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Career Advice: Don't Call Yourself a Programmer

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the be-a-leveraged-syngeristic-cloud-solution-instead dept.

Businesses 422

Ian Lamont writes "Patrick McKenzie has written about the do's and don't's of working as a software engineer, and some solid (and often amusing) advice on how to get ahead. One of the first pieces of advice: 'Don't call yourself a programmer: "Programmer" sounds like "anomalously high-cost peon who types some mumbo-jumbo into some other mumbo-jumbo." If you call yourself a programmer, someone is already working on a way to get you fired.' Although he runs his own company, he is a cold realist about the possibilities for new college grads in the startup world: 'The high-percentage outcome is you work really hard for the next couple of years, fail ingloriously, and then be jobless and looking to get into another startup.'"

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But ... (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 3 years ago | (#37879770)

I'm self employed, and even though my boss is jerk he's not going to fire me because I call myself a programmer.

Makes sense (3, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 3 years ago | (#37879772)

If it's one thing America's taught me [] it's that doing useful work is the worst way to earn money around these parts.

Re:Makes sense (3, Funny)

SharkLaser (2495316) | about 3 years ago | (#37879842)

Well, programming practically is the computer-world equivalent of construction worker or cleaners. Sure, it's useful so people actually can get things done, but it isn't practically challenging or something lots of people can't do if given teaching. Developers have to make the important decisions regarding a product. If you wanted to work in the gaming industry, would you rather want to be a coder or actually the game designer?

Re:Makes sense (3, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | about 3 years ago | (#37880038)

Programming has one advantage over construction workers: it's mind-numbing indoor work. Most people cannot stand it. That's the real hurdle keeping people out of the industry.

Re:Makes sense (5, Informative)

etymxris (121288) | about 3 years ago | (#37880094)

Programming seems easy to you and me, but you would be surprised at how many people just cannot do it no matter how much training you give them. Anyone can clean, most people can do construction. Maybe 1 in 10 people could program if they really wanted to, and only 1 in 10 of those will actually want to.

Re:Makes sense (5, Funny)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | about 3 years ago | (#37880160)

Are you saying you are the 1%?

Re:Makes sense (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 3 years ago | (#37880426)

25%, I believe.

Re:Makes sense (4, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 3 years ago | (#37880262)

Exactly ; they've done studies [] that prove this - not everyone can program a computer. Every time I see one of those GUI programming environments designed to enable users to program, I sigh. Real programmers detest them (unless they are a mile-high model overview and they fill in the gaps), and people who can't program still can't program, so implementing them is pointless and counter-productive.

If 30-60% of people who self-selected to go on a Computer Science course can't program, what's the percentage in the general population?

Re:Makes sense (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | about 3 years ago | (#37880394)

Interestingly, spreadsheets does make non-programmers program, to some degree. Someday, I will understand why that is.

Re:Makes sense (4, Interesting)

CodeBuster (516420) | about 3 years ago | (#37880286)

Programming seems easy to you and me, but you would be surprised at how many people just cannot do it no matter how much training you give them.

Please mod parent up. This is exactly right. All of my experience, both in school and now working as a software developer, confirms this.

meh (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37879776)

Don't worry what you call yourself. Do good work and people will want to work with you.

Re:meh (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about 3 years ago | (#37880000)

Hi, I'm the new Arch-clown of Pandemonium. Where's my desk?

Re:meh (1)

Surt (22457) | about 3 years ago | (#37880050)

You laugh, but that was very close to someone's actual title at Blizzard (we picked our own titles). He got recruited away. Why? He was really good at his job.

Depends on why I'm referring to my profession (4, Insightful)

Mean Variance (913229) | about 3 years ago | (#37879792)

In casual conversation among people who wouldn't know the nuances of the various "programmer"-like terms, I do say, "I'm a programmer." It gets the point across simply that most people understand.

If I'm in a semi-professional setting of white collar adults, I usually say "software developer."

On a resume or among those who know the industry standard, I say "I'm a software engineer" because that's my title.

If it's tied to a conversation that might have career potential, I give the true classification at work: senior software engineer.

Re:Depends on why I'm referring to my profession (1)

hey (83763) | about 3 years ago | (#37879938)

Maybe need a new word: programineer.
You are a senior programineer!

more fun.. (2)

mevets (322601) | about 3 years ago | (#37879958)

Invent new meaningless titles for yourself, and for extra grins make them acronym out to something amusing.

