What is an SDET?

Random work related entry.

What is a Software Development Engineer in Test [SDET]? In it’s most abstract form, an SDET is a developer that writes software with the purpose of testing other software. In ‘softie terms, if SDE writes software with the focus of producing a product, an SDET writes software to test the SDE’s product. It’s what I’ve been doing for the last 16 months, and for the most part it’s been a satisfying experience, although there have been a hiccup or two recently… but the question I that of role: “what does an SDET do” for a product.

As part of the MSDN “in product” team, I am a person with a foot in two different groups: I work with MSDN content with a the focus of supporting Visual Studio, SQL Server, and any other application that uses the Document Explorer application. You can imagine that with Visual Studio and SQL Server 2005 shipping in a couple of weeks, work will be slowing down to a nice normal level. Great imagination and one I’m jealous of. Once the English version ships, localization efforts will continue, as will the work for VS Team Foundation: we’re hardly “done” with this process, even after the shiny boxes appear on store shelves… not to mention that our Quarterly Library and monthly TechNet shipments: those continue year round.

And as the cycle continues to ebb and flow, that brings me to my musing of what is a Tester in 2005.

My first “real” job in the software business was in a test organization, working for the now-legendary (and non-existant) Enterprise division of Symantec Corporation. It corrupted me, this working for a solid company with fairly deep pockets of money to make payroll: I never thought about a career before I started working there… was a good incubation environment for a young QA Analyst. After my local office moved from CT to CA, I stayed in CT and started on a career as a developer, which kept me entertained and well stressed for a number of years.

Stressed? Yes, stressed. I never seemed to have enough testers for any of the projects I worked on! I saw this as a problem, but I did what I could. Not to mention the constant worry about where the next paycheck was coming from… anyway, I always liked coming into my Dev role from a Test background: it made me more conscious – or at least understanding – of bugs than I think I would have been if I had started out as just a coder. I’ll never forget one Dev that worked for me at one company that not only told me that he didn’t have any memory leaks in his code, but that he had never seen the Output window in VS. I guess he’d never bothered to look at it before… incidentally, he was working in C++, using new all over the place and never calling delete. It’s for hacks like him that managed code was created, the doof.

Anyway, back to the question at hand. In the mid-90’s, QA was considered to be a gatekeeper for products. Nothing should ever be released until QA blessed it. QA was on the hook for everything the product did; any problems would be traced back to QA. Except when QA was overruled, which happened a few times in the life cycle of the Enterprise products group. As I recall, we dubbed our 1.1 version as “Now with error handling!” We didn’t win any brownie points with the VP’s, I can tell you that, but we stood by it as the truth.

Now it’s 2005: what’s Test’s role these days? Less of a gatekeeper’s job, I can tell you that. It’s more of an assessment of quality. Blame for bugs that slip through will impact all three parts of the product team (Dev/Test/Program Manager) so Test doesn’t stand alone anymore. Also, because modern products can be so large, there’s no one feature teams that can assess the over all product quality – it’s subdivided for the teams – so one Test team shouldn’t be able to determine what is “good enough”. I report on what my features are doing, and what they should be doing; what that translates to in release schedules is not my call.

We are witnesses of quality, more or less; we live to tell other teams what is and is not working in the product. Or as I like to think of it “Whipping Boy, Scapegoat for Excellence”. After all, even within modern companies, there are still Developers that look down on Testers as inferior workers or second class citizens. It doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to, but I’ve still felt it in spite of having a full decade of developer experience… Whipping Boy is still very much in a Tester’s title, not for the faint of heart or thin skinned.

The follow up question to “What is an SDET?” is whether or not it’s something I want to stick with, long term.

With the right project, it’s a great gig. You are empowered to assess quality, improve your tech skills, assist all aspects of the team, and be a part of a great product. With the wrong project, it’s a nightmare on many levels: all of your assessments are ignored, you can hardly ever get an accurate test due to code churn, and you realize, long before the project ends, that it will be your neck on the chopping block even though you’ve done everything you could to ship a quality product. A tale of two worlds – or an episode of Mirror Mirror, you decide.

In my current role I’m tied to two projects: one online, one offline. Sort of a Ying-Yang deal. The offline project is kick ass and has been for over a year. Solid processes in place, interactive developers, well documented product. The online project feels like a tightly tied plastic bag that’s been wrapped around my face, before having my head shoved into a hole in the dirt like an ostrich. While the individual team members are solid, the overall process is a wreck and that impacts effectiveness. What’s a Tester to do? A Tester instinctively analyzes the situation for quality… and I’m not too happy with what I see. The question remains: has this been enough to soured me on my current SDET role? Hard to say. Now is not the time to consider it, as I’m still knee deep in bits, but it’s a question that will be answered over time, I’m sure.

