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Wiring Matters

Wiring Matters 51 - Summer 2014

Spotlight: Julie Skirvin

Julie Skirvin, SMT Lab Manager at Otter Controls – supplier of controls, safety cut-outs and connectors, largely for the small domestic appliance and automotive industries – contributes to four working groups: CPL 72 Controls for Household and similar use, PEL 23/03 Connectors for portable appliances, CPL 61 Safety of household electrical appliances, CPL 61/07 Heated Appliances Sub-committee and CPL 59 Performance of household electrical appliances.

What is your career background?

I have an ONC in Process Plant and Electrical/Electronics, an HNC in Electrical/Electronic and a Postgraduate Diploma in Manufacturing: Management and Technology.  During my 26 years with Otter I have worked in their Applications, Development and SMT Laboratories reporting into Sales, Engineering and Operations respectively.

How did both of those prepare you for standard setting?

I think it helps that I have spent time working with both customer applications and new product development.  This enabled me to experience how standards affect how products interface with end users, and development where designers face the challenge of developing new products.

Did you ever think you’d end up on standard-setting committees?

No!  In fact the first time I was asked I said no.  As I don’t have a degree I didn’t think I was the sort of person who sat on standards committees.

What is it that drew you towards sitting on such committees?

All through my time at Otter I have worked with/to standards requirements and sometimes you just wonder why certain requirements or tests are in standards.  It’s great to have the opportunity to discover the background and be able to query them.

How long have you been a member of those committees?

I joined my first BSI committee in 2006, so just over 8 years.

What exactly is involved in sitting on a committee?

Once you’ve joined a committee, BSI updates you by email with all new documents.  I read through the documents and decide if they are of interest to BEAMA (our trade association) or my company.  If they are I circulate them for comment.  Once I have comments back I either submit a comments sheet to the Committee Secretary or make notes.  The UK response is then decided by discussion either by email or at a meeting.  The amount of documents and number of meetings vary considerably between committees.

Has it benefited your career?

Working on the committees has allowed me to develop my communication and meeting skills, giving me greater confidence when dealing with groups of people. It has given me a much better understanding of the standards and allowed me to communicate their requirements and justifications to others. This allows me to run the lab in a much more efficient manner.

Would you recommend that others get more involved in standard setting?

Yes, I think it’s very rewarding both for individuals and companies.  

How would young people go about getting involved – and what is required?

If your company belongs to a trade association that can be a great way of joining in as they can nominate people on to committees in their areas of interest.  If not look at the bsi website as they are always looking for input from a wide range of people/interest groups.

The IET also host the BEC Young Professionals Workshop every year.  The workshop allows participants to gain an insight into the processes used to develop standards and meet some of the people involved.  

What has surprised you the most during your time on a committee?

That writing standards is such a democratic process.

What are the greatest challenges?

I think that keeping standards up to date with new technology is the biggest challenge at the moment.  A close second is the fact that it’s a global market.

Editor’s note: We’ll be providing details about the next BEC Young Professionals workshop in further issues of Wiring Matters. For further information about how to get involved with standard setting, please see the BSI website: .