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Career Advice: Don't Call Yourself a Programmer 422

Ian Lamont writes "Patrick McKenzie has written about the do's and don't's of working as a software engineer, and some solid (and often amusing) advice on how to get ahead. One of the first pieces of advice: 'Don't call yourself a programmer: "Programmer" sounds like "anomalously high-cost peon who types some mumbo-jumbo into some other mumbo-jumbo." If you call yourself a programmer, someone is already working on a way to get you fired.' Although he runs his own company, he is a cold realist about the possibilities for new college grads in the startup world: 'The high-percentage outcome is you work really hard for the next couple of years, fail ingloriously, and then be jobless and looking to get into another startup.'"
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Career Advice: Don't Call Yourself a Programmer

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  • But ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @12:50PM (#37879770)
    I'm self employed, and even though my boss is jerk he's not going to fire me because I call myself a programmer.
    • by ryzvonusef ( 1151717 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @02:32PM (#37880578) Journal

      No, it's called a divorce :P

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And me too! I used to work for other people, but got tired of the instability in the 'work for hire' work world. They need you for something, you get hired, you solve the problem they have been staring at for 6 months, you attempt to help in other ways once all the fires they throw at you are out, they get nervous about you as 'an outsider' interfering with the business, and the software engineers God intended for the company (the ones who couldn't put out the fires they handed to you) and so suddenly th

    • Re:But ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @05:12PM (#37881742) Homepage Journal

      I think programmer is still a fine title. In all reality titles for software developers are so varied and vague, that as long as I am getting my pay cheque, I am quite happy to be called a 'Senior Code Monkey'. At that point I am also happy to treat my boss as 'Manager Monkey' and the CEO as 'Chief Baboon'. ;)

  • Makes sense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @12:50PM (#37879772)
    If it's one thing America's taught me [] it's that doing useful work is the worst way to earn money around these parts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SharkLaser ( 2495316 )
      Well, programming practically is the computer-world equivalent of construction worker or cleaners. Sure, it's useful so people actually can get things done, but it isn't practically challenging or something lots of people can't do if given teaching. Developers have to make the important decisions regarding a product. If you wanted to work in the gaming industry, would you rather want to be a coder or actually the game designer?
      • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Surt ( 22457 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:25PM (#37880038) Homepage Journal

        Programming has one advantage over construction workers: it's mind-numbing indoor work. Most people cannot stand it. That's the real hurdle keeping people out of the industry.

        • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

          That and when some crazy laid off tech worker burns down the building over his red stapler. Plus, who doesn't want to bring their lunch in a pail?

      • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Informative)

        by etymxris ( 121288 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:30PM (#37880094)

        Programming seems easy to you and me, but you would be surprised at how many people just cannot do it no matter how much training you give them. Anyone can clean, most people can do construction. Maybe 1 in 10 people could program if they really wanted to, and only 1 in 10 of those will actually want to.

        • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:38PM (#37880160) Homepage

          Are you saying you are the 1%?

        • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:50PM (#37880262)

          Exactly ; they've done studies [] that prove this - not everyone can program a computer. Every time I see one of those GUI programming environments designed to enable users to program, I sigh. Real programmers detest them (unless they are a mile-high model overview and they fill in the gaps), and people who can't program still can't program, so implementing them is pointless and counter-productive.

          If 30-60% of people who self-selected to go on a Computer Science course can't program, what's the percentage in the general population?

          • Interestingly, spreadsheets does make non-programmers program, to some degree. Someday, I will understand why that is.

            • By programming a spreadsheet, do you mean fill in a bunch of formulas and perhaps record some macros to take the repetition out of their work?

              • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Informative)

                by anonymov ( 1768712 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @02:48PM (#37880698)

                Well, filling in a bunch of formulas IS a form of dataflow programming [].

                It is easy for non-programmers because it quite closely maps real-world calculations on a sheet of paper to the computer screen - just fill in the initial values and write down formulas without worrying about operations ordering. VisiCalc and those who polished the concept after them did a pretty nice job.

