“So what would you say you do?” It’s a common question when meeting someone new. However I was blind sided by the timing of this question.

You see, I was on the phone with a recruiter who was fairly new to the game. We where going over my resume when I told here about a recent job and title change. That’s when the recruiter asked this haymaker of a question. I was stunned.

I went from working as a Software Test Engineer. Where I was doing only manually black-box testing. Then changing to a Software Development Engineer in Test, after they found out I could write code. The titles do share a lot of words in common but have huge differences.

Here’s what I should have told the recruiter.

After answering a few more questions, I eventually ended the call. Things had gone well, but I couldn’t shake the question.

What is it that we really do, and how could I effectively express that to others?

At first I thought to split things up by job title. You have Software Developer in Test, Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET), QA Engineer, QA Automation Engineer, Software Tester, Automation Developer, Software Test Development Engineer, etc.

You get the point. It’s some combination of QA, Software, Test, Engineer, or Developer.

Considering the fact that traditionally “manual” testing roles can have any of the above titles adds another level of confusion.

A lot of companies seems to be pushing for a unification of the manual and automated testing role. Both dedicate themselves to product quality, both are reliant on strong fundamental understanding and application of CS principles. Sometimes it’s best to describe what you do by talking about the problems that you help solve.

13 Things That Software Developers In Test Do.

  1. They write software that test software.
  2. They are a mix between a software developer and a manual tester.
  3. They help make sure that the product is working correctly by writing automated test.
  4. They help speed up system validation & regression times.
  5. They help companies scale by writing scripts that can test the system at any time.
  6. They can write test that can be used in the deployment process.
  7. They have skills that can be used to efficiently test API’s.
  8. They build tools that allow others to test more effectively.
  9. They are software developers.
  10. They are testers.
  11. They are in charge of quality of the product.
  12. They can work on anything from basic feature level verification to maintaining test infrastructures.
  13. They normally have n days to get automated test coverage over x features deployed in y different supported environments in z languages.

The job the title doesn’t matter much at all. What you’re doing and working on is more important. However what should you do when looking for a new gig? What should go in your bio, LinkedIn page, or in your resume? To be honest I’m not 100% sure, but here are some things are know are true.

Truth #1: Software Developer in Test know how to code.

A Software Developer in Test is in charge of ensuring everything works and the product exceeds users’ expectations. The level of quality and confidence only comes if you know the product, the components, and especially, the code within it. You can’t test something you don’t understand. It would be like building a bicycle when you don’t know how to ride.

Truth #2: Software Developer in Test is a customer advocate.

A Software Developer in Test is “the guy who knows everything, sees everything, and has the final word on how things happen.” To be specific:

  • I work with the Program Manager to decide how the product should be designed.
  • I work with developers to define the functionality.
  • I get to talk with people who use the product, including our partners, to assess its usability.

That means I can gather a lot of information and the us it to help make the team more efficient.

A Software Developer in Test role is pretty much what you make it, as evidenced by all its different names: QA/Developer, QA Engineer, Automation Developer. Sometimes it’s best to describe what you do by talking about the problems that you help solve.
So how did I answer the question with the recruiter at the time? Well I was able to answer the question, but not in all its detail. I said that I write code that test code others have written.
How do you typically describe what you do to others? Leave a comment below and let me know.