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News | Dec. 8, 2021

Keystones to QAs: Two women share their path to a career in quality assurance

By Jason Kaneshiro DCMA Eastern Region Public Affairs

Only around 10 percent of quality assurance specialists with Defense Contract Management Agency are women — something the agency wants to change by encouraging women to enter the career field.

Two recent graduates of DCMA’s Keystone program, Aisha Glover and Myra Valentine, are among the newest women QAs to join the ranks of the quality workforce.

The Keystone Program is a 3-year entry-level developmental program that establishes an avenue to hire internal and external applicants using competitive and noncompetitive appointing authorities.

Glover, who works at DCMA Hampton’s Greensboro, North Carolina office, started her career with DCMA in September 2015 as a Procurement Technician.

“I liked being a PT and working directly with the Contracts folks,” Glover said. “However, in 2018 my husband and I decided we were going to move to North Carolina. One day as I was sitting at my desk, I saw an internal job announcement flash across my screen for a Quality Assurance Keystone position in Greensboro, North Carolina.”

As fortune would have it, that location was close to where they were moving to.

“Knowing that I really wanted to stay with DCMA Hampton, I spoke with my Contracts Director, Matt Mullins, about the position and applied,” Glover said. “A few weeks later, I found out I was hired. A couple of months after that, I started my Quality Assurance Specialist journey.”

Glover said that it had never crossed her mind to become a QAS.

“I loved working on the contracts team and I didn't think I had the right background experience,” Glover said. “However, when the opportunity came knocking, I had to answer. I must admit, it was one of the best decisions I could've made.”

Glover said she hadn’t considered a career in quality assurance because she believed that some type of maintenance or technical experience would be required.

“I am prior Air Force and my job was in logistics and supply. Although I may have issued aircraft parts, I certainly couldn't tell you what they did and why,” Glover said.

But after some time being in a QA position, she quickly realized that although it helps to have maintenance and technical knowledge, it is not necessary to be successful.

Valentine, who works at DCMA Lockheed Martin in Moorestown, New Jersey, had a different path to becoming a QAS. She started her journey as an electronic communications specialist when she served in the military, a career that carried on to her civilian life.

“Prior my position as a Keystone QAR, I worked for the e Army as an electronics mechanic repairing and maintaining tactical communications equipment as well as other electronic systems,” Valentine said.

There was a QA at her previous job that opened her eyes to the career field.

“We spent many hours developing processes for intake of communication equipment, repair, preventive maintenance, and ultimately returning repaired equipment to the customer,” Valentine said. “We had many conversations about what quality assurance entailed as a profession. I have always been fascinated about the how’s and why’s. He suggested I explore the Keystone program with DCMA.”

As luck would have it, they had a Keystone completing a rotation in Logistics which ultimately convinced her to apply for the program as a QA.

Valentine said that the Keystone program is rigorous, with each new training criteria being a stepping-stone that depends on the previous step.

“You cannot blow through the online training, just trying to pass the class,” Valentine said. “You must take your time with each course and be your own advocate by putting in a submission for the follow-on in-residence course once you begin the class.”

Graduating from the program, Valentine and Glover were placed in their new roles as QAs and immediately got to work ensuring that everything being passing under the purview of DCMA was held to quality standards.

Glover said that she loves her teammates and that working with a good team makes a big difference in the professional success of the individual and how they perceive their job.

“I also love that I'm not always trapped behind a computer all the time,” Glover said. “As a QAS, I’m able to get out of the office to visit contractor facilities and interact with different people outside of DCMA on a regular basis.”

The most rewarding part about the job is knowing that it contributes to the success of the warfighter by ensuring quality parts are sent to the field, Glover said.

Both Glover and Valentine expressed an appreciation of the role that quality assurance and DCMA plays in supporting the overall National Defense Strategy.

“Part of DCMA's mission is to deliver quality products to the Department of Defense and its partners,” Glover said. “As a QAS, it’s our job to ensure a quality product is shipped. We are indeed the frontline eyes and ears of the organization.”

Valentine said quality assurance is part of the final “400 feet” as the gap between the item being inspected and then delivered to customers. “In other words, we’re the last step before these things get in the hands of the warfighter be it the Navy or any of the services,” Valentine said.

As two of the newest QA specialists with the agency, and two of a growing number of women in their career field, Glover and Valentine encouraged more women to follow their lead.

“Ladies, don't be intimidated by the mechanical and technical aspect of the position. The job doesn't require you to be an expert in all things mechanical and technical,” Glover said. “You will learn that stuff as you go. Plus, I have yet to run into a QAS who isn't willing to assist.”

Valentine shared a similar sentiment.

“Working with the vast amount of people to accomplish a common goal. Each person plays a pivotal role in the mission, there by building trust with people each step of the way,” Valentine said. “I think women have unique qualities to bring to the table. Do not over think it, just do it.”

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