Sorry for the glimpse of reality: I think it’s a result of working the majority of the weekend (even during the Blogger Tournament and with a break to get some apples at Fred Meyer).

58 thoughts on “What is an SDET?”

  1. Hi Randy

    I worked as SDET in a project whose client was Microsoft Redmond,USA.

    Are there any openings for SDET right now.I am in Hyderabad,India.

    Waiting for reply.

  2. Being an SDET in a wrong group, sucks big time.

    Plain vanilla GUI testing SDETs learn nothing from MSFT.

    This is coming from a real life SDET working on a pathetic project. So if u got a job as an SDET…great…but make sure that you analyze the group you are joining atleast 15 times. I am warning this coz…you will not feel you have lost your career being an SDET…even though u r in MSFT.

  3. But that’s the trick with any role? I mean you can be an SDE and LOVE coding and developing, but if you’re the poor bastard that has to work on the “Pearl” in Office 12… how rewarding is that job? It would be the same for an SDET that is forced to do nothing but ad hoc testing on a menu or toolbar 8 hours a day for 6 months. If the project sucks ALL of the roles are going to suck. I’ve had Lead from other disciplines suck the life outta otherwise good projects – always a constant balancing act.

    Sucks that yer project sucks, tho.

  4. Hi, i got selected for MS-IT, Hyderabad.,

    as an SDET..

    I am in my final year of engineering, in Bangalore..

    have I made a right decision??

    anything I need to do before joining?? ( my joining will be by July, 2008)..

    Any technical or non technical preparation required??

    I still didn’t understand about groups(in SDET) which you discussed here..

    Thanks,

    Rohit

  5. Well, I’m not sure if I fully understand the question… I mean if you took a job and don’t know what the position is, then I’d say you’re in for a world of trouble!

    As for needing to know anything before joining, I’d always recommend reading Code Complete, Second Edition and Writing Secure Code, Second Edition – those should be required reading for *any* Windows programmer. Beyond that, I’m a big fan of James Whitaker’s books/talks – even before I was an SDET – because they help you look at things in a completely different way (which is good for security testing).

  6. I’m looking for a Software Design Engineer that has experience with Testing, Coding, C#, C++, VB, White box Testing and testtool Automation. Please feel free to email me or call me if you or anyone you know is available or interested.

    866-609-Elite (3548)

  7. Sir,

    I am a final year engineering student and have been selected in MAQ SOFTWARE, INDIA as SDET ,a Redmond USA based company. please help me out what is career path and growth in joining such a small and new company as SDET.and can we switch from SDET profile to SDE.

    thanks in advance :)

  8. I’m not sure what you’re asking me, really, but I will offer you a piece of unsolicited advice: don’t take a job as an SDET if you don’t want to be an SDET. I mean, if you wanted to work on cars as a mechanic, would you go work at a bike store and *then* ask to change, before you’ve even started?

    If you want to be an SDE, then apply and interview for an SDE position. Just because you’re an SDE does NOT mean you can be a successful SDET. The skills are often as technical for each but the roles are totally different, which is why there are two roles. There are many coders that are SDETs that wouldn’t make good SDE’s – there are many coders that are SDE’s that wouldn’t make good SDET’s.

    At least that’s my view and my advice to people looking for work. Especially for SDET’s on my team – there have been SDE’s that aren’t technically deep enough to work as an SDET for me… says a lot about what I think an SDET should be.

  9. Hi,

    I have an offer for SDET position from MS.

    I am a developer and don’t want to make a career in testing.

    Do you think that I should take up the position ??

    I have about 2.5 yrs of dev exp and its still early days in a long career and I certainly don’t see MS as last destination for me. So how would my next employer look at me if I have been a SDET as MS. I mean would I be considered a developer or a tester??

    Also I have been told by MS Hr that they look for same level of coding skills both for SDET and SDE. If this is true then how do they decide whom to offer which position ??

    While people have been asking how SDETs can move to SDEs. I wonder if any SDE moves to SDET role ??

    Is flow of people in both directions balanced ??

    1. Only a loser would move from SDE to SDET position. If you are interested in testing as a career option, take up SDET position. If you want to switch over to SDE, apply for that role and stop interviewing for SDET role. This guy Randy seems to be a test lead who will sell all sorts of cock and bull stories to get you onboard.

