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5/16/2012
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You're All Software Engineers

Faking a CS degree will get you fired. Falsely claiming to be a software engineer will get you--wait, is that even possible?

10 CIOs: Career Decisions I'd Do Over
10 CIOs: Career Decisions I'd Do Over
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Scott Thompson was let go this week as CEO of Yahoo for falsely claiming to have earned a bachelor's degree in computer science. I need not rehash the events, which played out in the headlines for the last ten days, nor need I enter into the ethics of the matter. But I do have to chuckle at Thompson's choice of embellishment: A degree in computer science is probably the one credential in our field that is well defined and easily verified. Had he instead chosen to claim he was a computer scientist or a software engineer, no hedge fund manager could have ever ousted him for a false claim.

Actually, computer scientist, while still rather undefined, does suggest a course of study in computer science. If you look at the kinds of articles published by computer scientists, they tend to be academic papers explaining research in narrow niches. At least, that's what the field has evolved to. It might have made more sense for computer science to have evolved into the hardware engineering in computers. Edsger Dijkstra once observed, "Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." And he's exactly right--the name suggests a principal focus on the hardware, rather than on its actual calling: software.

While computer science is a poorly defined term, software engineering is not. Software engineering is accurately explained in Wikipedia as "the application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the development, operation, and maintenance of software." As most of you know, it has come primarily to mean the study of quality in software. But in an odd historical quirk, "software engineer" is a title that, in the U.S., can be accorded to most any programmer. There is no formal standard, no certification needed, and in almost all cases the "engineer" need know absolutely nothing about software engineering.

A look through job postings for software engineers shows few openings (in fact, none to speak of) that require anything more than programming experience. The range of experience is more controlled by the word "senior" in the title than by the presence of "engineer." In the listings I examined, I found none--not a single one--that required experience in software engineering. As such, the title of "software engineer" is something of a conceit, a euphemism for someone with better than code-slinger skills. Or does it require even that?

Read the rest of this article on Dr. Dobbs Journal.

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ANON1242307911647
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ANON1242307911647,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/17/2012 | 6:35:48 PM
re: You're All Software Engineers
You would not be called an engineer because you have not demonstrated the appropriate understanding of science and math and how to apply them to practical situations while considering safety and cost.
Those who are engineers design myriad items used in todayG«÷s world G«Ű bridges, chairs and software.
mnelson851
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mnelson851,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/17/2012 | 2:59:57 AM
re: You're All Software Engineers
I would much prefer that the IT industry start to dilute the titles of editor and writer. "Software Executive Editor" has a nice ring to it. It certainly makes more sense than the industry using Engineer in their titles.

Even Dijkstra would have agreed with that.
MCOAN303
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MCOAN303,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/16/2012 | 10:09:49 PM
re: You're All Software Engineers
Certifications by regulatory boards are meaningless expressions of paranoia by those who "...do not or can not." Falsifying application data is both a breech of integrity and regulation; Most of us can put these into perspective....
dnr
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dnr,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/16/2012 | 9:00:26 PM
re: You're All Software Engineers
"Software Engineering" is an oxymoron. Software is completely about design. Would you have an "oil painting engineer" or a "music composition engineer"? Yes, there are methodologies galore (agile and otherwise) and they help the software designers communicate with customers and clients and each other, but they don't tell you how to design. Every line of code is doing design. It has nothing to do with engineering. Calling us "engineers" is insulting. Software developers are designers. Period.
ANON1242307911647
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ANON1242307911647,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/16/2012 | 7:36:57 PM
re: You're All Software Engineers
In almost all jurisdictions engineering is a self regulating profession in which people have to be licenced to call themselves engineers. Just putting "software" in front of the name does not remove the requirement that people calling themselves engineers must be licenced.
cebess
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cebess,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/16/2012 | 7:23:53 PM
re: You're All Software Engineers
Actually engineer is a protected term in the state of Texas.
http://engineers.texas.gov/dow...

Most companies don't realize that but they run significant risk having contact information in Texas using the them engineer loosely -- even if it is a "software" engineer.
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