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The Life of a Software Engineer

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the code-as-an-art-form dept.

Programming 519

Jonathan Wise writes to share with us an interesting bit of prose describing life as a software engineer. "I am, in the States, known as a Software Engineer. In Canada we're not allowed to call ourselves engineers, although the discipline is no less rigorous than any other kind of engineering. But perhaps its for the best, because 'engineering' describes only a part of what I do. A software developer must be part writer and poet, part salesperson and public speaker, part artist and designer, and always equal parts logic and empathy."

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I'm a software engineer. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295034)

Asides from solving problems and the day-to-day stuff, I spend most of my time on either /. or this site. [nimp.org] Unless the boss tells me something else to do, I make my own schedule.

Re:I'm a software engineer. (4, Informative)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295096)

It's a troll, and definitely NSFW.

WARNING: GNAA (3, Informative)

SirBudgington (1232290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295102)

Parent post contains link to nasty shock site which screws with your browser.

Re:WARNING: GNAA (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295508)

Javascript: just say no! (turn it OFF, browse safely)

Life of a software engineer? (5, Funny)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295088)

Life? We don't have a life!

No less rigourous? (5, Funny)

Chris_Jefferson (581445) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295104)

although the discipline is no less rigourous than any other kind of engineering

Oh? Your wall has fallen down? That just seems to happens sometimes. Well, just push it up, go outside your house and come back in. Hopefully it won't happen again.

Re:No less rigourous? (3, Interesting)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295268)

A damned 'Engineer' in all the title's glory developed my car, and yet half the time a warning light comes on, I'm told to turn the car off, wait a minute, turn it back on and hope it doesn't show up again. And the 'Engineer' that designed our local highway, forgot about this thing called 'grade' and why it's important to have water run off the road rather than pooling in the middle of it. Many millions of dollars later in court, it was verified that the Engineer f'ed up the plans and the construction crews were not at fault. So care to tell me about the 'rigours' of this so called Engineer?

Re:No less rigourous? (4, Insightful)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295618)

Interestingly enough, that first one sounds like something in the computer is messed up....hmm, software maybe?

Re:No less rigourous? (4, Interesting)

dmatos (232892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295738)

And the Engineer who stamped the plans before construction began is now personally liable for all the damage caused. That is the difference (in Ontario) between someone who is an Engineer, and someone who just calls themselves one (illegally). That person has probably been stripped of their certification, and can never work as an Engineer again. There are responsibilities associated with being a Professional Engineer, and penalties should those responsibilities not be met.

Re:No less rigourous? (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295794)

Many millions of dollars later in court, it was verified that the Engineer f'ed up the plans and the construction crews were not at fault.

You just proved his point! There was a huge court case, and it was verified as to which party was at fault. The Engineer might have lost his license over it, too, if the damages were that high. So yes, that's the difference: the Engineer was held accountable.

But software is different, for some reason. For example, do you see that happen with Microsoft? Hell no! If Microsoft were held accountable for its software like Engineers are, the company would have been sued into oblivion and Bill Gates would be in jail for gross negligence. And so would the responsible parties of every other software company.

Re:No less rigourous? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295884)

The engineer who messed up that highway is responsible for his mistake (thus the court case) and, if he messed up badly enough, will be censured by his professional organization. The engineer who designed your car, if it was one (it may not have to be in that case) is also responsible if, say, your brakes fail and you die or are injured because of a design flaw.

The "software engineer" in the article, who sounds more like a programmer, is not.

He can't call himself an engineer in Canada because here that word means something more than just "I design and/or build stuff." We do have software engineers, who go through a software engineering program in university and are members of a professional engineering organization that regulates them.

Re:No less rigourous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295908)

You do realize that the idiots lights in a car are triggered by a computer, right? Using software, right? So if rebooting the car's computer turns the light off, it's was turned on in the first case by a software error.

I've actually had a car computer crash on me once. It was neat - all the indicator lights stopped working, but amazingly enough all the mechanical parts (you know, the parts designed by engineers and not software people) worked just fine.

Drove to where it was safe to stop by the side of the road, turned the car off and back on again, and the car computer came back on and all of a sudden all the computerized parts started working again.

Thankfully all the important parts were designed by engineers, or else I could have died...

Re:No less rigourous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295290)

Bridges collapse, walls become moist and moldy, roofs leak. Engineers don't deliver perfection either. The lack of a difference becomes more obvious when engineers have to work under the same time and budget constraints as software developers. You know they would push up walls and hope for the best if their budget for repairs were non-existent.

Re:No less rigourous? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295772)

"If builders built buildings the way programmers write programs, the first woodpecker would destroy civilization".