      1. Only a loser would post a comment to a post without reading the post fully. This guy Randy has been SDE, SDET, SDET Lead, and PM and has simply shared my opinion on the subject. If you had read the comments in the post, you would see that this is not a recruitment because like all SDE, SDET, and PM jobs, it’s really up to the team what the role will and does include.

        Excellent job at taking pride in your ignorance: I’m glad I won’t be working with you in the near future.

  10. Well, my general advice has two parts: 1) every dev should be a tester at some point in their career, the earlier the better, because it makes them far better coders. It also makes working with unit tests better (which I’m also a firm believer in). 2) don’t take a job that you don’t want or you plan to use as a stepping stone to something else.

    The first bit is pretty straight forward. The second bit is as well, but there’s a different reason for that. If you want to be an SDE, be an SDE. If you plan to be and SDET as a stopgap solution, simply to get into Microsoft, then don’t apply to my team – it’s one thing to work on a team for 1-2 years and then move on (be it to other teams or other disciplines) but there’s a danger it doing it on purpose. I find that most people that become SDET’s just to get in the front door half-ass their first gig… that means no praise, no kudos, and with a first year record like that, what do you hope to do?

    As for movement within disciplines, there’s lots of movement. I know that a number of SDET’s in my group used to be SDE’s in previous positions; I’ve known a couple of people that have gone SDE after being an SDET. Right now, two of my direct managers have had a Test background – a number of PM’s have also had SDE experience.

    And yes, an SDET at Microsoft is seen as a coder that focuses on test. Some SDET’s have more coding than others – that depends on the team – the same way there are a SDE positions that focus on internal tool creation rather than customer facing product… it’s all coding but it’s about where your focus lies. Having said that, after a tenure at Microsoft, people that know MS will know that an SDET gig there will have involved coding; for those that don’t, it would be up to you and your resume/cv to showoff your coding experiences.

    HTH!

  11. I run an IT staffing firm in Bellevue, WA here and we’re currently inundated with SDET searches from various clients. It seems like everywhere I look local firms are trying to find the allusive “SDET” these days – good ones – much like Randy describes; those who love what they do and truly appreciate their part in the overall process. So for those wondering whether or not pursing an SDET career path is the right way to go, I’d say IMHO, absolutely yes.

    There seems to be no shortage of positions available in and around Seattle at the moment and we all know what limited supply and increased demand can do to the market. My question for you Randy is this: did MSFT coin the acronym SDET, because I need almost two hands to count the different companies currently asking for them?

  12. Hm. Interesting question… and one that I actually wanted to answer at this year’s GDC but they didn’t pick up the talk *grumble* but anyway.

    I will say that the first time I had ever heard the term Software Development Engineer in Test was when I decided to apply for work at Microsoft. They were the first company that I knew of that actually had two levels of testing: SDET and Software Test Enginer. The former focused on writing code to test code; the latter focused on manual testing (and type of tests that only manual testing can do – like web design or dropping discs into drivers). Today, the majority of Test is of the SDET variety; now – more than ever before – do you have coders working to test software.

    When I first started, I was working for a yellow-box software company out of Cupertino, CA, first as an SQA Analyst and then a Lead SQA Analyst. Back then the majority of the testing was manual but that Test team was also unique in that they had their hooks into everything: design, documentation, deployment, CS, marketing, training – the only thing we didn’t get into is coding the product.

    After that I spent over 9 years as a Dev because of the companies I found didn’t give a rats ass about test – since I could code and design, I went down the Dev road. When I joined up with Microsoft, I did so as an SDET because I would still be coding but I would also be testing – sort of a merging of my career path at that point. In addition to that most teams at MS look at Test to fill the role that my original QA team: they do more than just look for “quality assurance” – the help to drive quality thru the process.

    The talk at GDC would have been about how Test has changed over the years… how it’s gone from being the last step in the process or acting like gatekeepers for software. This is a lesson that I believe a lot of game studios should learn, since they have a huge dependency on manual testing; maybe next year.

    But the point is that Test should now be reporting quality throughout the process: Test is a voice in the chorus. It is there to find places where quality is suffering, point them out, offer an opinion of why (and sometimes how) you want them fixed, and then go onto the next problem. Do you fight for bugs in Triage? Of course! But you no longer have this mentality of “WE ARE TEST – YOU DON’T SHIP UNTIL WE SAY SO!” because Test has never had nor shouldn’t have that kind of absolute power. Voice in a chorus. Sometimes a loud voice, but still one of many.