                On a side note, Visicalc authors' [] notes [] make for quite an interesting read.

        • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

          by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:52PM (#37880286)

          Programming seems easy to you and me, but you would be surprised at how many people just cannot do it no matter how much training you give them.

          Please mod parent up. This is exactly right. All of my experience, both in school and now working as a software developer, confirms this.

        • by Surt ( 22457 )

          But if you are saying half of all people can be programmers, that's not much more of a hurdle than construction. Maybe less because construction does have significant physical requirements.

        • One of my bosses discovered he could weed out most "software engineer" candidates by giving them a simple recursive programming task. It was amazing the number of candidates who could write your standard simple recipe-style program, but were baffled at the idea of recursiveness, or even nested data, pointers to pointers and arrays of arrays and simple combinations.

          So yes, programming has divisions like all other activities: people who can build a bird house but not a people house, or can change spark plugs

      • I can tell you that you haven't graduated yet, and you're just parroting back the things your heard from your professor.

      • As a historical note, "coder" used to be a separate job role from "programmer". Programmers wrote programs. On paper. Coders had the job of translating the program into machine code and entering it on the card punch. An early assembly-language system was dubbed "auto-coder" for that reason.

        (There's some similarity here with how "computer" used to be a job description as well.)

      • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Informative)

        by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @03:06PM (#37880830)

        If you wanted to work in the gaming industry, would you rather want to be a coder or actually the game designer?

        Bad analogy there. Game designers are about as far from programming as possible. You see plenty of game designer/level designer people or game designer/storywriters, you see some game designer/artist people (particularly in Japan), and you even see some game designer/musician people. I can't name of the top of my head a single game designer/programmer who isn't an indie developer (where everyone is a bit of everything, really).

  • meh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Don't worry what you call yourself. Do good work and people will want to work with you.
    • Hi, I'm the new Arch-clown of Pandemonium. Where's my desk?

      • by Surt ( 22457 )

        You laugh, but that was very close to someone's actual title at Blizzard (we picked our own titles). He got recruited away. Why? He was really good at his job.

        • You laugh

          Yes, it helps delay the inevitable soda bottle and balloon animal rampage.

          but that was very close to someone's actual title at Blizzard (we picked our own titles). He got recruited away. Why? He was really good at his job.

          It's possible the recruiter knew this about Blizzard and consequently ignored the title. I believe is the point of the article is that doesn't happen too often.

          • by Surt ( 22457 )

            My point is the article is wrong. You can really call yourself whatever you want in this day and age. Recruiters are all keyword searching in linkedin. They don't care if your selected title is programmmer, software engineer, developer, or lord of darkness. They care if you matched for the skills they are looking to hire, and if your resume makes it clear you're a good hire.

  • by Mean Variance ( 913229 ) <> on Saturday October 29, 2011 @12:52PM (#37879792)

    In casual conversation among people who wouldn't know the nuances of the various "programmer"-like terms, I do say, "I'm a programmer." It gets the point across simply that most people understand.

    If I'm in a semi-professional setting of white collar adults, I usually say "software developer."

    On a resume or among those who know the industry standard, I say "I'm a software engineer" because that's my title.

    If it's tied to a conversation that might have career potential, I give the true classification at work: senior software engineer.

    • by hey ( 83763 )

      Maybe need a new word: programineer.
      You are a senior programineer!

    • Invent new meaningless titles for yourself, and for extra grins make them acronym out to something amusing.

      Architect of Systems Software
      Architect of Computer Interaction Design
      Personal Computer Programmer
      High Availability Software Head

      I'm sure you can do better. There is nothing better than seeing your name and title on a contract, slide or sign and thinking, really, nobody noticed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by neokushan ( 932374 )

        Hi! I'm the Versatile Administrator of Giant Interconnected Network Architectures, nice to meet you.

