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Ask Slashdot: Developer Or Software Engineer? Can It Influence Your Work? 333

ctrahey writes "Many of us disregard the impact of our titles on various aspects of our lives, both professional and otherwise. Perhaps it's appropriate to ask two questions about the difference between a couple titles familiar to the Slashdot community: Developer vs Software Engineer. What are the factors to consider in the appropriate use of the titles? And (more interesting to me), what influence might the use of these titles have on the written code? Have you observed a difference in attitudes, priorities, or outlooks in talent as a corollary to their titles?"
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Ask Slashdot: Developer Or Software Engineer? Can It Influence Your Work?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @06:52PM (#41945867)

    Unless you have a degree in Software Engineering, it's both misleading and might be illegal to use the "Software Engineer" title in your country.

  • by jayveekay ( 735967 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @06:53PM (#41945879)

    A programmer (developer?) writes code that hopefully works. A software engineer writes code that is designed to work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @06:53PM (#41945883)

    I like to just say programmer.




  • Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <> on Saturday November 10, 2012 @06:59PM (#41945955) Homepage

    Software Engineer: can build a flexible, properly designed application architecture and has grown past the schooled "everything fits within some methodology X" phase (i.e. can think outside the box).

    Developer: will usually be able to make something that works, and even write quite nice code when given good direction, but can create a mess when given a chance to be a cowboy coder.

  • Are you a hacker? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:02PM (#41945967)
    Here is a rough guide for deciding what to call yourself:
    1. Do you have a set of well-defined methods for designing, documenting, and implementing the software you write? Then you might be a software engineer.
    2. Do you sit down and bang out code a few hours before the deadline, without adhering to a well-defined method of designing the system? If so, you might be a developer.

    Of course, many programmers are somewhere in the middle, usually leaning more towards "engineering" when the deadline is months away and "developing" when the deadline is days away.

  • IMO None. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eagee ( 1308589 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:04PM (#41945987)
    I was a "Senior Software Engineer" before I got a promotion, now I'm a "Lead Developer". Aside from providing guidance to other engineers I still do the same job. Personally, I wanted my new title to be "Mr. Manager" instead, but no one seemed to like that idea :(. Seriously, I've worked in states where it's illegal to give someone without an engineering degree the title "Engineer", but I've worked with engineers who didn't finish college and found them every bit as good (sometimes much better) than the ones who didn't.
  • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:05PM (#41945995) Journal

    It doesn't make sense that a software engineer would need a degree in computer science. They are two different domains [].

    Maybe software tends to be so buggy because it isn't always engineered to be reliable. It's cobbled together in the lab, and if it works in the lab, the assumption is that it will work in the field.

  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:08PM (#41946023)

    Ethics tests are pretty pointless in practice. There is a big difference between knowing ethics and being ethical.

    I'm pretty sure 99.9% of convicted criminals knew they were committing a crime at the time...

  • Seinfeld (Score:5, Insightful)

    by afgam28 ( 48611 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:19PM (#41946075)

    Women need to like the job of the guy they’re with. If they don’t like the job, they don’t like the guy. Men know this. Which is why we make up the phony, bogus names for the jobs that we have. “Well, right now, I’m the regional management supervisor. I’m in development, research, consulting...”

    Men on the other hand – if they are physically attracted to a woman – are not that concerned with her job. Are we? Men don’t really care. Men’ll just go, “Really? Slaughterhouse? Is that where you work? That sounds interesting. So whaddaya got a big cleaver there? You’re just lopping their heads off? That sounds great! Listen, why don’t you shower up, and we’ll get some burgers and catch a movie.”

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:26PM (#41946115) Homepage

    Outside of the countries where "Software Engineer" actually has a legal meaning and requirements to claim it (while "Developer", "Programmer", or whatever doesn't), the difference is largely that one sounds better than the other. People like to use "Software Engineer" even if they're in fact nothing of the sort, due to the connotation that comes with it.

    It's not hard to find people calling themselves Software Engineers that aren't doing anything resembling engineering, just like it's not hard to find people calling themselves Developers that are really doing software engineering. In the end if you're able to do the job well, nobody gives a damn what you're calling yourself.

  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:32PM (#41946169) Homepage
    Your link even states that there is no complete agreement on it. Some claim it is actual engineering and others claim software moves too fast to be real engineering. Canada seems to be only country that gets really uppity about it and it sounds like even they're looking to compromise if you click the regulation link from your link. []

    The use of the term "engineer" was an issue between professional bodies, the I.T. industry, and the security industry, where companies or associations may issue certifications or titles with the word "engineer" as part of that title (such as security engineer or Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer). Microsoft have since changed the title to "Microsoft Certified IT Professional". Several licensing bodies for professional engineering contend that only licensed professional engineers are legally allowed to use the title "Engineer". The I.T. industry, on the other hand, counters that:

    • These title holders never presented themselves as "Professional Engineers";
    • Provincial laws, other than in Quebec and Ontario, regulate only the use of term "Professional Engineer", and not any title with the word "Engineer" in it;
    • in Quebec and Ontario, the term "Engineer" is protected by both the Engineers Act[27] and by section 32 of the Professional Code[28]); and,

    • The I.T. industry has used the term "engineer" since the dawn of the computing industry in the 60s.[29]

    Court rulings regarding the usage of the term "engineer" have been mixed. For example, after complaints from the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, a court in Quebec fined Microsoft Canada $1,000 for misusing the "engineer" title by referring to MCSE graduates as "engineers".[30] Conversely, an Alberta court dismissed the lawsuit filed by The Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA) against Raymond Merhej for using the title "System Engineer", claiming that, "The Respondent's situation is such that it cannot be contended that the public is likely to be deceived, confused or jeopardized by his use of the term"[31] APEGGA also lost the appeal to this decision.[32]

    The Canadian Information Processing Society[33] and in particular CIPS Ontario[34] have attempted to strike a balance between the professional engineering licensing bodies and the IT industry over the use of the term "engineer" in the software industry, but so far no major agreements or decisions have been announced..