Architect of Systems Software
Architect of Computer Interaction Design
Personal Computer Programmer
High Availability Software Head

I'm sure you can do better. There is nothing better than seeing your name and title on a contract, slide or sign and thinking, really, nobody noticed.

Re:more fun.. (2, Funny)

neokushan (932374) | about 3 years ago | (#37880304)

Hi! I'm the Versatile Administrator of Giant Interconnected Network Architectures, nice to meet you.

Re:more fun.. (1)

gfody (514448) | about 3 years ago | (#37880472)

for most Architects of Software Systems that I've met the acronym is totally apt!

Re:Depends on why I'm referring to my profession (1)

kbrannen (581293) | about 3 years ago | (#37880072)

I completely agree that the context and audience of the conversation will strongly influence what I call myself. If I had mod points you'd get some here.

There's a lot of good advice in the article, but the "don't call yourself a programmer" point was not a good one, IMO.

Re:Depends on why I'm referring to my profession (1)

musicalmicah (1532521) | about 3 years ago | (#37880250)

I just say, "I make software." Yes, it's vague, but so is my job -- one day I am fixing a bug, another day I'm ironing out requirements, another day I'm writing tests, but all of it is to support one goal: to make software.

Re:Depends on why I'm referring to my profession (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880288)

What do you call yourself when you're around actual engineers?

Re:Depends on why I'm referring to my profession (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880390)

I always tell people I am a computer jockey.

Such sage advice... (5, Interesting)

The Living Fractal (162153) | about 3 years ago | (#37879812)

Because, you know, the 1000+ currently open job postings for keyword "programmer" on are just a perfect example of situations where people are already looking to fire you. After all, that's why they created the posting, just so they could waste company resources and fire someone.


Re:Such sage advice... (5, Insightful)

snowgirl (978879) | about 3 years ago | (#37879840)

Because, you know, the 1000+ currently open job postings for keyword "programmer" on are just a perfect example of situations where people are already looking to fire you. After all, that's why they created the posting, just so they could waste company resources and fire someone. /sarcasm

Sarcasm and all, this is the rantings of a single person at a single company, about his own personal view of the topic. I could probably find someone who would tell you that using the Oxford comma is likely to get you fired, and due to some forms of projection (the assumption that you are "typical", and you model everyone in the world based on yourself) they will assume that it's the prevalent opinion.

Re:Such sage advice... (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | about 3 years ago | (#37880066)

Agreed - my initial evaluation of this 'story' was it is someone's personal experience that they are projecting as general truth.

Re:Such sage advice... (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 3 years ago | (#37880226)

No kidding. Consider this "gem"^Wlump of coal:

(Quick sidenote: You can absolutely ignore outsourcing as a career threat if you read the rest of this guide.) Nobody ever outsources Profit Centers.

Profit centers are outsourced all the time. "We're making $X by producing it locally, but we can make $5X by outsourcing."

Or this:

In the real world, picking up a new language takes a few weeks of effort and after 6 to 12 months nobody will ever notice you havenâ(TM)t been doing that one for your entire career.

Obviously the type of guy who would say "C? No problem. Memory leaks? No problem." Then leak all over the place.

Re:Such sage advice... (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 3 years ago | (#37880256)

In particular, he does mostly consulting, and from his descriptions, it sounds like mostly for clueless people who aren't going to evaluate the technical quality of the deliverable (or even know what technical quality looks like). That's a real market niche, and a fairly large one, but it's hardly generalizable to all tech jobs. If you're interviewing for embedded systems development, and your attitude is "I can learn C in 6 weeks" and you want to talk more about providing return on value than about your technical skills, you probably aren't going to get the job.

It's Possible... (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | about 3 years ago | (#37880320)

What?!? You don't put two spaces after your periods?!? Better start looking for a new job!!!1

Re:Such sage advice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880028)

Those job postings on are most certainly not the jobs you really want to be taking.

Re:Such sage advice... (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 3 years ago | (#37880186)

Who is Patrick's boss so I can get him fired?

Re:Such sage advice... (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | about 3 years ago | (#37880194)

That's not inconsistent with the idea that a programmer is expensive commodity labor, a cost that needs to be managed, rather than a member of the "inner circle" of those who are intended to have a long-term investment in the business.

Software Engineer (2)

RPGillespie (2478442) | about 3 years ago | (#37879822)

Well, to me, "software engineer" sounds even more high cost than "programmer", since it implies college education.

