Surfing Helps One Quality Analyst Maintain Quality on the Job

Bob Stinson, a Quality Analyst at Northrop Grumman, shares how his experiences surfing have shaped his approach to achieving high quality at work.

Growing up three miles from the Manhattan Beach pier, I started surfing early. More than 40 years later, I still surf weekly, but with a greater appreciation for how it correlates with my approach to quality at work.

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When surfing, every wave presents its own challenges that you have to maneuver through. Done unsuccessfully, the consequences can be painful. I’ve been caught on the inside and held underwater, and I’ve gone over the falls (falling top to bottom) on a takeoff. Every time I paddle out into the surf, every time I hit the lineup, I’m aware and prepared for the unexpected.

There are days when the waves are perfectly shaped and it’s easy to get a great ride. Other days, wind and choppy waters demand perseverance.

As a Quality Analyst, I find new challenges and problems frequently arise and require immediate attention. Imagine something as simple as a retaining ring coming off a fastener during a customer inspection.

In this type of situation, we’d form a team to study it further. The team might discover a history of similar issues within the machining shop. Quality Engineering may have been unaware because the standard repairs were being done on the spot. Further investigation might discover a flaw in the tool used to install the fasteners, something corrected through simple refurbishment. The team implements repairs and corrective actions, and the problem is solved. Our customer is happy, and so is the shop.

We often hear the phrase “quality in everything we do,” especially around Quality Month in October. But what does that mean? For me, it’s the importance of ensuring quality every step of the way, even on programs we’ve built for years, because the consequences are too great if we don’t.

Many of the lessons I apply at work, I’ve learned from surfing. I’ve ridden countless waves over the last 40 years, and I’ve inspected products countless times in my 30-plus years at Northrop Grumman.

Each challenge that arises, like each distinct wave, requires careful and thought-out maneuvering. But the satisfaction of a sweet ride, of ensuring the best quality, keeps me coming back.

Northrop Grumman has many career opportunities available that oversee quality and are in locations enabling you to pursue the activities you’re passionate about, like surfing. Click here to see all our quality positions.

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