When first introduced to ISO 9001 two decades ago, Jackie Stapleton had never heard of the standard. Today, she has a 360 degree view of quality as director of training of a successful training organization Auditor Training Online (ATOL), where she also serves as an auditor, consultant, trainer and Exemplar Global skill examiner. The Auditor speaks to Stapleton about her career trajectory and her opinions on training, the consistency of auditors, and the fine line between auditing and consulting.
Stapleton started her career in quality in the late 1990s working for a software development company training new customers. When the company decided to become certified to ISO 9001, Stapleton volunteered to implement the standard and take on the role of quality manager, despite having never heard of the standard.
“When I first read the standard I had no idea what it was talking about, but I knew it was something I had always done as part of my role,” Stapleton says. “It was quite exciting to know that there was a standard that represented what I liked putting in place.”
After spending nearly 10 years with the company, Stapleton briefly then worked as quality and environmental manager for SunWater, before making the decision to branch out on her own as a contractor building systems, consulting, training, and completing certification audits.
“I was fortunate that the people I had met along the way gave me the opportunity to be involved in and provide training.”
This led to the creation of ATOL, which had its first course certified with Exemplar Global in 2013. ATOL offers the full suite of integrated management systems courses aligned with Exemplar Global competency units: standard management systems auditing, leading management system audit teams, safety, environment, and quality.
When comparing face-to-face training and online learning, Stapleton says they both serve different markets.
“Some people prefer face-to-face training,” she says. “We are finding that a lot of current auditors are opting to take the online option because they are already exposed to the standards and requirements. The training is about formalizing what they already have.
“We also have people in remote locations who can’t get to a course or take five full days out of their work to travel. Online training is just more convenient for them.”
Training is only part of a typical day for Stapleton, which could involve conducting an audit, talking to clients, and compiling training material.
“I love being an auditor because I learn something new every day,” she says. “I am exposed to different types of organizations and get to see what other businesses are doing.
“The highlight is being able to share that with people and teach and train them. I love sharing those experiences with people and applying that practical element of auditing. I get that opportunity through training, both face to face and online.”
Stapleton acknowledges that at times it can be difficult not to cross the line between auditor and consultant.
“As a certification auditor we are there to find things that aren’t compliant or opportunities for improvement,” she explains. “Then we report on those and leave the auditee or client to fix them. We can’t cross that line as a consultant to help them to fix it.
“Sometimes I wish I could take my certification auditor hat off and come back and work for the company for six months and get the system right. It’s our role as auditors to stop at the findings; we can’t provide the corrective action.”
Stapleton believes that ensuring the consistency of auditors is paramount and that it is something that can be achieved through training.
“One auditor might find one area they see as a gap and another might be comfortable with it,” she says. “So it’s all about ensuring that the understanding of the requirements is consistent.
“As auditors, we need that consistent approach. We may all read the standard and interpret the requirements differently. We need to stay open minded to how the auditee or clients apply the requirements.
“We need to take in other auditors’ views and opinions and have a consistent approach. It all starts with training.”