We share what's been happening since the end of season 2 and Tracy Barnhart joins us to discuss some upcoming episode topics for Season 3.
AASHTO re:source Q&A Podcast Transcript
Season 3, Episode 1: Since We’ve Been Gone
Recorded: April 28, 2022
Released: May 10, 2022
Hosts: Brian Johnson, AASHTO Accreditation Program Manager and Kim Swanson, Communications Manager at AASHTO re:source
Guest: Tracy Barnhart, Quality Manager at AASHTO re:source
Note: Please reference AASHTO re:source and AASHTO Accreditation Program policies and procedures online for official guidance on this, and other topics.
Transcribed by Kim Swanson
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Announcer: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q&A. We’re taking time to discuss construction materials testing and inspection with people in the know. From exploring testing problems and solutions to laboratory best practices and quality management. We’re covering topics important to you. Now, here’s our host, Brian Johnson.
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Brian: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q&A. I am Brian Johnson.
Kim: And I am Kimberly Swanson. It has been a nice long break since we ended season 2. That was the end of February, and now we're starting off season three of AASHTO resource Q&A. So welcome back, Brian. Welcome back, listeners.
Brian: Well, welcome back to you, Kimberly, also known as Kim. I am excited to get started. It's been a while since we've recorded and a lot of stuff has been going on in the AASHTO resource world and in this episode, we're just going to tell you about a few of those things. We ended last season with a preview of the AASHTO resource Technical Exchange. That's probably the biggest thing and that's why we really needed to put this thing on hold.
Brian: This thing being the podcast on hold for a little while because I had six different sessions. During our technical exchange where you know, four of them were unique presentations and then I had two round tables that I was moderating. For me, moderating a round table is about the easiest thing that I can do. It's basically like an extended version of the podcast, except with a bunch of more guests than we normally get. At the same time. And those guests kind of talk to each other most of the time. So I don't even have to do that much.
Kim: Yeah, I feel like that is the easier, easier thing to do is moderating panels and roundtables and things like that at TechEx. And this year, unfortunately, I couldn't attend TechEx. So, you actually had to present something that I was scheduled to present as well. Didn't you, Brian? So, thank you for that.
Brian: I did, yeah, I did. I did your session on. How to attend the technical exchange and it it's sort of an introduction to AASHTO resource and what the technical exchange is. And unfortunately, it was only an hour long and I wish that it was a lot longer, so I…You know, just so people know, the technical exchange is the objective. for us, is to invite people from the industry, our customers, specifiers, equipment manufacturers, certification providers, anybody who's relevant to the work that we do. Or are interested in the work that we do, get everybody together and get them talking to each other and some of the sessions are informational or training. Some of them are conversations.
Brian: One of the one of the sessions that, we started with was what AASHTO resource does, what technical exchange is. And the first thing I started out with was introductions. We were going to do table like a round table introduction where people at their tables were going to meet each other.
Brian: But the funny thing that happens in group dynamics where people don't know each other is everyone stays as socially distanced as possible, but pre-COVID, socially distanced they. They just sit in their own table. So, I had a lot of round tables, the with six chairs and one person.
Kim: Oh gosh.
Brian: Yeah, so. So, what I did is I had everybody - no, I didn't have everybody. I had about half the room.
Brian: Introduce themselves. Say, you know who they are, where they work and I asked them for a fun fact, per your instructions.
Kim: Umm OK. [Laughs.]
Brian: And that went pretty well, but I wish I had more time to just do that in the beginning, cause I think it would have really set off the rest of the meeting. Because the people I noticed that you know. Obsess about these things that are going on during the week. And I noticed that the people who had an opportunity to introduce themselves were a lot more engaged the rest of the week.
Kim: Throughout the whole throughout the week, that's great.
Brian: It's quite an experiment.
Kim: Yeah. Well, lessons learned from everybody. But thank you for that. I don't think we had a chance to debrief outside of this podcast about how that session went, so I'm glad to hear it went well. But yeah, no, that is one of the reasons we did need this big gap between Season 2 and season three of the podcast was because pretty much all hands-on deck for preparing for the technical exchange and things like that. So, what else has been happening since we've been gone?
