Based in Washington, Ross is a general manager of a food safety company. His musings explore life, work and every moment in between.

Timing matters

I was terrified to take my California Branch 2 license test. It had been 18 years since I had taken a state pest control exam and I felt rusty on my pest identification and pest biology. On top of that, the Branch 2 test is known to be quirky and more philosophical than a typical state exam. Needless to say, I was feeling anxious.

Checking in, I turned in my identification, had my thumb print taken, was photographed and then shown to my cubicle to take my test. It was a quiet room with about 20 small desks and computers all humming away with people taking exams. I’m not a great tester – never really have been. I was so nervous at this point, when I donned the provided headphones I could hear my heart beat racing through my ears. I  convinced myself to take some deep breaths which made my heart rate decrease. I had no idea what the answer was to the first question. I skipped it. Onto number 2 – no idea. I could hear my heart beat increasing again. Question number 3 I knew immediately, as I did for #4 and #5. I began to relax and get into a flow. At the end of the test I reviewed the questions I had skipped, made my best guess, and to hit “end test.” The software asked “Are you sure you want to end?” This was it. No do overs, no ‘best of three’ stuff. I would know if I had passed right now. Heart rate increasing again, I pressed enter and the software prompted, “type YES into the box below to end test.” I typed “YES” into the box and submitted the test.

Was I greeted with my test results? No. Instead, an eight question survey about the testing center and my experience! 8 questions! I couldn’t skip this nonsense either. I had no choice but to provide my feedback. My nerves were about to reach a crescendo and I was supposed to answer a survey! What!?! I was not amused. I answered quickly and finally pressed submit.

PASS.

Relief. I sat there for a minute smiling then gathered my things and left. I put on some music and enjoyed the fact that I had achieved one of my first quarter goals. But all I could think about was this 8 question survey. When people take this test, many might feel their careers and livelihood are at stake. When I was in the waiting room, people from all walks of life and types of industries were queuing up to take their equivalent of the Branch 2 test. At the end of their exams I assume they too had to answer a survey about the testing center. In the center’s quest to gather data and to improve their processes their timing for their customers was terrible. Imagine willfully withholding vital information from your customer (!) in order to just get a little feedback. It felt gross. I am sure the testing company has big government contracts and will not change its practices due to my experience, but I sure as hell won’t let that happen to our customers. Timing matters. Remember that in your interactions both internally with your coworkers and externally with your clients.

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