At the time of writing this article, the average base salary of an SDET with 1-4 years of experience is $89,748 per year. That’s impressive considering that software testers and developers clock $56,468 and $73,441 respectively.
Obviously, such a lucrative career is hard to break into, let alone stay i
And so, the questions loom – What exactly makes a good SDET? What skillset do they possess, and how do they work?
What follows is a breakdown of the traits and skills of great SDETs and how to become one. These may be distilled into a few clear rules or heuristics, which help in the process of learning and improving.
SDET - A Primer
SDET or Software Development Engineer in Test is a meticulous software developer who is also adept at testing the product for its viability. An SDET can also be branded as a software design engineer possessing advanced programming skills.
In essence, an SDET is responsible for:
- Closely coordinating software development, testing, and deployment
- Managing the test assets, test cases, and test environments effectively
- Having an aptitude for developing robust test automation scripts and a keen sense of understanding their applicability
- Leveraging test automation frameworks across multiple channels to achieve predictable test results on each build
- Providing testability inputs for alleviating the product issues
- Collaborating with the cross-functional teams to contribute to the overall product design
Such a broad scope of responsibilities necessitates SDETs to exhibit the qualities of both developers and testers. At the same time, SDETs should be forward-facing in attending to the customer requirements/expectations. They should be able to coordinate the same with development and quality assurance teams working through an agile development environment.
What separates effective SDETs from the rest is their ability to grasp the intricacies of software system behavior and its related priorities. Plus, they are thorough with the technical requirements, business issues, and specifications that drive the delivery process. Let’s break these down in more detail in the following sections.
The Journey to Becoming an Effective SDET
As elucidated above, SDETs need to make for a solid start in the software development and testing world. They must endow themselves with excellent technical skills and sharp business acumen for senior/ambitious programming assignments. On these lines, here’s how becoming an effective SDET comes to fruition.
Establish Complete Technical Know-How of Web-Based Concepts
Before you refine your programming skills, you must invest in learning about the web in its entirety.
This entails getting familiar with the following:
- HTML5 and CSS3 (essential for creating responsive/fluid web applications)
- Microservices (especially if you wish to be a part of a DevOps-oriented team)
- Technicalities of fundamental subjects such as OSI, CLI, REST, etc.
Such technical expertise will help you make well-informed decisions while translating ideas into code.
Reinforce Core Programming Skills
In the bid to niche down into a specific development domain, developers often lose sight of the basics. But straying off fundamental concepts of OOPs, DSA, etc., may work against you if you want to make high-performance software solutions worth their cost.
In fact, most automation projects require you to write highly functional code that’s easy to maintain and extend. Thus, a stronghold on programming logic will fetch you repeated opportunities to work on versatile projects.
Develop Practical Testing Skills
The ability to test software applications is a quintessential requirement for all SDETs. From testing the UI flow of applications to conducting performance and load tests, SDETs are expected to write robust testing modules packed with hands-on experience.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that SDETs are, in fact, more knowledgeable testers than software testers, and a myriad of rigorous testing activities are within their purview. For one, SDETs are equipped with a better knowledge of the code. Therefore, they’re able to perform white box testing where the application’s internal workings are exposed to them.
Besides, the scope of testing for SDETs is quite broad since they have to contribute to the test environment setup, test automation, etc. Testers, on the contrary, don’t get involved in these activities and remain on the surface level of reviewing the results.
Acquire Familiarity with Automation Frameworks
SDETs are the ones who write and maintain test scripts for the automation project — be it for Web, API, or mobile app testing. They must understand all the ins and outs of some of the most popular automation testing frameworks in an agile development scenario.
Additionally, SDETs are responsible for automating UI tests, integration tests, and performance test cases. This necessitates them to have a clear understanding of test automation and which framework suits the best for a particular test scenario best. The knowledge of test automation tools is essential for keeping the CI/CD pipeline running smoothly.
Develop and Maintain a Strong Business Acumen
With the rise of DevOps, DevSecOps, agile methodologies, and continuous deployment, the possession of strong business acumen is much-needed. The intuitive and forward-facing skills that an effective SDET is expected to possess are in sync with business needs.
That’s because you, as an SDET, must be able to translate technical challenges into customer-centric solutions. In addition, you need to be familiar with the factors that influence the quality of software delivered to the customer. In simple terms, as an SDET, you need to have a bird’s eye view of everything that runs the business:
- Be aware of the business goals and where automation can help
- Understand the impact of web performance to increase customer satisfaction
- Become conversant with the latest technologies and practices in API/mobile development, DevOps, etc.
You’re required to position yourself as a pivotal player in the software development and quality assurance processes. In turn, you entice a good proportion of the technical and business stakeholders to let you into their fold.
Be Mindful of the Isolated Value of Every Component
The four factors mentioned above are just a part of the technical/business gamut. In actuality, a composite of numerous factors contributes to the overall effectiveness of an SDET.
To deepen your understanding of the SDET role, it’s imperative to be mindful of the isolated value of every component that makes up this role.
For example, SDETs are expected to:
- Demonstrate a knack for data analysis, visualization, and virtualization
- Implement and enhance AI-powered automated testing options to deliver better results
- Apply automation tools at the code level to monitor the functional correctness and performance characteristics of the application
- Design intuitive and robust test strategies to enable customers to make informed decisions
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A Step Ahead
What’s worth noting here is that SDETs don’t follow just one convention but extremely diverse paths. Their skills are genuinely well-rounded. And therefore, it’s pertinent to realize the myriad responsibilities you’ll be expected to perform in a day-to-day scenario.
Doing so will help you gear up for the multitude of possibilities that you’re likely to encounter as a member of this dynamic role.