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To the software developers out there.

When asked what work you do (by people outside the IT realm), do you tell them that you’re a “programmer” or a “software developer”?

A family member asked me, and I said I’m a programmer.  His reply was that his friend was a “software developer”, and he made it seem like his friends job was superior to my own  (I would’ve told him that I’m a software developer if I knew he would know what it was!).

I always thought they were the same…  Until I wikipedia’ed it.  And would you believe it, “programming” is derogatory compared to “software development”… 
What are your views?  What do you think is the difference?
Sprite
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
i say programmer even though i'm much more; people in general don't understand much; most think programming is typing away at the computer all day; just typing. imagine that, if t was that easy.
lemon obrien Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
Personally, I try to change the topic as quickly as possible.
Sambo
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I say that I used to do electrical, but now I write software. People are impressed by the former, and very unimpressed by the latter. Its the only way to have some dignity with the industry having such a poor reputation by outsiders.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
Long time ago I took my girlfriend to Urgent Care. Doctor comes in and while he's looking at her twisted ankle, asks us what we do. I say "I'm a software engineer" and at the same time she says "I'm a computer programmer."

He glances up and asks, what's the difference? Neither of us had an answer besides, "ummm..."

Then he goes on to tell us about this program he has an idea for and how he's been looking for someone to write it, but that's another story :-)
farmboy Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I once told a friend I am a programmer. "Well that's great. I have problems with the XYZ software on my Mac..." I told her I have never used a Mac before. And she gave me a "you call yourself a programmer but you know nothing" look.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
> Do you tell them that you’re a “programmer” or a “software developer”?

On a immigration form I write "software developer" because it's more accurate.

When an immigration official asks me in person I say "computer programmer" because it's true, more easily understood, and less pedantic.

> What are your views?  What do you think is the difference?

Programming is a subset of software development.
Christopher Wells Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
Dick Pountain wrote a good article a few months ago about this:
http://www.pcpro.co.uk/columns/163638/idealog.html
Adrian
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
There is no difference, but IMO "programmer" sounds more blue-collar, while "software developer" sounds like a professional career.

Saying "I'm a programmer" is akin to saying "I'm a plumber" - nobody will doubt the work is honest (well, maybe some people who think programmers are lazy and that programming is just the same as typing), but it doesn't sound exciting and sounds like something average grunts do instead of trained professionals.

On the other hand, saying "I'm a software developer" sounds a little more professional and less "skilled trade".

It's all about perception, I suppose.
WayneM. Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I used to say "software engineer". Or these days, I just say "I own a software company".
sloop Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
How about: "I'm a hired gun that solves problems for businesses that they cannot solve for themselves"?
Old Guy
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
Assuming we're talking about any social event, I usually start with "At the moment I'm working at a company that <insert whatever my current client's actual business is>." And only go into the "software developer" details when explicitly queried what exactly I do.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I say "I'm a computer guy at a university" (or if I feel like bragging I say which university -- I just started a job at a prestigious school).  If they know or care enough to ask for specifics, I say I'm a web application developer.  For the vast majority of people, "computer guy" is what they're going to hear no matter what I say about my job, so it's a good place to start.
jacobm Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I say "I work for XXX as a software developer"
Sassy Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
In one of the first companies I worked for they decided that we all needed new business cards. In a fit of stunning insanity, they decided to let everyone select their own title.

When the dust had settled, I was the only Programmer in the company.

There were platoons of Programmer/Analysts, squads of Senior Software Developers, and a liberal sprinkling of Architects, Systems Analysts, and other titles.

Ever since, for me, titles are a joke. There's only "what needs to be done" and "who's going to do it".
Bruce
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I've actually struggled with this myself recently. I am so used to saying that I am a "programmer" that I am likely to blurt that out first. Or if I say that I am a "software engineer" and someone asks me "what is that" or gives me a blank stare I quickly relent and tell them that I am a programmer.

But recently my title changed to "Software Architect". I personally expected that to be a promotion. But I was appalled to find out that a "Senior Software Engineer" (which was my previous title) is actually paid MORE in my company than a Software Architect. Go figure. So they gave me a promotion to a position that gets paid less overall. And now I have to decide if I actually want to tell people that I'm a Software Architect considering that it could have an even worse connotation than Software Engineer! Arrg!

Personally, I've had it up to here with these silly titles. I think that I'm just going to tell people that I'm a "Software Developer" and be done with it.
Matt
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
Well,
I prefer putting "Valued Slave" or some such when
they ask about what title I want on my cards.

P.S.
I usually get cards with no title then :)
anon in Iceland
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I usually say that I control the computers and make them do my bidding and then give a little sinister chuckle.
Piepton Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
Personally, I like "Peon". "Lead Peon" if a manager. "Igor" if an assistant to someone.
Bruce
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
The other day, I told my daughter: "I help people that aren't smart enough to help themselves".