    So yes, if other companies are looking for a successful implimentation of Test, they are right to look at Microsoft. If other companies *are* looking for SDET’s I’d say that they either got the idea from Microsoft or someone that worked at Microsoft… other software houses may be doing the same thing, but I know the term SDE started here – makes sense that SDET did as well.

  13. Thanks for the great Post. How about Program Manager positions? Does Microsoft recruit experienced developers without any PM experience as Program Managers?

    I did receive couple of calls from different MS recruiters but all of them were either SDE or SDET positions. When I tell them I am more interested in a PM position, that has been the end of it so far :)

  14. It depends on the PM position. There are certainly entry level PM positions that they will hire for – the developer experience is usually a bonus – but it really depends on the position. As an example, all of our PM’s in my group can code; they’ve all been devs in past positions at one point or another – it works for our group. In other groups, teams need people that are more about project and people and resource management… I know that I once applied for what looked like an entry level PM and it turned out to be a PM position for a team in DevDiv that had 150 people – NOT the gig for someone looking to cut their teeth on a new role :)

  15. Rohit, you should not work for MAQ Software in any capacity. Unless you want to work ungodly hours for sub standard pay and poor benefits.

  16. Hi randy,

    As i am working on DQA and Test Services for Microsoft Dynamics AX.

    What is the scope of Test Services?

    Does this belong to SDET Category?

    Also i want to know the future of this Test Services?

    Regards

    Guruprasad N.P

  17. To be honest, I have no idea – I have no knowledge of Dynamics and never heard of DQA. But take some comfort in the fact that I work in Xbox LIVE so the odds of an overlapping technology with Dynamics is nearly 0… sorta like asking the brakes guy in a factory about the lift in a dealership :)

  18. hi randy,

    its awesome ! , your explanation was really interesting and helpful .

    I was support engineer , and moved out as developer and my dresm job is to join back as SDE / SDET .

    But after reviewing your comments i am sure i will decide right path.

  19. This forum is very useful for all folks who have MS offer in their hand.

    I would like to understand more on SDET in SQL Compact team. It would be great if you can compare the kind of Research required to do jobs in SDE & SDET.

    I am keen to develop features that require research & development. I have come from a background where we have a concept of SME, and have done manual & automation testing at some level as well, however that doesn’t excite me.

    So should I select SDET as my career at MS?

    For me SDET is completely a new concept and HRs, as we know, are very strong in convincing the SDET positions. Infact HR is very open to say at very first stage about move from SDET to SDE, this itself creates confusion in my mind for SDET position.

    I would like to understand your thoughts.

    Thanks!

    Hitz.

  20. I’m a SDET for a few years now. I was developer and sysadmin during my career for over 10 years. Shall we cut the bs?

    SDET is a fancy name that recruiters came up with to lure in unsuspecting people. You are a tester. Not a developer, not some-kind of god-knows mix.

    Of course testing is not what is used to be 20 years ago. You will do manual testing, you will write automation, you will review specs, code and test automation written by other people. You will attend endless pointless meetings that will make your effective time shrink to less than 1 hour a day.

    Nobody gives a crap if the product breaks – no, nobody gets blamed.

    SDET = TESTER.You are lowest on the food chain.

  21. That’s your experience in your company or group… not all companies or groups are different.

    That said, most of the SDETs I know at Microsoft are more involved in the product and write more code than they’ve ever done as Dev/Test/PM in other companies… not sure where you’re working but maybe you should look into other groups/companies because you sound rather unhappy.

    Additionally, I’ve heard from many SDE’s that they are frustrated when they only code… they have no visibility into product design and customer relations – someone tells them what to code, what it should look like, and that’s that. They act in the role of a drone.

    The group mindset is more important than the title, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

  22. Having been an SDET with Microsoft, I know how Tests(SDETs) are treated in a team. Since the ratio of Tests is mostly less than Devs, Tests always lose out. Also no one is actually interested in code by testers until the product is mostly bug free. Unless you have the real urge to climb up the ladder fast and ignore the ‘Dev’ feelings inside you, don’t go for Test.

    Final question to Randy: While interviewing, why do recruiters settle for ‘less’ for a test position?

  23. Actually, I have to point it out again: you know how Test has been treated on the teams that you’ve worked on. To say that the entire company works the same way would be like saying GE runs NBC the same way they run their jet engine plants. It’s a big company and each of the business, divisions, and groups have a large amount of autonomy to set up their teams with what works for them. There are even teams that are completely Test Driven for development and other teams that blur Dev and Test so that there are just Engineers working together…

    As for recruiters settling for less, I’m not sure what you mean… while hiring, the highering manager sets the bar for what the position demands or wants… recruiting doesn’t decide that at all.