Re:Software Engineer (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about 3 years ago | (#37880090)

Why don't they just call themselves "DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS"? I heard the ones that do are pretty well-off.

Re:Software Engineer (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | about 3 years ago | (#37880274)

The difference - and it is entirely in perception, yes - is that a "programmer" is a kind of intellectual brute-worker, while a "software engineer" has a conceptual understanding of the specific problem that makes a long-term relationship with the business more important; that they "own" the projects in which they are involved. So while the "software engineer" may cost more, they are treated as part of the business, while the "programmer" is really hired help.

I agree that this is all perception, intuitions about the valences of different terms. It also reflects the fact that business culture in America has been about creating an "inside" and an "outside," between those with some kind of ownership (metaphorically speaking, partially, though equity is involved) in the business, and those who are kept at arm's length to be removed as quickly as possible. Part of the problem is that the first group is getting smaller and richer, and the second group getting bigger, less stable, and generally poorer.

Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (5, Informative)

sichbo (1188157) | about 3 years ago | (#37879834)

In Canada, it's illegal to practice engineering, or call yourself one, without a engineers license. There's nothing worse than retards who get a college degree in programming and start calling themselves "engineers". It's an insult to every actual certified engineer in the world.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 3 years ago | (#37879894)

What about programmers with a Computer Engineering degree?

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (4, Informative)

RichMan (8097) | about 3 years ago | (#37880010)

In Canada the degree does not matter. No one, no matter what qualifations can call themseleves and engineer unless they are a professional engineer.

To be a professional engineer they must be a member of their provincial professional engineering association. This is roughly equivalent toa US lawyer being a member of the bar for a particular US state. The idea is that "Engineers" are professionals and to call yourself one you must be a member of the professional assiation.

What is a professional engineer (Ontario Professional Engineers Organization)->

Most civil and a high percentage of those who graduate from mechanical engineering do become professional engineers. It gets you the official STAMP which is used to mark building and machine documents. Most electrical engineering college graduates do not. Those who work in power engineering do. In Canada the main reason to become a professional engineer is to get your stamp. If your job requires you to stamp designs then you will get your professional engineering membership.

Very few software projects get engineering stamps. The link above also discusses the seal.


what about train engineers? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 years ago | (#37880118)

They are not professional engineers in terms of software or industry. The word engineer dates back to the old days.

Re:what about train engineers? (1)

Zancarius (414244) | about 3 years ago | (#37880200)

They are not professional engineers in terms of software or industry. The word engineer dates back to the old days.

I see the point you're trying to make, but it's actually a straw man. It's akin to confusing the terms "practice," as in "we're going to soccer practice," versus "practice" as in "I work for Dr. Johnson's practice," and then making an argument accordingly.

AFAIK, the US has something similar. Only IEEE-designated degrees can, technically, call themselves engineers (e.g. electrical engineers), but there's no law that I'm aware of that prohibits anyone else from making up an "engineering" practice (there's that word again), even if it's not valid.

Of course, it's all dependent upon context. Engineer in terms of the profession implies a specific educational background, while engineer in the context of the rail industry implies someone who manages or drives trains.

Re:what about train engineers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880386)

They are called Train Operators now, and have been for a long time.
Operating a train does not require anywhere near the amount of expertise that it used to, i.e. no need for an engineer.

Re:what about train engineers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880418)

Train Engineers are called Engineers because in the old days with steam trains that's what you had to be to keep the things running. It was not a simple matter to drive a train and those bastards had to know their shit.

Many places in the USA also, by law, protect the title of "Engineer" to people who are actually licensed. Sadly, North Carolina at least only applies that law to industries that actually have legit Engineers running. Civil Engineering? Yeah, you need a license to call yourself an engineer. Programming/Software Development? You can call yourself Engineer all day and the law won't care.

On a side note, the title of "Architect" is also protected and I know one who gets as pissed at programmers calling themselves "Software Architects" as many engineers do regarding "Software Engineers".

