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July 10, 2006

Microsoft Trivia: What Does "SDE" Stand For?

Programmers at Microsoft have the title "SDE", which stands for...well, what exactly does it stand for? Everyone knows that the S is for Software and the E is for Engineer, but there is disagreement on the D. If you look at titles in the address book, of the [classified number of] programmers at Microsoft, approximately 31% have the title "Software Design Engineer" and 30% have the title "Software Development Engineer". An additional 23% have the abbreviation "SDE" as their title.

It turns out that Microsoft has "official" job titles, which are standardized. All the people I talked about above, plus the unaccounted for 16%, have the exact same standardized job title. The visible titles in the address book are something different. I would guess they are entered manually when the employee starts or changes jobs, and I think can be changed fairly easily too. This explains the wide variety, the typos ("Software Design Engineee", "Software Develepment Engineer", etc), and the people who have "Ninja" or "Hero" in their title.

So if you look at the standardized title for SDE, it does resolve what the D stands for. But I'm curious what people think it is...Software Design Engineer? Software Development Engineer?

And if you work at Microsoft, no fair peeking first.

Posted by AdamBa at July 10, 2006 09:45 PM

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I believe it is Software Design Engineer. Also, I'm an SDET Lead and I'm pretty sure my title stands for Software Design Engineer in Test.

Posted by: Phil at July 11, 2006 05:56 AM

Definitely "Design".

Posted by: Randy H. at July 11, 2006 05:57 AM

I believe when I applied at Microsoft it was for a Software Development Engineer position. I believe that is what it was in the brochure as well as on the form I filled out before the interview. But regardless, titles don't fully dictate your actions. It's just a fancy way to be classified for a general idea.

Posted by: Paul at July 11, 2006 06:30 AM

Development...I peeked. Design would be a misnomer, since PMs and Architects do the design and SDEs do development (coding) of the design.

Posted by: SDE at July 11, 2006 04:23 PM

It was definitely "Design" when I was hired in '89. And we did the design back then, too. I guess things have changed.

Posted by: ex-SDE at July 11, 2006 09:04 PM

Standard address book titles are coming. JeffR's world already has them as of late May. The interesting piece is that part of the title reveals your level +/- 1. SDE, SDE II, Senior SDE, Principal SDE, Partner SDE. You can add manager or lead to the title also but that is it. No more things like Chief SDE.

Posted by: SDET at July 12, 2006 02:09 AM

Yeah, we have standard titles here in Office. It's interesting, but largely irrelevant to how you do the job or rely on team members for stuff. I do like the transparency though. However, other orgs have been really slow to do this. I want to see this in Windows and the Server business as well as MSN soon. I think that some VPs have been resisting this transparency....hmmmm, wonder why?

Posted by: Office PM at July 12, 2006 04:02 PM

So here's the story. The standard title is Software Development Engineer. That's the answer, right? Well, maybe. If you go to the HR site for college recruiting (http://www.microsoft.com/college/ft_softdeseng.mspx), it says Software Design Engineer. And I honestly thought that's what it was, before I checked.

I dug up my first offer letter from August 1989 and it was Software Design Engineer. So maybe it officially changed at some point to be Software Development Engineer. I would believe that was the case, and the people who worked on the HR website just didn't know that. It is strange however that it is so unclear--certainly looking at the address book titles where the two are almost evenly balanced, there is still a lot of confusion, whichever one turns out to be "right".

Interestingly in the Office standard titles (which are a separate issue), they just use "SDE" so the issue is moot.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at July 12, 2006 04:24 PM

"Emulation Ninja" is the title J Allard gave to everyone who worked on the Xbox Backwards Compatibility project (including the then Director ofMarketing, testers PMs, and devs).

Posted by: Michael Brundage at July 16, 2006 07:55 AM