Interview with a Betabound All-Star: Akhan Almagambetov

The Betabound tester community is filled with people from all walks of life. After all, we never know what product we’re going to be testing next and what that product’s target market will be. So, we try to recruit testers with many different occupations, skills, demographics, opinions, and motivations into our community. It’s always great to speak with our testers on a personal level and learn more about their experiences as a Betabound tester.

Akhan Almagambetov

In this week’s Interview with a Betabound All-Star, we got to speak with beta testing veteran, Akhan Almagambetov. Akhan is an Engineering Consultant from Northfield, Vermont, as well as a Lecturer at Norwich University. We caught up with Akhan recently and had the chance to pick his brain about what beta testing means to him and he gave us some really insightful answers. Let’s meet Akhan.

What got you into beta testing?
To be perfectly honest, my college roommate. As engineering majors in our last year of college, we had plenty of time on our hands and were looking for exciting things to do. One day, he says, “Hey, check out Centercode! They let you test pre-release devices.” What college kid in their right mind would pass up an opportunity to get their hands on a device that hadn’t yet been released to the public? I registered for OnlineBeta (what the beta testing portal was called back then) that evening and was accepted into my first-ever beta test a couple of weeks later. Fast-forward about seven years and three dozen devices later, and I’m still as excited about testing and giving feedback as I was back when I first started.

What’s been your favorite part about being a beta tester?
It’s extremely rewarding to have a direct line of communication to the project engineers — the greatest thing about beta testing is that your feedback (no matter how small or insignificant) actually matters! I can’t tell you how many times over the past seven years I’ve beta tested something, completely ripped it apart through my feedback and bug reports, and then looked at a completely transformed retail version six months later and thought, “Wow. Pretty much all of my feature suggestions made it into the final product!” In my mind, this is the best part about beta testing — being able to influence the direction of the product, and through all of your product suggestions and bug reports, being able to convert an already amazing product into something even better.

What makes being a beta tester for Betabound unique?
Centercode has always been the pioneer in beta testing (in my opinion). With the recent revamp and rebranding of OnlineBeta into Betabound, there are even more features that are useful for both testers and companies alike. One of these features is the ability to comment on and up-vote others’ product feedback — a trivial idea, but it makes beta testing that much more exciting (and the feedback provided to companies that much more useful).

When I test products for Betabound, I feel like I’m in constant contact with the beta engineers and the company representatives. Way too many other beta testing places just let their beta tests stagnate into oblivion. The Betabound betas, on the other hand, are very fast-paced, full of interaction, and you can see the product taking shape right before your own eyes — through firmware and software updates, documentation revamps, and added functionality — all in the span of two or three weeks!

What motivates you to keep devoting your time to beta testing?
As I previously mentioned, the idea of shaping a cool product into something that has all the features you would use is my primary motivator. I don’t apply to every beta opportunity posted, but if there is a piece of software or device that I use (or would use) on a regular basis, then I have a somewhat selfish reason for molding it into something that I like.

Thankfully, my selfish motivation is also what makes me a good beta tester — the main questions that I ask myself every time I test a product are, “If I really did spend my hard-earned money on this device, which features would I like? What would really disappoint me?”

Even though beta testing requires a relatively hefty time commitment, it’s definitely worth it in the end. Not only did you get to voice your opinions and influence the design, but you also get to talk to some awesome people from many different big-name companies. If you make a positive impression on the beta engineers and company representatives during the beta test, the connections that you make as a beta tester may come in handy down the road.

Any advice you would give to newer beta testers?
Don’t be hesitant about putting the products that you’re testing through hell and back. Run through all of the what-if scenarios. Likely, the final retail versions of the product will end up in the hands of many users with a passion for technology, as well as those who have trouble doing something as simple as checking their email. No suggestion and no piece of feedback (no matter how trivial) is a bad thing. Even if you think that a problem resolution is very straightforward, it may not be as straightforward for a large portion of the target user as it is for you. I’ll modify a poster phrase from one of my all-time favorite movies, “Brazil” (1985), into my most valuable piece of advice for new testers: “Don’t doubt anything. Report it.”

Akhan epitomizes the passion that makes a great beta tester. His proven commitment to helping our clients build better products through honest feedback has helped him become one of our most trusted testers. Chances are, his feedback has influenced a product you use in your everyday life. If you see Akhan on a future test, be sure to say hello!

Are there any other topics or questions you’d like to see discussed with our top testers? Let us know in the comments below!

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