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Re: What do you call yourself?

by samtregar (Abbot)
on Jun 04, 2004 at 16:50 UTC ( #360994=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to What do you call yourself?

I'm a programmer, or a Lead Programmer if feel like puffing up my feathers. One thing I won't do is call myself an engineer of any kind. I didn't get a degree in engineering and I've worked with hackers that did.


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Re^2: What do you call yourself?
by thraxil (Prior) on Jun 04, 2004 at 19:20 UTC

    Sam, as someone with an engineering degree, I thank you.

    i find the tendency to stick 'engineer' into every job title somewhat offensive. graduating with an 'engineering' degree from an accredited program means jumping through additional hoops and working as a professional engineer should mean being held to higher professional and ethical standards. in most engineering fields, like civil engineering, to have 'engineer' in your title, you have to be licensed by the state you're working in, which involves working a certain number of years under a licensed engineer and passing some very intensive tests (including a required ethics test). This is because, in many fields, lives can depend on engineers; if a civil engineer signs off on a bridge design and the bridge collapses, they will lose their license and possibly face legal consequences. In canada at least, having 'engineer' in your title without being licensed (with the exception of a couple fields like train engineers, who have a historical precedent), is illegal. it may be in the US as well, but the canadians actually enforce it.

    i have an engineering degree, but my job title is only 'Programmer Analyst', and that's perfectly fine, because i'm not held up to the same standards that a real professional engineer would be. if i were writing the software that controlled life support systems on a space station or something, i would certainly expect it to be different.

    so anyway, whenever i meet someone who calls themselves a 'user experience engineer', or 'information engineer', or something stupid like that, i have to choke back the desire to rant.

      thraxil, I've noticed the same tendancy. I myself went to the University of Iowa, College of Engineering, for Electrical Engineering. When I hear people referring to the MCSEs as qualifying them for the title of Engineer I want to slap them! Of all the wicked things The Evil Empire has done to this world, that is one of the worst! When the US Army (who I worked for at the time even though I'm US Air Force) gave me and the others in my office the title of Information Systems Engineer, I wasted about fifteen minutes of breath attempting to explain to the Major why that wasn't right. After all, I was the only one with the degree and I've never done the apprenticeship. In the end, as most things military do, as the junior ranking person I lost the battle.

      There are laws in the United States like the one you speak of in Canada, but it is unfortunately not enforced unless you are claiming a specific ABET title (like Civil Engineer or Electrical Engineer) that you haven't earned.

      - - arden.

        I'm a grad of NC State. There, Computer Science is currently in the Engineering department, and we have the same Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, etc, requirements as the electrical engineers and materials science folks and nuclear engineers.

        Like heck I'm an engineer -- because I've been through the same boot camp.

        But my work is seriously screwed up, I can scarely call what I do there engineering. I despise the "Software Engineer" title, since assembling prebuilt components and reading lame RFQ's is not high quality design. Some places, I'm sure it's engineering, but most places it's peacemeal. Good programming (and software development) to me, is a mixture of art, strong strategic planning (and problem solving), and mathematics.

        I call my self a Software Developer, though I really want to claim I'm a "Computer Scientist" my job still sucks too much and I don't get to play in the theoretical areas that I love. Maybe someday.

        Actually, I think I want to be a moose photographer. Seriously.

Re^2: What do you call yourself?
by BrowserUk (Pope) on Jun 04, 2004 at 21:58 UTC

    I did a mech. eng apprenticeship (3 actually but that's another story) and can, or at least could, call myself a mechanical engineer.

    When I see the terms "engineer" or "engineering" in conjunction with "software", "information", etc. I have but one question.

    Show me your standards (and please don't offer ISO 9000/9001/90002) and your metrics.

    When it becomes possible to write a blueprint for two components, give those blueprints to four separate shops anywhere in the world and know that when you receive them back that any pairing will assemble together. Then you are engineering.

    Prior to that, you are simply crafting.

    I'm a coder.

    Examine what is said, not who speaks.
    "Efficiency is intelligent laziness." -David Dunham
    "Think for yourself!" - Abigail
      Those are at least more sensible criticisms than any whining about not being a member of the right club or having the right bit of paper!

      Trouble is, in the real world you *can't* guarantee that components would fit together when they arrive from your subcontractors. You can't even guarantee that from your own production lines. This is why you test a sample of components as they arrive, and test the end product once you've combined those components with others.