  24. I have to agree with some of the other posters on this board. Generally there is a pecking order at MOST groups inside Microsoft. The lowest in the chain is Test, followed by PM, followed by Dev. The best guys in the team migrate to the dev parts of the team. I have seen people take demotions (its called level drops inside Microsoft) in order to enter the PM or dev orgs. Dont let the recruiters fool you into thinking that every discipline is the same. Interview for a SDE job and interview for a SDET job and you WILL see that bar is lower for the SDET job. I hope I wasnt fooled by the recruiters. I believe its Microsoft’s responsibility to NOT sugar coat what the position is. At the end of the day, you are defining the career of the young guy/girl thats entering into your door. There are some groups where the disciplines are considered equal. But more often, they are not.

  25. I have been working as SDE for 5 yrs now. But now I am planning to move towards SDET. Will it be a good move for me in my career?

  26. Without being snarky, it depends on what you want from your career. Quality should be infused in all three disciplines of R&D, so it’s not like Test is the only worried about it. Howveer, SDET’s are trying to solve different problems than SDE’s or PM’s are solving… at least on Xbox LIVE, that’s how we view: no discipline should be kept in a silo or exclusively tasked with one task… this is why I’ve been able to check stuff into Production code, even as an SDET (and worse, as a Lead).

  27. Randy,

    I was looking on Microsoft.com careers, and I saw a job that looked kindave easy for me. It was SDET, Xbox 360 Console Team. It looks like I would enjoy it, because you can test all the Xbox 360’s, hardware, accessories, e.t.c. But I was wondering since you work at Microsoft I was wondering if you knew if when you work for that team do you test all the aspects of what the hardware and stuff does, do you test Xbox LIVE? Do even think I would feel good in this career? I love Xbox 360, Microsoft, Xbox LIVE mostly. Thanks!

  28. Hi Lee,

    A good place to get a deeper dive on what we do in Xbox LIVE is to check out the Engeering blog: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/live/engineeringblog/default.htm – particularly one of the earlier posts which is all about being an SDET for LIVE.

    As for whether or not it is good for you or fits into your career, it’s hard to say because I don’t know your career goals :) I can say that I happen to love the gig, because it’s a very well known and well received service. We’re designed a great set of technologies that make Sony and Ninty covet our features and now with Kinect, we’re breaking new ground as well… it’s a good group.

  29. Ya – testing makes a developer to be better in his job. Having seen some developers\PMs who are freshers, Any fresher SDE should spend a year as SDET. Any fresher PM should spend a year as a Dev.

    So a PM spends a year as a test and a year as a Dev. By year, i mean atleast a short release.

    I believe, that makes them a better SDE and a better PM. Ofcourse, a test can continue to be a test.

  30. Hi,

    I have got an offer for SDET role from Visual Studio team in Hyderabad. I will like to know more about the work that is done in this team as SDET. Can someone help me on that?

  31. Hi Randy,

    I would like to describe my experience as an SDET . I was recruited as SDET by Microsoft. The general attitude here in India is that freshers can be put into anything the management may seem fit. I became SDET not by choice but by destiny. Our project was an internal app and none of the test cases were automated , I was given a big excel sheet and was told to execute it manually. I felt perplexed actually , for first few months I thought which the heck did I do engineering in college. Why did they pick me up when a high school kid could have done it ?.

    Then I had an opportunity to automate most of the test cases. I automated most of the stuff and I gained credibility as someone who can automate almost anything. After few months I came to realize that there is more to testing that it seems at first It think it was more of a growing up stuff. Automation is not the silver bullet , automation does not really help you find all the bugs. But management like to see everything as 100% automated for reasons which I am not fully aware.Another thing is that testers or SDET’s are considered a less technical beings than developers. Their code reviews and comments are generally ignored . The general attitude is “We are the developers , We are gods !” . To be an SDET is actually very frustrating !

    I wanted to be a developer and my inclination was very much towards an SDE role. Since I was doing my job quite well as an SDET and my manager was not allowing me to shift to a developer role. I finally had to give up the job in Microsoft. I am currently maintainer of an operating system kernel . It is a challenging and difficult role , but I love my job and work . Even though I earn a lot less, personal satisfaction counts !

