The String and Key Crew: Kent Howard

Jasmin H
Jasmin H
Jul 28, 2020 · 6 min read

As part of our ongoing employee spotlight series, we’ll be profiling colleagues who inspire us. Today, meet Kent Howard.

Company Role: Senior Quality Assurance Engineer

Most likely to: laugh really, really hard

Secret talent: I can fold the top of my ear into my ear (it’s better if it’s cold outside so that it sticks)

It’s true what they say: you never know when and where you’ll stumble upon your next job opportunity. For Kent, that was at his own backyard bbq. He invited a few neighbors, including his current boss, David who lived across the street, they talked shop, hit it off, and both said: “yes, let’s do this.” Kent swears it was his grilling that got him the job, considering David is a foodie. But, we bet his great rapport and excellent skills gave him the edge.

Prior to impressing his future boss with good eats and great chat, this musician and adventurer spent some time mountaineering and sea kayaking in Chile for 2.5 months. Returning to the US, he joined a band in Wisconsin, moved with them to Minnesota, and pursued the musician lifestyle full-time before realizing that chasing his rock ’n’ roll dream wasn’t paying the bills. A realization spurred on, he explains, by the fact that they were never going to be as popular as Led Zeppelin or Radiohead.

So, with a side interest in development, Kent went down the QA path and taught himself everything he now knows, and pre-String-and-Key worked in mobile-game testing, connected keyboard data syncing, and end-to-end QA. Now a part of our crew, Kent brings a level of fun to whatever he does and is a great asset to our team. So read on to learn more about his life at work, his impressive knowledge of bats, his small request of Elon Musk, and more.

What does your typical workday look like?
So my typical workday involves seeing what tickets are assigned to me, understanding the component, understanding the spec, and understanding what is expected from validation. Once I have that, and I have a strategy in place, I will pull down the changes and start working with that in a manual vacuum. Once I’ve deemed it stable, I will create a ticket for writing my automated test around that piece of code. That’s what my day in and day out looks like.

What’s your favorite part about working at String and Key?
The people, and the passion they bring to their work every day. There’s a great culture here and we’ve been fortunate to maintain a cool environment that’s diverse and open, a place where people are creative and thoughtful. I also just enjoy being in the office, being silly, listening to music, and just having an awesome camaraderie with everyone.

What excites you about your job?
Writing automation, writing code, and stabilizing our releases. It’s the first time I’m entering this realm within my QA experience. My toolbelt is increasing in size and that’s exciting. Also, the ability to give quality assurance recommendations and feedback. At the end of the day, we’re the last line of defense, so when a new idea sparks and it’s within scope, it’s exciting as it helps make the user experience an improved experience. I have the ability to do that within my job, and that’s awesome.

What do you find most challenging about your role?
Learning to write code and being efficient in doing so. It’s exciting, but it’s also the most challenging part since it’s a new vertical for me. Something else that is difficult is the lack of processes as we’re all learning as we go through. So sometimes there are assumptions made, and there’s always a slight element of guesswork, but it’s the nature of the beast working at a startup. We’re inventing the process as we go. It’s all a challenge but in a good way. Plus, It keeps things interesting.

What are the values that drive you?
Hardwork, integrity, and seeing my contributions through to the end. Also, respect for my coworkers. Respecting your coworkers helps you be more diligent and thorough with your work. I’m also easygoing and always down for having a good time, but I’m still able to focus and bear down when it’s time to work.

What drew you to tech, and what excites you about the industry?
I actually just fell into tech. I like video games, and I’ve been a gamer my whole life (ever since I discovered Sega and Nintendo as a kid). So, my love of gaming got my foot in the door, but it also moved me onto a stimulating career path. In terms of what excites me, I like the problems that tech can solve. There are a lot of opportunities to create something responsible and also create something that will better people’s lives. As far as what I want to see, I’d love to see some advances in battery life, when is that happening? Elon Musk, c’mon man, make me a Tesla battery that I can put in my flashlight battery so it’ll last eight years.

What’s one thing — either industry-related or not — that you’ve learned in the last month?
I’ve recently learned a lot about bats. So there’s one bat whose tongue is three times the length of its body. So it would be like a cat drinking milk from a bowl that was over 2.5 feet away! Bats are also the only mammals that fly, that’s pretty dope! Some migrate too, thousands of miles. There’s also another bat that is so tiny that it weighs less than an ounce and another that has a six-foot wingspan, can you imagine that?

If you could swap places with anyone at String and Key, who would it be and why?
I think it’d be so fun to be in the creative team as I like the idea of using design tools, it’s just really appealing to me. I think it’s because I’m a creative at heart. I’m a musician, I’ve always liked art, and I like to sculpt, whittle, draw, etc. In particular, I’d swap places with Megan, one of our UX designers. I don’t know her well, but I really like her creative aesthetic. Plus, I think it’d be pretty dope to have Micah (our Head of Creative) as a boss, he’s a cool dude. He’s just really chill and realistic, and I like his way of being.

What keeps you busy outside of work?
My son, Jasper, and my wife, Amy keep me busy with life stuff. I also like to build models. Right now, I’ve been building a lot of Gundam models, which are Japanese anime models. Music and bands also keep me busy. I’m in three different bands right now. Finally, hiking, cycling, and anything active.

Can you list five hashtags that describe your personality?
#LaughALot #Adventurous #IsItPartyTimeYet #WorkHardPlayHard #LifeWithAViewIsMuchBetter

Lighting Round:

Text or FaceTime?

Text. (Although I’ve been really enjoying Facetime lately).

Night in or a night out?

Night in.

Meeting new people or meeting new places?

Meeting new places.

Talk to animals or speak every language?

Talk to animals

Plan everything or go with the flow?

Go with the flow! (My mantra for the afterlife is “I want to be a leaf on the river”).

Interested in working at String and Key? Join us!

String and Key

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