This is similar to how I describe her mother's job (psychotherapist): "Mommy helps people who are sad and don't have mommies who can help them."
Cade Roux Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I usually say "Software Engineer", because I think the "Engineer" part emphasizes the craftmanship that goes into the job far better than "developer" or "programmer" does.
Jeroen
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I prefer the title "Code Monkey".
Lab Rat
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
Bruce:
>>In one of the first companies I worked for they decided that we all needed new business cards. In a fit of stunning insanity, they decided to let everyone select their own title.<<

So how many Vampire Hunters, Barbarian Warlords, and Philosopher-Kings did you end up with?

Anyway.  My title is Software Engineer, but I always just refer to myself as a programmer.  For whatever reason, titles like "Software Engineer" or "Developer" and the like always feel inflated to me.  It's as though someone decided that the way to achieve professionalism was by changing the job title instead of the job.  I suppose it's the same sort of phenomenon that turned "Secretaries" into "Administrative Assistants."
Justice Walker
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
There is actually meaningful difference in the terms:

Programmer - someone who writes code for a device, be it for hardware, software, or otherwise

Software Developer - a programmer who writes code for software programs

Software Engineer - a member of a software team who participates in at least two different phases of the lifecycle, e.g. someone involved in design, development, and testing (official testing, not unit or other tests developers typically do).

An alternate, developer-centric definition: a software engineer can be anyone who works on software that is intended to be used by other people, for sale or otherwise.

The hierarchy then is:

* Programmer
** Hardware
** Software
*** Developer
**** Engineer (software for sale / human use)
**** Scientist (software for research only)
**** Hobbyist
** Other
MoffDub Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I just tell people I brainwash computers. More detail than that is usually just lost anyway.
The Original Henry
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I'm a software engineer, because I'm also an electronics engineer and the job descriptions are similar, and both include a variety of activities.

I do a lot more than just programming. If I ever work on a project big enough to need an assistant who does nothing but code, they would be a programmer, much like an assistant who did nothing but work with their hands on hardware would be a technician.
Jeanne P. Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I'd rather say I'm a consultant.... I avoid mentioning the computing side because you end up saying no to requests to clean up a computer... 8-)
Jorge Diaz Tambley Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I never saw programmer because it sounds so boring (and imho my job isn't to me).  I often just say "I write custom software for companies" because it's both true and it's the most understandable way to explain it.

People generally seem fairly impressed with it.
TravisO Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
"Personally, I like "Peon". "Lead Peon" if a manager. "Igor" if an assistant to someone." - Bruce
 *laughs out loud* =D

Recently my company decided to print business cards for me and asked me what title I wanted. Went with Software Developer. (I should have went with Alpha Tech Peon)

Whenever I talk to Chinese people I refer to myself as being "in the IT industry"

Off Topic:
To this day I don't think my parents have a clear idea of what I do for a living. I tried explaining to my mom this way one time: "Mom, you use FireFox, right? Someone had to *make* FireFox. Yes I know my husband built your computer for you, but when your computer was brand new it didn't have FireFox on it. Yeah, I know eh? But yeah, a group of people who do what I do wrote FireFox. No, I wasn't involved....but I could be =3 " Does your family know, or understand what you do for a living?
DorothyBooher Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I pretend I'm a recruiter and say "I'm a .NET Programmer with 3 years experience."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I'm a janitor that clean up the mess after a computer take a dump/cum.
JackDaniel
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I mostly work in MFC at the moment so I tell my parents I'm a piano player in a brothel.
Martin Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
A "software developer" is a programmer giving himself airs.  A "software engineer" is a programmer preteding that "softwared development life cycle" is different from what a programmer does.  If you do software, the valuable part of what you do is writing code - code is the work product.  Everything else is a support infrastructure for writing *good* code.

"Architect" has become so overblown that it's not worth claiming as a title any more.

Most big companies list the position as "XYZ software engineer".  When someone asks me face to face, I say "I work with computers" (sometimes I clarify "but not for free".)
Skorj
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I'm a software architect at a financial services company... it doesn't get more yawn inducing than that... so I usually say I'm a Baltimore City Police and recount the stories my buddy (who actually is a Police) tells me.
Chris
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
How about Rockstar programmer? that's like 10 level up than just plain programmer.
JackDaniel
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
In some circles there's the notion that a programmer is just a "typer", or a "code monkey".

This is sometimes cultivated by University teachers (usually the ones without real world experience). Some students start to believe it too. And then they get to the real world where they code like everyone else.

