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Ask HN: Should everyone who work on software be called an Engineer?
6 points by kilodeca 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments
What's your opinion?





IMO the use of the term "engineer" is sadly now meaningless. Engineer implies an understanding of the world around you, which implies calculus and physics, and other things depending on your academic and professional focus. Today people whose math is limited to subnet address calculation call themselves "network engineers" (and believe it). People who spin AWS hosts with Ansible are "devops engineers". People who know how to program but don't have an intuitive sense of what is and what is not congruent with science (an intuition that engineering school hopes to instill), and hence best practices, call themselves "software engineers".

The term means nothing now.


Engineer doesn't "imply calculus and physics". Calculus and physics is not in the dictionary definition of engineer. In fact, the verb form of engineer is exactly what software, network and devops engineers do. When you say it doesn't mean anything, you must mean you, yourself, doesn't know what it means. ;)

I have a graduate degree in engineering, so I at least have some idea of what it means. Are sanitation engineers 'engineers'? They are according to your dictionary definition.

Edit to say: before I went back to school, I was a technician (no degree) who had the job title of 'engineer'. After I went to school I realized how different the worlds of the technician and engineer are. Not to say one is superior. Just very different.


I think software engineer is a great title.

First of all, it's always "software engineer", never just "engineer". And I don't know if everyone who works in software should have it (that seems silly) but I don't see a problem with the title at all. It's a cool sounding title that's been around for decades at this point. Many people have this job title, have degrees in software engineering, and have built their entire careers with the name. It's way too late to be gatekeeping the "engineer" word.

I really don't share any of the skepticism other people in this thread seem to have. It seems overly pedantic and ultimately pointless.

(Next on the list - do data scientists deserve to be called that way, are people with PhDs really doctors and are SSH tunnels offensive to real-world underground passages)


I would never call myself a software engineer, simply for the fact simply for the fact that I never cared about the “engineering” piece. enough to be any good at it. For similar reasons, I’m not a “computer scientist either”.

In a professional capacity, I refer to myself as a software developer, but in an more accurate, general context, I refer to myself as a hacker, though not a a particularly good one. That’s seems to be that best way to describe my brain works and how I work.


This label would seem obtuse twenty years ago. Traditionally, engineers require an empirical understanding of physical phenomena, e.g., fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, etc.

In the Venn diagram, the intersection of "engineer" and "coder" circles is large, but the "coder" circle is 100x bigger than the "engineer" circle.


> This label would seem obtuse twenty years ago.

It's been around since at least the 1960s - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_engineering#History


I really think this falls under my opinion of most titles in software. There's so much variation with little differentiation or standardization. Is it entry-level or junior, midlevel or intermediate? What defines a senior dev/engineer? You may have people that have the title of developer who do more "engineering" (however you want to define it) than someone with the engineer title at another company. Just the way someone might be a senior dev at one company but not be considered a senior dev at another.

Don't get me started on companies calling themselves Agile, etc...


Nope, I'm a 'traditional engineer' in the sense I have a Mechanical engineering background by education and formative work experience.

The term engineer doesn't matter really, software developer / programmer is just fine.

Only time it does is if you are a professional engineer/ chartered engineer, who needs to sign-off a bridge design or something safety critical, then you need a 'real engineer'. Super rare outside of construction and aviation.


I saw a lot of people that used to be an office secretary, took a ‘data science bootcamp’, and now list themselves as Data Scientist on LinkedIn.

It’s a virtual world, a veritable mmo at this point. You pick your class and role and no one can stop you.

There are kids one year out of college that cram Leetcode and make more than decent developers that worked for decades.

It’s a wild world, I wouldn’t trust shit, certainly not titles.


No, we're not engineers. If anything, the prevalence of that term has taken away the truth of what we do. There is a lot of logic and analysis in our work, and it does require an understanding of how some systems work, but ultimately we are artisans, not engineers, and it would be better if our titles expressed as much.

"Software Artisan" sounds cheesy, but I never minded the good old "Software Developer" title.


There is a lady on my team that has a bachelor's in psychology and Masters in English.

Her title is IT Analyst. She doesn't know a lot about programming or IT, yet here we are. IT titles are incredibly meaningless nowadays. All I look for is Junior or Senior now.


'coder' is the best term to use.

'software developer', 'software engineer' and any other software specialisation under the sun tends to confuse stakeholders and the general public every time.


Why? The physical act of writing code, is very small component of the work.

> Why

'coder' gets the point across with less syllables to stakeholders, general public etc than any other term.


Yes, and we’ve been over this ground again and again, we should use it until another title gets us paid more. Please don’t ignore economic incentives when thinking something through.

Doesn't make a difference.

Software developer = Software engineer = coder = programmer.

We all do the same: solve problems. Something the solving involves writing code.


I think it is wrong to give the same title to everyone who happens to write a lot of code. Writing code is such a huge area, people who write code already outnumbers Engineers in USA, giving all of those the same title just doesn't make sense. Programming microcontrollers or writing a web frontend or writing math libraries are very different fields requiring vastly different skills, calling them the same thing just creates confusion.

That is like calling bio engineers and electronics engineers the same thing.


No, it should be called Software Hacker. Engineering has to do with the physical world, there is nothing physical in software

I don't think so. Computer programming and software engineering, for instance, are two different types of activity.



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