Re:No less rigourous? (2, Insightful)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295368)

Yeah, show me where the software engineer's signature is from the guy who guarantees that the software won't kill anyone.

I guess it depends on what he means by rigorous, though. At least in most kinds of engineering the problems aren't unexplored, so you have some guidelines to work within that pretty much guarantee your building won't catch on fire.

But there's a huge difference between guaranteeing something will work and making something that pretty much works most of the time, we think. Comparing the two is slightly ridiculous.

Re:No less rigourous? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295456)

I'm not sure what the point of your comment is. Walls in houses fall down a lot.

Re:No less rigourous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295998)

I'm not sure what the point of your comment is. Walls in houses fall down a lot.


Well, what happens more frequently: your software crashing or a wall of your house falling down? If you have to spend more than a fraction of a second thinking that one over, then you've bought a bad house.

Yeah, right! (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295646)

I'm a student of both civil engineering and computer science, and I'll tell you this: most people who call themselves "software engineers" are wankers who have no idea what Engineering actually means. So they have some UML and unit tests? Well, that's wonderful -- at least they're not just randomly bashing on keyboards. But it ain't Engineering.

So what is Engineering, you might ask? Well, here's a clue: being an Engineer means that when you screw up, people die. It means that the thing you're making has to conform to standards for safety and performance. And those standards are legally enforced, and you have to be able to prove that your work meets them. It means responsibility. Ask people what professions they think require high responsibility, and they might say something like "doctor." Well, doctors really don't have all that much: unlike Engineers, they can only kill their patients one at a time. Engineers kill people in big groups.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to disparage computer science, or programming. But us programmers shouldn't pretend that our craft is anything other than that: a craft. It's not Engineering, it's not even science unless you're doing theory, and compared to either of those things we're still bumbling around in the Dark Ages.

If I were applying for a programming job, and the interviewer told me that my title was going to be "software engineer," you know what I'd do? I'd laugh at him, and then insist he change it to something else. There are exceptions to this, of course: people who are writing code to do things like controlling space ships, performing structural analysis, or regulating a nuclear power plant can likely legitimately call themselves Engineers. But the vast majority of programming jobs aren't like that.

Re:Yeah, right! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295836)

Mod parent insightful.

Far too much software is simply hacked together for anyone but some truly intelligent computer scientists to refer to themselves as "engineers".

Re:No less rigourous? (5, Insightful)

nonsequitor (893813) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295722)

Sure, make light of the industry. I've been writing safety critical software for the last 7 years. You can thank the software engineers that wrote the fuel injector firmware for the turboprop on your plane for properly engineering it to always work. And while you're at it the software engineers who wrote the code running the life support systems in the ICU also deserve some props.

Not all of us work in a fault tolerant environment. Because we do our jobs well, you don't hear about the latest scandal on Slashdot. This would explain the lack of articles about software bugs causing airbags in Ford cars failing to deploy. I know you were just joking, but to some of us, software engineering is serious business.

Re:No less rigourous? (2, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295984)

And those are real engineers, either you or the person who signs off (literally) on your work, taking responsibility for its safety and performance.

The programmer whose responsibility ends when he's done writing his code is not an engineer.

Yes, you can call yourself an Engineer, if... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295106)

In Canada you're allowed to call yourself a Software Engineer if you hold (go figure) a software engineering degree and have met all the professional requirements of being an engineer.

Re:Yes, you can call yourself an Engineer, if... (4, Insightful)

Fox_1 (128616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295258)

He's right. http://www.softeng.uwaterloo.ca/Current/grad_info.htm [uwaterloo.ca]

The inability for random people to call themselves software engineers in Canada is because the Real Engineers objected to the proliferation of people with MCSE's and the the like doing a discredit to the standards of the profession, both in terms of training and work results.

So go to university for 4 or so years and you'll get the respect you crave. And the nifty IRON ring, much sexier then token ring any day.

Re:Yes, you can call yourself an Engineer, if... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295526)

How do they feel about Computer Scientists?

Re:Yes, you can call yourself an Engineer, if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295678)

No particular regulations.

Re:Yes, you can call yourself an Engineer, if... (1)

Tridus (79566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295686)

Seems to be a fair number of jobs for those, so long as you don't want to call yourself an engineer.

Re:Yes, you can call yourself an Engineer, if... (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295898)

So go to university for 4 or so years and you'll get the respect you crave.
I graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering. My job title can be Software Engineer (though it could be even if I dropped out of High School here in the U.S.). However, I cannot call myself a Professional Engineer even with my degree because I would have to go spend about $5,000 on a certification program, in addition to the $30,000 or so I spent on college.
Interestingly, even if I did get the Professional Engineer certification, I would still not be entitled to so much as change out a circuit breaker box. That requires an Electrician's license.

