Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Kim Engler, From Taking Apart a 10-speed Bike to Quality Management Leadership
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is important to recognize the significant contributions of women in various industries. One such industry is quality management, where women have made a profound impact as leaders. From developing quality systems to improving organizational processes, women have been at the forefront of driving quality initiatives forward. Despite facing challenges and obstacles, these women have shown remarkable resilience and determination, paving the way for future generations of women quality leaders.
In this article, we highlight the journey of one such inspiring woman, Kim Engler, VP of QA, Validation, and Technical Communication at ComplianceQuest, who has made her mark in the quality management industry.
1. What motivated you to get into the quality management industry?
I once took my mother’s 10-speed bike apart in its entirety. Every single piece. I wanted to see how it was built. She was not thrilled. I showed her that I took inventory of every piece on a clipboard where I collected all of the information with explanations of how the pieces fit together.
After I put it back together, I became the person in the household that would fix everything. The microwave, CD player, TV, the list goes on. I’ve always been curious about how everything works, and what happens when it breaks.
I landed an internship at a startup that specialized in enterprise quality management software a little over 25 years ago and have not turned back since. I cannot imagine doing anything but this.
2. What was your dream job as a kid and why?
I actually wanted to be a teacher and coach. I always wanted to know everything about anything. I always enjoyed presenting what I learned and leading the pack.
3. Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your quality career.
My biggest accomplishment would have to be where I started in the quality management industry. When I landed an internship at Pilgrim Software back in the late 90s, I had no education in quality management and was hired as a technical writer. The company was still in the start-up phase.
I was officially employee #13 in the US and shared an office with the only software trainer at Pilgrim. I was hired to write policies and procedures for the company in order to achieve ISO 9001 certification and was using Pilgrim’s Software on a daily basis as an author to these documents.
My job was part-time for three months; however, I worked about 50 hours a week because I was hooked on the software and had minimal time to soak in that goodness.
I, of course, clicked on every button in the software and started poking around in the other products and at the end of my three months had a pretty good understanding of how the products worked (thanks to my office buddy).
I was offered a full-time job as a trainer. A year later, I was managing training and consulting, fast forward 15 years later and I had held over 10 different roles in the organization managing various teams and processes in professional services, product management, product validation, and quality management.
I’d say my biggest accomplishment in this tenure was not only fostering growth at Pilgrim but also getting the opportunity of being involved in what functionality was going into the suite of Pilgrim’s EQMS products. It’s a legacy I am very proud of.
By consistently improving and streamlining quality control processes, Kim has helped ComplianceQuest achieve astronomical growth, both in terms of revenue and customer satisfaction. Her contributions have been instrumental in the company’s success, and her dedication to quality has set a benchmark for others to follow.
4. Do you feel you have sacrificed anything for your professional journey?
Absolutely, but not with any regrets. My dreams to advance my career definitely affected my personal relationships. I travelled so much in my first 20 years. I think that women especially have to sometimes make that choice, especially when you look back 20, 30 years from today. I never was able to find that balance to be able to have both a successful career and a family.
I’m not saying it cannot be done with the right type of support. There are some real Wonder Women out there. I just never found the recipe for that, but I would not trade any part of my journey.
It continues to be easier for men to be driven for success and have that type of support because of what is considered the societal norms.
5. What do you think is the most significant barrier to women leadership in Quality?
Having a voice to challenge what is needed to improve. Couple that with the fact that Quality is and will always fall under operations poses its own challenges to begin with because quality is not truly seen as an obvious driver to revenue as other areas within the organization.
I think that women have to be very selective with how we approach anything that is challenging areas in our operations in which quality needs to be improved. I feel that men in the same type of roles may not have those same challenges. I mean there are always challenges being in quality and having to be the “whistle-blower” of all things, but as a woman, it feels like an extra barrier, no doubt.
6. Who was an inspiring woman leader to you growing up and who inspires you now?
At one point in my career at Pilgrim Software, I reported to Nikki Willett. Nikki has held various leadership roles throughout her tenure in the quality management arena. I always admired how Nikki could navigate through many of the barriers that women experience in the workplace. She gave me the autonomy to grow in my roles at Pilgrim.
She was and is still a force in this industry and I owe a lot of my accomplishments to her. She taught me how to be the leader I am today in many ways, and she has taught me so much about the industry. We continue to be colleagues today, which is just the icing on this cake.
Kim Engler and Nikki Willett are both highly accomplished professionals who hold leadership roles at ComplianceQuest today. With their years of experience and expertise in the field of quality management, they have played an instrumental role in shaping the direction and success of the company.
Mackenzie Scott is my hero. She has a no strings attached style of giving back and that makes her a true rock star in my book.
7. Did you feel like you faced any gender discrimination throughout your career in the sector and if so, how did you address it?
I do not think you can ask any woman this question without the answer being, yes. For me, it has just always been how to find new ways to navigate through it and come out of it with as little blowback as possible. I typically handle it one-on-one with the person depending on the company culture and how leadership fosters anti-discrimination.
8. Do you think the quality industry has some catching up to do where women in leadership roles are concerned? What advice would you give to the next generation of women leaders?
For sure, I think pretty much every industry could catch up. Women are socialized to be perfect. I would say the best advice I can give is to recognize your fears upfront and do the hard things anyway. Do not pass up on opportunities that come your way. The more you can get out of your comfort zone, the further you will get toward your goals.
9. How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
I wake up every day with the vision of why I continue to want to lead and what I want to lead my teams towards. I always want to encourage a culture that fosters inclusion, respect for ideas, and diversity of thought which in turn brings success not only to a business, but to anyone I’m responsible for leading as a team. I truly enjoy every part of it, the good and the sometimes painful.
10. What is a key learning about quality management that you want to advocate for the next generation of quality leaders?
Good is not good where better is expected. Always strive to be better. I think this could hold true in any aspect of life.
Women in the quality management industry have made remarkable strides in advancing the field and overcoming gender barriers. Their achievements are a testament to their hard work, determination, and unwavering commitment to excellence.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us not only recognize the contributions of these women but also encourage and empower the next generation of female leaders in quality management. By doing so, we can continue to build a more diverse, inclusive, and innovative industry that benefits us all.