing and architectural companies. 

March 2019 – I attended 2 audit days in Cardiff at a dredging company and 1 audit day in Clevedon at a plastics manufacturer.

April 2019 – I attended 9 audit days in Chepstow, Caldicot, Portsmouth Naval Base, Southampton, Aberbargoed and Cwmbran at engineering, steel fabricating, building maintenance and security companies.

May 2019 – I have been signed off as an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor and completed my first fee earning job as an audit team member. I am now working towards ISO 14001 and 45001 sign off.

 
My Advice to others

Your skills, experience and knowledge can be transferred - Even though I had specialised in a very niche area of microbiology, my skills, knowledge and experience were transferrable. I spent my university and working life analysing samples, writing concise notes on primary evidence, making decisions based on fact-based evidence and writing technical reports for customers, which in essence is the same as auditing.

Make the most of opportunities available to you – We are extremely lucky to work for an organisation with training academies offering training to us. I am enrolled in the NEBOSH General Certificate and have completed lots of auditing courses through the ISOQAR Academy. I have worked for other companies that are very reluctant to offer recognised training courses to employees so take advantage of these courses.

Learn from the people around you; Alcumus has very skilled, knowledgeable people with a wealth of experience. Use this knowledge bank to reach your own potential.