    Work in what you find most satisfaction and that’s all there is to it :)

  32. This is my experience, I have been an SDET for 10 years and written C sharp for 8 years. Nobody cares about the brilliant extra credit work I do on the side – tools, reports, etc. I am so frustrated with the folks here saying things like SDETs half ass their way through. Back when I started as an SDET, it was common for SDETs to move to SDE. I have to study hardcore every year just to keep the signal fire burning, in case one day anyone gives me an SDE interview. The few times I have been at an SDE interview, the interview blew up as soon as they looked at my resume during the interview. Nobody seems to care about the freelance work I have done as a small business. In looking for an SDE opening, I have been asked every time, yeah so when has your job title ever been SDE before?

  33. Recently the developer I was whitebox testing for, left the group and I attempted to blackmail the group, hey look I am working for this much money, I am a US citizen and I have 8 years of C sharp and I have been white boxing this guys code, tell you what, give me an entry level SDE and I will keep doing what I am already doing for half price, I will be satisfied with half pay for over a year, I will be overjoyed beyond belief, and your group will not experience a crisis, on the other hand if you say no I am walking out in the middle of the test pass – this after I had done extra credit and ingratiated and made myself indispensible as possible. They couldnt do it. They didnt have a procedure. After I left, I heard from my friends that they were seriously high and dry.

  34. It isnt any one computer company either, SDET US Citizens are not getting into SDE entry level roles. I challenge anyone to a duel who accuses me of not being brilliant or not working hard.

  35. In the US, with US Citizens, there is no such thing as a fresher, freshers wait outside permanently. Those already in are grandfathered and glass-ceilinged into place, and an SDET can only become a test manager.

  36. As an SDET, having been in alot of very different groups, one common theme is they cant keep my busy more than 30 percent of the time anywhere I have been. I spend more time working on self initiated side projects than actual assigned work. I do not ask for additional work, because I do not want un-thought out projects that serve no purpose or that try to fit mismatching pieces together so some dilletante boss can get visibility, which no way in heck will actually work once a thoughtful person takes a look at it. For the additional work I have done, I have nothing to show but points on my resume which are based on truth. I put the extra credit projects on my resume and having experimented I find it is better to call them assigned projects than to call them extra credit, or the interviewer takes the project less serious. That, and some small business side project work that keeps me writing code, that has allowed me to stay SDET-3 at a time when other SDET-3s are getting pushed back to SDET-2.

  37. Um. I’m not sure who you are or what you did for your companies/groups but let me give you a piece of advice: NO ONE on this planet is irreplaceable when it comes to employment.

    Every company you’ve ever worked for will survive if you quit, no matter how critical you think you and/or your role is. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jack Walsh – doesn’t matter how good they are, they are not irreplaceable.

    And that’s applicable to whether or not you code in C++, C#, or even Obj-C, whether you’re an SDE or SDET. Hell, I don’t even know what you’re bitching about. That you don’t like being an SDET, that you want to be an SDE, that your blackmail attempt didn’t work, or that you still have a job…

  38. Hell, I don’t even know what your problem is, what is your problem? I post what I posted, immediately you are right up here, challenging what I said. What I said was well thought out, it represents alot of frustration, most of all with people like you who do not listen to what I am saying. Who says if I spell out what I mean any more precisely than I already have, that you would get off my case.

    It is not just a blackmail attempt, it is career ambitions, that blackmail attempt is merely an illustration of what a corporation will not do even under perfect storm conditions, with the team wanting to find a way to do it but the bureaucracy not being willing to do it.

    What is with all your hatred? I am sincere, I am a real person, with real experiences, sharing my point of view on a message board. What is the problem? Why do you have to attack me? What kind of person are you? Are you not soliciting comments from the public? Are you unable to listen to what I am saying and consider that I have a point of view.

    What is your problem. I dont even know what you are bitching about. Why are you bitching? Why are you such a bitch that you have to be bitching at someone you dont even know. My comment was truthful, sincere, and on topic.

  39. Contentment makes a good SDET? Lack of ambition makes a good SDET? Wanting to be something more than an SDET makes a bad SDET? Wanting to be an SDE makes a bad SDET?

    If I was hiring, based on what I know, if I had a choice between someone who finds themself busy and stressed as an SDET but loves the work – and my other choice was somebody exceptional who is not content to stay at the same one level, I would rather have the exceptional guy who wants to be more than an SDET and who is constantly building a case why they are better than other SDETs. I would want to hire the guy who is going to comprehensively VAPORIZE whatever I put on their plate, then quietly go off an work on their own self initiate projects. Contentment, humbug, I want the SDET with the ambition.

  40. OH – I can understand your frustration though I think Randy was only trying to help focus your feedback. You’ve said a lot, and it’s hard to understand the main point(s).

