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Facilitating re-entry after parental leave with Six Sigma Black Belt certification

Parental leave is a gift of our time to fully experience and enjoy the greatest miracle of our lives, our little baby. If you already have children, you know how special this time is to enjoy to the fullest, because it goes by far too quickly and never comes. But as nice as the time is of changing diapers, picking up baby clothes and going for walks, this new "job" can also become monotonous. For us as women, we experience suddenly a lack of intellectual demand. Many of us are alone at home while their partners are working in the office, and therefore some women complain not only about loneliness, but also about a certain boredom and mental emptiness.


I also felt this way after the first exciting months of my second child. As soon as he started sleeping more regularly, started eating well and the nights started getting longer again, I desired nothing more than a new mental challenge.


Luckily, I met Juan Steigerwald and he introduced me to the fascinating world of Six Sigma. After our first conversation, it was immediately clear to me that I wanted to take a Six Sigma Black Belt training with Juan. His new concept of the online hybrid course convinced me immediately.


By online hybrid course, he means a course that combines a traditional online course with individual coaching sessions. So, I was able to watch Juan's online videos over and over again, because yes, I have to admit, some videos I had to watch several times because I didn't understand them all the first time. I found that very helpful. Because while in a face-to-face class you don't understand some things and you might have a question or two, but you can't ask because there's not enough time or you don't feel comfortable doing it, with the video you can go back and forth and watch the explanation over and over again until you understand it.


I also particularly enjoyed the personal online coaching sessions. Once a week, we met for online coaching via Zoom. In our online coaching, we discussed the content of the videos I had watched as well as going through my personal project step by step.


I found it very exciting that I learned different Six Sigma tools in the online videos. The tools seemed a bit complex at the first time and I didn't immediately understand how to use them in practice. And this is where the online coaching sessions came in. Because that was the moment when we could apply the tools that we learned in theory in the online videos to my personal project. Juan had a checklist that clearly showed which tools I had already used in my project, and which were still missing. This way we always had a good overview.


My personal project included about 70 PowerPoint slides. I improved the communication process between director and client of a renowned language school.


At the beginning of the project, I created the so-called Project Charter, in which I briefly outlined the problem, set out our goals, defined the project team, defined the focus and the framework, and described the business case. This project chart is probably the most important slide of any Black Belt project, because it sets the anchor to rely on throughout the lifetime of the project.


I also found the SIPOC chart particularly interesting, an overview that described a process, starting with the supplier, continuing with the input, the process, the output, and the customer. Juan always provides very insightful examples. In the SIPOC model, he used the example of baking a cake. You can imagine it like this: The supplier is the supermarket, it' s where I buy my input (the ingredients), then it goes to a step-by-step process of how I prepare a cake, and then we all have our output, the cake. For example, our customer is our family, who may or may not like the cake. In fact, for every Six Sigma tool, Juan used simple examples like that, which you will remember forever.


What also impressed me a lot was the FACT Model. FACT stands for Fulfilment, Accuracy, Cycle Time and Treatment. What particularly inspired me was that Juan Steigerwald personally developed this FACT model and that it has already established a firm presence in the Six Sigma world. The FACT model gives you more clarity on what focus you want to put on your project. Often, we set a specific goal in the Project Charter and as we work on our project, we shift the focus. The FACT model helps us to focus over and over again. Is my goal for the process to be done right? Then it is fulfilment. If I focus on my process being executed very accurately, then my focus is Accuracy. Is it particularly important to me that my process is executed in a certain time frame? Then it is Cycle Time. Last but not least: Do I pay special attention to how my customer is treated, to how satisfied he is? Then I focus on Treatment.


I particularly liked Juan's extremely structured approach. As I said, he works with a list through which we went during each coaching session. This allowed us both to keep track of which topics I had already worked on in my project and which were still missing.

It took me about 5 months to successfully complete my project and the subsequent exam. I think you have to expect an average time frame of 4-6 months for a Black Belt training. The final exam was like this: After successfully completing the project, I took a multiple-choice test. It contained about 82 questions, each with 3 to 5 answers. After this exam, for which I had about 1.5 hours, I attended the oral exam. Here I was given about 10 questions taken from the context of my project and the Six Sigma material.


In conclusion, I think a Black Belt qualification while on parental leave is a very marvelous investment. Especially such a good and challenging training as Juan Steigerwald from WAVE Business Excellence Footprint offers. For me personally, it has immensely facilitated my re-entry back into professional life after a longer parental leave. Not only because you learn a lot, this training is also highly respected and increases your own market value a lot, whether with the current employer or with the future one.

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