I was at the book store today, and a book caught my eye that was titled, "How Google Tests Software". To my delight, it was a book about unit testing. But it wasn't really a technical book about unit testing with any specific testing framework. It was more of a book about how Google is able to break down it's huge offering of services into small areas that over and over ship quality software fast. Page 6 of the book talks about the roles at Google; the different programming positions you could apply for if you wanted to work there. I thought this part was extremely interesting, and I couldn't help but visualize how I was doing all of these roles of my current job. It would be an interesting thought experiment to scale out the "TDD developer role" across a few people, and I really like the elegant way Google does it.
The Software Engineer (SWE)
This what most people think of when they imagine a programmer’s job. It’s what devs who don’t do unit testing think programming is all about. You want to build something- a game, an app, a website, and you get tasks that detail all the little parts of the finished product. You’re typing away, following the specs to build the thing that matches the product owner’s vision (which could be influenced by things like a/b testing or iterations of customer feedback, but ultimately someone has to make a decision about what things to prioritize). The software engineer spends almost 100% of the time at work coding. The author mentions that this developer does work in a TDD fashion and write unit tests, but testing is not the prime concern of this developer. It’s not much different in the Angular-specific world. This person should be familiar with Angular and have a basic grasp of how controllers, services, filters and the scope work as well as more advanced concepts like custom directives. Being familiar with the built-in Angular directives is key since this person will be writing a lot of html. This role would benefit the most from css / sass skills.
The Test Engineer (TE)
The Software Engineer in Test
This is a very interesting role, and I’m very impressed that Google specifically has a separate job title for this. An engineer in test is almost 100% focused on the unit testing portion(s) of the codebase. This programmer is mostly focused on refactoring, working on unit tests, and increasing the test coverage. This dev often needs to understand programming even better than the software engineer, as he is there to help the software engineer become more productive by pointing out things that should be refactored and aiding in writing tests that the software engineer might not be able to or not do 100% correctly. The SET must look for not just flat out errors, but also clean up linter errors and code smells, a phrase used by Kent Beck and Martin Fowler to describe specific instances of things that should be refactored and how to do it. In an Angular project, this person is mostly concerned with the Jasmine (or Mocha) unit tests for a project. The SET would be writing more tests, refactoring existing tests, determining if coverage of tests is adequate, and helping the TE with protractor tests.
I really do think these roles are excellent, and I would put good faith in any company that actually does develop with a team comprised of at least one of all three positions. I think the Software Engineer in Test is a pretty novel concept, and I’ve honestly never seen it in any of the companies I’ve worked for or had to the chance to visit. The author later mentions how senior management many times comes from the realm of program management and development so they don’t have the same appreciation for code quality as those with unit testing background. The SET keeps the code in check. Unlike classic eXtreme programming where there’s a fully collective code ownership, in this way the SWE is responsible for the code he writes, but the SET is responsible for making sure code quality is up to par. With this hybrid approach it would really take a double disaster for things to go terribly wrong, and in that case you just keep writing unit tests until you’re back on track.
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