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | about 3 years ago | (#37880338)

This is made complicated by the fact that "software engineering" is a widely understood and accepted practice, with an extensive discourse going back to the 1960s, and has as much to do with organizational issues, workflow etc. as it does with architecture, design and programming. I understand that this is causing some contestation over the term in Canada. In some sense, you can have a group of system architects, developers/programmers etc. all working together doing software engineering without a single "engineer" among them.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 3 years ago | (#37880036)

Unless you're licensed as an engineer, you cannot call yourself a software engineer, not even in Texas [] . See section 1001.004.c.2.c

Only a person licensed under this chapter may make any professional use of the term "Engineer"

Many states have similar provisions. If you see someone calling themselves a "software engineer", but they aren't licensed by the state as an engineer, report them, they are engaging in fraud. Microsoft got nailed and had to change their courses from MCSE for exactly this reason.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

fliptout (9217) | about 3 years ago | (#37880124)

I believe there is an exception to the rule in Texas, where if you work for a company that does manufacturing, you get a pass for calling yourself an engineer. It agitates me to no end seeing people barely qualified to do anything technical take the title of engineer.

-from a software engineer in TX with PE license.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (2)

Mr Z (6791) | about 3 years ago | (#37880132)

For this reason, I've thought about taking the PE and registering. (I live in Texas.) But, it's been 15 years since I graduated with my BSEE, so it'd take some serious studying to refresh myself on all the calculus and such that I don't use every day. (I still remember all my Calc I pretty well. Calc II, Calc III, DiffEq, Advanced Statistics... not so much.)

My business cards have never said "engineer" either. Where I work, the rule seems to be "Take whatever title you would have put engineer after, and just omit 'engineer'." So, back when I was considered a DSP software applications engineer, my business card simply said: "DSP Software Applications". These days, I get to use the title "Architect," which doesn't have the legal baggage. Yay me.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

Arlet (29997) | about 3 years ago | (#37880290)

Depends on where you're from. In some countries, a degree at a technical university will allow you to call yourself an 'engineer', even including a special engineer title you can put in front/behind of your name.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

carpefishus (1515573) | about 3 years ago | (#37879932)

A continuum of Ludicrous: Certified Engineer - No Ludicrousiness Software Engineer Sanitation Engineer - Full On Ludicrousiness

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (4, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 3 years ago | (#37879948)

There's nothing worse than retards who get a college degree in programming and start calling themselves "engineers".

I work with these machines - design them, refine them. You could, with just the slightest hint of fancy, refer to them "difference engines". I am an Engine-er. Welcome to the English language; I suggest that you save yourself some grief and just deal with it.

(Of course you need a license to do something useful in Canada. Woo flippin' hoo. Canadian industry is all about the incumbent industries protecting themselves from competition through regulatory capture. That's also part of why you have such sucky telecom services that you're always complaining about.)

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37879950)

Actually, there is something worse: retards who consider a government blessing as a some sort of indicator of one's ability to get shit done.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

JockTroll (996521) | about 3 years ago | (#37880020)

It's an insult to every actual certified engineer in the world.

There's a solution to that, beat those nerd clowns up and shit on their faces. But first twist their arms so hard they can't jerk off or "code" anymore.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (2)

Rostin (691447) | about 3 years ago | (#37880060)

Licensure in the US is handled by the individual states, and the rules and enforcement can be murky and inconsistent. I have a degree in the one of the traditional areas of engineering, but I am not licensed. I was told in college that in my state, my employer is allowed to refer to me internally as an engineer, but I can't represent myself that way to others (e.g. on my business cards) as an engineer unless I'm a for-real P.E. I'm honestly not sure where the line is, though. It could be a matter of fact that my job title is "Engineer II". If I put that on my resume, am I breaking the law, or is it fine so long as it's sufficiently clear that I'm not claiming to be licensed? Here's an old article [] from 2003 specifically about this issue in Texas. I'm not sure how it turned out, but it looks like a mess.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880088)

Who gives a shit about a backwater like Canada? Even the residents would rather live elsewhere.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

Surt (22457) | about 3 years ago | (#37880092)

We resist this strongly in the US because of the history of people promoting themselves to 'lord' and then demanding the right to tax you and such. So we don't let anyone set claim to a title, though in a few cases we restrict your right to both name yourself something and actually practice at the same time. So you can call yourself a psychologist if you want, as long as you don't make money doing anything remotely resembling therapy.

Depends on the Province... (1)

CmpEng (1123811) | about 3 years ago | (#37880120)

Calling yourself an 'Engineer' in Canada depends on the province you are in. For example, New Brunswick only 'Professional Engineer' is registered while in Ontario it is both 'Professional Engineer' and 'Engineer'. And yes I hold an engineering degree in computer engineering.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880166)

"it's illegal to practice engineering"

It's illegal for someone to solve problems without an engineering license?