Er, yeah... (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295114)

A software developer must be part writer and poet, part salesperson and public speaker, part artist and designer, and always equal parts logic and empathy.

  A mythical beast then, eh?

More like a code monkey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295240)

In most cases, mostly a code monkey, holed up in a dark office, with very little social interaction with others. Probably a little bit smelly too.

Re:Er, yeah... (2, Funny)

alexj33 (968322) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295254)

A software developer must be part writer and poet, part salesperson and public speaker, part artist and designer, and always equal parts logic and empathy.

....insert sad violin music here.... :(

Re:Er, yeah... (1)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295706)

A software developer must be part writer and poet, part salesperson and public speaker, part artist and designer, and always equal parts logic and empathy.

Poet? No.
Salesperson? No.
Empathy? Hell no.

None of these are part of the job, although they are a part of being a human being.

A software engineer is a digital cook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295124)

Nobody cares what goes into it, as long as the result satisfies the taste of the customer. Monosodium glutamate helps the lazy chef who feeds the masses.

Re:A software engineer is a digital cook (2, Funny)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295352)

Would that mean java programmers are baristas?

Re:A software engineer is a digital cook (4, Funny)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295628)

No, the baristas didn't want their title being denigrated in such a demeaning fashion.

You have got to be kidding me. Get over yourself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295164)

You have got to be kidding me. Get over yourself.

Huh? (5, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295168)

I'm obviously going to be modded down for this, but what does this blog post do on the front page of Slashdot? I mean ti's not news, it's just a guy with a job like another telling us his life. Surely that may be relevant to some, but that's just a blog entry about someone's life among others, so what the hell is it doing here? Is that guy pals with ScuttleMonkey?

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295350)

Apperently he has more of a life than you. You're here at Slashdot bitching about a blog post about a blog post. Who cares? You maybe, but most othere people simply ignored it.

Re:Huh? (1)

Kenoli (934612) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295356)

This article seems unworthy...
I say seems because I can't actually access the article. I'm going off the title. It tells me that it is an uninteresting and generally useless blob of text.
I'll assume the site has been temporarily destroyed by being erroneously linked-to on the front page of slashdot.

Re:Huh? (1)

davido42 (956948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295390)

== slow Slashdot day?

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295408)

Yeah, if I'd seen it on the firehose, I'd have labelled it binspam.

Re:Huh? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295490)


I mean ti's not news, it's just a guy with a job like another telling us his life.

It seems you have a rather narrow definition of news. Newspapers have fluff pieces about peoples lives all the time. Newspaper columnists are known make an entire career out of doing what you just describe.

It may not be any good, it may be crap (I can't read the thing as it's slashdotted), but just because it's not "something that happened today or yesterday" doesn't make it "not news".

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295648)

Newspapers have fluff pieces about peoples lives all the time.

Which is why many of us stopped reading newspapers for tech news and come to slashdot instead.

Re:Huh? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295684)

It seems you have a rather narrow definition of news.

Au contraire, you seem to have a fairly wide definition of news. What is less news than this according to you?

Re:Huh? (1)

forestbrooke (1171427) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295538)

well, seems like scuttle monkey had a bone to pick with this guy... slashdotted his site and blog and everything else to mulch!! ex-girlfriend's 'friend'?

Part artist and designer (2, Insightful)

mini me (132455) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295176)

Using a bridge-building analogy, in my opinion the software development phase is akin to designing the bridge. You've got to present what you want it to look like and how you want it to function in a visually appealing way but the exact details aren't your concern, that's up to the engineer to figure out. In the software world, the computer plays the role of the engineer. It's up to the computer to figure out how to implement what you've described. Therefore, Canada has it right. Software development isn't engineering at all.

Re:Part artist and designer (1)

PJ1216 (1063738) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295286)

or you can make the analogy comparing it to engineer/construction worker. the software engineer writes the blueprints and what not, the computer just puts it together.

analogies are great that way. you can make almost any argument if you really try. Seeing as how the definition usually comes down to one who uses science and practicality to solve problems, I think engineer can apply.

Re:Part artist and designer (1)

jeti (105266) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295360)

Are you clueless or are you a Prolog programmer?

Re:Part artist and designer (2, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295574)

Canada does have software engineers. The difference is that you can't just decide to call yourself a software engineer without having the proper credentials. Just like you can't call yourself a doctor if you aren't a doctor.

Re:Part artist and designer (3, Funny)

MCZapf (218870) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295768)

If they engineered bridges the way they "engineer" software, they would just take parts of existing bridges plus random scraps of custom metal and concrete, duct tape it all together, and test the result to see if it crashes.

