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Becoming an NQA Aerospace Auditor - Nigel Hammond

25 May 2021
Find out what the last year of auditing has been like for new NQA Auditor, Nigel Hammond. He shares his insight into the inner workings of his journey to becoming a qualified auditor and the challenges he came across in an unprecedented year...

I have worked in the Aerospace sector all my working life. From my apprenticeship at a major prime, to my last job which I was at for over 24 years.

Whilst in that job, I had been for various other job interviews but deep down I knew that I wouldn’t accept the job even if they offered it, which happened a few times. However, when I went for the interview with NQA it was different, I knew I wanted the job and if it was offered I had no doubts that I would accept it.

I had been audited by NQA for a number of years, with each auditor being thorough but fair, explaining issues in an easy to understand manner and adding value to the business.

Preparing for the role

My first week in audit with NQA, was November 2019 and I was plunged straight in to the ISO 9001:2015 Lead Auditor course and exams.

In my previous job I was responsible for our internal audits – defining the audit schedule and carrying out the audits themselves. On top of this I conducted audits on our suppliers, hosting customer audits for major primes and for Nadcap Special Processes.

Now however, sitting the other side of the table, 180° opposite to what I had been used to, it to seamed so different. It is one thing to answer the questions you are being asked by an assessor, but it’s a whole different ball game asking the questions without trying to give away the answer or what you are ideally looking for - that becomes a skill in itself.

Thankfully I passed the course and started attending client audits, shaddowing experienced auditors within NQA, who were more than happy to pass on snippets of information to help me develop my skills as an auditor.

When the time was right, I was put forward for my 'witnessed assessment' in early 2020, which I passed with flying colours and meant I was ready to go out into the big wide world of auditing on my own.

Making the move into Aerospace assessments

At the same time as carrying out audits for ISO 9001, I had been sitting my Aerospace online modules, to enable me to attend an AS9100 course and exams in Wales, UK, towards the end of February 2020. I had by now carried out approximately half a dozen ISO 9001:2015 audits on my own, with these starting to feel more natural, with better flow and more confidence leading up to the audit itself. Funnily enough, once the audit started, there was no stress at all other than that put upon by myself in order to ensure I was providing NQA clience with an excellent service. Ultimately, the AS9100 course in Wales was cancelled and the only other available venue was in Dallas, Texas, USA.

So, I flew set off Dallas at the end of February 2020. A number of people had told me the course and exams were mentally gruelling. WOW – they were not lying. The breakneck speed with which the course was carried out (including the time allocated for the 2 exams at the end of the course) definitely put me though my paces.

The tutors were exceptional, friendly, knowledgably and couldn’t have been more helpful. The problem I had was adjusting to the time difference. I was straight into the course the day after I arrived, would sit the course during the days, revise at night and then find I couldn’t sleep when I finished, getting by on about 2 hours sleep a night. Looking back, it was an adventure but definitely not one I'll be rushing back to complete again any time soon.

The impacts of Covid-19

Shortly after returning from my training Covid-19 struck. With the initial onset of panic from organisations who thought they would have to shut, various audits were cancelled. This was the time when the word 'furlough' was an entirely new and slightly daunting prospect.

It was when I was part of NQA's furlough scheme for four months that I stared to fully realise what good leadership was all about. Throughout my time on furlough, there wasn't a week that went by when I didn't get a call or text from a senior manager to ask how both myself and the fam