All an engineer is, is someone who applies logic and science to solve a problem.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

slyborg (524607) | about 3 years ago | (#37880198)

One of the (few) things that I still am glad about in working in the software field is the absence of retards brandishing some kind of government-issued license and feeling this entitles them to some kind of respect. You're judged on your skills and knowledge *as demonstrated* in this business. If this offends you, you're definitely in the wrong place, since I'd bet 95% of the people on /. have no form of professional licensure.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880298)

Look up the etymology of the word engineer. I create works of ingenuity using software. That makes me a software engineer, and the distinction from just programming is worth making, I think. That the makers of tangible machines decided they wanted the word all to themselves some time ago doesn't change its meaning.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880340)

there's nothing worse than retards who keep going on about this meaningless distinction. fuck Canada. you're making a distinction between "licensed engineer" and "guy who does the exact same thing but without a license". they're both doing engineers and should both be considered engineers. you only want to recognize the legal one because you love bending over for the gov't. go eat shit and die.

Re:Programmer != Engineer, idiot. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880424)

I suspect you're mistaken. The title "Professional Engineer" is, in the US, only permitted to be used by those people who have completed the difficult set of exams and earned the appropriate experience as required by the licensing state ( Relatively few people that study and have an engineering career become PEs because of the long and difficult exams that are required for the license, and also because most organizations only need a handful of PEs to certify the work done by a group of engineers.

Furthermore, by your standard, my wife, who has a B.S. in mechanical engineering, is no more an engineer than I am with my software engineering master's degree and computer science undergraduate.

Engineering concepts can be applied to software just the same as any "traditional" engineering discipline. The only difference is that engineers learn some sort of applied phyics, while software engineers focus more on logic, mathematics, etc. I'm a software engineer, so piss off.

Anyway, what do non-licensed engineers in Canada call themselves? I suspect they still call themselves engineers.

Everybody is an engineer? (5, Insightful)

babblesaurus (2473482) | about 3 years ago | (#37879846)

. . . and 'real' engineers everywhere weep. Obviously every case may be unique, but calling yourself one thing which has a set of implications does sort of slander professionals in the field whose titles you are trying to snag.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (5, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 3 years ago | (#37879882)

. . . and 'real' engineers everywhere weep. Obviously every case may be unique, but calling yourself one thing which has a set of implications does sort of slander professionals in the field whose titles you are trying to snag.

I agree 100%! As we all know, real engineers drive trains.

chugga chugga chugga chugga choo chooooo!

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37879952)

Wow, and here we are talking about eople who have degrees in "Software Engineering" and can be certified in "Software Engineering".. Sounds liek a bunch of ignorant idiots projecting.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (1)

rbrander (73222) | about 3 years ago | (#37880078)

No. Real Engineers are held responsible for their mistakes, like doctors. They go to jail if the building falls and kills somebody.
This has never happened with a software "engineer". That's the difference.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (1)

Arlet (29997) | about 3 years ago | (#37880188)

Of course, when you learn to design a building, they teach you how you can calculate whether the building is strong enough. There are methods and tools for that purpose.

For software, there are no tools or methods that you can use to determine if a program has some fatal bugs. You're on your own, and usually with a tight deadline and no budget.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880268)

Welcome to Formal Verification [] !

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (0)

Arlet (29997) | about 3 years ago | (#37880322)

Formal verification only moves the problem from the implementation to the specification. Writing a sufficiently detailed and unambiguous specification is the same as programming, but in a different language.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880330)

I think I heard somewhere that you can prove using formal methods , that a software piece has zero bugs.But it is so time-expensive, that no one does it.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (2)

rbrander (73222) | about 3 years ago | (#37880406)

If you think structural engineering is not done on deadlines and budgets, you're kidding yourself.

But your main point is mostly correct - real software engineering is HARD. One of my courses was about applying mathematical proof methods to programs and proving them correct. It was HARD. Exponentially so for more-complex programs.

However, it *is* done, mostly in EE with control systems. Medical equipment, phone exchanges , aircraft control - anything where people die if there's a failure and the maker gets sued for it - is done to engineering standards. That is, it costs 10x as much per line of code. Boeing's software guys I have no problem calling "Engineers"; but of course, most of them already were before they added programming totheir skills.

All software could be done to such standards, but we don't want to pay for that , so we endure some bugs instead. Less in some places than others, though - banks have very few software errors.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880242)

Working for a company that makes software that needs to be 21CFR Part 11 compliant for the FDA... I must say that you sir, are wrong..

