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Sorry ahead of time for going slightly meta and off topic. I am a software engineer myself but...

I find the fact that this blog refers to software engineering practices as if they apply to all engineering disciplines to be a little jarring and best and misleading at worst.

I wouldn't expect a mechanical engineering blog to have an article "Types of Engineers" that only discusses mechanical engineering.

I refuse to not call software an engineering discipline (I believe it is or at least strives to be) but even so I make sure to quantify my statements by putting the word "software" in-front of "engineer."




I was a mechanical engineer for five years, now in software:

The way programmers tend to default "engineer" to meaning "software engineer" bothers me sometimes too. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised by a mechanical engineering blog doing the same thing. We all focus on our little corners of the world, and if software has it worse than mechanical it's just because mechanical engineers are forced to work with other disciplines more often. I'm pretty sure I've seen over- and under- engineers in mechanical work too, it's the same all over.

For whatever it's worth re: "engineering discipline", my feeling is that the parts of software engineering that really need to take their work very seriously mostly do. For example, the occasional articles on the NASA software that went into the space shuttle. On the flip side, if the mechanical engineers I worked with could build/test/release new designs the way software engineers can we would have been as sloppy and more. The reason physical things are more carefully designed is just that the edit/compile/test cycle is so much longer and more expensive, not that one is a "serious engineering discipline" and the other isn't.


Indeed people can be "serious" or sloppy with everything.

Yet, software engineering doesn't require a degree and no minimum bar on both depth and breadth of knowledge required.

The jobspecs for "senior web engineer" with 3 years of Stack Overflow copypasting experience are an example.


Sloppy or Serious: I have to agree with that. The attitude of the person in that case would dominate their work quality. However I think you are being overly cynical about the 'Senior Web Engineer' bit.

True, you can make it far by faking it. Very far in some cases. But number of times I have run into developers that only landed the job because of the habit you describe, I can count on one hand. Was there a particular event that shaded your world view so?


I feel the exact same way. I am electrical engineer by training. When I first moved to San Francisco, I would answer "yes" every time someone would ask "are you an engineer" but I quickly learned that when people said "engineer" 99% of the time they meant software engineers. I quickly became used to saying "no i'm not an engineer, at least not a software engineer."

To me, it's a fairly myopic culture. One of my friends, who has a Ph.D. in civil engineering and is a professor at Stanford has to do the same thing "oh no I'm not an engineer in the way you meant". It's insulting to all the other types of engineers out there (civil, mechanical, electrical, aeronautical, bme) who are somehow excluded from the definition engineer when you enter the Valley or software circles. No other engineering subtype abuses the language this way. It's even more mind boggling because no software engineer has a PE, which in some countries (not the US) is the only way you can call yourself an engineer.

As a whole, I think abusing the language is insulting to the diversity of engineers out there. While software engineering is probably the highest growth branch, that doesn't mean the other branches are just as relevant. In university, we never used the word engineering to mean just "electrical engineering", we actually used it when we were talking about the whole universe of engineers.

The funny thing is now that I've transitioned to software engineer, it feels good to be finally be able to say "Yes I'm an engineer."


Texas and Florida have software engineer P.E. according to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulation_and_licensure_in_en...

I think there are a couple of states where you are not allowed (by law) to use engineer unless you are a P.E. but there are industrial exemptions, which muddy the waters. As compared to "Professional Engineer", which is don't use it if you don't have a license in the U.S. state where you are offering engineering services.


Author here.

I had no idea that this is a sensitive topic. I personally have family members that are civil engineers and understand the difficulty with acquiring a PE. I went ahead and modified the title.


Sorry just to be clear I didn't meant to criticize your article, it's just one example of a general cultural tendency that I was somewhat unhappy about.


As an Electrical P.E., it didn't bother me per se; but it is interesting to consider all the different ways engineer is used in English.


Author here.

I won't get into whether or not it's fair to call call "developers" "engineers", but I do make the distinction in the first paragraph that the article refers to software engineers. In addition, velocity, bug count, and lines of code are all software terms. I can't imagine anyone thinking this is referring to any other type of engineering.


Note that other types of engineers write code: CAD, CFD, FEM, etc. We don't develop software products, but we write code to pursue our goals.


Velocity? How is that a software term?


It's a pretty well known term in agile software development.


It is also a pretty well known term in other fields, and was long before agile software development came around.


In this case, other context clues tell us that the article means 'velocity as in software development'.

Agile, for example, is another general term that has a fairly specific meaning in this context.

If you overhear someone in a park say "Oh, you guys are agile? What's your average velocity?" would you assume they are talking about athletics or software development?


Then the title should be changed.


On the other hand I'd hesitate to call it a mature engineering discipline. It suffers from fad-following and shiny-bauble-chasing like no other engineering field I've ever worked with. It's a bit better outside the valley, but generally there is an amusing over-focus on academic trivia and minutiae from CS.


So if he had simply titled the piece "Types of Software Engineers" you would be happy?


That is exactly what is being said.


It's just unfortunate he's distracting from discussing the content of the post to make a pedantic point that recurs on HN ad nauseam despite fostering no interesting discussion.


It happens. As you said, it happens recurringly. Generalizations can be an issue for a lot of people in a variety of topics, and his comment outlines his hope/a reason against people continuing the trend of generalizing engineers. Even if it is just the title. There's nothing wrong with more specificity.

He even apologizes for going slightly meta and off-topic. If anything, complaining about this point distracts from post content and fosters even less interesting discussion.


If you're apologizing for being meta and off topic you could also just save your comment for when it's on topic.


Yes




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