Re:Part artist and designer (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295978)

well, depends on the software in question. common software development isn't engineering by a long shot and should never be referred to as such.

if you're something where actual engineering principles and standards need to be and are applied, like the software for airliner's control systems or medical equipment, or something else in the "if this fucks up, people die" realm, that can definitely be called software engineering.

Re:Part artist and designer (1)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295814)

I would love to know what kind of computer can figure out how to implement anything. A computer is as stupid as a compass or a plumb bob. It doesn't figure anything out on it's own. Through the science of computer programming, which is no less difficult than the science of physics or chemistry, it is up to us as Software Engineers to build applications from detailed requirements docs that must meet stringent levels of quality to the satisfaction of the clients who will use it. You miss a zero here or use the wrong conversion formula there and a billion dollar satelite burns up in the atmosphere, a building collapses, or an bridge ends up in the river. Nobody is going to blaim the computer for not implementing the requirements correctly. So go tell your protractor to implement your next architectual project ;)

Re:Part artist and designer (1)

seriesrover (867969) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295938)

Engineer : a person trained and skilled in the design, construction, and use of engines or machines.


I'm sorry, but you're talking nonsense. Engineering is the application of [applied] mathematics to create a machine of sorts. The "function in a visually appealing way" is the role of UI designer. The computer can't create or engineer something (even with AI \ fuzzy logic etc) - it can only follow a set of instructions and execute them exactly each time ....but it takes an engineer to create those rules the first time. Sure, the computer can play role as a sophisticated tool to aid an engineer but it can not "figure out the details" itself and consequently is not the engineer.

a wiseguy, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295190)

I haven't visited the site, but that's because this Jonathan Wise guy sounds like a huge egotistical asshole based on his summary. No thanks.

You can't visit the site anyway (1)

VampireByte (447578) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295558)

It times out... I guess that ego can't be channeled to power everything.

Summary (4, Funny)

middlemen (765373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295194)

"I want to be an engineer, sex can wait !" -- and this sums up the life of an engineer...

Re:Summary (3, Insightful)

geekgirlandrea (1148779) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295750)

For some of us, sex was never really an option most of the time.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295200)

Are you looking for a date in this place??

Could become interesting after the third repost I guess ...

Link timed out....but, this is /. .... (2, Interesting)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295206)

... we're not allowed to call ourselves engineers...

I've ran across EEs, MEs, CEs, you get the idea, here in the US that insisted that software coders, Computer scientists, or LAN engineers were not engineers. Basically, they said that their profession was based on physical laws - engineering is applied physical science - whereas CS is based on man made rules just like grammar and writing. And you don't see writers being called "language engineers". Snobbery? Maybe, but I kind of sympathize with them because looking at all of the different computer languages, computational methods, etc... I can see their point.

Re:Link timed out....but, this is /. .... (1)

Punko (784684) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295424)

Parent is close, engineering is the application of science (not only physical science). Software coding is no different than specification writing or CAD drawing. These specific tasks (which are often performed by engineers) are the expression of the design ideas through a medium. Our drawings and specifications make things happen; so does software. You may make the arguement that the software is designed, indeed it is, according to the performance criteria established by an engineer. But the control software for a treatment plant is a different beast to web application. One is regulated as it pertains to public safety, whereas the other is not.

Re:Link timed out....but, this is /. .... (1)

croddy (659025) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295484)

More to the point, an engineer has a degree from an accredited engineering program and has passed the exams and other professional requirements for an engineering license. The word has been diluted mostly by people who not only have insufficient technical understanding to practice in the fields to which it is applied, but even to distinguish those fields from other technical fields.

Re:Link timed out....but, this is /. .... (3, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295486)

I've met software engineers that I'd be happy to refer to as "software engineers". I've also met code-monkeys that will happily claim "software engineer" status. Canada's upholding some standard for the term engineer is spot on. Get a degree and proper accreditation, and then you get your title. This may sound egotistical, but it's unfortunate that, here in the US, describing myself as an "electrical engineer" distinguishes me only slightly from the "sanitation engineer" that hauls off my recyclables once a week.

Re:Link timed out....but, this is /. .... (1)

ZeroPly (881915) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295582)

Well, here in the U.S. the guy who rides on the back of the garbage truck is a "sanitation engineer", so I think the word engineer is used more as a feel-good affirmation than as an actual descriptor.

I think the word should be reserved for positions that require significant technical, and especially mathematical knowledge. If you don't know at least some math that an advanced HS student wouldn't, then you're not an engineer. Sorry, but reading books on methodology doesn't make what you do complex.

