Dark side of a Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET)

A lot of people have an opinion that a software development engineer in the test is a more difficult, more responsible, more skilled position than that of an automation QA engineer who is actually just a ‘tester’. It’s because the SDET is almost a software developer: he deeply knows programming languages, design patterns, algorithms. He can create a high-quality, maintainable, and performant code. He creates tools for automated testing, writes his own frameworks – such kind of work is more complicated and, therefore, should be better-paying. That’s why many automation test engineers like to name themselves an SDET, alluding to their high skills and value.

Sure, everything said above is true, if and only if the SDET also has a deep knowledge of software testing methodologies and APPLIES it to his work. Unfortunately, in real life you can see the following situation:

There are two QA teams on a project – manual testers and automation testers (who proudly consider themselves SDETs). The manual team creates a set of test cases and passes them to the auto-team for automation. The automation team develops its own framework, converts the test cases to automated ones, writes test scripts, and runs them.

As you can see, there are two different roles: 1 – the team of highly skilled manual testers who write test cases and are responsible for the product quality, 2 – high skilled developers who convert manual test cases to automated scripts. Obviously, the manual test cases and the programming code will be much qualitative in terms of an architecture and design.

But, there are also some cons:

When the automation team receives manual test cases as an input and produces automated scripts as an output only, it means that the team is not responsible for the product quality. It’s because they cannot be responsible for the product test coverage, test strategy, or test design quality – they do not do this. And it also means that the AUTO-TEAM is the only one in the project who IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PRODUCT QUALITY!!! And therefore it is not motivated to give the product of high quality. Their goal is tons of test reports marked ‘passed’.

Simple example. Assume there is a defect found in the production branch.

Customer: why has it happened and who is responsible for that?
Manual QA: I created a fine test case that covers everything you need, including the found defect. Then I passed the test case to the automation team. They converted the test case and ran it.
Automation QA: I covered all the requirements and all are reports are green (all the tests are passed).
Customer: But there is a defect!
Manual QA: If you run my test cases manually, you will catch the defect.
Automation QA: Our tools cannot catch such kind of bugs and It’s not my fault that the manual QA did not foresee that and did not provide a more suitable scenario. All my scripts exactly repeat the test cases, every single step.

To avoid a problem similar to the one described above, the SDET must have and apply his/her knowledge of manual software testing. He must be at the heart of the software development process as the customer’s advocate. In addition, he must be responsible for the product quality. So, any SDET must have a very deep knowledge of manual testing and preferably some working experience in this position. Sure, now he does pure automation and writes the code like a developer but he also must take part in the development of the test strategy, create his own test plans and test cases and be responsible for his part of the work.

If you hear someone calling himself an SDET, whereas this function is limited to the development of testing tools, you should know that this person must have come to the software testing from the development field (or always dreamt to be a developer but lacks qualification) and has an insufficient knowledge of software testing and reluctance to study it.

So, make your own conclusions but note that everything written above is only my personal opinion.

Seven Steps For Successful Outsourcing

Outsourcing work to overseas is common practice to save money. Sometimes, you get the most out of your work by sending work to low-cost resources. You can utilize saved money to put into various initiatives like in infrastructure, hiring skilled reviewers for code review etc. Sometimes sending work to overseas can be disastrous for your company too and you can end up either incomplete project or wasting all money with no result. You may have placed all the checks at every level to make sure that project complete successfully, but later you will start noticing some unforeseen events, those you never expected, and you will pay a high price to overcome those situations. While making contracts, outsourcing companies’ salespeople over promise you for your project with the lowest cost and you decided to go for that. Later they start giving some genuine excuses that you cannot ignore and you pay more to fix that. As a result of that, you outsourcing cost increases and it is kind of never-ending process.

For a successful outsourced project, you need to take care many things, beginning from selecting the outsourcing company to getting the project delivery.