Brian: Well, as if giving a bunch of presentations there wasn't enough. Yesterday I gave a presentation at another meeting. And we've just been doing a lot of other things like hiring and training staff that's been occupying some of our time recently. We've been fortunate to hire some great new candidates on my team with the quality analysts in the last few months. And we’re going through that process right now of hiring more. Which is great news for us and our customers because the idea is that we are trying to staff up so we can provide better service to people, more responsive service to our customers and spend a little bit more time with everyone. And I think you're going to see in a few months that that that's going to pay off. Pretty…well.
Brian: If you are a customer of ours who's dealing with accreditation issues.
Kim: That's good.
Brian: Yeah. What else is going on with you? What's happened? What's been happening while I was doing all this stuff, what have you been doing?
Kim: [Laughing.] There has been just a lot happening. Kind of the status quo, catching up from things and preparing for tech ex was kind of kind of a big deal, even though I didn't attend this year. Preparing all those presentations and reviewing those for staff, that was that was a big, big deal.
Kim: We've also started using some new email software things that I've been having fun testing out and things like that. So, it's kind of been a little bit of a lot of things happening on my end in the communications end. But yeah, I think there's a lot of I've been involved in some training as well for new hires and things like that and internal stuff and making sure updating some of the quality management system policies that I'm responsible for. I've been doing that. So, I'm kind of catching up on some stuff. The kind of falls through the cracks. I feel like when we do the…when we're doing the podcast on a weekly basis, so there's the little things that kind of like slip through that I forget about that. It was good to kind of catch up on.
Brian: Yeah, that stuff is all important. The work never stops when other things big events are going on or you're preparing for something but…As a manager, that's something that I often get asked about by staff. When you want to get people engaged on your team, you know you want to say, OK, like we need to help develop some of your skills and get you more experience. So you say, OK, what I want you to do is take some time out of your already busy schedule and do this thing that is going to take time. And of course, the first question the employee asks is, well what are we going to give up?
Kim: Hmm, that's the question.
Brian: Because I only have so many hours.
Kim: That's definitely the question. What do I sacrifice and what's priority now like what is doing. And so, it is definitely a challenge. I think everybody can relate to.
Brian: It is, and it is real. It is a real thing. We all have to deal with and and every our customers deal with that all the time. So I'm sure our regular listeners are nodding and laughing right now as they think, Oh my gosh, that just it just had that conversation today with someone. Sure, somebody's thinking that.
Brian: But it is, it is hard to fit it all in, but it is so important to fit it all in. It's important to take the time that you need to get those things done. I know one of the things I've been struggling with lately because of the technical exchange and and all of the other things happening was just keeping up with standards development activities. So, one of my other extra things that I do is I'm a chair in an ASTM subcommittee and also review ballots I've done. Admittedly, a terrible job during the pandemic. Keeping up with all my ballots.
Brian: And I'm sure I'm on a few lists of people who have not returned ballots like they should. That will get better once we are fully staffed. I promise anybody in ASTM. But it's so important. It's important for the industry. It's important for my skills and building relationships. So, it is something that I do not want to take for granted.
Brian: Uhm…But I'm excited about season 3. Because like we, we there, there's always so much to talk about. So many new issues coming up. Kim, what are some of the things that people can look forward to? I should have prepared you for that question.
Kim: No. Yeah, we. Well, so we this is honestly the first episode that we've recorded back from the break. So, I can't say that we have XY and Z already in the books ready to go. We will be doing that later. But I think we're going to have some good content coming your way. Something for World Accreditation Day coming up in the beginning of June. I think we're also going to have some something for Internal Auditing Awareness Month, which is in May. So, we're going to try to have some topical things around that.
Kim: As well as some things about record retention and some common things like that that I know all of our listeners generally will struggle with overtime. Or maybe they don't struggle with that and so just to get a different perspective on those type of things. But I also want the listeners to email us, and tell us, what do you want to see happen in, or hear happen in season three of AASHTO resource Q&A because we love getting emails at email@example.com. About what we want to hear from you. Like, what do you want to hear from us? I should say so. We would love to hear ideas of suggestions for what's coming up in season three.
Kim: Do you have any…Episode topics that you know we're going to hit this season, Brian, that you want to talk about.
Brian: Yeah, I mean, I would say I agree with what you said. We would love to hear from people on the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. I typically hear from people when I just happen to be talking to them about something they'll say, hey, I listened to this episode of the podcast. I would love to hear more about this thing, whatever. [Kim: Mm-hmm.] Whatever their topic of interest is.