A software engineer may get to travel (1)

NetDanzr (619387) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295216)

I just returned from a seven weeks stint in Europe as a software engineer. My company sent me there because according to my boss there are limits on software exports from the US - they found it cheaper and more time efficient to do all the affected coding in Europe, and thus avoid these limitations.

Re:A software engineer may get to travel (1)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295340)

And your company violated US law, specifically something called 'export controls' by doing so. Do the research, you and your company are in for a whopping hell of a fine once they find out.

Re:A software engineer may get to travel (1)

NetDanzr (619387) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295426)

My company is incorporated abroad, our servers are abroad, and I'm not a US citizen. Thus, the only limitation we've had was for someone physically sitting in the US and writing the code, which we avoided by shipping me abroad.

Whoever tagged this (3, Insightful)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295222)

Who tagged this Pompous... Beat me to the punch. I write code, it's my job. No more, no less. To try to give it esoteric meaning beyond what it is reaches a level of loathing that even I am not going to try to comprehend. It's a job! We may want to make ourselves seem more important based on our position because of the tech around us and being able to tell people "no" but in the end we're just beating the next level of rocks together.

Professionalism versus rigor (4, Interesting)

s20451 (410424) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295248)

You are not allowed to call yourself a "software engineer" in Canada, not because the discipline lacks rigor, but because it lacks professionalism.

A profession is formed for the public good, in order for experts in the field to supervise, regulate, and discipline one another. In Canada this is carried out through non-governmental professional associations, and there is one engineering association per province. It serves public safety well and is an excellent alternative to both "buyer beware" and governmental intervention. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, and teachers are similarly regulated.

I'm personally sympathetic to the professionalization of software engineering. Basically this would mean that you would need a license to practice, all your code would be signed by its author, and the association would discipline any software author who wrote bad software, either maliciously or accidentally. Although it means hobbyists could no longer tinker, we are at the point where that hobbyist tinkering could have significant implications for the international system of computing infrastructure. Why should unlicensed software authors be any different from unlicensed doctors? Both can cause harm; in the former case, potentially more harm.

Re:Professionalism versus rigor (1)

Dolohov (114209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295406)

When's the last time you signed an agreement to hold a car manufacturer or builder harmless in case their product broke down or fell apart? Amateur software authors produce some of the most important and well-tested code used today, while the professionals at, say, Microsoft, have a proven record of producing insecure crap. How would licensing change this?

While there may be a professionalism problem, it seems to me that there is a rigor problem as well.

Re:Professionalism versus rigor (1)

s20451 (410424) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295546)

When's the last time you signed an agreement to hold a car manufacturer or builder harmless in case their product broke down or fell apart? Amateur software authors produce some of the most important and well-tested code used today, while the professionals at, say, Microsoft, have a proven record of producing insecure crap. How would licensing change this?

In Canada, corporations that provide engineering services are required to hold a "Certificate of Authorization". This certificate can be suspended or revoked (and individual engineers disciplined) in the case of incompetence. One can easily imagine that this could happen to a Microsoft.

Actually I see this as complementing the open-source system by formalizing peer review of code. Also, I would suggest that most of the people who designed open source software are not necessarily amateurs; they may have other jobs in software, and many of them are paid for their open-source contributions.

Re:Professionalism versus rigor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295428)

interesting post except for the bullshit you tacked at the end. Just because there are board supervising engineers doesn't mean people can't tinker with metal, dipshit. I'm all for registering programmers (which you need for a *Software Engineering* qualification in Canada), but that would still allow tinkerers.

Re:Professionalism versus rigor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295432)

Oh, I love this!

Although it means hobbyists could no longer tinker, we are at the point where that hobbyist tinkering could have significant implications for the international system of computing infrastructure.

Yeah, it might improve! Can't have that!

Yah, yah, licensing, regulating and punishing people for their own good or, worse yet, for the good of all. After all, the AMA has done so much good for the quality of doctors in the US... NOT! Instead it is just another "good ol' boy" network that protects the incompetent and fails to reward the competent. Crawl back in your hole, you closet fascist!

Re:Professionalism versus rigor (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295570)

Correction: You ARE allowed to call yourself a software engineer in Canada, if you ARE one. That is, with accreditation, the ring, the degree.

Re:Professionalism versus rigor (1)

dmatos (232892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295774)

Further pedantic correction: The degree (from an accredited institution) is not required if you're willing to write many many MANY equivalency tests. Basically, write the final exam for every course in 4 years of University, and you don't need to have a degree to become a P.Eng.

And the ring is just for tapping against beer bottles. Everyone knows that :)

Re:Professionalism versus rigor (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295782)


A profession is formed for the public good, in order for experts in the field to supervise, regulate, and discipline one another.

