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Test Automation and the SDET: Explore the possibilities

Read a blogpost by TSI Software QA Specialist III Dave Jacobson on his experience at the Test Automation Conference and the questions it inspired.


By Dave Jacobson, TSI Software QA Specialist III

In March, 2020, most TSI software engineers were ordered to work from home, in response to the COVID-19 virus. I had been interested in the Test Automation Conference hosted by TestingMind.com, which soon became the Test Automation Virtual Conference. It was held from April 21 to May 6, 2020. Since no travel was now required (or essentially allowed), my supervisor recommended that another QA member and myself attend, virtually, which we did.

Test Automation and the SDET: Explore the possibilitiesThe conference covered a wide range of topics centered on Software testing and focusing on Test Automation, including:

  • When to automate
  • Risk, Reliability, Reusability
  • API Testing benefits
  • SDET's role
  • Automation in a scrum framework
  • Appium and Espresso for mobile testing
  • Automation framework architecture
  • Test data management and synthetic data
  • Automated testing and DevOps
  • Testing in a regulated environment
  • Communication between developers and testers (soft skills)
  • Assessing test automation effectiveness
  • Scalability
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Building a quality culture
  • Quality in CI/CD and DevOps
  • Modernizing your CI/CD pipeline, and more.

You can quickly see why this conference lasted ten days!

Test strategies and tools: What is SDET?

Many specific test strategies and test tools were discussed. Specific tools discussed included J Meter, Appium, Espresso, and Pester, as well as others. Some of them I was familiar with, some of them I had never heard of.

While listening to the presentations, and watching the slides presented, right from the beginning the speakers were talking about the SDET. I was not familiar with the term, or so I thought, or at least not as it was being presented. I sensed that I knew what it meant, but still I was not certain. I used the instant messaging tool of choice at TSI, WebEx Teams, to ask my esteemed colleague, “What’s an SDET?” He told me it was the Software Development Engineer in Test. It made sense now, I was familiar with what that position was, and some of the responsibilities, but I was not aware that it was used as a position to itself, or had its own acronym! As speaker after speaker in some way made a reference to the SDET, it quickly became a commonly known term for me as well. And I realized, that’s a pretty important person on the team!

Who uses automation tools and why?

At TSI, automation tools are used by the software team (development and QA) for multiple projects. I am currently using TestComplete, to write automated tests for one of our legacy products, that runs in Windows. This product, like several others, is in the fight against COVID-19, which has relegated so many of us to working from home. Other TSI QA engineers are also using TestComplete, for different products.

Cypress is a next generation front end testing tool built for the modern web and can be used for End-to-end tests, Integration tests, Unit tests. Cypress can test anything that runs in a browser. At TSI, Cypress tests are written for one of our web interfaces for a small, lightweight, low-cost air quality sensor that are easy to install in or around an area of concern.

Another engineer at TSI is actually using two different automation tools for a new product (to be released soon!) for different platforms. Spectron automation is used for the desktop application, and Appium for mobile versions (IOS and Android).  These are just a few examples the test automation efforts at TSI.

More questions than answers

While I knew how to write automation code with JavaScript in TestComplete, and use it to test my application under test, I quickly learned the complexity of how to use the test scripts as effectively as possible. When would they run, where would they run, how would the results be used? How would they be tied to software development Continuous Integration and development? How would the code be maintained, what would be the versioning scheme? How could the software itself be continuously built, deployed and tested?

Other questions arose. Am I using the right tool, what will be my future challenges for new products? How can the automation team leverage best practices even when we use different tools and test different products? What are the effective practices for DevOps?

Are you interested in these things? Can you help recommend the right tools and practices for effective test automation? If so, we would love to have you on the software engineering team!

Posted on Feb 11 2021 16:32
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