Life as a Microsoft SDET, from one year’s worth of data
It’s pretty common to ask, “What is it like working for [insert the company you work for]“. Often times, regardless of the company, the answers are pretty similar to each other and sound something like “Oh its great! I get x benefit, I get to work on this cool new feature y, and on top of that my coworkers are a lot of fun!” Rarely do people describe what they actually do day to day like “Oh, you know, I spend like 50% of my time in meetings, 25% of my time on email, and 25% of my time on youtube”.
So, what was it like working for Microsoft as an entry level SDET?
*for those of you who don’t know SDET = Software Developer in Test
Using the data I have collected over a year, I would like to answer this question using the second method I mentioned above: What exactly did I spend my time on?
Lets start with the basics. My average work day for a year was 8.37 hours per day, but I also spent 7 days working over the weekends. On those 7 days I spend an average of 5.85 hours at the office. Seems pretty standard job to me.
However, this average over a year can be a deceptive statistic. In reality it was much less steady, and a bit more wavy. At times it got really busy and other times not so much. Many Microsofties will agree with this statement.
That’s cool, But what is the day to day like?
This is when all the pie charts start coming out. Over the course of the year I spent 71% of my time at the computer and 29% of my time away.
Your away time?
This was basically anytime that I was not sitting at my computer or I was sitting at my computer and it was idle. This time was a bit harder to track, since I had to manually tag this time, but I did my best to at least get the high level categories. The main time consumers here were, Meetings, Lunch, Training and Other.
Other is kind of nebulous. Was I productive in this time or was I was I slacking off? It’s really hard to tell. It basically consists of things like hallway talks / office talk, doing manual tests on a device, and going to the bathroom.
So what were you doing when you were sitting down and working?
Over the course of a year, what you do really changes depending on what part of the development cycle you are in. Luckily, I basically went through a whole development cycle from planning to release, so I was able to collect data that represented all the tasks that I had to work on, and not just that tasks from one particular phase of the development cycle.
Anyways, here’s where my time went:
That was the interesting thing about this. I remember when I started working as a SDET at Microsoft, I had the impression that I was going to be writing automated tests all day long, every day of the year. But this was definitely not the case. I basically spend most of my time communicating.
On top of meetings, I used my number one application, Outlook at 17%, and Instant messaging software (5%), to constantly communicate with my immediate and extended team. Using things like Bug Tracking Software (7%), I communicated the health of our feature and reported bugs. Using test case management software (2%) I communicated what manual tests had to be done by the contractors . And finally using applications like word (4%) I had to create test plans and communicate what kinds of testing we would be doing for the feature. In the end, I spent approximately 35% of my time on communication tasks!
Of course, I did spend time developing and running manual tests (Excel – 4%, Windows Explorer – 9%, Total – 13%) and automated tests (Visual Studio – 12%, Phone Emulator – 2%, Command Prompt – 2%, Total – 16%), but it wasn’t as big of a slice as you would think it would be.
You also seem to spend a lot of time on the internet…
That is true. Two other things that I spent a lot of my time on was investigation, and taking breaks. In working on software as complicated as the software that Microsoft makes, you spend a lot of time investigating how things work and taking a LOT of notes (Internet explorer – 8%, Notepad – 3%, and OneNote – 2%, Total – 13%).
I was also very surprised to see how much time I spent on breaks (Firefox – 12%, Kindle for PC – 1%, Total – 13%). I’ve always considered myself to be a reasonably hard worker, but seeing this really shows you how all those 5 min breaks watching youtube videos and reading blogs really add up in the long run.
A different perspective on working as a SDET
So it turns out that not only will you spend time testing software and creating automation, you will spend a lot of time communicating, doing investigations, going to meetings, and though you may not want to admit it, taking breaks and eating lunch. Hopefully this gives you some insight on what life as an SDET at Microsoft would be like.
Anyways let me know what you think! I would love to read about others who have some data on how they spend their time at their work.