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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Roles

In order for the “you build it, you break it” motto to be real (and kept real over time), there are roles beyond the traditional feature developer that are necessary. Specifically, engineering roles that enable developers to do testing efficiently and effectively have to exist. At Google, we have created roles in which some engineers are responsible for making other engineers more productive and more quality-minded. These engineers often identify themselves as testers, but their actual mission is one of productivity. Testers are there to make developers more productive and a large part of that productivity is avoiding re-work because of sloppy development. Quality is thus a large part of that productivity. We are going to spend significant time talking about each of these roles in detail in subsequent chapters; therefore, a summary suffices for now.

The software engineer (SWE) is the traditional developer role. SWEs write functional code that ships to users. They create design documentation, choose data structures and overall architecture, and they spend the vast majority of their time writing and reviewing code. SWEs write a lot of test code, including test-driven design (TDD), unit tests, and, as we explain later in this chapter, participate in the construction of small, medium, and large tests. SWEs own quality for everything they touch whether they wrote it, fixed it, or modified it. That’s right, if a SWE has to modify a function and that modification breaks an existing test or requires a new one, they must author that test. SWEs spend close to 100 percent of their time writing code.

The software engineer in test (SET) is also a developer role, except his focus is on testability and general test infrastructure. SETs review designs and look closely at code quality and risk. They refactor code to make it more testable and write unit testing frameworks and automation. They are a partner in the SWE codebase, but are more concerned with increasing quality and test coverage than adding new features or increasing performance. SETs also spend close to 100 percent of their time writing code, but they do so in service of quality rather than coding features a customer might use.

The test engineer (TE) is related to the SET role, but it has a different focus. It is a role that puts testing on behalf of the user first and developers second. Some Google TEs spend a good deal of their time writing code in the form of automation scripts and code that drives usage scenarios and even mimics the user. They also organize the testing work of SWEs and SETs, interpret test results, and drive test execution, particularly in the late stages of a project as the push toward release intensifies. TEs are product experts, quality advisers, and analyzers of risk. Many of them write a lot of code; many of them write only a little.

From a quality standpoint, SWEs own features and the quality of those features in isolation. They are responsible for fault-tolerant designs, failure recovery, TDD, unit tests, and working with the SET to write tests that exercise the code for their features.

SETs are developers who provide testing features. A framework that can isolate newly developed code by simulating an actual working environment (a process involving such things as stubs, mocks, and fakes, which are all described later) and submit queues for managing code check-ins. In other words, SETs write code that enables SWEs to test their features. Much of the actual testing is performed by the SWEs. SETs are there to ensure that features are testable and that the SWEs are actively involved in writing test cases.

Clearly, an SET’s primary focus is on the developer. Individual feature quality is the target and enabling developers to easily test the code they write is the primary focus of the SET. User-focused testing is the job of the Google TE. Assuming that the SWEs and SETs performed module- and feature-level testing adequately, the next task is to understand how well this collection of executable code and data works together to satisfy the needs of the user. TEs act as double-checks on the diligence of the developers. Any obvious bugs are an indication that early cycle developer testing was inadequate or sloppy. When such bugs are rare, TEs can turn to the primary task of ensuring that the software runs common user scenarios, meets performance expectations, is secure, internationalized, accessible, and so on. TEs perform a lot of testing and manage coordination among other TEs, contract testers, crowd sourced testers, dogfooders,4 beta users, and early adopters. They communicate among all parties the risks inherent in the basic design, feature complexity, and failure avoidance methods. After TEs get engaged, there is no end to their mission.

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