Programmers are most definitely held responsible for their mistakes where I work... If you don't know how to make very tightly controlled changed to validated software and fully document the potential impact of those changes to the satisfaction of the FDA, they'll kick you out of the business faster than you can press Undo.. Where I work, programmer mistakes CAN get people killed and programmers CAN be investigated as an individually by the FDA and can face serious jail time if they signed documents but didn't implement them.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880258)

No. Real Engineers are held responsible for their mistakes

Actually they have insurance for such circumstances. Most of us dont get paid like doctors and engineers, because we dont need to pay the liability insurance like doctors and engineers. If the software industry had to pay liability from loss of revenue due to software failure, there wouldnt be a software industry as we know it. That is the reason for all the "Use at your own risk" EULA's.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (2)

The Living Fractal (162153) | about 3 years ago | (#37880102)

Or to take it even further, back in the 1300s when an engineer was someone who operated military 'engines' - aka machines like catapults.

And let's not forget the Army Corps of Engineers.

Point being, if someone goes to school to learn how to mix chemicals together and then comes out angry that other people are calling themselves engineers, too, but without the schooling, then maybe that someone should go BACK to school and learn some history.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880032)

Perhaps you, and the others who rated you, should come back when you actually know what the word Engineer means.
Software development completely comes under the Engineering context.

Re:Everybody is an engineer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880058)

Yes yes, and I always assume that Doctors of Philosophy can perform brain surgery. Sorry we co-opted your word, but we did, so... Neener neener? Does that sound appropriate? ;-)

Recent graduate advice (3, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 3 years ago | (#37879856)

It doesn't matter if your first job leaves you unemployed and searching again in a few years. It matters that you're working with people who are smarter than you are and learning how to actually program and write software effectively. Job security? Pay? If you end up as an undifferentiated code monkey left to your own devices or, worse, fighting a monstrous legacy code base and bureaucracy that you're powerless to alter *cough*IBM*cough... you can very easily find you've crippled the rest of your career. At best, the work will be a dull slog.

Go for the startup, if they sound like they have some idea of how to do things right and will offer you meaningful professional development. If you can't take a career risk at this point in your life, when do you think you will be able to? And then for Job #2, you'll have some Skills. You'll be infinitely more employable. You might even be able to look at the monstrous legacy codebase and say, with the authority of experience, that this stinks and there's a better way to do it and yes you will do that refactoring, and you won't hate your job.

Diversify (1)

rogueippacket (1977626) | about 3 years ago | (#37879858)

Programmers can be outsourced. Employees with unique skills and an interest in the business can't be. Diversify yourself and stay engaged with your management and you will have nothing to worry about, even as a fresh grad.

Don't call your server... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37879860)

Don't call your server a server. It is only just a fiery pile of metal parts after being slashdotted.

Career Advice (1)

crucifiction (2330280) | about 3 years ago | (#37879864)

Make sure your website can scale properly. These days there is no excuse except for laziness. Getting slash dotted? Spin up 100 EC2 hosts for a day and load balance them. This isn't rocket science.

Developer, not engineer. (2)

Vellmont (569020) | about 3 years ago | (#37879918)

I've always hated the term Software Engineer. I've never identified with engineers, or engineering. To me software development is a form of applied mathematics, not engineering.

Programmer is usually associated with a low-skill person who cranks out code. A developer is someone who has to understand the problem inside and out, not merely just complete the task as prescribed.

Re:Developer, not engineer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880096)

Well when I get on with hotty art students I call myself a "Poetry Monkey", calling yourself a "developer" just sounds like you have no experience, and you are definitely not going to get any hotty action. Trust me it totally works.

Posting anon obviously because a nerd getting laid could loose his tin foil hat.

Re:Developer, not engineer. (2)

xero314 (722674) | about 3 years ago | (#37880138)

There is clearly a difference between Programing, Engineering and Architecture. Most of us that have been in the industry for a while have figured this out. You need to find your place in that structure. I personally identify myself as a Software Engineer (perfectly legal in the US as long as I work for someone else). But I identify that way because I send more of my time working on bigger picture items and include in such considerations topics like engineering ethics, than the time I spend typing out code. I can't identify with Architecture at this point because I don't spend my days sitting around making diagrams and drawing pretty pictures, I actually spend my time figuring out how to get actual work done.

