The “D” in SDET stands for Development and development skills are required for the position. Test automation is a must for the groups that I know about at Microsoft. Why is automation important? Because of the complexity of the environment that our products have to work in. Consider these dimensions:

  • The product has to work on different processor architectures. For us now, that means x86 and x64 but in the past these were more (NT used to work on MIPS and Alpha processor architectures) and in the future there may be more (mobile platforms).
  • The product has to work on different operation systems. For this release, we have to test against Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2. For PowerPivot for Excel, we have to support the OS’s supported by Office 2010 and that means Windows XP and Server 2003 on the x86 platform. And Windows 8 is looming.
  • The product has to work on different language and locale settings supported by the operating system. To get an idea of how many that is, open the regional settings control panel applet and drop down the “Format:” field in the “Formats” tab.
  • The product has to work on the different languages the product is localized into.

And we have to make sure each version of the product works for 10 years of servicing.

Without a suite of automated tests, covering all those different combinations would be incredibly difficult. Note that I’m not saying that automated tests are all that we need to test the product, only that they are a necessary component given the environments that our product is expected to work in and the current state of our development processes.