The journey to success often starts with struggles accompanied by some unpredictable situations. In order to climb the ladder, one has to cope with various failures and face the inevitable circumstances. The entrepreneurial journey of Ruslan Desyatnikov, the Founder and CEO of QA Mentor, exemplifies such a struggling dilemma. Emphasizing the courage to pursue passion, CIO Look brings to you the triumphant journey of an avid entrepreneur, Ruslan.
Ruslan started his career 22 years ago as a junior tester. He was struggling to find his first job after graduation, while many of his college peers found their jobs very quickly. One job he was offered was in a junior tester position. At that time, he didn’t have any knowledge about testing or the role of a junior tester because for the most part everybody was going into development programming. He took this job because he had no other choices. And since that time, he has never regretted his choice because he it led to something he loved.
Throughout these 22 years, Ruslan spent much of his time stepping into leadership roles in the quality assurance and testing field, up to and including the start of his entrepreneurial journey back in 2010. Prior to starting his own company, he was working in different capacities and at different organizations and companies, such as HSBC and Citibank, where he held a senior management role managing several teams of over 100 people. After that, he felt he could help other companies around the world to improve quality by starting his own company. And that is how QA Mentor, a leading QA provider, was conceived.
QA Mentor supports various industries and technologies. In order to make its offerings appealing, the company has a number of unique services. It offers 32 different quality assurance testing services in the quality assurance domain and covers nearly all angles of the service offerings. In order to attract its potential customers and clients, it offers a number of on-demand services which allow its customers to utilize the company only when they need it. For instance, companies don’t need to have a long-term contract or many resources billable throughout the whole year. QA Mentor has options where if there is no requirement, it can stop, pause the engagement, and then re-engage when the work is there. This allows its customers and clients to save a lot of resources.
In addition, the company is unique in its own space in terms of providing strategic directions and consultations. So basically, it is not a body shop where many organizations just provide resources to do the tasks. QA Mentor provides coaching, training, guidance, and that’s how the name ‘QA Mentor’ came about. QA is all about mentorship, guidance, and strategic support. It is not only about testing but also providing recommendations on how to establish better, more streamlined processes, and how to take an immature QA organization to the next level.
Along with the service offerings, QA mentor also provides expertise and expert services which can help the company to build a QA department from scratch. It can build a very big testing center of excellence, which it has done for many Fortune 500 companies. It can also provide cost effective testing solutions in order for its customers to save money. The company provides on-demand solutions and various other automation testing solutions to save on the cost of the manual testers. In other words, instead of executing thousands of test cases manually, the company can automate them and can provide those solutions to its customers.
Fundraising is always a challenging component when starting a business. Ruslan started his business without any investment money. He didn’t want to borrow any money from investors or from the bank. He utilized his own money, and thus it was challenging in the beginning. Ruslan believes that the initial stage is extremely important and difficult, when you’re starting from scratch and don’t have any clients yet. It becomes very important to invest into the right marketing and advertising strategy to attract customers and clients. So, initial challenges with funds were always there to begin with for him. At one point, it became difficult for him even to pay salaries. Occasionally he had to delay some salaries by two, maybe three months, but always with the promise that he’d pay everyone everything they were owed. Fortunately, his team was on his side, trusted his strategies, and that’s why they didn’t leave him high and dry.
Though this dilemma, Ruslan learned a valuable lesson – it’s very important to have a backup plan. Something will likely go wrong, and you need to plan the budget accordingly so that if certain projects are not there, you can still survive for the six months at least. One needs to be very aggressive in terms of identifying customers and clients and establish very strong marketing strategies and techniques. According to him, without a proper go-to market strategy and sales strategy, one won’t be successful as one will not find any clients or customers. Hence, strategic investment into the marketing and advertising and sales are extremely important for the business.