Check the background of the company you are outsourcing:

The moment you let your vendors know that you are looking for work to outsource, you will start getting proposals. Sales managers will give you presentations that they have the experience and expertise to handle this kind of project. They can do the work quickly on the lowest budget possible. Do not get into the trap of such promises. You will get what you are paying for. It doesn’t mean that you need to pay a high price to get good quality work. There are many good companies where you can get quality work out of them with lower cost. You can find about them with your reference. Ask vendors to provide their client list where they have done are currently working on same nature of projects. Try to find some link to that company. LinkedIn can be a good tool to find some reference. You can contact reference to understand vendor’s work commitments and their experience with the vendor. Go through their client vendor agreement. See if they have any certification or affiliation needed for the project. There are many more, checkpoint which can help to Choose right vendor. s http://operationstech.about.com/od/costsavingstrategies/u/Outsourcing-Vendor-Selection.html



Double check with resources for the project:

Along with selecting the right vendor so you need to finalize suitable resources for the team too. Usually, project demo or proposals are prepared by pre-sales engineer or dedicated resources for new clients. They are quite the experts in doing that. Do not judge working resources and vendor based on the demo. I am not trying to be cynical, but you have to accept this truth. Ask vendors to provide the detailed resume of each resource who are going to work on the project. Check their skill set if these are meeting the minimum needed requirement. Make sure they have done similar work in the past. You may not need all resources equally skilled. choose resources considering many aspects like every aspect of technical skill, teamwork, work ethics etc.

Select the bridge between you and sourcing team:

Selecting coordinator between the team is equally important as selecting vendors and resources. You may be sending your work to another country where English is not the first language like India, China or Ukraine etc. where you can find qualified people but not expert in English. There may be some cultural differences too. You need to select someone from either side who has an experience working as a coordinator in the past or have a better understanding of the culture. This will help you in the long run for the project. You should consider having least one trip to the site if budget allows or bring someone to your location to a few weeks. This will help them to understand your companies work culture and expectations from them. The coordinator can help the team based on past experience to explain the problem. Sometimes its difficult to explain some critical project strategy and you need to reiterate a number of times where your coordinator can explain them on your behalf. If the vendor is working in another time zone than you coordinator needs to be involved in handling this time zone difference and keep the flow regardless of any time zone difference.



Cross-Cultural Training for outsourcing team:

If your budget allows then have some money aside to have cross-cultural training. As I said in the previous section if you are outsourcing our work to another country with a cultural difference then this kind of training will help you on a daily basis. They will understand how you want them to respond in any situation. Office culture in India is different as compared to the US. They way of responding to email is also different for the same situation. It is very important to understand the culture of each other and these things increase the chance of success of the work. It’s not necessary if resources have good experience with working similar project.



Consider outsourcing team as a part of your team:

Treat your new team as your own team. Sometimes we outsource monotonous kind of work, which your employees do not want to do like running regression tests suites on a daily basis. If this work is monotonous for your team then it could be same for them after a month or so. Try to send some interesting work too. Like every other employee, they are also looking for some interesting work and learn new things. Give them a window of learning new and working on interesting things will encourage them. These will help to increase the productivity of the team. Many managers feel that they outsource the project for low cost mean that they can use contractors to get the maximum work out of them. That is really a very bad strategy. Give them the opportunity to learn and welcome any kind of improvement they are offering. Consider their proposal and ask them to implement if they are capable of. Let them feel that they are equally important to another team in your company. Research shows that happy employees are more productive.

Have Contingency Plans Ready:

Attrition is the biggest problem you should be ready to deal with. Most vendors are facing this problem with their employees. Many managers experienced 100% turn around in their team within a year. Some will not give you enough time to do knowledge transfer to replacement member. You need to prepare yourself for any unforeseen situation. Make sure you have work rotations in your team to do various kinds of the task to avoid any boredom. Make sure each one of your team can do all kinds of task in case of any situation. Do not try to make a dependency on one person. Distribute the work. Periodically conduct cross-functional training in the team. In case of a sudden resignation by someone, will not be impacted severely to the team.




Well defined process:

Make sure you have defined all plans in his place. Have a well-defined project process. Document points of contact that may require any kind of involvement in the project. Defined proper checkpoints for review. Have best practices and lesson learned document ready so you can save time to review? If possible, before the start of project conduct training about the process. Go through all documents and explain the team how to follow the flow and how to define work-completed criteria. Try to conduct various kinds of reviews each delivered work. Have a lessons-learned meeting.




Overall outsourcing work is not that easy as we think. You should consider these points as initially thought before taking the decision of outsourcing. There are many more points you should consider which is actually not given here but exist and that depends upon the process you defined in past.

Please share your experience about outsourcing? Do not forget to share.