March Member Spotlight: Michelle Jirak
Please join me in celebrating our March member spotlight, Michelle Jirak! Michelle is a very active member of our community, presenting at both the 2019 and 2020 Minnesota Quality Conferences and currently volunteering for the Certification Council for Reliability Engineering and the 2021 Minnesota Quality Conference planning committee!
What is your current occupation?
Senior Design Assurance Engineer at Biomerics Advanced Catheter. We do contract medical device design and production. My job is to ensure quality is baked into the product during design and development. My favorite part is risk management because I can ensure new devices are safe and effective.
Highest academic degree
I earned an MBA with a concentration in Project Management from Keller Graduate School of Management. I also have a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Iowa State.
Is there a teacher or mentor who influenced you more than others?
I was going to pursue a chemistry degree, but my high school physics teacher, Susan Lomanno, talked me into declaring Chemical Engineering as my major because, “There’s not enough girls in engineering. You’re tough, you can handle it.” If it weren’t for her, I might not be doing what I love right now.
How were you introduced to the quality field?
I had two “quality moments.” When I was a kid, my dad was part of the team rolling out ISO 9001 at his facility and he couldn’t stop talking about how putting a quality system in place was transformative. Despite this, I originally started working in project management, but the Great Recession hit and the only job I could find was in sustaining quality. I loved it. Quality just made sense to me, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
What is the best career advice you’ve received?
I honestly can’t remember who told me this, but, “Don’t be afraid to ask the dumb questions.” This philosophy has helped me become a better engineer and team member.
Have you had any previous jobs you consider noteworthy?
While I was at Phillips-Medisize, I worked on human factors development for the Alcon Ultrasert, which is now widely used in cataract surgeries.
What ASQ activities are you involved in?
I am on the Certification Council for Reliability Engineering (CRE). I am also on the MNASQ Conference committee as a Track Chair and the Virtual Conference Chair. I decided to volunteer this year after I spoke at the last two conferences our chapter has hosted.
How has being a MNASQ member been valuable in your career?
I joined ASQ for the certifications and stayed for the networking opportunities. I sorely miss the monthly events, since I have learned so much from other people by just chatting over dinner. Additionally, the resources that ASQ puts out, like webinars and Quality Progress, help me keep up to date on what’s happening in the broader quality sphere.
What brought you to or keeps you in the Minnesota region?
I grew up in Minneapolis. I have lived in three other states since then but came back since Minnesota is such a big hub for medical device development. Plus, most of my family lives here, which is a nice bonus.
What activities or achievements outside of ASQ do you think are noteworthy?
I spoke on the importance of design for quality and manufacturing at the MD&M Minneapolis Conference in 2019. I am also a mentor for engineering students in the E3 program at Totino-Grace High School.
What are your favorite ways to relax?
I am an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction, but I particularly like science fiction. I also enjoy listening to true crime podcasts and the YouTube series “Today I Found Out.” In what other spare time I have, I brew hard cider and mead, make my own lip balm and go bowling.