Secondly, it also became complicated for Ruslan initially when everything did start taking off. QA Mentor started growing exponentially. It also acquired other companies along the journey. After three to four years, everything started going off rapidly. Ruslan believes, this is where businesses risk failure as they grow very fast hire people quickly, and then need to sustain growth. QA mentor implemented a number of internal training and on-boarding training sessions with its new employees, where it gave them two weeks orientation in overall company strategy and methodology along with its own QA testing techniques. This helped to ensure that everybody would operate the same way, following all protocols and best practices. The company built many internal training programs which helped it to onboard new hires quickly. And not only onboard but integrate them into the teams so they can operate much quicker and more efficiently. In the opinion of Ruslan, sustaining the growth is a good problem to deal with, but one can easily fail and leave a lot of unhappy customers in the wake of the mess created by rapidly expanding team growth that lacks any strategy. So, it’s extremely important to have the right onboarding strategy, training strategy, and internal training, and that’s what QA Mentor does. It has invested a lot of money to build Elearning training across the board.
QA Mentor has been growing year after year at the rate of 30%, and its global strategy is to establish its presence in every country in the world. For that reason, it is striving to open new locations across the globe. It is already operating in seven different countries and continuing to establish its footprint in many more countries where it can help companies within that region to adapt to QA Mentor’s strategies, best practices and methodologies. Its goal is to become a global leader in testing. Many organizations are providing a combination of development and testing, but QA Mentor is strictly concentrating around testing. It is also trying to hit 1,000 employees within five years. Right now, it has 274 global resources, which leaves a lot of room to grow. Through its acquisition strategies, it has acquired three companies since it started back in 2010.
In addition, QA Mentor also wants to continue offering more services in the latest technology space such as Internet of Things, blockchain, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. It is continually performing its R &D in those areas so that it can be equipped to support many organizations with the latest technologies, test those technologies, and automate testing around those technologies as well.
When asked about the essential attributes every entrepreneur must possess, Ruslan emphasized the skills of decision making. According to him, as a business leader one has to be brave and bold in their decisions. While addressing young entrepreneurs he says, “You don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes with your decisions because business leaders are the ones who should make the decisions, and I’ve seen many business leaders who are afraid to make a mistake or to make a decision. So in my life, in my career, I made tons of mistakes. But I learned from those mistakes, and at the same time I never was afraid to make a decision. Whether the decision was bad or good is one thing, but I was constantly evaluating and moving forward with decisions based on that.”
He also advises business leaders to take responsibility for their decisions. He also emphasizes being disciplined, stating that it’s very important to be disciplined and to follow the strategy and methodology and approach and not to deviate from the established methodologies. Also, in his opinion, being fair is an essential attribute too. He says, “Whenever you see certain things not really working well you have to explain the things that are not working, and at the same time when you see certain things getting done correctly you have to praise your guys. It’s very, very important to be fair and to give constructive criticism, and at the same time continuously grow your staff, because if they’re not growing, you’re not going to grow and hence, the company is not going to grow. So that’s extremely, extremely important to do that. It’s also very important to remember that you have to appreciate and praise people for working hard and recognize them because they need that.”
In his advice to the emerging entrepreneurs, he further adds, “Don’t be afraid to start your own business. Obviously, you have to think this through, you have to plan it accordingly. It helps to have some investments ready to do that, but don’t wait too long. I actually regret that I started a so late. I thought that I need to gain more knowledge, more experience, and so it wasn’t until after10 years that I finally decided to open my own company. But I think people should not wait too long. You’ll learn as you go – we never stop learning, and it’s not possible to know everything. You will be learning until your retirement. So, you have to jump in without worry and without fear. And always believe in and follow your dreams because success depends on only you. If you want to be successful you have to follow your dreams and you have to do whatever it takes for you to succeed. Success is a choice. It’s up to you to become successful or not. You can control that success yourself. Obviously, there are a lot of risks and failures in front of you, but you can overcome. You have got to be strong and you have got to keep going. Don’t be discouraged if something is not working. And this is going to happen many times. But you still need to fight and continue and fall and stand up and move forward.”