The journey to Software Development Engineer in Test

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I presented a talk to a small audience on my journey to becoming a Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET). Although the journey is personal, I feel the process can be applied to any career or goal; which is why I have decided to share the talk along with my personal notes.

I hope they are useful and bring value in your journey!

Find your passion

My passion in computer science and testing was ignited by my first job in the industry, I powered this passion with curiosity and a desire to learn

Find something or someone to ignite your passion, it could be a:

  • Job
  • Book / Magazine
  • Personal project / hobby
  • Enthusiastic friend or colleague

You won’t always find your passion overnight

Try many things and stick with something you’re curious about

Persist with something even when the novelty has worn off

If you’re passionate about it and find it engaging you won’t find it hard to be dedicated when the challenges start

Develop skills

In 2011, I started to learn how to code in Java, by finding opportunities to apply what I was learning at work

  • You need to develop skills if you want to work for someone

  • Find out what skills you bring to the table

  • Start developing the skills you don’t have

  • Don’t fear perfection and take small steps each day or week

  • Malcolm Gladwell states in his Outliers book it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill, so there’s no better time to start something new!

  • Find an accountability partner, this could be your manager, colleague, friend etc - ideally someone who has a similar interest

  • Be vocal about what you want to learn, It’s not a weakness!

Set goals and work towards them

  • Working in the technology industry, I get the opportunity to learn and apply what I have learnt - I enjoy this process

  • Develop a growth mindset!

  • Working in technology requires continuous learning

  • Set goals and hold yourself accountable to them

  • Write your goals down and keep them visible so you can read them daily, try including affirmations too

  • Break each goal down into actionable tasks that you can schedule into your weekly calendar

  • Never give up on yourself!

Learn from failure fast and continue to grow

Failure is normal and expected, it could be a failed business, project or course etc

  • I have learnt more from failure than from success

  • Failure == Learning Opportunity

  • Want to be a manager, software engineer, <enter position>, then find out what skills you lack or are weak in and make a plan to make those skills your strength

  • Ask for feedback on your work! Even when something seemingly went well, ask for feedback!

  • Feedback will allow you to become aware of an area that you can improve in and grow

  • Face a weakness with curiosity to make it a strength.

Find a mentor

  • I recently found a squash coach to help me develop as a squash player

  • Find a mentor in a skill you want to develop

  • I have never directly had a single mentor, but I have worked with individuals who I could learn from and respected their knowledge and experience

  • Show gratitude to people who are willing to spend their own time to teach you

  • You may only come across a few people who are willing to mentor you in your career, but when you do, have gratitude to know and work with such people as they will help you grow!

  • Surround yourself with people who have similar goals or aspirations and with people with who have a positive mindset

  • Share experiences and hold each other accountable

  • If you can’t find a mentor; then be a mentor as this will also help you too!

Work when nobody is looking

  • You own your career and goals so take responsibility to work towards them

  • You don’t need to share your goals with everyone in your social circle to be successful

  • Your goals are personal to your values and beliefs, they don’t require approval from peers

  • Everyone has different aspirations and opinions that can muddy your thoughts

  • Try connecting with an accountability partner regularly to see if that helps achieve momentum

  • Pick the right time of day to work/study and learn, if 6am works then go for it!

Align your career with your superpower

  • Consider a role that allows you to use your strongest skill the most

  • If you enjoy communicating and leadership more than coding then don’t force yourself into a career as a software engineer or SDET which is more engineering focused

  • Bring all of you to work so you can contribute in more ways

  • Be kind!


Clear, J. (2018) Atomic habits. London: Penguin Random House.

Gladwell, M. (2017) Outliers: The story of success. London: Penguin Books, Limited.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.