All three of these classifications are important when selling, designing and building large systems. The smaller, and less critical, the system the less likely you need each of these categories, which is very similar to material engineering (You can build a bring over your back yard stream all by your lonesome, but you would probably have a hard time building a span of over the Mississipi, for public use, without have a full team).

Programmers are the welders and plumbers of the software industry. They are important and necessary. They would probably do well to organize and bargain collectively. Engineers fill a different role, though they might write code now and again, it should not be their top priority.

Re:Developer, not engineer. (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | about 3 years ago | (#37880408)

While I am technically a software engineer, I tell people I am a programmer. I don't feel that saying you are a programmer denotes you as low-skill. I'd like to see some of these people bashing the term sit down and write a physics simulation engine from scratch.

Developer, to me, says "I work for someone else trying to come up with a solution to their problems." Programmer, to me, says "I make computers go" - without too much additional information. Engineer seems to me like "I get hung up on this rounding error for two days trying to make everything completely perfect".

Frankly, I'd rather be the "make computers go" guy.

In Canada it's illegal to call yourself a software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37879924)

- engineer unless you have the right training and certification. It's like calling yourself a civil engineer in the us without a license.

I did it anyway as I had so much experience that I felt I qualified without the certification.

Re:In Canada it's illegal to call yourself a softw (1)

xero314 (722674) | about 3 years ago | (#37880230)

In Canada it's illegal to call yourself a software engineer unless you have the right training and certification. It's like calling yourself a civil engineer in the us without a license.

Actually in the United States you can call yourself what ever you want. What you can't do is sell your services as a independent Engineer without having the appropriate certification. If you work in the Engineering department of a company in an Engineering capacity, then you have every right to call yourself an engineer. If you have graduated from a university with a degree in Engineering, you have every right to refer to yourself as an engineer. If there is no certification organization in your field you can sell your services as an engineer. The certification organizations would like you to think otherwise, but they know full well that in the US an engineer is defined by what you do not what your certifications are. This is also on a state by state basis, unless seeking a federal government contract.

If my state offered a certification in software Engineering then I'd be happy to go about the process. But there are very few states that offers Software Engineering Certification (Texas being the only one I can think of off the top of my head, and even that one is not nationally recognized).

A real programmer call himself a programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37879928)

Now get off my lawn.

Need people to cut code (3, Interesting)

etymxris (121288) | about 3 years ago | (#37879962)

Too many people in IT don't know the first thing about writing code. I think things are changing though. Companies seem to realize you can get by with less people that can do more if your workers can actually program.

Calling oneself a "programmer" tells us exactly what we want to know when we're looking at candidates. So many people put C, C++, Java, C# or whatever on their resume and can't even write a simple for loop.

Patrick McKenzie isn't right about how he describes businesses and employees. We see resumes all the time where someone highlights how they saved their last company six, seven, or eight figures. We don't want to hear that. We want to hear that you have the skills needed to do the job we're hiring you for.

He also isn't right about the language not mattering. It's much easier to go from low level languages to higher level languages than vice versa. If someone was an expert in VB or Python, we would be very hesitant to hire them for a position that required coding in C. And if someone can pick up a language in just a few weeks, then they should do that before they apply to jobs asking for that skill set.

Binary Interior Decorator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37879990)

Much better title. Also includes hardware support.

Might have to explain if you aren't gay. Not that theres anything wrong with that.

Fuck a sHit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880002)

a popular 'newS being GAY NIGGERS. th3 project to

I knew AD&D would help! (5, Funny)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 3 years ago | (#37880080)

That's why I put "20th Level Code Rogue/Network Warlock" on my resume.

Idiots (1)

Dunge (922521) | about 3 years ago | (#37880110)

If you work with someone that think you are worthless because you are a programmer, leave this place anyway, it's not worth it.

I don't call "a programmer" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880134)

I call myself "The Programmer"

I Prefer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880142)

I prefer "code monkey".

half joke, half serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880144)

How about 'one of those guys that makes things *go* '. Surely they cant be fired.

joomla programmer (1)

alphatel (1450715) | about 3 years ago | (#37880158)

I don't know, would you rather be a joomla programmer or a web guy?

the right way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880222)

The following is the best way I found to address this issue (it might have been a little bit different in the past).
When in company of real programmers I would say "I am a programmer...that other programmer I met..".
Not that I actually need to say anything, since I will recognize them, and they will recognize me.
When in company of everyone else I say "I am a software engineer".
Many programmers I meet tend to use some variation of this behavior.

