PAR prides itself on creating assessment products that are both high in quality and in value. The process of taking an idea and molding it into a useful product involves the hard work and dedication of many people, and although no single effort or particular phase of development is more important than another, some roles are naturally more visible than others. One department Customers may not be familiar with, but certainly benefit from, is the unwavering diligence of Quality Assurance.

Richard Brummer, MBA, M Ed IT, CSTE, Senior Manager of Quality Assurance (QA), helps shed some light on the role the QA department plays in the development of PAR products.

 

What is quality assurance?

Quality assurance is a continuous, unrelenting focus on the processes of product development.

Why is quality assurance important?

QA works closely with each print and software product from its initial design all the way through postproduction support, giving feedback about usability and accuracy.

“You cannot enhance a product’s quality during the final testing phases because that it too far down the road,” Brummer explains. “Quality begins at the very beginning.”

QA’s close involvement from the initial design ensures that any inaccuracies are corrected quickly, which saves time and money, and eliminates the risk of persisting errors.

How does the PAR QA process improve our assessment products?

Most companies enhance a product’s quality by investing all focus into testing the product in order to find and correct defects. While this approach is effective, it is also lacking because it does not necessarily make the product better; it simply provides a product without inaccuracies.

At PAR, a product that simply has no inaccuracies is not good enough.

“We take a more progressive and proactive approach during the entire product development lifecycle that focuses on maximizing the Customer experience with a product that is also free from defects,” Brummer says.

To do this, QA utilizes best practices developed by the software industry for usability, which they apply to both print and software products. It’s not enough to just say that our products work; they also have to work well, be easy to use, be useful, consistent, and pleasing to look at.

Every product’s forms and norms, for instance, are developed with the examiner in mind. Is there space for examiners to note every piece of important information they will need? Is everything clearly labeled? Is the pertinent information organized in a way that will make sense during administration and scoring?

“Whether designing a graphical user interface or a paper assessment form, it is paramount to highlight important information and present it in a readable fashion,” Brummer explains. Even if the forms and norms tables are technically accurate, anything that may be confusing or hard to read introduces the potential for user error, which increases the risk of the user misreporting results.

PAR’s confidence in each product can be largely attributed to QA’s strong commitment to each assessment.
This interview is a part of an ongoing feature on the PAR blog to better acquaint Customers with PAR staff. We hope you enjoy this inside look into what goes on behind the scenes to develop, create, and deliver your most trusted assessments.

Sue Trujillo, Manager of Data Collection

How many years have you worked at PAR? 9 1/2 years

What does an average day at PAR look like to you? Read and respond to emails from data collectors, check the demographic database on projects in progress, recruit new and existing examiners to work on finding participants to fill the needed demographics, check incoming data for accuracy and log cases into my SPSS “cases needed” file, and, most recently, helping to work on new project ideas.

What is the best part of your job? Talking with psychologists all over the country.

When people ask you what you do, how do you explain your job? I have a database of examiners from all over the country who administer new or existing assessments in order to create the standardization norms.

When you aren’t at work, where can you be found? In my yard, tending to my flowers and plants, or dancing at a rock concert.

When I first started working at PAR… there wasn’t any one person who did my job. The project directors were responsible for finding authors who already had data or the project directors managed data collection themselves.

If I could switch jobs with anyone in the company for a day, I’d like to try… Being a Clinical Assessment Consultant! I’d like to sell what I’ve helped create!
PAR is proud of our ongoing relationship with United Way. Last week, we took part in our annual fundraising campaign. For more than 20 years, 100% of staff members have contributed during our annual United Way drive. This year was no different. We exceeded our fundraising goal, resulting in employee contributions of $81,661.72 being donated to United Way to help continue its mission of helping others in our community.

Meet Opie, the newest recruit to the PAR family.