In my company almost everyone has the title "Analyst Programmer". It could be "Software Developer" because most people participate in the full cycle: they analyze problems, design solutions, implement those solutions, test those implementations and also document the solutions design and/or implementations. No one "just codes" (with the exception of the very first tasks).

As for "Software Engineer" titles, in some countries it may be illegal if the person does not actually have recognized Engineering training.
[TheWeasel]
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
In the United States it's usually illegal to use the word "engineer" to sell your services or get a job unless you're a licensed engineer.  Code monkeys seem to get away with it often, though.

>On a immigration form I write "software developer" because it's more accurate.
>When an immigration official asks me in person I say "computer programmer" because it's true, more easily understood, and less pedantic.

You tell foreign government officials a different story in person from what you sign your name to on your forms?  You must really like learning about the world's prisons first hand.
Brian Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
It's no different than doctors calling themselves physicians. Or lawyers and attorneys. I doubt that immigration officials would throw you in jail for this type of distinction.
uggh
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
> You must really like learning about the world's prisons first hand.

Note to self: don't use synonyms in Brian's Utah.
Christopher Wells Send private email
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
"I make websites"
"I work in music technology"
"Software developer"

Never "programmer". sounds like grunt work. Emphasises the physical act of entering programs over the intellectual side of it.
Matt
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
Alot, and I mean alot, of universities around the world now offer bachelors and masters degrees in engineering majoring in software engineering. Such engineering degrees are accredited by the engineering board, and since you hold an accredited engineering degree, you can legally call yourself an engineer whilst being a software engineer.

But it seems everybody is calling themselves engineers lately, even telephone marketers and retail salespersons - no joke intended, as it isn't a joke!
anon
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
"In the United States it's usually illegal to use the word "engineer" to sell your services or get a job unless you're a licensed engineer."

Please provide a link to the law.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
Like sloop, I own a company. But I still call myself a programmer. To me, a real programmer is proficient in all stages of software production. Which is not to say that you actually do all these things all the time but that you can step in if required.

Some people here would disagree with me, it seems, but that is my answer to the OP.
less is more
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
"In the United States it's usually illegal to use the word "engineer" to sell your services or get a job unless you're a licensed engineer."

This is not true.
Tony Chang
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
 
 
I tell most people the truth that I am a software engineer.  But if I am around low paid people (retail, cashier, etc) I just mumble programmer like its nothing important.  I don't like to make them feel bad by sounding like I get paid 6 figures a year (more than their manager's manager) even though I am paid 6 figures.
Paperclip
Thursday, June 05, 2008
 
 
" But if I am around low paid people (retail, cashier, etc) I just mumble programmer like its nothing important.  I don't like to make them feel bad by sounding like I get paid 6 figures a year (more than their manager's manager) even though I am paid 6 figures."

In my area, alot of the people in retail that are in the 18-24 old bracket are university students, just working a part-time job to support themselves, and their crazy college antics. During that age, it is common to have the best times in your life, even though your not earning a six figure income, yet. So I don't think they will be too depressed hearing about your 6 figure income, actually, it may make them feel good if their studying something to do with soft dev.

Some of them may be interested in hearing your experiences in the industry. I know when I was going through uni, I spoke to many developers, who worked at banks, gaming companies and engineering firms, when working in retail. They were suprised when I told them I was studying computer science. It was actually due to these conversions I actually landed my first job before I graduated, via networking.
downtime
Thursday, June 05, 2008
 
 
"first job before I graduated" - as a developer.
downtime
Thursday, June 05, 2008
 
 
I usually say Programmer, however I have to be careful because I work in a manfacturing environment and we have "parts programmers" that write commands for controlling our automatic machining equipment but never use something as advanced as C. (Or is it "as retarded as C"?) My offical joy title is "Senior Software Engineer" and I consider almost all titles to have little to no real meaning. (For several years, by buisness card listed no title at all.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008
 
 
Brian: "In the United States it's usually illegal to use the word "engineer" to sell your services or get a job unless you're a licensed engineer."

In the United States, it's against ethics to post garbage on forums. I'm filing a violation report now.

Seriously, WTF are you talking about? It's against the law to represent yourself as a *licensed* engineer to perform a job that requires one. There's nothing that says you can't call yourself a "software engineer* even if you've never seen a computer or compiler in your life, as there aren't typically any jobs that require you to be a *licensed* software engineer.
Ken White Send private email
Thursday, June 05, 2008
 
 
I usually tell people I "Play with computers all day"
Yo!
Thursday, June 05, 2008
 
 
On the surface it looks like you can't call yourself an engineer in TX unless licensed, BUT there are further words to the contrary.....

see section f
1001.301

http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/OC/content/htm/oc.006.00.001001.00.htm#1001.301.00

Basically it allow use of the word "engineer" while doing non-public work and not impersonating a engineer that requires actual licenseing (i.e. a home inspector can't call himself a "structural engineer")

Also you cannot use terms such as "professional" or "licensed", or "register" unless you are so licensed.

