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Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET)

Microsoft in Ireland and across Europe is always on the lookout for Software Development Engineers in Test (or as we like to call them, SDETs). Last year, at Microsoft Ireland alone, we hired more than 20 SDETs. And the number is only set to increase as Microsoft looks to increase its engineering presence in Ireland.

As we search for great-fit individuals, we hear some fundamental misunderstandings about what SDETs at Microsoft truly do.

In my experience as a staffing consultant, when engineers see the word “Test” in a job description, they assume the role is in Quality Assurance (QA). I sat down with Ankur Modi, an Ireland-based SDET, to find out what myths need to be extinguished.

Ankur says: “The SDET role is unique and in my opinion is one of the most misunderstood jobs in the industry. People often think of SDETs as manual testers, sort of an automated robot if you will. It is however amongst the most rewarding roles a tech engineer can have.”

In his own words, Ankur sets the record straight:

Myth #1: The SDET role is a manual tester.

Truth #1: An SDET is an engineer.

In the three years I’ve been in my role at Microsoft, I’ve learned more than 10 new programming languages, several new data design concepts, database systems, smart interfaces and product design, all while shipping several key products. If I’m not an engineer, then who is?


Myth #2: Software testers do not have coding skills.

Truth #2: Software testers know how to code.

The SDET is in charge of ensuring everything works and the product exceeds users’ expectations. The level of quality and confidence only comes if you know the product, the components, and especially, the code within it. You‘ve got to code – and you’ve got to know how to do it right. Think of it this way: You can’t test something you don’t understand. It’s like building a car if you can’t drive.

Myth #3: The SDET does not have a voice.

Truth #3: The SDET has an important voice.  You are the customer advocate.

The SDET is “the guy who knows everything, sees everything, and has the final word on how things happen.” To be specific:

  • I work with the Program Manager to decide how the product should be designed.
  • I work with developers to define the functionality.
  • I get to talk with people who use the product, including our partners, to assess its usability.

Myth #4: In the software development process, an SDET just rubber-stamps the product.

Truth #4: In the software development process, here’s the difference among the two roles:

  • A quality assurance pro follows a methodology and tests software at the end of the development process. The role is not as technical as an engineer.
  • A software tester focuses on all steps of the development lifecycle and remains accountable for producing high-quality software.

Myth #5: The SDET has a peripheral role.

Truth #5: The SDET is at the heart of the process.

Consider this equation: SDET = Project Management + Passion for Customer Experience + Engineering Skills. If you’re passionate about software development, you don’t get closer to the action than that.

SW Test