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While there may be tons of remote work for developers/programmers, I don't see much for SDET positions being offered remotely. By remote I mean 100% working from home, and may not be located even within the same timezone where the company is domiciled.

Where can I find remote jobs for SDETs? Is it possibly because it's not yet "in", or needs to be co-located with the developers, etc?

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Strongly opinionated answer: For classic project work testers should be co-located to the developers.

Even with today's communication facilities like chats and messengers personal contact on a day to day basis is vital for good test results e.g. Common understanding of requirements leads to fewer false positives

Nevertheless there is a trend to outsource testing activities via crowd / cloud testing.

You can gain experience as a tester through platforms like test.io and earn a few bucks but I don't know if you can make a living.

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Working remotely as a tester is certainly possible, however the key factor is knowledge and timing.

A tester should initially aim to get a greater understanding of:

  • the business domain
  • the product and features
  • the current company direction
  • the current direction of features and bugs
  • the workflow for bugs and features
  • the personalities of developers
  • conflict resolution over disagreements

To get this understanding a tester benefits greatly from being a part of the development team, typically embedded within them.

Over time this can then transition to a more remote arrangement for a period of weeks or months. There is still the downside of not getting exposure and interaction with the items mentioned above and over time you would tend to drift away from the company mission, culture, goals, etc. Also people leave and join over time so your initial personal relationships wont last.

A good arrangement can be to work mostly remotely but also be on-site for a fixed time each period, e.g. 1 day a week.

If working 100% remotely you can also level the playing field with how you organize meetings. For example if you have a daily stand-up and half the folks are remote on skype, consider the following: have all the on-site folks use private office and use skype as well and then everyone is a 'box' in skype and you've leveled the playing field and removed the 'in-office' vs 'remote' distinction. Some calls these 'remote in-person meetings' or the like.

  • Thanks for the advice. These help me think more about wanting to work remotely. – melanie marquez Feb 14 '16 at 7:18
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Remote work is IMHO sub-optimal for several reasons:

  • communication is slower, so productivity is lower.
  • communication via phone or chat is much more narrow channel, missing body language, which inevitable will lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding (which are slower to resolve because of the narrow channel)
  • on-site, it is trivial to walk to your colleague workstation and point something on a screen and talk about it. Remotely, you need to schedule a session with shared screen.
  • many of your customers are experts in business rules, not in cloud based communication, and for them it is unnecessary hassle and source of annoyances. They are on the business premises (to effectively communicate with other parties), why not you?

Unless your skills are so rare (or rates so low) that business will be willing to put up with all those hassles, they will prefer to have you on-site.

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I have been working remotely as a SDET for the last 4 years and with well defined agile projects this is more common. It is still a matter of being able to communicate effectively and daily (Skype, Slack, email) and have clearly defined work (Jira, Rally) but location is not a major barrier. With a skill set including Python, Java, Ruby, Go, C# and some common framework (Selenium, Nunit, Junit, Robot) there are great opportunities available. Not everyone is successful at running a project including remote resources but there are a growing number of companies working that way.

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