I have "heard" about similar statutes in WA and TN.
Yo!
Thursday, June 05, 2008
 
 
I don't need to impress anyone with my damn job title.  I usually just say I'm a computer programmer or I write software.  Who gives a shit what they think about my class status?
SM Send private email
Thursday, June 05, 2008
 
 
Ditch digger is my standard.
Gratzy
Thursday, June 05, 2008
 
 
Professional Engineer is a specific licensing thing.  You have to be a PE to sign off on certain legal docs, so it's illegal to impersonate one.

That's not the same as the generic word "engineer" in a job title.

Of course, the only "real" engineers are the ones who drive the trains.
Skorj
Thursday, June 05, 2008
 
 
Mr. Lucky
Friday, June 06, 2008
 
 
Correct the only restriction in the US for "engineer" is if you try to use is in away to imply you are a licensed PE and in public functions where they are safety sensitive.

This doesn't just apply to software engineers.  Intel has installations all over the US and they have thousands of electrical engineers, computer engineers, ASIC engineers, validation engineers, mechanical engineers, industrial engineers, sales engineers, etc, etc that are NOT PEs.  Same thing with GE.  Same thing with GM and Ford.  None of those companies have been sued for giving employees the title of "engineer", advertising for "engineering" positions, publishing public documentation mentioning they have "engineers", and promoting their "engineers".

A lot of PEs seem to either not want people to know this or don't know it themselves.  This issue was put to bed a long time ago.
reign
Friday, June 06, 2008
 
 
I've run into "customer engineers" :)
less is more
Friday, June 06, 2008
 
 
After nearly 30 years in the trade I see 'programmer' as nothing more than a glorified keyboard basher.  Ok, it meant something back in the assembler days, but todays script kiddies are not doing much more than joining the dots. They might as well be poking holes in punched cards.

A Software developer to me is someone that can do all of the business lifecycle required to develop software, from interviewing customers, doing project management, through to systems testing and packaging and deployment or even sweeping the floors when required.

That is, they have all the skills required to develop software whether it be a one man + dog $50 program or a half billion dollar enterprise app.
AndyW Send private email
Friday, June 06, 2008
 
 
The only thing that separates us from other people is our huge list of acronyms, without them, we are screwed.
anon
Friday, June 06, 2008
 
 
I tell them I am a Shepard, when they say right, what do you really do, I say I am a test pilot, that usually ends it.

Friday, June 06, 2008
 
 
Q: What do you do?
A: No one really knows, I wear a lot of hats!
Q: What is your title?
A: VP Troublemaker.
Tom
Friday, June 06, 2008
 
 
I've previously been a "real" engineer (with state-issued certs proclaiming such), and am very careful never to call myself a "software engineer", to the point of turning down positions where that is the only title available. (An engineer uses a known, repeatable, auditable process to produce a predictable, fully-known product from information and materials of precisely-known characteristics; in software, after 30 years, I still say we're 0-for-3).

I've been a "(senior/principal) technical consultant", a "software developer", a "software consultant", a "technology consultant" and (very early on) a "programmer."  I think the last title is inappropriate nowadays except in the most bureaucratic, rigidly stratified corporate/institutional hierarchy. "Real programmers", to paraphrase Ed Nather, do a lot more than write computer programs, and to do even that in a competent manner, they must have a much broader ambit: linguistics, anthropology, sociology, ergonomics, information theory, and more.... and depending on their work, they're likely to need fairly advanced mathematics and physics as well (you want to write a FPS game but you don't understand a thing about ballistics or materials? Rotsa ruck...)  All these used to be rolled together in the "computer science" majors in the better schools. We've degraded to the point where most "programmers" not only can't write well, they're actually *proud* of not being able to spell correctly. Yet, somehow, they expect search engines to always be able to find the information they want, no matter the spelling... rubbish!

Is it any wonder our craft is so poorly regarded, to the point where companies can't even get venture capital unless their business model depends on the cheapest and least expensive possible offshore labor? (No, that's not redundant. One adjective describes value; the other, cost.) What profession allows its schedules and qualifications to be determined by outsiders who dismiss at every turn any real knowledge of that which they are scheduling? How much longer are we going to not merely tolerate businesspeople figuratively hitting us in the head with a sledgehammer, but hand them a pneumatic drill when they complain things aren't happening fast enough? Would people tolerate medicine or architecture or dam-building done using the sort of mentality prevalent among those who manage or use software? When will we ever get our act together?
Jeff Dickey Send private email
Thursday, June 12, 2008
 
 

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