That's funny. I always thought a "profession" had more to do with social class than anything about supervising, regulating, and discipline. This is the first I've ever heard such a formal definition, with rules set forth, etc.

Doctors, nurses, lawyers, and teachers are similarly regulated.

So you can't call yourself a "professional" unless you've been regulated by the government, or some other "official" organization? I guess there's a lot of people with misleading perceptions of themselves.

Re:Professionalism versus rigor (1)

Dan Posluns (794424) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295834)

You can call yourself a software engineer in Canada if you are, in fact, a software engineer.

I myself have a Bachelor's degree in Engineering (B.Eng) in the discipline of software that I obtained from McMaster University [mcmaster.ca] . These programmes are fairly new (only been around for about ten years) but they are accredited and graduates may go on to obtain their professional engineering license (P.Eng.) [www.peng.ca] .

Content of an undergraduate software engineering degree differs from a traditional CS degree in that there is typically a greater focus on development safety-critical systems, rigorous design, theorem-proving and testing, and cross-disciplinary engineering maths and sciences.

Dan.

Re:Professionalism versus rigor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295846)

Why would a software engineering professional association stop me from tinkering? I can still build a radio, and treat my headache with ASA, why would I not be able to write code for my own use? What I can't do is sell that radio, prescribe codeine, or (assuming a professional association) distribute my non-certified code.

Re:Professionalism versus rigor (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295968)

Correction, in all Canadian provinces and teritories (Excluding Quebec) you are permitted to call yourself an Enginer regardless of education, schooling or other. The term Engineer was ruled to be a non-protected term. However you cannot call yourself a "Professional Egineer" unless you are certified by the Canadian Councel of Enginering Professionals and you have completed 4 years of relevent work experience guided by a regognized Professional Engineer.

Drives me nuts when people state that "Engineer" is a protected term. Check court papers (on google) (or even wikipedia), both show that calling oneself an Engineer (of any type) is fair game in Canada. Just do not call yourself a Professional Engineer without the proper accredidation or you will be violating Canadian Laws. (again this does not apply in Quebec)

Quit your whining. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295264)

What job does not include many different tasks. Try working in a high level NOC and see how many different aspects you have to use every day. Its all part of your job. Your profession may be specialized, but your job is going to involve a whole lot else.

Even Burger Engineers are multi-skilled (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295872)

Flipping, charring, till operating, cleaning and eating the shit from customers while keeping a smile on your face. All jobs require multiple skills.

Silly whining poster probably just got out of college and is used to mommy and daddy telling him he's the greatest. Now in the real world he's just another bottom-of-the-pile programmer. Life: get one!

Engineering in Canada (4, Interesting)

RobinH (124750) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295284)

To become an accredited engineering program in Canada, there has always been a strong requirement for a scientific background. This first created problems for computer engineering programs in Canada to become accredited, so they added courses on things like the physical properties of silicon, etc. to meet this requirement. Electrical engineering, of course, has thermodynamics, etc.

Software engineering has this problem of needing to incorporate science courses into the curriculum. Also, the field of software engineering isn't considered to have matured *as much* as more traditional disciplines. I'm pretty sure that there are accredited programs and you can be a software engineer in some provinces now. These things don't happen overnight.

I would like to have as much confidence in a piece of software as I do in a bridge, but we're not at that point yet. I do think we're getting closer. At this point, very little software is really "engineered" in the rigorous sense. Software that is tends to be much more expensive, and much more reliable. Go figure.

Most software buyers don't want to pay the extra expense for the extra quality at this point. Of course, if you're purchasing a flight control system for an aircraft, you probably have deeper pockets and more stringent requirements.

Re:Engineering in Canada (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295450)

Just as an example, in Quebec, the ETS has an accredited software engineer program. I didn't take it, so take the following with a grain of salt, but I had a few friends who did... To enter, you need to already have a CS background of some kind (be it from another school, work experience, etc) so they can give you credit for the basic CS classes, and they replace them with the engineering classes (and also allows them to start a decent bit further... I don't know if its still that way, but my friend's first semester had classes involving application servers, design patterns, software architecture, etc... no IF/Do/While/variables/Methods classes in there).

It is quite a good program... the graduates are actually able to be productive afterward, as opposed to spending days arguing about if they should use a quicksort or a bubblesort to keep 5 items in a dropdown menu ordered...

Its a good start.

summed up in one word: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295312)

<homer>
        Boring!
</homer>

mod +3own (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295320)

of HIV and other weel-known on an eNdeavour

why do people always... (1)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295328)

assume I'm an arrogant self important ass when I tell them I'm a software engineer/software developer/systems architect/systems analyst/computer programmer/software designer?

