Tiffany Arnold was the first hire when AIM Testing Laboratory launched in 2018, a multi-disciplinary laboratory that specializes in materials testing and fastener quality assurance. AIM was co-founded by industry veterans, Rob LaPointe and Carmen Vertullo, in San Diego, California. Arnold serves as the Director of Quality Systems.
“I was honored and excited to join the AIM team, especially as a startup,” she shares. “There was already notoriety given Rob and Carmen’s credentials, and they wanted to build a laboratory with much greater accessibility than is typical at most traditional labs.”
LaPointe, who also serves as company president and CEO, brings experience in the management and science of materials-testing laboratories combined with master’s degrees in physics and education. And Vertuallo, VP – business development, offers knowledge in fastener quality assurance, manufacturing, sales, bolted joint design, and inventory-management programs, with a degree in manufacturing engineering technology.
“AIM was born out of the need for more exposure to fastener testing, along with support interpreting the results,” explains Arnold. “Both founders understood that most customers could benefit from greater guidance in terms of the next steps post-testing to better understand the data received and what to do next.”
To this end, AIM offers three branches:
- Testing – comprehensive fastener testing, including mechanical, metallographic, chemical, and non-destructive
- Consultation – including support for fastener, specification, materials, compliance, and quality systems
- Training – offering in-person and online insight from industry experts who are trained teachers
“With these three branches, we’re able to offer customers accessibility and insight, ensuring their key questions get answered and testing is fully optimized,” she adds.
This is particularly important when a manufacturer, distributor, or end-users is wanting to ensure the ideal component is used in an application or understand why a fastener unexpectedly failed. “We’re there to explain test results or potential failures, even providing site visits when necessary to see for ourselves and suggest options for an ideal outcome.”
Arnold first gained fastener experience working at LAB Materials Testing, another accredited, independent testing laboratory in the industry. However, she began her career in a completely different field — finance.
“I have a degree in social ecology from the University of California, Irvine…and, yes, most people wonder what that entails exactly,” she laughs. “It’s multidisciplinary, with a focus on public policy, urban and regional planning, as well as law and psychology. It encompasses a variety of skillsets, which interestingly, turned into the job setting and functions that I have and rely on now.”
Arnold also has a background in business management, all of which initially led her to a position in banking.
“It was post-economic collapse, and the public sector was not hiring at the time. But, given the mortgage turbulence, the banks were, and I began in the foreclosure department,” she says. “So, I was the one having to deliver that news and help customers as much as possible.”
Arnold excelled at the role, despite how difficult it was. “It was certainly a challenging environment, delivering really emotional information to people and helping them process it. But that was also one of the best parts — I was able to provide a positive impact in a very difficult situation,” she says.
Eventually, Arnold received an opportunity for change, and she took it. “The LAB Materials Testing were expanding and looking to hire. And I was looking to transition to something new,” she says. “So, that’s where my journey with fasteners began.”
Although her education and finance skills had little to do with the fastener industry, Arnold’s business background and ability to quickly learn and master different skillsets made for a smooth and successful career change. It’s also what led her to the role she’s in today with AIM Testing Laboratory, which she thoroughly enjoys.
“It’s interesting because at the bank, I was also producing training material, analyzing policies and procedures, and providing feedback to the management. I helped with certain finance platforms that eventually went national,” she says. “I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to develop those skills, which still support my work today.”
Then, Arnold received an abundance of fastener and customer-related experience at the LAB.
“There was a learning curve at first, but I enjoyed the challenge and variety,” she shares. “I started in receiving, contract review, and order entry, and worked up to managing the certified test report production into the test, scheduling for operations, and assisting with quality functions. This included audits, customer escalations, and resolving issues. So, I had a hand in nearly everything that was going on with testing, building those skills along the way while I was there.”
Today, Arnold manages the quality and operations of the testing component of AIM, ensuring the business is meeting the requirements for its ISO/IEC 17025 laboratory accreditation.
“I also support the quality management of our consulting branch,” she adds. “Effectively, I’m the liaison or quality manager for many of our customers, supporting them to properly build and implement quality-management systems — which means I’m helping them through their first accreditation audit for ISO 9001 and to register as an accredited company — ultimately, ensuring they accomplish their business goals and achieve success.”
ISO 9001 sets out the criteria for a quality-management system. Arnold considers it a “guidebook,” which demarks that a company offers consistent service and high-quality products.
“I feel so fortunate to have the job I do. My desk is quite dynamic, which means things are never dull. I still learn and grow my knowledge on a daily basis — and often alongside our customers, which is a beautiful thing,” says Arnold. “Also, helping people achieve their goals is extremely rewarding.”
With a local, national, and international reach, Arnold says the AIM team has gotten busier since the pandemic. Even then, during 2020 and 2021, they remained consistent.
“The receptivity of the industry has been incredible and it’s wonderful to be part of such a welcoming community. I feel like I really get to know many of our clients so it’s nice to be able to build those connections, so it’s more than just an email,” she shares.
“Plus, it’s incredible to be part of a team that’s so strong, focused, and knowledgeable — and to be able to extend that to the fastener industry.”