Brian: I also heard something that I was kind of. [Laughing.] I laughed to myself about, but I didn't occur. It didn't occur to me that people would do this, but they were talking to me about the podcast, and I said, yeah, it's going OK. But, you know, we don't like when I look at the data, this is, you know, how many downloads there are on a certain episode. A lot of times it's a little lower than I expect. And sometimes people will say that they heard it, but I don't see that reflected in the data. And I wonder what's going on. Well, I found out that sometimes what people do is they will download it and they will email it to someone.
Brian: So, it'll go out to other people that that are listening to it. So there are people getting it different ways which I did not know that someone would do. Because not everybody uses a podcast service. You know they don't know what a podcast is, [Kim: Mm-hmm.] so just getting the audio file is better for them. So that's totally fine. And we're happy. Just we just want to spread information as far as I'm concerned. So, I don't care how you get how you do it.
Kim: Yeah, I will say if you go to AASHTOresource.org/podcast, you don't need to have a podcast directory service. Like, you can just listen to it right on our want right on that website. FYI,-
Kim: so, if you if you don't want to download something else or listen to it through iTunes or Apple Podcast or Spotify or any of the other directories, you can just go right to that website and listen to them there. If you're so inclined.
Brain: But yeah, some things that have come up like, I know that there's some technical issues that we haven't gotten to yet, like test methods specific or industry-specific like asphalt binder stuff, you know, we don't go too heavy on that because it's kind of a smaller audience as far as our [Kim: Mm-hmm.] participating laboratories are concerned but proficiency sample, anything related to proficiency sample is always a hot topic.
Brain: Corrective action. So, we had a lot of discussions at the technical exchange about corrective actions. So, I think we need to do a couple more deep dives into that and get really specific about what you might look into. Um. Tracy and I - actually I'm going to bring Tracy in here so she can, she can join the fun. More guest stars here this year too.
Kim: I hope so.
Brain: So that's something to look forward to. So, I'm just inviting Tracy Barnhart, our quality manager, to join us now. Tracy, welcome to AASHTO resource Q&A.
Tracy: Thank you, Brian.
Brain: And you're welcome for just having you pop in without any warning.
Kim: Zero warning. This is with like Ambush podcast. I like it.
Tracy: I don't even know what the topic is.
Brian: Well, I wanted to talk to you about some of the things that we can talk about this year in season three of the podcast and some of the things that we talk about are well, we try to be topical, right? Like we want to talk about things that are coming up.
Brian: Help solve problems. Help give information to the people who might need it. People have asked questions. And during the technical exchange we have a lot of discussions with people, right? People who attend.
Brian: And some of them are really specific because they get into issues that come up in a particular session. So, I was just talking about how in the corrective action session, there was a lot of interest in talking about proficiency sample low ratings, [Tracy: Yes.] and what one might look into. Did you notice anything else that seemed like a good topic for season three, uhm from the technical exchange?
Tracy: Yes. Absolutely. Culture of quality was a very popular session, and we receive feedback afterwards that people want to take an even deeper dive into that. How to develop a culture of quality within your organization? So that's definitely something that sticks out to me. Anything on internal auditing, internal auditing skills, selecting internal auditors.
Anything like that is also very popular. It seems like the quality-related topics, in general, are something that people really need more of, as far as information is concerned. Because I don't think there's a whole lot out there about those topics.
Kim: Yeah, I would agree with that cause of our previous episodes as well of season 2 and season one of the podcast. The more popular ones do tend to be about the quality-related ones and not necessarily the technical ones because I think you're right that this is a - we have a unique perspective to share as AASHTO resource about the quality-related topics. So yeah, I would agree that lines up with what we've been seeing in the past too.
Brian: Yeah, one thing that I was thinking about related to that is we had session on – it was a quality manager panel [Tracy: Mm-hmm.] at the technical exchange. So, we had invited uhm – was it five or six quality managers that are also customers of ours, that we know really well and we know they care about quality. So, that gave the audience an opportunity to bounce questions off them. And it was kind of funny because I wasn't sure where it was going to go. Very similar to what I was talking to you about earlier, Kim. We started with introductions. And introductions went on a really long time.
Tracy: It did. [Laughing.]
