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Looking Forward and Giving Back

By David Sgro, IEST Executive Board President

As I recently celebrated two career milestones—my five-year anniversary at FLIR with 15 years total in the industry (the greys are coming in strong now) and 11-year anniversary with IEST—I’ve been doing some reflecting on our industry as a whole. I’ve learned through talking with folks at my company and at other laboratories that our organization is relatively unknown. This realization surprises and worries me.

In our specialized and unique industries, technology and standards continue to evolve and advance. It’s essential to remain in lockstep with both. Lives depend on our knowledge and getting our work done right the first time—ethically and with integrity. Without that knowledge, our warfighters may not come home, or our companies could experience costly and embarrassing massive recalls for a bad product or an improperly manufactured pharmaceutical.

In the environmental testing and product reliability world, I have witnessed all too often the lack of knowledge transfer or mentoring of the next generation when professionals in our industry retire. I’ve seen individuals appointed to perform product qualification who have zero knowledge of MIL-STD-810 (or any standard they are supposed to be following) and how to properly execute testing. I have also seen third-party test labs perform improper testing in which I had to intervene to ensure my product was tested properly.

Experience, mentoring and knowledge sharing takes years—it is not instantaneous. As much as I would LOVE to pull a scene from the “Matrix” and “plug in” to transfer knowledge, that’s not the reality we live in. Part of this support and guidance needs to come from employers and part of it should come by seizing opportunities provided by your industry’s technical association: IEST.

Simply put, IEST is the only organization that exclusively serves professionals in the fields of contamination control, cleanrooms, environmental testing, product reliability, and nanotechnology facilities. We shape standards that impact our industry and the world at large. IEST Working Groups write and publish best practices that are widely used in our fields. We offer technical training by notable experts, a variety of networking opportunities, and conferences—like the upcoming ESTECH 2020—where participants can test-drive new products and technologies and discover the latest trends impacting controlled environments, product and environmental testing, and so much more.

Most importantly, IEST is a family of professionals who help each other build careers, strengthen skills and business practices, and advance environmental sciences. I have learned—and continue to learn—from my peers at IEST. Talking with experts who are open to providing guidance is amazing. I have been able to overcome challenges because of the connections I’ve made through IEST.

IEST is a strong resource because of the involvement and perspectives of hundreds of individuals. To ensure the vitality, strength, and continued value of IEST, we need members to become more involved—and we need the next generation of professionals to join our organization.

Here is my challenge to all of you:

If you are not yet a member of IEST, I invite you to connect with us and join IEST membership. I can tell you from experience that being an active member will have an incredible impact on your current job role and organization, long-term career goals, and industry practices you use every day. This is not only an investment in your company but an investment in yourself.

If you’re currently an IEST member, reach out to at least one person in your industry—co-worker, boss, new hire, seasoned professional—and make them aware of IEST. Explain why they should join our organization. Share this blog if it helps. You can also help us spread the word by becoming an IEST Membership Ambassador. Or become more involved as a training course instructor, ESTECH session chair or presenter, IEST Working Group Voting Member, advisor on IEST education, or contributor to the online Journal of the IEST.

The time to get involved and grow your knowledge base, all while giving back, is now.

David Sgro is Lead Qualification Test Engineer, Systems & Technology—Surveillance Group | FLIR Systems

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