My entire professional career has been within the walls of MSFT, unless you count my short stint as a web developer for country music artists in Nashville back in the day...

At Microsoft, I'm an SDET - a software developer engineer in test.  That means we write code to test code.  Our dev skills generally need to be on par with developers; it's just that we're focused on finding bugs rather than creating them :)

I recently moved to North Carolina, where Microsoft doesn't have a very large presence.  In fact, our office is tiny - only about 35 people vs. the tens of thousands in Redmond.  As I've been talking to other people in the area, I find more and more people who are amazed we have a definitive QA role in Microsoft.

I'm just curious to get some reports of how QA fits in at other software companies.  I know some large companies like Amazon.com and Google have similar roles, and some smaller shops just have the devs write the tests if they get a chance before they ship (scary), but what about your company?  Does your company have dedicated testers?  Do they interact closely with the devs?  Are they expected to have developer skills?  Do they write code, or just manually test?  How are their contributions respected?

Feel free to respond anonymously if you prefer. 

Not looking to make a change of course... just curious.