This year, our United Way week theme was PAR Boot Camp. Staffers were broken into five teams, each representing a different branch of the military, and took part in a host of activities, ranging from puzzle building to a mental tug-of-war. Ten staff members even went head-to-head in a push up contest! Our friends from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay stopped by… and one lucky pup found his forever home.

Want to learn more about how you can help United Way in your community? Visit www.unitedway.org.

 
This interview is a part of an ongoing feature on the PAR blog to better acquaint Customers with PAR staff. We hope you enjoy this inside look into what goes on behind the scenes to develop, create, and deliver your most trusted assessments.

Melissa Messer, Senior Project Director

How many years have you worked at PAR? 13

What does an average day at PAR look like to you? Every day is different depending on the status of my projects. Typically, I am working on some type of data analysis. Other days, I may be solely focused on writing, which also involves doing extensive literature reviews and interpreting/explaining data analysis. I have lots of team meetings, generally getting input and feedback on print and digital projects.

What have you learned by working at PAR? A small group of really excellent people can accomplish a lot when they work together. In comparison to some of our competitors, we are a very small company, yet we remain very competitive.

When you aren’t at work, where can you be found? With my two children. I spend as much time as I possibly can with them when I am not at work.

When you first started working at PAR, what were your plans? I thought I would stay for a year and go back to school to get my PhD. Instead, four positions and almost 13 years later, I can’t imagine leaving PAR.

If you could switch jobs anywhere in the company for a day, what department would you choose? Customer Support. I really enjoy talking to our Customers at conventions, and I think it would be great to have a chance to talk directly to our Customers more.

What product or project have you learned the most from? The Neuropsychological Assessment Battery® (NAB®). I got to work with the director of Research & Development, who had a ton of experience working on project development, and he was also the author of the test. It was by far one of the largest projects ever completed at PAR, and the experiences I gained while working on it definitely had an impact on my future success at PAR.
Earlier this year, PAR received national recognition as one of the 2014 “Healthiest Companies in America” by Interactive Health, the country’s leading provider of health management solutions. PAR was one of 158 honorees from across the United States recognized for embracing the mission of implementing life-changing preventive health care in the workplace.

The Healthiest Companies in America award is given to select organizations across the nation that have helped transform—and even save—the lives of employees by offering wellness programs that combine thorough health evaluations with fast, personalized results. With the help of these strategic, flexible initiatives, winning organizations like PAR have accomplished tremendous success in moving employees from high-risk health status to lower risk, achieving remarkably high employee participation.

“We are honored to be named as one of the healthiest companies in America,” said R. Bob Smith III, PhD, CEO of PAR. “The health and wellness of our employees is a high priority, and we will remain committed to helping them improve their quality of life.”

In 2005, PAR created the Swellness Committee, which is charged with creating programs and events that promote health and well-being. The Committee has sponsored a walking contest each year for the past few years and has encouraged employees to join the Commit to Stay Fit Holiday Challenge. In addition, PAR participates in various community walks and other events.

The Swellness Committee offered various health-related classes this past year and has an elliptical machine available to all employees. PAR also provides an employee wellness benefit each calendar year. Many seminars on healthy eating have been provided, and PAR has modified its company-sponsored dining activities to include a healthy food option. A healthy snacks cabinet takes the place of vending machines. Each year, PAR provides free on-site biometric screenings, which include full bloodwork analysis, mental health screening, and blood pressure testing.

“These winners are improving health outcomes throughout America,” said Cathy Kenworthy, president and CEO of Interactive Health. “Preventive care programs are about much more than just losing weight or quitting smoking—they are a catalyst to transform the way people look at health, well-being, and their lives overall. Heathiest Companies in America winners exemplify the long-term positive effects comprehensive wellness programs can have on the health status of large populations. Our work is done exclusively through our people… it’s personal to us.”

 About Interactive Health

Interactive Health, the country’s leading provider of health management solutions, creates innovative wellness programs designed to increase overall company health and actively engage employees to make lasting behavior changes. Interactive Health has a 20-year track record of creating the Healthiest Companies in America.
Did you know that it’s easy to arrange a PAR-sponsored workshop in your area? Whether we send one of our Clinical Assessment Consultants to your location or train a multi-site group via a Webinar, we offer a host of training opportunities customized to meet your needs. PAR is even approved by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the Continuing Education Board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) to provide continuing education credits.

To learn more about our workshops and Webinars, check out our workshop brochure.

 
This interview is a part of an ongoing feature on the PAR blog to better acquaint Customers with PAR staff. We hope you enjoy this inside look into what goes on behind the scenes to develop, create, and deliver your most trusted assessments.

Lauren Rosario, Senior Marketing Analyst

How many years have you worked at PAR? 1

What does an average day at PAR look like to you? My primary responsibility is market research; I engage with our Customers to discover their likes, dislikes, and needs and then find common trends between them. This helps guide the company on what is meaningful and important to Customers during new product development and when marketing products. Market research takes many different forms, from focus groups to large-scale online research projects. In addition to listening to the voice of our customers, I also work on launching new products by developing marketing pieces, videos, advertisements, and other ways to communicate to our Customers all of the great things we have to offer at PAR.

What is the best part of your job? I find market research fascinating because Customer behavior is so interesting; the most beneficial and rewarding moments are when Customers tell me something through research and that feedback changes what we as a company had planned. When that happens, you see firsthand the power of market research insights and the success that comes to companies that value and embrace their Customers’ wants and needs. It’s also very exciting when research I’ve conducted and Customer behavior that follows matches up perfectly.

What would surprise people about your job? Market research is both a science and an art at every stage of the game. There are subtle intricacies in wording and question ordering for even a simple survey that can have a great impact on the results, so having a solid background in market research is critical.

When you aren’t at work, where can you be found? I am taking master’s courses in marketing through Harvard University, so that takes up most of my time. I also love long-distance running with my rescue dog, traveling to new countries with my husband, quilting, and I am involved with my church.

When I first started working at PAR… I was absolutely amazed at how charitable the employees are to needy causes and how exceptionally well the company treats employees. It’s incredibly inspiring to work for a company that is so generous; I’m honored to be part of this team. PAR is a truly exemplary.

The best advice I’ve ever received is… to design a life you love. It’s short, but to me, it motivates me to be determined about loving life.  I have known since I was about 10 that I wanted to have a career in marketing, preferably in a climate that offered palm trees! I absolutely love my career as a marketer and wouldn’t prefer doing anything else.
This interview is a part of an ongoing feature on the PAR blog to better acquaint Customers with PAR staff. We hope you enjoy this inside look into what goes on behind the scenes to develop, create, and deliver your most trusted assessments.

Danielle Greer, Customer Support Specialist

How many years have you worked at PAR? 1 year

What does an average day at PAR look like to you? An average day in Customer Support consists of processing orders, providing support, answering questions, and resolving issues, just to name a few. It is difficult to cover the range of duties we perform. The goal at PAR every day however is to provide unparalleled service and delight our customers!

What is the best part of your job? The variety of professionals I get to talk to on a daily basis. I get the opportunity to speak with professionals that have been in their field for decades as well as those that are just starting out. I also never know what state, country, or continent I am going to take a call from!

What have you learned by working at PAR? I have learned that it is entirely possible for a company to foster a family-like culture that inspires its employees to not only take pride in their work, but also in their position to give back to the community. PAR provides many opportunities to help those in need, and I believe other companies can learn a lot by the example that PAR sets.

When you aren’t at work, where can you be found? Cycling for miles on the Suncoast Bike Trail!

If I could switch jobs with anyone in the company for a day… I would switch with a Distribution Specialist. In Customer Support, we process a lot of orders for shipment, and sometimes have special requests for our customers that the DC helps with. I believe I could learn a lot from our neighbor department that so quickly and accurately puts together our customers’ orders and is so willing to team up with CS to tackle assignments.

What product or project have you learned the most from? Our department’s “Secret Service” committee. We are always striving to delight our customers in new and creative ways, and we inspire one another by sharing stories weekly about how we went the extra mile for a customer. These are perfect opportunities for the department to learn different ways to make our customers’ day or take a unique approach to resolving an issue.
The movers and shakers on Team PAR have been very busy, participating in community service projects and supporting causes that are making a real difference! Here are a few highlights of our activities so far this year.

The PARty Animals emerged as leader of the pack in raising funds for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay at the annual Bark in the Park event this spring, keeping the trophy in its rightful place—the lobby here at PAR headquarters—for another year! A large contingent from our staff, along with their four-legged friends, joined the happy throng at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park to support the Humane Society and its vital work in our community.

“Love is Blue,” according to the old song, and that sums up one of Team PAR’s true labors of love: our support for autism awareness and research. But why blue? On World Autism Day each year, the Autism Speaks organization encourages people all over the world to “light it up blue” by wearing blue clothing and displaying blue lights in their homes, schools, and businesses. PAR staff turned out in our best dress blues that day; we also held a week-long silent auction and raffle, where theater tickets and fine wine were among the generous donations that had us all raising our bids. An enthusiastic team of walkers capped off the week by participating in the annual Autism Walk, engaging sponsors and raising thousands of dollars for autism research.

Earlier this year, PAR was thrilled to be honored as the 2015 Outstanding Corporate Partner for the PACE Center for Girls. The PACE Center in Tampa provides at-risk teen girls an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training, and advocacy. With a balanced emphasis on academics and social services, the PACE model is recognized as one of the most effective programs in the country for keeping girls from entering the juvenile justice system.

PAR was also honored to participate in this year’s Cup of Compassion Breakfast to benefit the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. Through their crisis hotline and support services, the Crisis Center brings help, hope, and healing to people who are experiencing the devastating trauma of sexual assault or abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and other crises.

Each week throughout the year, PAR employees deliver a hot meal and a warm smile to Meals on Wheels recipients in our area. Many are elderly or disabled, and they often don’t get much company, so we try to take a few moments to chat with these neighbors who help to brighten our day as well. This April, we continued with our annual tradition of making and delivering an extra treat: cheerful gift baskets, brimming with goodies and designed to say, “Welcome, spring!”

Above par, below par, or just from PAR…it really didn’t matter at a recent golf tournament, where our foursome of keen PAR golfers helped raise funds to benefit The Children’s Home of Tampa. This event is one of the many ways that PAR supports The Children’s Home in its work to strengthen families in our community.

The Bloodmobile (a.k.a. OneBlood Services) makes regular stops at PAR, where they know that our regular donors—and a few first-timers, too—can be counted on for donations of blood and platelets. The experts on the Bloodmobile team make it easy for us to do the right thing!

These are just a few of the many ways that PAR gives back to our community. “Creating Connections, Changing Lives” is more than just a tagline at PAR—it’s a commitment. Please visit the Community PARtners page on the PAR Web site to learn more!
The PARty Animals have a lot to bark about this year!

A group of animal-loving PAR employees, known as the PARty Animals, led the pack at this weekend’s Bark in the Park event, benefitting the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. As the top fundraising team this year, we will be proudly displaying the Bark in the Park trophy in the PAR lobby for another year.

Last year’s Bark in the Park event raised enough money to:

  • save 5,611 animals

  • transfer 2,765 animals from high euthanasia shelters

  • achieve a 96% save rate

  • treat 25,857 owned pets at the Animal Health Center

  • trap, neuter, and return 5,399 feral cats

  • perform 11,506 spay/neuter surgeries for the public

  • give 1,708 free pet vaccinations in disadvantaged neighborhoods

  • give 286,150 pounds of free pet food to the pets of disadvantaged and homebound citizens
 

We are so proud to be able to support such a wonderful cause. We can’t wait to see what this year brings for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.