Saturday, October 15, 2022

I am not a software engineer

Software development is different from Professional Engineering. Engineers train so they qualify to work with well-defined bodies of knowledge. At least where I live, to be a PE (Professional Engineer) you need a license. That means having proper academic credentials, four years of ‘engineering work experience’ and passing an exam on ethics, professional practice, engineering law, and professional liability.

To call yourself a PE in Ontario means you have met a body of specific requirements. You are a known quantity. We call that a Professional Engineer.

I am a programmer. It is not my intent to denigrate programming. Programming is hard; taking decades to master but calling yourself a ‘software engineer’ is wrong. It muddies the waters with respect to genuine PEs. People who could not even get into an engineering program calling themselves ‘engineers’ is silly. For a real PE, it could be irritating.

People who dump the word ‘engineer’ into their titles cheapen the real engineering title. It is a title for which a real PE studied, worked, and pays an ongoing price in terms of liability, professional ethics, etcetera.

Developers and their skills vary a lot. They range from high to low. I have done work with great developers with doctorates in computer science, and I have done work with less great developers who have not graduated high school and only have one trick up their sleeve. They were all employed, hence 'professional ' in that sense. In some places they would have titles like 'software engineer ' or 'systems engineer '. However, they were hardly equivalent to a PE. Except for actual engineers I have worked with who were doing programming, even the best developers would not have the body of education, skills, and experience of a PE. I do not recall engineers I worked with who did programming taking on ‘engineer’ as part of their title.

Bottom line: ‘engineering’ means something and what it means is different from what people describe as ‘software engineering’.

Again, I am a developer here. I am not trying to denigrate software developers. I can do lots of stuff that an engineer could not do. However, that does not make me an engineer.

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