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Quality Manager launches DIY business during pandemic

Lisa Miller of You Can Do It DIY Kits seated at a table with some of her wooden sign kits.

After 25 years in the auto industry, Quality Manager Lisa Miller was part of Magna’s succession plan for the Seating Director of Quality role at the Michigan plant. However, with the arrival of her first grandchild, her entire outlook on work-life balance changed.

“I decided that it was time to leave my career behind and spend some quality time watching my granddaughter,” Miller says. “Magna didn’t want me to leave and offered me a part time position which I gladly accepted.” Then the pandemic hit and part-time personnel got laid off.

Miller’s long hours and work-related travel were now behind her, which left more time for DIY projects. She began creating signs and tried to sell them online but when she didn’t get many orders, she realized she might need a new approach; You Can Do It DIY Kits was the result.

She remembered that when she was working, any time she wanted to be creative, she’d have to visit different stores for supplies, pull out tools to cut and sand the wood, and buy paint and other accessories that might get limited use. 

“By the time I got all of the project pieces together I found myself out of time or feeling rushed to get it done and it wasn’t  enjoyable.”

Miller wanted to make it easier for other families to find their creativity within their busy lives. You Can Do It DIY Kits range from $20 to $30 depending on the number of signs chosen and include everything needed to make the finished project: wood, paint, stencils, brushes, and instructions. Miller used many of her work skills to research and produce a high-quality product that she designs and makes right in her Windsor home. 

Lisa’s business was recently profiled in BizX Magazine.

Becoming a Quality Engineer

Lisa got her start in the automotive industry early, working on blueprint machines. She wanted to do more so she took blueprint reading so she could understand the prints, geometric design and tolerancing so she understood the data…all while working, going to school, and being a mom.

Lisa kept learning and moving up, eventually travelling and launching plants. She was one of only 3 female quality managers.

Her favourite part of Quality Engineering

Lisa really loved root cause and problem-solving…analyzying the steps of the production line for what could fail and preventative causes. She had to use critical thinking, quick decision making, and being open to ideas.

A day in the life of a quality engineer in the office

In the office, Lisa worked on projects that might be 2 years out, working to ensure production would meet quality and drawing requirements. She had the ability to make a difference in the outcome of a plant launch and her day was filled with team meetings, lots of paperwork, reading, research, checking blueprints, and analyzing data/numbers. Her team also had to look at past failures to see if permanent corrective actions were carried forward and to ensure all supplier requirements were in place.

A typical day in quality engineering on the shop floor

Lisa loved days on the shop floor as well. The daily routine included being part of day-to-day production, looking at notes from night shift, looking in the reject bin to try and determine what issues are present, investigate/look for the root cause of issue (i.e. is it a supplier issue that needs action?), and creating permanent actions to prevent future failures. It was reactionary and fast-paced.

Working in a male-dominated field

Lisa loved her job but does admit that she spent many years “clawing my way to the top…working twice as hard as the men.”

She was labelled aggressive for offering ideas and speaking up. It put her team at a standstill. It was all part of the growing process: “I had to change how I communicate when something’s wrong and let them know…people don’t always like that…I had to change my approach.”

Later in her career, Lisa began to see the shift happening with more women being employed and moving to top positions. “Men and women are different. There’s a different perspective women can give on things.”

She’s happy to see progress and notes that there’s now a woman running Magna’s plant in London, Ontario.

 You can be an engineer. You can be a manager. You can be an entrepreneur.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be whatever you want to be.”

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