Quality at an early age

I want to share a story with you. While I was talking to my mom this morning, we remembered something I did when I was a kid, and I realized that (even though I didn’t know it at the time) this was an early indication of how I approach just about everything in life. I was around 10 or 11 years old at the time. My Aunt, Uncle and cousins were in town and we were celebrating someone’s birthday. I asked Mom if she would let me make a cake and she reluctantly approved. As was my way back then, (by this age, I already knew everything there was to know) I told her I didn’t need any help, so she and Aunt Jane left the kitchen and I got busy. After a little while, I had my masterpiece in the oven, the timer was set and I went out to the family room to visit. Aunt Jane went into the kitchen a few minutes later, burst out laughing and then called my Mom into the kitchen, saying “Molly, you have to see this!”

I racked my brain, trying to figure out what I had done wrong, but I was fairly certain I had followed the instructions. I got up and followed Mom (from a safe distance), waiting to judge her reaction when the source of Aunt Jane’s mirth was revealed. Mom rounded the corner into the kitchen and saw Aunt Jane staring into the top oven. The oven light was on, so mom peered into the oven and gave some sort of exasperated sound, covered her mouth with her hand, and tried her best to suppress her own laughter. They then called me into the kitchen. By this point I assumed that my dreams of becoming a master chef were hopelessly crushed, although I recounted the steps from the cake mix box for a fourth (or fifth) time and still couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong.

When I got into the kitchen with them, Mom asked me “Geoffrey,” (it was never a good sign when she used my full name) “Why are there a bunch of toothpicks in the cake?” I was caught completely off guard by that. My first thought was to blurt out “Why wouldn’t there be a bunch of toothpicks in the cake?” Luckily I had enough sense to realize that statement would have repercussions that I was not prepared to face. so I stated the reason that was so boldly called out on the box of the cake mix: “The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.”

As mom and I recalled that story this morning, it hit me that my toothpicks were my version of “Cake Baking User Acceptance Testing,” and it fore-told of my career as a quality engineer. The rest is history and I shall now take a bow and quietly “Exit Stage Left!”