Skip navigation EPAM

Hybrid Jobs: How Software Engineers in Test (SETs) Bridge the Gap between Coding & QA


Believe it or not, the concept of the ‘cross-functional team,’ which brings together multiple roles from traditional, skill-specific siloes on a single team, has only come to prominence in the last decade or so. It might be hard to believe because nowadays, building teams featuring employees with skills in different disciplines like technology and finance or marketing and analytics isn’t nearly as uncommon as it used to be. That’s because it works.

Accompanying the emergence of the cross-functional team has been the demand for people to fill ‘hybrid jobs’ with position titles like Creative Technologist, Hybrid IT Business Analyst and even User Experience Designer, which seems like a completely ubiquitous job title at this point. Just like cross-functional teams, hybrid jobs combine multiple hard and soft skillsets, but instead of a team, it’s an individual capable of fulfilling multiple roles through a single job.

At EPAM, hybrid jobs are in hot demand. A great example of one is the Software Engineer in Test (SET), who bridges the gap between writing code for software development and testing that code for bugs as a QA analyst. For more on the topic, let’s hear from Petr Kartashov, Head of QA at EPAM, to explore his perspective on the emergence, prominence and future of SETs.

When and where did you first hear about the SET position?

The first time I learned about this concept was in the early 2000s when one Microsoft blogger offered a glimpse into their Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET) role, then a more concrete description was given in the 2008 book called How We Test Software at Microsoft (Developer Best Practices). Google created an even more technical/lean startup definition of this job called SET and described it in the 2012 book entitled How Google Tests Software. I think Google’s definition of SET better describes the role we have at EPAM.

How has the SET position evolved over time?

After this hybrid job emerged as SDET in the early 2000s, it matured and was shaped to fit Google’s approach to product development. One of the reasons is because Google has always been a web-first company (as opposed to Microsoft, which represents the PC and desktop era) where product delivery and updates require near real-time operations and demand different technical and business skills, like agility and continuous delivery in a lean startup culture. That’s why sharing hybrid skills between both developers and testers was crucial to getting the job done.

As far as developers’ overall skillsets in Google and other fast-paced tech companies go, they too should be well versed in holistic quality engineering that includes both traditional QA/testing fundamentals and modern development practices to meet quality standards.

What are some of the organizational benefits of having people with hybrid jobs (like SETs) deployed within a project?

To summarize, I see two main benefits. Number one is enabling a truly frictionless build-test-deploy-operate process by automating everything possible (and, of course, only what makes sense to automate).

Number two is what I call time-to-market reduction without compromising confidence or quality, especially on the business side. There are plenty of practices and techniques that can reduce time-to-market, but what about maintaining the confidence level of the business? Can we really do both at the same time? This is a tough call and a balancing act for many business leaders. SET and other hybrid or cross-functional roles actually have these two KPIs in their deliverables, so organizations can ensure both are happening simultaneously.

Another example of a hybrid role in the testing world is the Site Reliability Engineer (SRE), which extends the traditional performance engineering role into production operations. Similarly, their KPI goes beyond performance benchmark testing as it also includes real-life performance metrics, incidents and SLAs.

What do you think the future entails for SETs and the enterprises who employ them?

While enterprises have been adopting and adapting to this role, the efficiency is still not there in terms of where and how to engage SETs, what the best practice is when it comes to employing a ratio of SETs to test engineers, as well as how to allocate and budget such resources for cross-project and cross-functional efficiencies. Efficient allocation is very important due to the fact that we are talking about a very unique, niche role that is both hard to find and well paid.

From a technical point of view, the adoption of cognitive computing and machine learning will bring even greater opportunities for SETs to drive holistic delivery automation. I think a few of the practical applications of AI/ML that will emerge and involve SETs include smart visual testing that reduces expensive page layouts and UI/UX comparison from build to build; test data management automation with intelligent data sub-setting based on risk and the affected product code; and real-time code coverage optimization that learns from production data. Furthermore, application performance monitoring will probably gain a lot from AI/ML-based technologies.

All of these technologies and tools will need cohesive technical integration within existing processes, so it stands to reason that a SET would be probably be the best candidate for this task.

