Blog | Admin | Archives | Random | Recent | Thanks

Google Tests the Water

Google thinks that my skills would make me a good candidate for a Software Developer in Test. I have to say that the assessment bummed me out a little. My initial reaction was that I’ve done test; I was hoping to move on to a development job. Specifically a development job in a group with the TA who started the whole Google ball rolling for me.

I tried to start feeling good about it. I read some posts from the Google Testing Blog where it was clear that development is a big part of what their testers do. The main part, really. The recruiter set up a phone chat between myself and a Google testing manager. We talked about a variety of topics: the high Dev to Tester ratio; how the job stays interesting, how it really is a development position; how the job can give me a chance to be involved in a product at many more levels than as a normal developer; and about some of the specific meaty problems that the SDTs at Google have solved. It was a good conversation, but something was still bugging me. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but now I think I’ve figured it out.

Even if Google testers are different, even if they are “revered” as the recruiter put it, making sure something works right simply isn’t the same as making something that does work right. I’ll say it again, because I think it bears repeating:

Making sure something works right simply isn’t the same as making something that does work right

The accomplishments that I am most proud of at Microvision are not the many bugs I have caught or the test procedures I have successfully run. My pride is in what I have created. It is Flic firmware version X.37. It is the Automated Testing Fixture software. I know that in my role as a tester, I have helped create a higher quality product. But I don’t feel ownership for that product in the same way that I do for projects that I actually wrote code for.

I imagine it is similar to the feeling of ownership that I have over the recently completed 3D VGA card project I did with a partner in CSE 467, Advanced Digital Design, compared to the feeling of ownership that the excellent TA feels over our project: He certainly helped eliminate bugs, but it isn’t his creation. I fear that as a Software Developer in Test, I will miss that ownership, and the passion that goes with it.

In the end I want to be able to point to something important and say “I made that.”

3 Responses to “Google Tests the Water”

  1. Ryan Says:

    As I think about it more, I did feel some of that ownership as a tester when I worked closely with the development team. Still it was much cooler to actually write code that went out the door with the product. Which leads me to wonder if its sort of an ego thing. Is it just that I want to point to an external product and say “I did that?”

  2. Bernie Zimmermann Says:

    I can’t speak from experience, obviously, but being an SDET at Google may be better than an actual engineer at other companies. With 20% time and all of the source code at your disposal, you’re bound to be able to show over time that you’ve got the skills necessary to thrive in a pure development role, and in the meantime you get to establish yourself as a high-quality contributor.

    But I definitely hear you on the ownership aspect of things. Whatever you decide to do, I’m sure it will prove fruitful in the long run regardless. Best of luck in making your decision (if you haven’t already).

  3. Scott Says:

    Having worked my current employer for about two and a half years, I would say that the job you start out in will probably not be the role that you will be in for long. I am interviewing on Tuesday for what would be my third position in less than as many years. I get the impression you are pretty excited about Google as an employer, but not wild about the entry level position. The position you were offer may likely be a short term position under which they can assess your skills for more engaging and demanding work. Plus the 20% time should give you a chance to take ownership of a project that you can use to make a name for yourself. Unless they are making you sign a long term contract to stay in that particular role or at the company you don’t have much to lose. Look forward to seeing you soon.

Leave a Reply