Kristel Kruustük was just 23 when she became disillusioned by how QA testers were treated. She came up with the idea of building a platform that would appreciate the work of testers and elevate the importance of QA within organizations. She shared her idea with then-boyfriend, later-cofounder, now-husband Marko Kruustük and the two entered the world’s largest hackathon Angelhack. Together, they took home first place winning a $25,000 seed investment and their first paying customer.
Testlio then picked up steam with customers like Microsoft, Lyft, Salesforce, CBS Interactive, Flipboard, Strava, and GoDaddy. Most strikingly for a tech company - over 50% of its employees are women and minorities. Today, Testlio’s leadership team is over 40% women and Kristel believes they will have parity soon.The diversity reflects their fearless leader who believes her company is in a unique position to make progress on diversity by hiring globally.
Testlio’s freelancer network is made up of over 150 testers from 33 different countries assisting customers in 36 different languages. Additionally, in an attempt to eliminate institutional bias the company’s hiring practice involves a rigorous practice test cycle that eliminates 97% of all applicants and ensures talent wins out.
We had a chance to speak with her and how she became recognized as “one of the most successful female entrepreneurs in the the Baltics.”
What’s an important leadership skill that doesn’t get talked about enough?
Running a successful business is about more than the bottom line. It’s about the people who build it, scale it and run it day in and day out. People drive our success more than anything else. A great leader needs to spend the time hiring and empowering her people. The business fundamentals will follow.
Why should young people consider a career in IT or STEM?
Technology is the future; It is allowing us to make drastic improvements to human life. Even looking at the past decade, so much has changed in terms of what people can accomplish on their own. IT / STEM careers also enable young people to innovate and impact their world.
Why is there a need for nontraditional career paths in tech?
I never planned to become a software tester, but I knew soon after testing my first few apps that testing was something that would drive my career. People need the opportunity to discover how technology can transform their lives, and nontraditional career paths enable that. Technology demands innovative, out-of-the-box thinkers. Those people don’t always fit neatly into a box.
How are nontraditional career paths into tech helping build tech diversity and making communities better?
Encouraging diversity ensures companies have employees who bring distinctive, valuable perspectives to the table. Often times these out-of-the-box thinkers need nontraditional career paths to find their place in the technology ecosystem. The bottom line is that diverse companies outperform their competitors. Diversity enhances the products and services tech companies can offer all of us.
Can people really be successful in tech without a traditional education?
Of course! There’s plenty of merit in a traditional educational, but the most important element to success is being constantly curious. Never let the lack of a degree deter you.
What are some of the things that hold women back during their careers? Especially if they decide to pivot mid-career?
Women are underrepresented in tech, which I think leads some women to overcompensate and worry about how they’re perceived. That’s not productive.
What are one or two words of advice that you have for women with nontraditional careers, or whom are considering making a change?
Don’t let fear rule you. Never give up when you face obstacles.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of my life journey and of what we’ve been able to accomplish with Testlio so far.
Your favorite quote?
No pain, no gain.
Connect with Kristel