Must be my identity crisis.

Re:why do people always... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295654)

So why not just tell them you're a micromuncher?

That way you'll find out if they think you're an arrogant self-important ass because of your job title or because of your demeanor.

Canada? Not allowed? (1)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295366)

Where I live (Montreal, QC) you are allowed to call yourself an Engineer as long as your are an Engineer. That means if you take a degree in Computer science ENGINEERING, and pay your yearly fees to the Order, you can call yourself an engineer. Because you're not allowed doesn't mean real engineers aren't. (Unless the laws in your province are different in regards to this)

I call BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295376)

Given that the University of Calgary offers degrees in Software Engineering http://www.enel.ucalgary.ca/undergraduate/ [ucalgary.ca] , and that it is a protected term by APEGGA http://www.apegga.org/members/Publications/peggs/Web02-05/compliance.html/ [apegga.org] (Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists, & Geophyscists of Alberta), I think the more accurate statement would have been "I don't have the credentials to call myself a Software Engineer, and I'm going to whine about it on the front page of Slashdot".

Since when is engineer a coveted term? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295394)

I never knew people coveted to be called engineers. Class conscious England clubbed the Engineers with tradespeople and snubbed them regularly. Even in USA I am not sure people really took the engineers seriously, mostly mistaking them for railway locomotive drivers. Not many people with engineering degrees sit for PE examns and qualify themselves as Professional Engineer. Those who do, seem to be mainly expert witnesses for defense for the ambulance chasers.

A few decades back there was this movement to persuade engineers to prefix Er. to their names like the doctors and try get addressed as Engineer, in India. This blatant aping of doctors failed miserably, nobody bothered. That too in India, where mothers stay up as long as their sons are up burning midnight oil preparing for engineering entrance examns supplying them with bottomless pots of tea.

So why is this Canadian cribbing he can't call himself an Engineer?

Re:Since when is engineer a coveted term? (2, Informative)

Viv (54519) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295880)

Not many people with engineering degrees sit for PE examns and qualify themselves as Professional Engineer. Those who do, seem to be mainly expert witnesses for defense for the ambulance chasers.
Nonsense. It just depends on your discipline and industry.

In the USA, PE licensing is all but mandatory in the Civil Engineering field. It's very helpful in electrical engineering if you want to be a power distribution guy. Mechanical engineers can stand to have a PE license if they're going to be doing HVAC work. In other words, if you're going to be an engineer in construction, a PE license is very important to have.

If you're contracting out a big dollar engineering project, it's common to require a PE sign off on all designs. Where you typically don't find PE's is in unregulated industries in companies with internal engineering going on.

empathy? (1)

King Gabey (593144) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295446)

I've been a software developer for over 10 years and empathy is not high on the list of common traits that I've seen in my fellow programmers.

The intro sounds like a Sinatra song (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295656)

From That's Life:

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn and a king.
Ive been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing:
Each time I find myself flat on my face,
I pick myself up and get back in the race.

A++ tags, would read again (5, Funny)

Osurak (1013927) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295660)

programming, douchebaggery, pompouswanker, whining, slashdotted
How appropriate.

The demand for programmers (1)

ooze (307871) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295676)

When you are a halfway decent programmer and do it professionally, you will come across a wide range of projects. And what happens wich each new project? In a matter of days or 1-2 weeks you gotta acquire the knowledge of your new problem domain. And that is very often a problem domain others spend years to study and get a degree, yet as a software engineer, you gotta be able to understand the problem domain good enough to automate it. T means you must be able to understand all the nomenclature and the structure, you must be able to spot even the subtlest problems, you must know the pitfalls and special cases, you must be able to talk to the experts in their domain on somewhat equal footing. And if you wanna be any good, you must understand the new problem domain enough to generalize it and often to make it accessible to non-experts.
And that is only one half of the job. The other half is the broad field of computer science ... which is the prerequisite for all this.
In my life as a programmer I have had to learn the termodynamics and streaming physics of internal combustion engines, the bioengineering for bio-processing tanks in pharmaceutical production. Dentist medicine. Law. Economics. Hard body physics and so much more. And about each year one or two neew things get added to the list.
Sure, I'm no expert in either of those fields. But I know (or knew) enough to find my way around by myself for 90% of the time, and to know when I should ask the expert. And the fact remains ... it is your bread and butter to learn things in a matter of days others take and need years to learn.

I work in Canada with a comp sci degree (-1, Flamebait)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295760)

And call myself a software engineer whenever I feel like it.

