The rise of SDET and related problems in Software Testing

What’s happening?

My LinkedIn feed over the last year is loaded with people wanting to hire SDET profiles. SDET expands to Software Development Engineering in Test. That is a fancy word adopted for what was previously known as Test Automation Engineer. Just like how people are called QA, Tester and QC and they all do the same.

Why is it happening?

Why this change from Test Automation Engineer to Software Development Engineer in Test? Just to attract talent in testing. Software Testing as a profession over decades has attracted very little talent of the world. Very few geniuses and too many just about average. In a country like India, to attract talent into software testing, calling people SDET and not a Manual Tester or Test Automation Engineer makes it sound cool and has higher chances of getting an average from IIT to signup for SDET with a high paying salary. As SDETs they think they are getting the closest feel to their dream job – Software Development – and hence more growth chances.

So what is causing this?

The world at one point was doing too slow testing. Now they can’t. By slow testing I do not mean manual testing. The industry woke up and realised that the toughest thing for them to crack is testing and not necessarily programming. To test a mobile app you might need more budget and testers than programming. Very similar to how much would you test one line of code change for an auto pilot in an aeroplane? Mobile Apps have exploded the commercial testing problem. So, here we are in a situation that every company is fighting for great talent. Everybody thinks they can attract and buy great testing talent that they never bothered to create over the last decade by ignoring testing. Plus, to them, good testing means plenty of automation. So, lets hire more SDET and problem will be resolved is their motto.

What is the problem?

Problem 1: People don’t know how to articulate their testing problem. Money in the bank makes them think they can solve their testing problem by hiring talent. The problem is, there isn’t enough talent in software testing profession to the extent that so many people can be hired however the industry will not be ready to admit it.

Problem 2: The truth is, a lot of fresh talent out of college is being hired to create the overgrowing need of SDET. Most of these SDETs will know a lot of programming and scripting than testing. In a few years we will have an overload of people writing script who don’t know about testing but dictating how testing will be done in organisations.

Problem 3: Over the last decade, I haven’t seen people learning the importance of testability. Our ability to test (even through automation) depends on how testable the product is built. Irrespective of someone is an SDET or not, the first of the few questions they should be asking is about testability before jumping to test a product. That is not the world we have built over the last decade. So this will have its own repercussions on the quality of products.

Who will be the most affected by these?

End users.

The next time you want to put a 1 star rating and say “This app sucks” imagine why a company spending half a million dollar to test the app is not getting their app right for their users.


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