In 2017, Mr. Kartashov wrote an in-depth article for CIO Review entitled “Why Digital Enterprises Should Embrace the Role of Software Engineers in Test to Build ‘Quality-First’ Products.” You can read it here.

Hello. How Can We Help You?

Our Offices

  • Canada

    • Ottawa

      343 Preston Street,
      ON K1S 1N4, Ottawa

    • Toronto

      5 Park Home Avenue,
      Suite 400,
      ON M2N 6L4, North York,

      F: +1-416-595-1551
  • Mexico

    • Guadalajara

      Periférico Sur #8110,
      Col. El Mante
      45609 Tlaquepaque, Jalisco

  • United States

    • Newtown, PA

      41 University Drive,
      Suite 202,
      Newtown, PA 18940

      F: +1-267-759-8989
    • Bellevue, WA

      110 110th Ave. NE,
      Suite 310
      Bellevue, WA 98004

    • Boston, MA

      21 Drydock Avenue,
      Suite 410 W,
      Boston, MA 02210

    • Conshohocken, PA

      101 East 8th Ave,
      Suite 201,
      Conshohocken, PA 19428

    • Los Angeles, CA

      11601 Wilshire Blvd,
      Suite 350,
      Los Angeles, CA 90025

    • New York, NY

      24 West 25th Street,
      5th Floor,
      New York, NY 10010

      F: +1-267-759-8989
    • Philadelphia, PA

      30 South 15th Street,
      9th Floor,
      Philadelphia, PA 19102

    • San Francisco, CA

      222 Kearny Street,
      Suite 308,
      San Francisco, CA 94108

    • San Jose, CA

      2055 Gateway Place,
      Suite 510,
      San Jose, CA 95110

    • Washington D.C.

      7901 Jones Branch Drive,
      Suite 400,
      McLean, VA 22102

  • Australia

  • China

    • Guangzhou

      Unit B01, 23/F,
      Yuexiuxinduhui Building,
      No. 236, 6th Zhongshan Road,
      Yuexiu District, Guangzhou,
      China 510180

    • 广州

      越秀新都会大厦中座 23楼 B01室

    • Shanghai

      Room B509, 5th Floor,
      48 Weihai Road,
      Huangpu District, Shanghai,
      China 200000

    • 上海


    • Shenzhen

      3/F, Block 5, Vision Shenzhen Business Park,
      9th Gaoxin South Road, 
      Shenzhen Hi-tech Industrial Park,
      Nanshan District, Shenzhen,
      Guangdong, China 518057

    • 深圳


    • Suzhou

      Building 12, Creative Industrial Park,
      328 Xinghu Street,
      Suzhou Industrial Park,
      Suzhou, China 215123

    • 苏州


  • Hong Kong

    • Hong Kong

      26F&17F, The Wellington Tower,
      198 Wellington Street,
      Central, HK

  • India

    • Bangalore

      Global Technology Park,
      Block C, Outer Ring Rd,
      Adarsh Palm Retreat, Bellandur,
      Bengaluru, Karnataka 560103

    • Hyderabad

      10, 11 & 12th Floors,
      Salarpuria Sattva Knowledge City,
      Plot No. 2, Phase - 1,
      Survey No. 83/1,
      Raidurgam Village,
      Serilingampally Mandal,
      Hyderabad, Telangana - 500081

    • Pune

      SmartWork Business Center Pvt Ltd,
      Suite 8, Level 1,
      West Wing, Nyati Unitree,
      Samrat Ashok Road,
      Yerwada, Pune - 411006,

  • Japan

    • Tokyo

      Floor 1-10-11
      Shibadaimon Centre Building 10th
      Shibadaimon Minato-ku
      Tokyo 105-0012

      F: +81-03-6880-9201
  • Singapore

    • Singapore

      5 Shenton Way
      UIC Building, #10-01,
      Singapore (068808)

  • United Arab Emirates

    • Dubai

      EPAM Systems FZ-LLC Dubai Branch
      2307 Arenco Tower, Dubai Media City
      PO Box 501929 Dubai
      United Arab Emirates