Brian: Because there were so many side conversations that came out of that or little paths that we could go on. But the thing that struck me the most, and this is the big takeaway I got from that lesson as well, two. One of them is that culture of quality is something that people really are excited to learn more about and understand what they can do to implement that at their own facilities. And two, the lesson learned is that.
Brian: And two, the lesson learned is that, if you care about quality, there is – and you take action on that interest and you make it clear that is an objective that you care about. Chances are you are going to move up in your organization. Everybody who was on that panel, is in a, you know, a prominent position with their organizations, and they all said the same thing I started out… At this entry-level position and I worked my way up into this position.
Brian: And then when they talk about all this stuff they care about. It's obvious why they were able to move up. Not only are they, you know, I can say they were excellent people, you know, really good. Like good, hard-working, honest, fair people that were on the panel. But just like, they're interesting quality, the way they project that, how could their managers not want to promote them?
Brian: I think that's a good lesson for anybody in the room, especially because the technical exchange does incorporate people from a bunch of different levels within an organization. So, there might be a technician or new manager. There were quite a few new managers or people who are newer to the industry and for them to hear that I think was really important.
Kim: And I think that goes to a point though like if you're passionate about something at your work like that, passion's going to show through and your excitement for that and your enthusiasm for that. So, whether it be quality or something else, I think quality here is a great example of a way to help promote, get promoted because that quality -being a quality first or continual improvement kind of mindset is always going to be great, especially in our field. But I think if you have that passion about something else too, whether it be testing or something like I think that shows through.
Kim: You know, and they're on your day-to-day as well. So I think those just having a passion for something. Is helpful in promoting getting promoted in your career, I would think.
Brian: I agree with that. [Laughing.] And another funny thing is, so many people, if you get to talk to them about how they got where they are. One funny thing is, it's almost always. I didn't plan on this, or I accidentally did this and then they're like but - I really love it. I didn't know it existed, but I really love it. [Kim: Yeah. ] I, you know, I love hearing those stories. It's exciting to hear that, you know, all the myriad ways that lives can evolve and - and - and paths people can go down. But if you work hard, you’re diligent, you care about making continual improvements, good things are going to happen.
Kim: Yeah, I did not know this industry existed, uh, 12 years ago when I first started at AASHTO. So yeah, I um kind of fell into this accidentally as well. This industry and I think again, if you have the quality mindset, that's always going to help in the continual improvement at least - especially here at resource, that continual improvement mindset is, is something that we love to see and that stays around generally for a while.
Brian: Yeah. So so we're going to be talking more about this, uh, and other topics this year. It like we said, if you want to be a guest or you have a topic you want us to discuss, let us know. I know this is sounding like some sort of pledge drive in this session.
Kim: Right. [Laughing.]
Brian: Umm. We're not asking for any money, but that we're continuing to do this for free, uh because we think it's important and we love being able to share information with anybody who wants to listen, so…Oh, you know what else that we need to talk about in a future episode? Very future episode is the transition back to in-person assessments.
Brian: So many questions [Tracy: Yes. ] from people about what that looks like and what's going to happen. So we will have a very soon. We will have an episode on that with Maria Knake, the Manager of the Laboratory Assessment Program, and maybe one of the assessors to see how they think it's going in the field.
Tracy: That process is not as easy as it seems on the surface. [Kim: Definitely.] After doing remote assessments for two years, you can't just jump back in 100% into on sites, so that would be a great discussion.
Brian: Hmm-hmm, yeah. And I think people are - people just have so many questions about it. They don't know what - they don't know what's going, what's going to go on. And there's always a question about whether or not that's going to continue or any of the elements or any lessons learned going to convey moving forward and the post-pandemic world. [Tracy: Absolutely.]
Kim: Yeah, I think that's all about what we've learned and what we want to carry forward and what we don't want to carry forward. [Laughing.] Like I'm sure there's some things as well [Tracy: Right.] that we're like, OK, that didn't work. So, we're not going to do that going forward. So, I think any time of this transition time is an opportunity to look for that continual improvement and see what do we - what worked and what didn't and what we want to move forward within anything, [Tracy: Absolutely.] not just assessments, but in going back to the office and things like that in general.
Brian: Yep. Now, Tracy, were there any other things that came up that you think we should cover this year?
Tracy: One other topic and I think this is something that we're going to do at the next technical exchange, but auditing your laboratory to AASHTO R18? Everybody's required to do internal audits to R 18, but what does that look like? So that would be something that we could do a podcast on, or even a little webinar on But we're definitely planning to cover that at technical exchange…and also mission, vision, values.