Programmers are not Software Engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37880246)

You have to remember there's a big difference between a software engineer and a programmer. In some countries it's illegal to call yourself a software engineer unless you have an engineering degree. You would not for instance hire a programmer to develop avionics software, a software engineer with a Software Engineering degree would have a better understanding of engineering principals involved as opposed to a Bachelor of Computer Science. If you're confused what to call yourself just Google the terms and it will be clear. In most cases you cannot call yourself an Engineer without having an Engineering degree.

That's why I don't use that phrase. (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 3 years ago | (#37880272)

Instead, growing up on the west coast full of gullible idiots, I call myself a "holistic digital globalistic digital metaphysicist."

Don't be just a programmer (2)

rbrander (73222) | about 3 years ago | (#37880300)

I've had a terrific career, culminating in a six-figure salary, six weeks vacation, very flexible start times (they wearily put up with my 10AM arrivals as long as I stay to 6), and my choice of projects, and my boss's, boss's, boss's boss recently writing me to congratulating me on 25 years of service and 40 years since I started programming (at 13, with punch-cards) with kind words like "one of our best assets" and "one of a kind".

My secret? I started with a "real" engineering degree and a few years experience at it, then went back or the CompSci degree. I was going to take CompSci at 18 after 5 years of "fun" programming and some paid work doing stats with FORTRAN for civil eng grad students; but backed out with a funny feeling that I should start off in closer touch with the "real world". Best call I ever made.

Being grounded as first an engineer, accountant, doctor, lawyer, nurse, salesperson, surveyor, MBA, technician, any profession that involves a lot of data - in these web days that includes "graphic artist" and "PR", is the difference between GP and medical specialist.

The value you add is that you can skip over half the money spent on software - the requirements analysis, the whole phase of explaining the problem to programmers. Plus, you can go back and forth from yor base profession to w"mostly programming" as the needs of the business come and go. Where there are big software projects, you're the obvious guy to be project leader, you know when the hired programmers are BS-ing or just off-track.

And you're the guy everybody relies upon when the IT systems are balky.What really freaked me is the calls for help I getfrom "kids"- Junior engineers in their early 20's who grew up with Windows PC's and the Web- but they've never studiedprogramming at all. They really aren't sure how to replace me!

So: don't just not call yourself a programmer - don't be one. Enhance another profession with programming.

It was good enough for this guy... (0)

Sam Nitzberg (242911) | about 3 years ago | (#37880360)

Yes, Ken Thompson....


From the original document...,ken+thompson&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESibF-uVJXM7x_bfCWNz5chFMmYAUIxab__PJLL6zJOzKIFFP7_matZ6wmwqghTasmglEDX-UeS3McfIK1xR5i8_BY-wZ9fcbOitAsETD0o-MyewT8PPveCyQ7lZZD2jI0ArQA52&sig=AHIEtbSKScx76XaTVYkxJ0sl05FJWnQI2A

Words mean stuff. (1)

blindseer (891256) | about 3 years ago | (#37880442)

When I worked in Texas I heard about some legal trouble that Microsoft got into. They were handing out these pieces of paper that said "certified engineer" on them. Well, in Texas law (IIRC) the only legal way you could claim to be an engineer was if you had a professional engineer license issued by the state, or you operated a train. People got around this by using the "MSCE" acronym and not defining the term on resumés, business cards, and such. People would also say that they "have an engineering degree" which was OK under the law since people did not claim to be an actual engineer but only had the training to become one.

It was a couple years after I heard about this Microsoft trouble that they stopped issuing "MSCE" certificates but started to use the terms "professional", "developer", "technician", "architect" (I have to wonder if that term is legally loaded as well), "administrator", "specialist", and perhaps a few other terms. Microsoft no longer claims to be producing engineers.

Point is that people cannot just call themselves an engineer if they like. Words mean stuff. The word "engineer" is a legal term in many states. Putting "software engineer" on a business card or resumé and not having an engineering license from the state can get a person in trouble for practicing engineering without a license, or some other crime.

I've had jobs where my title included the term "engineer" but I've never been licensed by the state as an engineer. That somehow seems to get around the law. Perhaps my engineering degree, issued by a state recognized university, allowed me to do that without legal trouble. Maybe the "certified engineer" term is what got Microsoft in trouble.

Point is that certain words have legal meaning, "engineer" is one of them. Be careful how and where you use that word.

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