Rise of the Software Development Engineer in Test – SDET

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Edsger Dijkstra, a Dutch systems scientist, programmer, software engineer, and pioneer in computing science, says, “If debugging is the process of removing bugs, then programming must be the process of putting them in.”

We have awakened to the fact that testing is more important than programming. Testing requires a bigger budget for tools and resources. With increasing Agile adoption and rising demands for faster responsiveness to the market, the traditional testers fall short. The typical ‘programmers write code, and testers assess code quality’ scenario is changing. Now, testers are getting involved right from the stage of code development. From being a constraint, testers have evolved to become an asset to any organization. There is a steep rise in the demand for such talent who can write and test the codes based on the requirements. Such professionals are known as Software Development Engineers in Tests or SDETs.

SDET engineers are skilled professionals who are adept in the arena of both Quality Engineering and software development. Though it’s great to have someone with skills and expertise in high demand, it also creates confusion about what comprises the duties and responsibilities of SDETs. A regularly–faced ambiguity is regarding the difference between an SDET and a QA Engineer.

SDETs vs QA Engineers

While the roles of SDETs may seem very similar to those of QA Automation Engineers, with most of the tools and language expertise required being the same (Selenium, Java, and Jenkins), there are specific, obvious, and apparent differences between the two roles.

In layman’s terms, a software development engineer in a test is a developer who works as part of the test team instead of in the product development team. In essence, SDET engineers are responsible not only for writing code but are required to test the code as well. SDETs are needed to write, test, and fix the written code continuously. Their roles and responsibilities are based on the Agile lifecycle model. SDETs usually are professionals who have very strong analytical, technical, and problem–solving skills.

On the other hand, QA Engineers are testers who do not need any programming experience as they are usually not exposed to the code. This creates a demarcation between the roles and responsibilities of SDETs and QA Engineers.

SDETs: The need

With the need and importance of software testing accepted across the globe, what, when, and how to test are areas that have never stopped evolving.

In the contemporary landscape of software products and applications, a substantial portion necessitates comprehensive Test Automation, particularly in domains like functional, performance, and security testing. Software development engineers in the testing role, equipped with their dual expertise in code development and test execution (including the mentioned types), are ideally suited for the demands of the digital era. They play a pivotal role in enhancing code quality by conducting rigorous and meticulous source code reviews while ensuring its testability.

Armed with specialized testing knowledge of multiple tools, techniques, best practices, and processes, SDETs have become a crucial part of the development ecosystems. Based on their development experience, technical architecture and design knowledge, and programming skills, SDETs are required to write code to test the code developers wrote. In addition, they are also required to write unit tests and perform white–box testing.

Following is a list of a few tasks that SDETs are usually responsible for:

  • Building robust, scalable, and high–quality test automation solutions for functional, regression, and performance testing
  • Developing code for quality automation and ensuring extensive unit test coverage of the code
  • Building, customizing, deploying, and managing the environment/test automation frameworks
  • Checking for product scalability, reliability, consistency, and performance
  • Participating in design and architectural discussions
  • Performing high-class debugging
  • Preparing test reports

In essence

SDETs are customer advocates who influence product design by understanding end–user expectations. While functional and automation testers will always be required, SDETs may prove to be the all-rounder that most organizations are looking for. They are supposed to dive deep into the code and examine if it aligns with the overall objectives and how it interacts with various components of an application.

With an in-house pool of highly skilled and efficient SDETs, Cigniti strives to provide state-of-the-art testing services. Connect with us to leverage our skill sets and infrastructure and help your organization achieve quality excellence.


  • Cigniti Technologies

    Cigniti is the world’s leading AI & IP-led Digital Assurance and Digital Engineering services company with offices in India, the USA, Canada, the UK, the UAE, Australia, South Africa, the Czech Republic, and Singapore. We help companies accelerate their digital transformation journey across various stages of digital adoption and help them achieve market leadership.

Comment (1)

  • Jose Santana

    Hello I am a software quality assurance engineer, not an SDET engineer. My experience has proven to me, is programmers do not test very well as it pertains to the end user customer experience. My experience as a Quality Assurance engineers has required me to understand the whole picture of the software I test from the installation end user experience to the customers customer end user experience. This without writing code, but being part of code reviews and the planning of new features. I have always believed my role as a software quality assurance engineer is to the customer advocate.

    August 8, 2017 at 7:55 PM

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