Kristel KruustukI began my professional career as a software tester, but quickly became frustrated with the shortcomings of traditional quality assurance (QA) and crowdsourced testing.

Despite my recognition as a top-level tester, I didn’t feel valued. I realized that the pay-per-bug model didn’t incentivize testers like myself to dig deep into the product, work collaboratively, and identify the most frustrating user issues. At 23, I quit my job as a QA tester, and along with co-founder Marko Kruustük (who is also my husband!), entered one of the world’s largest hackathons: AngelHack. We took first place and used the prize money to build Testlio.

Today, Testlio is the originator of, and leader in, networked testing, supporting clients like Microsoft, Amazon, CBS, Etsy, Hotels.com, and the NBA (who collectively power over 1.5 billion users worldwide). The company has 80+ full-time distributed employees (Europe & US) and powers a network of 10K+  vetted, expert, professional testers in over 100 countries.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never. In fact, when I graduated from high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But thanks to my sister’s invitation to spend time with her in London that summer, I got to discover the tech industry. Namely, many of my sister’s friends were working in the IT sector and they influenced me to explore possibilities as well. They all told me that technology is the future and I’ll definitely find a role that would suit my strengths. I was also drawn into the industry because I knew that it would most likely allow me a measure of financial security.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Absolutely. I believe that anyone who has ever wanted to succeed has faced a lot of challenges. The only way to overcome them is to just keep experimenting and moving forward. You need to accept that you will make tons of mistakes and not everyone will always like your decisions. Over the years, I’ve learned not to punish myself when something doesn’t go as expected. I tell myself that I’m the best possible version of me at this point in time and my intentions are genuine – I always want the best for my team and our customers. Challenges make us better and stronger.

I’ve also been underestimated. There were people in the beginning of my career who doubted my ability to lead Testlio successfully. Well, I proved them wrong. Even though I eventually decided to transition from CEO to the Chief Testing Officer role, I am very proud of what I was able to achieve. Now, I can fully focus on the things that I love the most – working with our global network of software testers.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I can’t just go with one. So here are a few: winning worlds largest hackathon Angelhack. Being accepted into the best tech accelerator program Techstars. Being recognized in Estonia as Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Getting to work with inspiring testers from all over the world. Serving Fortune 500 companies.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Not giving up. Moving forward despite setbacks. Going against fears. Listening to our customers feedback and providing value.

I constantly hear people making excuses like for example constantly postponing their product launch because they are afraid that the first feedback will somehow impact their future or ruin their reputation. It’s important to understand that your product will never be perfect and ready, it’s just a constant process of improvements! If people give you negative feedback, it means that they care and want to see your product succeed. There’s a reason why they’ve come to you and not to your competitors.

So, don’t ever let that fear to fail hold you back.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find smarter people around you who are willing to support you when you go through this journey called life. 🙂

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Unfortunately, there are still some very strong gender and racial biases in tech. Until companies consciously start focusing on hiring more women and minorities in leadership roles, and make their workplaces more inclusive, this will not change. In that regard, Testlio stands in stark contrast to most tech companies with more than 50% of our employees and leadership team being women and minorities. This is something I’m really proud of!

As a consumer, it’s also our duty to make sure there is more diversity around us. So for example when considering buying a product or service, I urge people to take a look at the companies’ websites and stories first – if there are only white men on the board or leadership roles, I would prefer to turn elsewhere and find a company that embraces and embodies diversity in all its shapes and forms.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

Hire more women. Companies need to build more inclusive workplaces where women feel respected and appreciated. For me as a woman founder, diversity has never been a goal in itself, but I do feel that women feel more welcomed in a company where there are already a lot of us changing the world!

There are currently 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Have more women in leadership roles and have more women out there actively sharing their success stories. Too often, I’ve seen women with really cool success stories and backgrounds think their experiences don’t deserve any attention – they are either too modest, or afraid to put themselves out there. I think this also has to change. If we want change, we need to go out there and actively show the world that we are as powerful as any other person.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

One of the recent books I‘ve read and loved is “It’s about damn time” by Arlan Hamilton. A tech investor who went against all odds and has now invested into more than 100 tech companies. Her story is so awesome. She also has a podcast ‘Your First Million’, where she’s interviewing entrepreneurs.


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