    So you and the original poster aren't entirely correct. Otherwise The Association of Professional Engineers wouldn't have lost its court case.

    Protectionism over the title engineer is nothing more than an excuse for a group to milk money out of people. The title sofware engineer has been used for ages while not having a professional body demanding fees. This of course upsets other engineers but that's the way it is and it's unlikely to change. There are too many software engineers who aren't going to want to be milked for a membership fee that offers them nothing of real value.

  • Just titles... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Valtor ( 34080 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:46PM (#41946257) Homepage

    In my opinion, those are just titles my friend and I see no reasons why we should ever consider them anything more.

  • by stretch0611 ( 603238 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:50PM (#41946289) Journal

    Whether I call myself a developer or software engineer will not affect my income. I'm old school (over 40) and I think that people building systems as long as I have tend not to care about titles. I'm not even sure there was a "software engineer" title when I started programming.

    What I can say is that people that are coming out of college today calling themselves either tend to not have a clue what they are doing. (Of course there are exceptions, but the truly good people are hard to find.) And don't forget the recent title of "Software (or Data) Architect..." This idiots conceptualize a system, charge a ton of money, and have others build it. When it fails, they blame the developers and/or run to another job.

    Then there are "Front End Developers," which are nothing more than a graphic/web designer that knows how to add some horribly written jQuery to a site and changed their name to developer in order to get paid more.

    Essentially this whole debate is really about one huge issue: Large Companies are trying to turn the entire development process into something that can be done like an assembly line. They are chopping it up into little pieces so that anyone can perform the same monotonous task. The smaller your piece is, the more people that can focus on that specific area, the more people that can do it, the less you are worth. The less the companies pay, the happier they become. The more pieces there are, the more titles.

    Unfortunately, (or fortunately if you really know what you are doing) the development process is not easy to break down into pieces. While certain pieces can be farmed out, the overall system will work best when one person knows how to build the system as a whole and can take the project from the requirements to a working application. (And companies rarely want to pay for these good people.)

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Saturday November 10, 2012 @08:44PM (#41946609) Homepage Journal

    The stupidity is your shitty English parser. He said designed to work, not "that works"

  • Re:Seinfeld (Score:5, Insightful)

    by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:20AM (#41947529) Homepage

    Kid, you obviously don't know anything about dating in 1967. During the Summer of Love [], showers were strictly optional, and instead of going for a burger the invitation would include "we'll get some acid".

  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @09:26AM (#41948943)

    This "Engineer" snobbery doesn't seem too prominent in the UK thankfully, but I've seen this debate a lot on Slashdot, mostly from North American folks so it's a big deal there I guess.

    The reason I find the whole debate stupid is that it seems to be framed round this idea that Engineers are magical people, who believe they're superior to others and that no one else should are be able to claim their title.

    The problem is that Engineers aren't at the top of the chain, not by any measure. What they learn is a subset of science and maths, so their claim to be special is false as any say, physicist or mathematician will have no problem learning their trade, and then some.

    This is where I have a problem with it, I was a developer/software engineer/whatever in an engineering firm, but my degree is in Mathematics. I had absolutely no, and I mean no problem whatsoever dealing with the mathematics and rigour the engineers there had to know and created bits of software they all found very useful on that knowledge. Worse, not even all the engineers understood the math involved and it was only really the principal engineers there who knew it better than me (it was they who taught me) such that there was this absurd scenario that within the company, as a software developer I had better understanding and competence of the actual engineering knowledge than many of the engineers themselves and still had time to be good at my software development role to boot.

    So you'll have to excuse me if engineering snobbery doesn't really cut it with me, the idea that I shouldn't call myself a software engineer, because I'm not an engineer, and yet was still more competent in that particular field of engineering than many of the engineers. Case in point, you only have to look at software like Inventor etc. that do a ton of stuff that 90% of engineers couldn't do themselves (like FEA for example). That had to be built by developers, so don't pretend developers aren't capable of being engineers.

    At the end of the day it doesn't matter, the fact is having some engineering title doesn't make you special, doesn't make you inherently more competent. Engineers are for the most part extremely smart, and intelligent people, but if they think they're the smartest and most intelligent profession out there, and that they're inherently more smart than say, software engineers, then they can simply go fuck themselves because that's little more than ignorant arrogance. They're not, not by any measure and I suspect that for every great engineer, I could find an equally smart and competent software developer to match them, similarly I suspect I could find even smarter physicists and mathematicians.

    As you say it's about being honest about your competence that matters and allowing software developers to call themselves a type of engineer isn't exactly going to bring down the engineering profession - there's enough over-inflated ego engineers who aren't actually that great out there already to do that by themselves. Looking at the complexity of software and hence skill required to build it that's developed nowadays I suspect if anything it may raise standards.

  • by canadian_right ( 410687 ) <> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:25PM (#41950337) Homepage

    In many places wanting to protect the term "Engineer" isn't snobbery it is due to the legal fact that a "professional engineer" is legally liable regarding the safety of any designs they sign off on.

    If you aren't willing to be sued if your software fails you aren't an engineer.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats