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Background:

If you haven't read much of what I've written here, then:

  • I'm a sole developer
  • I've developed professionally for ~3 years, personally for 13
  • I love my work
  • Top-to-bottom, I find the whole process of developing software interesting, fun and exciting (with the slight exception of marketing)
  • I hate the environment I'm in now and had to leave

Now:

I've applied for a position as a Software Development Engineer in Test which potentially pays significantly more than I'm making now (~70%), is located somewhere I'd really like to be and looks like a company I'd really like to work for (interesting product, good tools, smart people - I was referred by an existing employee). So obviously, I'm really hoping that I get the position.

I don't want to get pigeonholed as a test developer, however, because they can sometimes have a bad reputation as not being good 'production' developers (not sure why... and this could be wrong, but that's the vibe I've gotten).

I'd prefer my career path to end up at a senior dev/lead dev position in 5-10 years. If I'm offered** the position, is there a possibility of hurting this desired path?

** I'm getting ahead of myself. I know. I haven't even had the interview yet. I'm anxious. Still, I interview well and I think that I have the knowledge/experience for the position.

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marked as duplicate by MichaelT, gnat, Kilian Foth, GlenH7, Martijn Pieters Jul 22 '13 at 13:42

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Sounds like a good move to me - how big is the company you're going for? Are there opportunities to do some development in addition to the testing?

I think its good to have a different perspective, which working in test would definitely give you. I worked for a couple of years in a customer service role, and have found that really useful in talking to people / getting the business understanding, so I don't really think it can be a bad option.

FYI - I'm a pretty noob developer, and in no position of hiring people, but having a diverse experience should be seen as a good thing that you can bring to a team.

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+1 going into a very different position is nothing but good for your career. You will improve you own developer skills by testing other people work. –  user2567 Oct 7 '10 at 7:07
    
+1: The company seems large enough (100+ developers/testers). I don't know enough about the internals to know for sure if there's room to move around inside. –  Steve Evers Oct 7 '10 at 15:46
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Any position to get you in the door is a good one. Once you get there find out who is in charge of the position you want to eventually have, and get to know them and their team. Find out what you can do to prepare yourself, and make it known you have aspirations.

I've a few times either joined a company at a lower position, and transferred into the one I wanted after a couple years, or seen others do the same thing. For example, my first big professional programming job was at a company I started at doing technical support. At another company a guy who was hired as an analyst was able to transfer to our development team.

The key is to do a great job at whatever you are doing. You want to be the absolute best "Software Development Engineer in Test" they have seen. Then make sure people know that you have high aspirations and skills beyond your position. Find out what the internal job application requirements and process is, and apply for everything. Make sure the people in charge of the position you are applying for know who you are, what you can do, and that you applied. Never assume that they know. Especially if you are working in Test to support the development department that you want to move to, it should be a great opportunity.

Do be prepared to pay your dues though. It is not uncommon for companies to have rules that you must stay in a position at least a year or two before transferring internally.

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1  
+1: Good points, and I agree. I worry more about the possibility of what it will 'say' to people at other companies if I were to somehow decide not to continue my career path in that particular company. Is that a reasonable worry? –  Steve Evers Oct 7 '10 at 0:05
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@SnOrfus: I really don't know how people will judge your resume, so I don't have any definitive answers for you. I can tell you this though, it is less about the "facts" and more about the story you tell with those facts, especially once you get to the interview. If you can say "I took the job in Test because I thought that understanding the test side of the process would make me a better software developer, and this is what I learned . . ." then that is much more likely to get you the job than "It paid better." –  Jim McKeeth Oct 7 '10 at 3:46
    
True enough. I appreciate your insights. Thank you. –  Steve Evers Oct 7 '10 at 17:57
    
+1: sobering and encouraging –  David Dec 29 '10 at 0:26
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You will only be pigeon-holed if you allow yourself to be.

If you want to be seen as something more than this position then you can help with open-source projects, write interesting programs using new techniques, or, on your own write something that may be of interest to the company and then demo it for them, and see if that gets you a new position.

You can choose how people see you, based on what you do and how well you showcase it, without being pushy or cocky about it.

You can also see about helping others you are working with, learning to be a good mentor can be very beneficial, especially when management sees that people are seeking you out.

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