I haven't got the cease and desist letter in the mail,
and when I do, I hope it's only typed on on one side so
I can use the other side for to scribble work notes for my very
rigorous "waterfall" process. Otherwise I'll have to use
it for my iterative spiral "butt-wipe" process .

all this blather (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295780)

"software engineering" or whatever the hell it is, is something a smart 10 year old can learn and do as well as some guy who has 40 years in the field. you will of course here blather about knowing about N gates and P gates, UML and use case

as if any of that crap really matters. seriously

not having htis matter is good, because unlike a real chemical engineer, us IT plumbers, or dot com hot air wranglers, or whatever the hell we are, don't have to play with chemicals that give us cancer

at the same time, as soon as we turn 30, we are antiquated and ancient

long live the ultimate job title: electron marching band drill designer

Canada *Do* call software engineers as such (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295828)

In the Canada where I live, there is software engineers, and they do call themselves software engineesr. They even have university programs for that. (https://www.mcgill.ca/engineering/degrees/undergrad/software/)

Now, in order to call yourself a "Software Engineer", or any kind of "Engineer" for that matter you have to be member of a professional order. The reason for that, is to make sure that not just any Joe Blow of the street can prentend to be an engineer without being one actually. (unlike in the USA) ...Protects the public against the posers.

http://www.peo.on.ca/ [peo.on.ca]

that's all.

So you probably live in a different one than the one were I live.

Rigor? That's not the issue. (2, Interesting)

Malkin (133793) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295840)

I was unable to read the article, due to Slashdottery, but from the quote, I think Mr. Wise is failing to understand what "engineer" means. There's no minimal competency required to slap "Software Engineer" on your card, there's no license board that will certify your competence, there's guarantee to a given customer that you have any clue what you're doing, and you are ultimately not liable for damages, in most cases, if you are producing defective work.

It's not that software engineers don't care, or that we're somehow inferior. It's that there's no way to learn software engineering the way Engineering disciplines are learned. You can teach a civil engineer to make a bridge that will stand for 200 years, but there is no educational program in existence that can even begin teach a software engineer to design flawless software. That discipline simply doesn't exist. I can use mathematics to design a concrete structure that is 100% guaranteed to float. I cannot use mathematics to design billing system software that is 100% guaranteed to address all requirements. A hodgepodge of algorithm analysis, best practices, design patterns, gut instinct, pretty diagrams, and programming experience does not an engineering discipline make.

On top of all this, people make demands of software engineers that no one would make of an Engineer. Imagine that a construction crew is halfway through building the bridge which you designed, and then the government comes back to you, and tells you that no, they've decided that really they want the entire bridge to be two feet to the left. Oh, and they don't like how the concrete looks, so could we use granite, instead? Or, imagine that a car company has tasked you with creating a concept car for the Detroit auto show, but they don't quite know what it looks like or what it should do, beyond some vague hand-waving, and they're hoping that you can iteratively evolve a concept car for them, so they can give feedback as you work, but they expect this all to happen for the price of building one car. Then, they come back two months later, and tell you that they've decided that they're skipping the auto show, and instead, they need it to be road legal and ready for production by July.

So, yes, we may call ourselves "software engineers," but we're not really Engineers. We have a lot of uncertainty in our lives, and in all fairness, I, for one, don't want the liability.

Easy solution to his problem. (2, Informative)

onkelonkel (560274) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295886)

1. Go to university and get a degree in software engineering.

2. Work a few years till you meet the requirements for registration.

3. Pass the professional practice exams and become a registered professional engineer.

4. Now you _are_ a software engineer, so now you can call yourself a software engineer.

5. Profit??

A few clarifications from the author of the post: (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295906)

- Sorry about the site being down. Its probably not a coincidence that I made Slashdot AND my host (which, to be fair, survived a Digg-rush awhile ago) is having troubles. I'm on the horn with them right now.

- A few people, who likely didn't make it to the site, like to make broad generalizations about geeks of this sort not having sex. I'd like to point out for the record that I'm married, have one child and another on the way. This suggests that I've had sex at least twice. And my wife is very beautiful.

- The intent was not to gripe about Canada's standards for the term "engineer." I only pointed that out the difference between my home country, and my current country of employ. I prefer the term "software developer" myself, but it doesn't really matter to me.

- The intent was also not to be pompous or fuel my own ego, it was to describe, as eloquently as I knew how, what most of us here on Slashdot are. Although the stigma is going away, us geeky types tend to be considered only that: geeks. When really there is art and beauty to what we do. I'm not even as skilled a programmer as I imagine most are, but I wanted to lend my prose to our art because I believe it is valuable. But flame on, if you must!

Thanks for reading, hopefully the site will be back up soon! I'd copy and paste the article text here, but I wasn't expecting this and don't have an offline copy!

Jonathan Wise
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