Tracy: Developing those, making meaningful statements. Walking the walk, not just talk in the talk. Something like that. I think that's becoming more prominent as we are hiring people. People are asking about what our values are. They want to make sure they're the right fit for our organization. So, it's all about selecting the right people with the right talent to create a great team.
Kim: Excellent point there, Tracy.
Brian: That that is that is a great point. And Kim, I thought you were going to jump all over that and have lots to say.
Kim: I love mission, vision, values [Tracy: Laughing.] like I am all about that I didn't want to open that can of worms right now. [Laughing.]
Tracy: Well, I did so. [Laughing.]
Kim: But I am I am all for that. And so I think that is an excellent, excellent topic for a future episode about - all of that - creating organizational values. Because, in general, I think everyone, every organization has values. It's whether you've identified them and are actually using them as guiding principles, or if they're just something unwritten. And the benefits of actually writing them down and to Tracy's point of hiring to those values. And promoting those values, so you know that people have a good culture fit and it's not just the skills that they bring, but it's the attitude and how they use the values and how they see those values that are important too.
Tracy: Absolutely. And we went through this journey fairly recently with revising our mission, vision, values. And at that's another thing that seems easy to do, and we know [Laughing.] that [Kim: laughing.] was not easy to do [Kim: It was not.] and we spent a very long time on that.
Kim: Yes. Perhaps too long. [Tracy: Laughing.] I think we might have spent too long on that.
Tracy: To make them meaningful and impactful. So we did spend a lot of time.
Brian: Yeah. Yeah. Too long. And I still think they're not right. [Laughing.]
Tracy: [Laughing.] But that's a topic for another. Yeah, right.
Brian: That's the other thing. Yeah.
Kim: It's continual improvement though, right?
Brian: That's why you don't. Yeah. Think about continual improvement and if that's one of your values, don't be afraid to put something out there to begin with. Because you can change it later. [Tracy: That’s exactly right.] Like things are going to evolve and change. You know, ultimately your core values won't change, but maybe the way you communicate them well, or which ones you've identified as the core ones.
Brian: Will change so -so that's - that's fun. We'll talk way more about that in - in a dedicated episode, but we'll put that just put that out there for you to think about between now and whenever that happens.
Kim: And whenever that happens, I know I'm going to have to make sure that we actually do all of the things that we've talked about in the season. [Laughing] I'm going to have to go back and use this, make sure we felt we follow through on all of these as well. But yeah, no, I know I can go get on tangents when we talk about mission, vision, and values, so.
Tracy: So definitely me too.
Brian: For sure. Well, Tracy, thanks for popping in with us on this first episode of season three. I'm sure we'll have many more, uhm [laughing]. Many more with you.
Brian: To come as we, especially if we're talking about quality issues.
Kim: Of course. And then May is internal auditing awareness month. If you didn't know [Tracy: Didn’t know that.] [Brian: Who comes up with these?] that is a that's a thing and we'll be doing something on the podcast for it. I'm not quite sure what yet, but we're doing something for it. But yeah, so that's coming down the pipe.
Brian: Maybe we should investigate who came up with that one [Tracy: Laughing.] and what's wrong with them.
Kim: I have no idea. I just, I have a list. I have a list of dates and months and things, and I was like oh, that's it sounds like a good fit.
Tracy: I did. I did. When is National podcast month?
Kim: I don't know, but I'm sure it has one. I'm sure it has one, so thank you, Tracy, for coming on. And - I again, I think this is just kind of like since we've been gone, what we've been doing and what we have to look forward to in the coming season, right? So, I'm very excited about this. And again, listeners, if you have ideas of what you want to hear on our podcast, please email us at podcast@AASHTOresource.org or you can reach out to Brian or myself directly or even Tracy. And uhm our contact information is on our website for that too.
Kim: But I want to thank all our listeners to making it through this break, or if you're a new listener and you haven't heard us before, know you have a lot of episodes in season one and season 2 in that you can go back to, and we'll look forward to going on this journey with you of season 3.
Brian: Bonus content if you hear Kim wrap the episode, that means that I butchered it so badly – that she just cut me and ended up doing it herself. So, [Tracy: And that I’m not laughing.] Welcome to season 3. [Kim: Laughing.]
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