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Leader Insights

20 Tips from 20 Years of Centercode

May 20, 2021

Since Centercode was founded back in 2001, we've learned a lot about what goes into becoming a highly skilled and competent user testing professional. Experience is a great teacher after all! What's even better is you don't have to work in the field for 20 years to benefit from our two decades of insights.

From communication to learning and growing in your role, keep reading to learn our top 20 tips, distilled from two decades of working with the best companies in the world.

Communication is Key

Listen to Your Customers
A big part of the job is helping customers find solutions to their problems. If you're not hearing about their problems and working to develop the right solutions, your efforts will not be successful.
  -  Brandon, Centercoder since 2015

Be a Bartender to Your Stakeholders
When it comes to your clients and stakeholders, you need to embrace being a bartender in order to understand and engage with what they're saying. Don't assume you have all the answers. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say.
  -  Tom, Centercoder since 2015

Don't Spin Your Wheels Alone
There are plenty of others on the team who can help you out. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  -  Dustin, Centercoder since 2020

Say Thank You
Make a habit of expressing gratitude, and don't be stingy with positive reinforcement. In a role where your ability to get things done depends on the efforts of other people, it's important to let those people know how much their contributions matter. Not only will you lay the groundwork for a great working relationship, but it also feels great to both express thankfulness and to be sincerely thanked.
  -  Simone, Centercoder since 2017

Organize, Organize, Organize

Keep a To-Do List
Put in the time to make task-listing a habit. Having a centralized and maintained resource to help you chase down the wide breadth of your tasks and objectives really helps provide some order to what can otherwise become a chaotic process.
  -  Tony, Centercoder since 2011

Write Down Your Processes
If you have repeatable tasks, take notes and make process docs. Process docs help ensure you aren't missing crucial steps — which is very useful if you're in a position where you have to jump between tasks.
  -  Maria, Centercoder since 2017

Take Detailed Notes of Your Configurations
It's often the case that when we return to a part of the application that we worked on a while ago, we have little to no memory of that area or how certain logic works. Keeping detailed notes gets us back up to speed quickly and keeps things moving along.
  -  Payaam, Centercoder since 2019

Learning and Growing in Your Role

Gather as Much Information as You Can
Spend the first 90 days really getting to understand your company, your industry, and your products. Learn from the experts on various teams and how their teams work together in the company's context. Build relationships with coworkers in other departments, and try to gain empathy for what they do. Although you might want to come in and get some fast wins, take it a little slow out of the gate to avoid missteps early on.
  -  John, Centercoder since 2015

Look at Your Role Holistically
Knowing that your work matters and seeing how it fits into making the company succeed overall will shape the way you approach your role. By understanding others and your organization as a whole, you will understand yourself and your role better — and that will ultimately help you grow in your career.
  -  Mario, Centercoder since 2003

Use Tribal Knowledge as a Resource
Spend as much time as possible learning — not just inside the tools you're using but from the teams around you. There are so many knowledgeable people with years of experience waiting to help you every step of the way. They're just as much of a resource (if not more so) than any help article, video, or guide.
  -  Stefan, Centercoder since 2020

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Asking questions helps you understand the expectations your peers and managers have for you, and it ensures you get the full story before you offer your thoughts.
  -  Austin, Centercoder since 2013

No, Seriously. Ask. Questions.
No matter how ridiculous a question might seem to you, it's better to ask it and be sure. While the challenges keep coming when you're first starting out, don't lose sight of the fact that you're on a team. It's in their best interest to help you out because everyone wants the company to succeed.
  -  Ulysses, Centercoder since 2017

Make Curiosity a Way of Life
You may not know every technical detail about your product, but you should know why it is being created and the value it'll serve for your customers. Listen to your customers and stay curious. It'll lead to much more productive conversations.
  -  Andrew, Centercoder since 2019

Foster Your Flexibility

Prime Yourself for Unpredictability
This is especially invaluable at a smaller company because you aren't just a cog in the machine that performs a single role. You will need to deal with evolving requirements to succeed within smaller, more agile environments.
  -  Ben, Centercoder since 2006

Tackle Challenges with an Open Mind
Since you'll be doing a bit of everything, you have to stay flexible to be effective in supporting others. Otherwise, you could become an obstacle for someone else. Be open-minded and keep a lookout for opportunities to improve and learn.
  -  Jim, Centercoder since 2016

Speak Other "Languages"
Learn to adapt to different people's perspectives and languages. Everyone views and talks about things a little differently. Even if there are certain "universal" terms that can apply, the truth of the matter is that everyone is a little different in how they communicate what they need. If you can't switch gears and adapt to the mindset of the people you are talking to, then understanding feedback or direction will be very difficult.
  -  Seph, Centercoder since 2018

Put Yourself Out There

Acknowledge What You Don't Know
Don't be afraid to admit that you don't know something. It's an opportunity to go figure it out.
  -  Mark, Centercoder since 2019

Know When to Reach Out
If it's taking you more than 10 minutes to get going on a certain task, there's a good chance someone else has struggled with the same thing. Don't be afraid to reach out for guidance. If your team is anything like ours at Centercode, there will be someone who is more than happy to show you the tricks of the trade.
  -  Diego, Centercoder since 2015

Don't Just "Stick to Your Role"
Exhibit boundary-free behavior. In the early days of Centercode, we wore a lot of different hats. I personally changed business cards about five times in our first few years. While that is symptomatic of a company in startup mode, it's something that never changes. If you see something you can help improve or change to make your company better, reach out and offer help. Your job title is your role in the company, but it doesn't mean you can't contribute somewhere else.
  -  Mike, Centercoder since 2001

Be Tough
To get something off the ground, you need grit. You need to be able to dig into any position and do the best you can, and you need to be learning constantly. If you do not stay ahead of the curve, you will fall behind.
  -  Neil, Centercoder since 2001

Empower Yourself with More Use Cases

See how we've used 20 years of experience to help the world's leading tech companies perfect their products in our ebook, Making Good Technology Great.

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