      As for standards - there's no universally accepted standards yet. Seperate organisations have their own standards - at least, the competent ones do - and there is some movement towards universal standards. This is similar to the situation a couple of centuries ago in mechanical and civil engineering. Just look, for example, at the myriad incompatible ways of doing something as simple as making a screw. I don't think you could seriously claim that the pioneers of commercial steam power, or those building canals or cotton mills weren't engineers!

        In the real world you *can't* guarantee that components would fit together when they arrive from your subcontractors....

        You can. That's why tolorences exist.

        If they do not, then they do not comply with the blueprints and the part supplied would be rejected. The supplier would be sacked and go out of business. It is the responsibility of the supplier to ensure that what he supplies meets the blueprint and and therefore fulfills the contract. Remember, we are talking about 4 parts here.

        Sure, if the contract is for 100s or 1000s, then you might perform sample testing to ensure that the supplier is maintaining his quality. Those tests would be performed by testing against the blueprints, not by trying to assemble the parts together.

        The difference is in the standards that allow that blueprint to be definitive and the standards that allow parts produced to be tested directly against that blueprint rather than through trial assembly. That is why you can purchase a 10 mm nut and a 10 mm bolt from anywhere and pretty much guarentee that the will screw together. Or a disk drive from IBM, or Seagate or Toshiba and know that it will fit and work in your PC.

        Your point about people like Thomas Telford and I.K. Brunell is interesting. We do consider them great engineers. They were. But they were the exceptions that proved the rule. What they did was vastly different from what the average programmer does. To really compare, you would have to know the names and the working pratices of the thousands of nameless foundrymen, steel workers and riveters that built the ships, bridges and canals that they designed. If you tried to take The Clifton Suspension Bridge apart and then reassemble it swapping various apparently identical parts as you did so, it wouldn't fit back together. Each part may be essentially identical, but each is fettled to fit it's unique place in the whole. That fettling is craftsmanship, not engineering.

        There are even a few cars that are still made this way. Morgan still manufacture their vehicles this way, but their production rates are something like 10 or 12 a week. For all thier models. The downside of these wonderful cars is that even if you have the money in the bank, you will have to wait years to buy a new one. It also means that if you have a fender-bender, you have to go back to the factory and have them make new panels to fit your vehicle. You cannot buy them off the shelf. Each supposedly identical vehicle is completely unique. Imagine if Ford, GM or Toyota still worked that way.

        I realise that the analogy breaks down quite rapidly. The production phase for software is entirely different than that for mechanical parts and assemblies. And then there is the 'use' stage. I've seen people do some bizaar, biwildering and sometimes amazing things with a spreadsheet. The equivalent would like taking a Ford Taunus and driving it across a wilderness. (Hmm. They call that rallying:) But even then, although the guys that would adapt the vehicle to it's new role, uninvisaged by it's designers, would be engineers, you would rarely find them manufacturing a 10,5 mm nut and bolt.

        I'd suggest that the current state of software production methods is still at roughly the same stage as mechanical or civil engineering was when those greats were alive and working. To my way of thinking, that makes people like Knuth, Tim Berners-Lee, Linus Torval and Larry Wall in the same place and league as those great engineers. But it leaves the rest of us pretty much in the same place as the myriad nameless craftsmen that built their designs. For the most part, that makes us honarable, professional (small p) men & women trying our best to do good work and be a part of something great, but not engineers in the modern sense of the word.

        Examine what is said, not who speaks.
        "Efficiency is intelligent laziness." -David Dunham
        "Think for yourself!" - Abigail
Re^2: What do you call yourself?
by DrHyde (Prior) on Jun 04, 2004 at 20:13 UTC
    I call myself a software engineer. If I were working with lumps of metal instead of bits and bytes, I would have the opportunity to get some certification as an engineer, but that opportunity doesn't exist right now for software engineers. I like to think that I hold myself to the standards expected of a chartered engineer though, so see nothing wrong with calling myself one despite lacking the bit of paper.
      Do whatever you want. Just realize that when you call yourself a "Software Engineer" you sound like a damn fool to anyone that knows what an "Engineer" really is!


        ... and to some of us who know what software is.

      ...but that opportunity doesn't exist right now for software engineers

      All of Canada’s provincial engineering associations will license software engineers. McMaster University has a CCPE accredited Software Engineering program.

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