    I’ve been a career QA for well over ten years now, starting as a QA engineer in a company where every QA was a coder. Eventually it became hard to hire coders due to the high demand for developers (and many developers out of school didn’t want to be “testers”!) so we used the SDET title in our hiring, which was quite successful.

    We actually encourage our QA/SDET to grow into development. This does assume a developer position opens up, which sounds like it did not in your case, and for whatever reason (the economy has been poor the past couple years, so it was common for REQs to be frozen no matter what the position), it could be they couldn’t satisfy your desires.

    Personally I think QA/SDET is a very good career, even more challenging in some cases then SDE since there is a joke here that QA tests cannot have bugs in them – they have to catch the bugs that R&D introduces :) QA does not introduce the bugs – they are tasked to catch as many as they can, which can be very challenging.

    Also, not every SDE/R&D role is a fantastic role. It really depends on the project and what you get assigned. It’s not uncommon to be assigned to a 10 year old+ project and given 10% feature development, 90% bug fixing, working through others code. Not everyone gets to select the best projects or companies to work for. Even at Google, MS, Apple there are important jobs that need to get done, which may not seem ‘exciting’.

    FYI – for our hiring, we usually aim for smart, well motivated people who show an interest in software development and are comfortable with the goals and challenges of testing work. This has proven very successful for us, and we’ve grown some great R&D engineers as a result who test and develop at the same time – extremely valuable to an organization.

  41. Thanks QADude for taking the high road. It enables me to be a little more focused in that I still don’t understand what his problem is – just that he’s attempted to blackmail a company and either thinks that he’s irreplaceable or that all SDET’s get screwed somehow or some way (and what that way is still isn’t clear.)

    Beyond that, I have several problems at this point for OH:

    The first one is you come to my blog and post a rambling bunch of statements across five comments in 30 minutes. I tried to read them in order and out of order. I honestly thought they were spam, but since there was enough angst in there that seemed relative to the original post, I didn’t delete it. Either way, the net effect is that you’re pissed off about something but we still don’t know what it is, so let’s move on.

    My next problem is that you think I’m giving you a hard time about your comments. Not sure why, because I simple asked what the problem was, made a snarky comment that SDET’s use more than C#, and offered one piece of unsolicited advice …that you didn’t take the time to read. My point is this:

    No matter who you are and what your position is, you are not irreplaceable. End of story. It’s got nothing to do with being an SDET, SDE, PM or even CEO. At no time did I talk of hiring, firing, or managing. I am simply sharing with you a fact of life: no one in a company is irreplaceable. Corporations are especially staffed to prevent a single point of failure for exactly these reasons. To think otherwise doesn’t make you good or smart or worthy or hungry or special. It simply makes you arrogant. And based off at least two of the raging comments, I’m telling you that you are simply not as important as you think you are. The sooner you can get your mind around that, the happier you (and your boss and your co-workers) will be. Feel free to ignore the advice, but at least take it as advice. Then it’ll tell me you’ve read it.

    Additionally, as soon as you use the word “blackmail” in any business related conversation, you lose all of your credibility. 100% gone in one word. No one will listen to you past that point because you are acting like a criminal and even if you think you are right, you’ve already lost your argument. Sorry to be the one to tell you this but that’s the truth of the matter. I find it sad that you think this makes you hungry, that you think that if you don’t hold some key bit of technology hostage that you are complacent. I can only hope that I don’t professionally cross paths with this sort of moral fiber.

    As for your last comment about what I’m bitching about, look at the URL. That’s me. It’s my blog. That entitles me to express my opinion, if I choose to, because I’m the one hosting this site. As for bitching at you, I haven’t. Not yet, anyway. Guess the night isn’t over yet :)

  42. Whatever. Have fun being conent with just being an SDET, since you are so sure that being an SDET is equal or better than an SDE.

    You said I lost all credibility by using a word. You talk about credibility, and you are a tester who cant understand a couple simple paragraphs that are making a pretty obvious point.

    I have invested years and years of study and practice, and back when I started, it was common for SDETs to become SDEs. How happy should I be that now its SDET for life and there is no meritocracy based system for advancement. And get right out of here with this notion that SDET is comparable or better than SDE.

    I repeat myself for you contented SDETs out there who read at a low level of comprehension.

    Have you noticed outsourcing and H1b lately? Or are you content with that too?

    At least you didnt censor my sincere intelligent heartful remarks about my experience relating to the topic, so I credit you.

  43. Criminal. Last I checked I have a right to quit. I have a right to demand a raise or quit. I have a right to demand a differnt job title and less pay or quit.

