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Interview with CQI Emerging Talent Winner Victoria Derbyshire

13 May 2020
NQA proudly sponsored the CQI awards in 2019, we chose to be involved in these awards because our motto of “Never Stop Improving” fit seamlessly with the ethos of the awards and helped acknowledge the importance of global quality.

We had the pleasure of meeting the Emerging Talent winner Victoria Derbyshire of Nuvia UK Ltd... we hope you enjoy her blog on her experience of entering the awards and developing her career in the quality world.  

How did you start on your journey to a career in Quality?

I was always told that the only route to success was through school, college and university. I think it’s fair to say that if I had done that then I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I remember coming home after an awful day at college and deciding that I’d had enough and was going to find an apprenticeship (classroom learning was not my favourite). I found one online that night and applied. When I received the offer for the apprenticeship, I dropped out of college, abandoned my (almost complete) A levels and left my job at Debenhams café. All I wanted to do was to get out of the classroom and into the real world and Nuvia’s apprenticeship seemed to fit everything I was looking for. Nuclear was a really exciting industry to me as well. It was the first Quality apprenticeship Nuvia had ever done and it was a subject I knew very little about so it was a big risk for both parties.

Looking back, I wouldn’t have done it any differently; I have found a subject I love and it has shaped a huge part of who I am today. Now, apprenticeship complete, I have the role of “Quality Improvement Engineer”: responsible for ensuring we meet client and industry requirements/standards, managing Quality on projects, engaging with stakeholders and leading improvement initiatives.

Why did you enter the CQI International Quality awards?

I had been involved with the CQI since the very beginning, presenting to them only 9 weeks after starting at Nuvia. They had supported me since day one so when I saw that they were launching the awards, I got excited and wanted to enter straight away. I saw myself in the emerging talent category, as I was still new to the profession and wanted to show that you can still have an influence and show Quality leadership even at the bottom of an organisation. I wanted to share my story with as many people as I could but I wasn’t quite ready at the time, as I was only a year into my apprenticeship.

In 2019, my time as an apprentice was coming to an end and I felt that it was time for everybody to hear my story so I entered.

How did you find the experience?

Entering the International Quality Awards was one of the most challenging points of my apprenticeship. I actually first entered in 2018 but didn’t get past the first stage; I just was not ready and I didn’t give the application the attention and effort it needed. The application required a lot of time and I had to really think about my experiences, the criteria and what Quality was to me. Putting all of that in 1500 words was really hard!

I don’t consider the 2018 application to be a waste or a failure, as it was actually a big part of why I won. I think I needed to experience and learn from the failure to understand how to put the best application I could together for the 2019 awards. And it worked.

The presentation and interview stage was one of the highlights. I brought my mum down to London with me for the interview and I remember going through my presentation with her in the hotel bar the night before being really nervous. Walking into the CQI the next day gave me mixed feelings of nerves, excitement but I felt comfortable being in a place that I knew had supported me for so long. The presentation took a lot of preparation and gave me an opportunity to talk in detail about what was in my application. The judges were all lovely and the presentation/questions just flowed naturally. Remembering that experience makes me even more excited to be one of the judges for the emerging talent award this year!

The awards ceremony itself really was the best day of my career so far. In all honesty, I was not expecting to win, I was just there to enjoy the day and celebrate the profession with everybody else, so when my name was called, it was a shock. If you watch my speech back, you can hear my voice start to break towards the end because I was so overwhelmed.

Would you do anything differently?

In all honesty, no. Don’t get me wrong; there were times when I wanted to just scrap the application and forget about it but the whole process was worth it. The ups and downs made it memorable.

What tips would you give to people entering next year?

  1. Get creative! You want the judges to remember your application for the right reasons. You are given the opportunity to put some slides together so squeeze as much out of that as you can – make them visual.

  2. Stand out. The judges are going to be reading lots of applications so it’s very easy for yours to blend in. Make it personal and make them remember YOU.

  3. Don’t be afraid to ask. If you’re stuck, don’t be afraid to contact the CQI and they will answer any questions about the application you are unsure about, providing they are generic and fair to everybody else.

  4. Take time away from the application. You have 4 weeks to put together the application; don’t sit and stare at it everyday or you’ll drive yourself mad. Take it in stages and leave plenty of time for polishing and peer review.

  5. Why should you win? If you can answer this question confidently, then you are ready to enter.

Additionally, if you’re somebody who wants to enter but maybe not this year. Download the application and fill in the questions anyway; it will help you see where your gaps and strengths are and help you prepare for the following year or year after.

Where do you see your future career going?

I have always said that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up (despite being 21 this year…) and, to be honest, there is still truth in that. However, I love working in Quality and the industry I am in. My plan is to keep doing what I enjoy and following the opportunities that come my way. When I start to dread going into work, I will change my plan.

For now, I am pursuing specialising in 'Improvement' on projects and on a corporate level. I achieved my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt qualification last year and I want to start changing the way the Nuclear industry thinks about improvement and Quality by implementing strategies and collaborating with other Quality professionals across the industry.

Authored by: Victoria Derbyshire, Quality Improvement Engineer at Nuvia UK