Who is a SDET? Meaning, Role, and Importance
With the growing popularity of Agile software development methodologies, and Scrum in particular, where all team members should be cross-functional and interchangeable, demand for SDETs is continuously going up. Nevertheless, either most employers or job seekers still have a vague idea about this profession and its role in a product team. So let's go into details and consider the issue precisely.
Who is a SDET?
SDET or Software Development Engineer in Test is an IT specialist who is similarly good at software development and quality assurance and, as a result, plays a particular role in the development and testing processes. In other words, this profession is a hybrid of a software developer and QA engineer. Microsoft was the first who introduced this speciality and since that time either mega-tech corporations or small companies actively engage SDETs into their teams, especially when it comes to Agile projects.
Difference between SDET and tester?
The set of SDET's responsibilities may differ from workplace to workplace. As a result, there can be some misunderstanding, especially when it comes to the differentiation of the SDETs and automation testers. The latter often claim to be SDETs. While SDET is a type of QA specialist, not every tester can be identified as a SDET. So let's consider the differences between these two professions.
The distinctive feature of SDET is perfect programming skills. SDET excels in one or several programming languages. In contrast to an automation QA engineer, he or she can not only create automated scripts for software testing but is familiar with software architecture and source code;
A SDET must know all peculiarities of a tester profession, while there is no need for a tester to be well aware of all the aspects of a SDET profession;
Testers mainly use the black-box testing technique and focus on functional testing, GUI testing, usability testing, etc., i.e. evaluate software from the end-user perspective, paying no attention to the internal structure of software. On the other hand, SDETs apply the white-box testing technique and test software deeply enough. SDETs deal with performance and security testing, review the code, write unit tests, set up a test environment, develop a test automation suite, and many others;
Testers concentrate exclusively on the testing stage of the software development process, getting to test execution as soon as the development phase is complete. SDETs, on the contrary, move beyond the testing phase, taking an active part in each stage of the software development life cycle. They deal with software design and development;
As a member of a product management team, SDET establishes strong relationships with customers and end-users;
Having a wider range of skills, SDET has more duties and responsibilities. The preceding item actually demonstrates a great variety of activities in which a software development engineer in test is engaged;
Taking into account the item mentioned above, we cannot help but mention that the SDET salary level is higher, especially in comparison with the salary of a manual tester.
What does an SDET do?
We have already mentioned that a SDET is engaged in all the stages of SDLC. So what is his role in a team? To define this, let's have a look at the list of SDET responsibilities:
Product quality coordination;
Study and analysis of project documents, business objectives, and customer requirements to clearly understand how a software product should work and create the most appropriate test cases;
Development, customization, deployment, and maintenance of the reliable and scalable test automation frameworks for Mobile, Desktop, and Web platforms;
Design of test scenarios, acceptance tests, and automated tests for functional testing, regression testing, UI testing, and API testing;
Execution of performance and security testing;
Cooperation with the customer support team to investigate the issues that users face;
Bug report creation and management;
Generation of daily and weekly testing reports;
Software development in close cooperation with a development team;
Active participation in meetings related to software design and architecture;
Regular communication with product managers, customers, designers, developers, and all those who are involved in the process of software product development;
Research and study of the new tools and techniques, upgrade of existing practices.
Why SDETs are Needed?
SDETs can be indeed valuable members of a product team due to their unique skillset and mindset. They have an ability to think as either a developer or a tester which can be very beneficial for high-quality product development.
Due to being good at programming, a SDET knows a source code, as well as software architecture, which helps him to identify the root causes of bugs, automation test failure, poor performance, etc. On the other hand, thinking as a tester, SDET can create effective unit tests and review a source code properly, finding different bottlenecks and security loopholes.
Cooperating with a customer support team, he helps improve customer service, providing immediate response to user feedback.
Being involved in all the stages of SDLC, a SDET ensures that every aspect of software development complies with technical requirements, business objectives, and user expectations. In such a way, there is no need to worry about product quality as its development is under the control of a real expert.
Besides, having SDET in your team, you can significantly reduce time to market. It is possible due to the fact that a SDET can develop, adjust, and maintain a test automation framework, which suits project needs perfectly, and create automated tests significantly speeding up the whole testing process.
Technical and nontechnical skills of an SDET
Taking into account the wide range of responsibilities that SDETs have, a list of required skills either technical or nontechnical is pretty long. Let's have a look on it:
Working knowledge of Behaviour Driven Development (BDD);
Designing skills — exposure to Object-Oriented Design;
Profound knowledge of testing methodologies and techniques;
In-depth knowledge of test automation frameworks (Selenium, Cypress, Cucumber, Gauge, Saucelabs, etc.);
Ability to build a test automation framework;
Expertise in performance and security testing;
Expertise in automated functional, API, UI, and Cloud services testing;
Expertise in building CI automation pipelines with the help of Jenkins, Docker;
Experience with Gradle/Maven;
Bug management and bug tracking;
Expertise in SQL and NO-SQL databases;
Experience with version control systems (Git);
Exposure to Agile + Deops, etc.
Good communication skills;
Attention to detail;
Excellent time management skills;
How to become a great SDET?
Napoleon once said: "Those soldiers who are not willing to be a general are not good soldiers." So, each specialist must do his or her best in order to become a high-flier. While developers are polishing their programming skills and testers are working on their software testing skills, ambitious SDETs have a monumental challenge to improve both kinds of skills. Of course, it requires time and effort. However, nothing is impossible. Here are some tips which will help you to become a great SDET:
Never stop learning. Continuously improve all your skills and gain the new one that can be useful for you;
Try to learn as many programming languages as possible. You never know which language will be used in the next project;
Regularly work on your tech stack. Get familiar with the most diverse testing frameworks as well as development frameworks and libraries;
Keep up with the latest technologies, learn and implement advanced technologies helping to achieve better results and save time;
Search for new ways to optimize the testing and development process. Pay attention not only to tools but new techniques, methodologies, and practices. Automate repetitive and boring tasks, providing your colleagues with an opportunity to focus on the more important and sophisticated work;
Establish friendly relationships with all people engaged in the development process and regularly communicate with them to ensure that software is developed in the right way and understand each aspect of software development.
In a general sense, SDET can be defined as a man of many talents which makes it difficult to find a real professional. Still, they exist and have perfect development and testing skills. By engaging SDET in your team, you can optimize and accelerate development and testing processes, significantly improve productivity, ensure high-sky product quality, and keep up with modern technologies and tendencies.