    It isnt criminal to quit a job, even if I called it murder.

    Randy, you call me a bitch, then you call me a criminal, all because I want to be an SDE. I used to dream about being an SDE. I have done everything I am supposed to do, to become an SDE.

    Are you going to report me to the cops, for threatenin to quit a job, and then quitting???????

  44. Again, I recommend that you READ what you post… that’s the least you can do because you aren’t reading what I post.

    – I asked what you were bitching about; I did not call you a bitch.

    – None of my comments have anything to do with being content or uncontent as being an SDET or SDE or PM; my comments mostly center around the fact that NO ONE is irreplaceable, regardless of position.

    – Blackmail is always criminal; I’m not debating that, whether its in the form of quitting a job or not. I’m saying blackmail is criminal. If your form of blackmail is quitting a position and thinking it impacts the company left behind, you’ve missed the point of all of my comments.

    – FWIW: over my career I’ve been in positions other than Test. If I choose to be in Test now, it’s my choice. I started in Test and at no time did someone look at my resume and said “I’m not going to hire you because you’ve been a tester.” Maybe I’m lucky in who I interview with; maybe you’re unluck in who you interview with. Or maybe there’s something else wrong that you have yet to discover.

    – As for hiring, I’ve always hired on talent. I don’t care if it’s via visa, via outsource, or via local talent. You hire the right talent for the right job. Sometimes outsourcing is the right thing – remember outsourcing doesn’t always mean non-domestic companies. There are plenty coders for hire in the statesl if you push code to them, you’re outsourcing work… if it’s the right priced move or if you have time constraints and need the help, then I see no problem in that (and don’t know why anyone would.)

    If you think your posts are that clear, please re-read them. I’ve never deleted a non-SPAM post from my blog although there are times that I wish I did. :)

    The way they read right now, it makes you sound like you’re an arrogant, piss-off spurned employee that is owed something that you haven’t been “given”. That you use the term blackmail – and again, if this is the act of quitting in the hope to stick it to your past employer – then I STRONGLY recommend you choose your words better. Blackmail implies illegal activies and that’s never good when looking for employment (or support from your peers).

  45. Hi Randy,

    My last post seemed to highlight the negative points than positives. The good part of being an SDET is that,An SDET role really does the test the heck out of you. Being an SDET will help you grow emotionally strong ( although less likely technically) .For eg: I never used to ask questions , i used to follow the RTFM way , read the manual and figure out things things myself. But when you did not write the original code ( and you do not have manual to read), you need to ask and ask everything without feeling bad about yourself. ( Forget what others think of) .Question all assumptions

    Another thing you will learn is that you need to very systematic and methodical without bringing emotion into picture. A module written by God Developer X may have bugs than a module written by a fresher. The only thing that matters is the result of your test cases.

    Being a tester initially would make you a better developer ( and a better person !). You will understand people and the problems they face if you deliver a crap product.A pure SDE will realize this only after a long time.

    Ultimately it boils down to you, what you want do ? Your life is short and you want to die doing what you love than not, ain’t it ?

    I would not blame the company or management responsible for me not being an SDE. Ultimately my career is my responsibility, I am responsible for my success. Microsoft is a fantastic company to work for and SDET’s and SDE’s are treated equally. But I wanted to be an SDE after 2 years which didn’t happen in MS due to political reasons for the most part and I was forced to leave.

  46. I want to point out one important thing folks missing here …

    SDE -> **Thinks about how to Design** and writes product code

    SDET -> **Thinks about how to Break Code** and writes test code

    **___** is the piece you will have to think about a lot and in most of the teams these will be the key differences so you should figure out which part you like most before accepting an offer.

    Just a thought to help the folks who are debatting between SDE/SDET

  47. Sir, i got selected as a summer intern @ MSIT Hyderabad as a SDET(trainee). i would like to know about any prerequisites required for the internship.plus, i would like to know about the scope of a SDET profile outside MicroSoft…

  48. I’m currently being considered for SDET intern at Microsoft. During my first interview, at which point I was being considered for SDE, SDET and PM, I indicated my preference for SDE. The interviewer, however, decided that SDET would be a better fit for me, based on my showing “testing aptitude”.

    My career objective is definitely not to be a tester my whole career, or even more than a year or two. I want to be a developer writing production code.

    If I accept the position as SDET intern (which is just for one summer), will I be pigeonholed into being a tester for the rest of my career or at least for a number of years?

    My fear is that employers will look at my resume and see that I was a tester and think that’s the only thing I can do. I guess kind of a “once a tester, always a tester” type of deal.

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