      • by gfody ( 514448 )
        for most Architects of Software Systems that I've met the acronym is totally apt!
    • I just say, "I make software." Yes, it's vague, but so is my job -- one day I am fixing a bug, another day I'm ironing out requirements, another day I'm writing tests, but all of it is to support one goal: to make software.
      • If you go any farther than "I make software", their eyes glaze over anyways.

        For over a decade, I've held high level IT positions, including responsibilities in management, systems administration, network administration, and software development. My current title is "Director of Information Technology". When someone asks what I do, I just say "computer stuff". I elaborate a little bit at a time, until I understand what level they're at. In most social circles, "computer stu

  • Such sage advice... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Living Fractal ( 162153 ) <banantarr AT hotmail DOT com> on Saturday October 29, 2011 @12:54PM (#37879812) Homepage
    Because, you know, the 1000+ currently open job postings for keyword "programmer" on are just a perfect example of situations where people are already looking to fire you. After all, that's why they created the posting, just so they could waste company resources and fire someone.

    • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @12:59PM (#37879840) Journal

      Because, you know, the 1000+ currently open job postings for keyword "programmer" on are just a perfect example of situations where people are already looking to fire you. After all, that's why they created the posting, just so they could waste company resources and fire someone. /sarcasm

      Sarcasm and all, this is the rantings of a single person at a single company, about his own personal view of the topic. I could probably find someone who would tell you that using the Oxford comma is likely to get you fired, and due to some forms of projection (the assumption that you are "typical", and you model everyone in the world based on yourself) they will assume that it's the prevalent opinion.

      • Agreed - my initial evaluation of this 'story' was it is someone's personal experience that they are projecting as general truth.
        • No kidding. Consider this "gem"^Wlump of coal:

          (Quick sidenote: You can absolutely ignore outsourcing as a career threat if you read the rest of this guide.) Nobody ever outsources Profit Centers.

          Profit centers are outsourced all the time. "We're making $X by producing it locally, but we can make $5X by outsourcing."

          Or this:

          In the real world, picking up a new language takes a few weeks of effort and after 6 to 12 months nobody will ever notice you havenâ(TM)t been doing that one for your entire

        • by Trepidity ( 597 )

          In particular, he does mostly consulting, and from his descriptions, it sounds like mostly for clueless people who aren't going to evaluate the technical quality of the deliverable (or even know what technical quality looks like). That's a real market niche, and a fairly large one, but it's hardly generalizable to all tech jobs. If you're interviewing for embedded systems development, and your attitude is "I can learn C in 6 weeks" and you want to talk more about providing return on value than about your te

      • What?!? You don't put two spaces after your periods?!? Better start looking for a new job!!!1

        • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

          FWIW, you should only put two spaces after a period if you're typing in a monospaced font (like on a typewriter). For a proportionally spaced font, it's always one space.

          • Given that a space is narrower than most of the other characters in a proportional font (while, of course, being the same size as all the other characters in a monospaced font), that makes no sense at all.

    • Who is Patrick's boss so I can get him fired?
    • That's not inconsistent with the idea that a programmer is expensive commodity labor, a cost that needs to be managed, rather than a member of the "inner circle" of those who are intended to have a long-term investment in the business.

  • by sichbo ( 1188157 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @12:59PM (#37879834) Homepage
    In Canada, it's illegal to practice engineering, or call yourself one, without a engineers license. There's nothing worse than retards who get a college degree in programming and start calling themselves "engineers". It's an insult to every actual certified engineer in the world.
    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      What about programmers with a Computer Engineering degree?

      • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:21PM (#37880010)

        In Canada the degree does not matter. No one, no matter what qualifations can call themseleves and engineer unless they are a professional engineer.

        To be a professional engineer they must be a member of their provincial professional engineering association. This is roughly equivalent toa US lawyer being a member of the bar for a particular US state. The idea is that "Engineers" are professionals and to call yourself one you must be a member of the professional assiation.

        What is a professional engineer (Ontario Professional Engineers Organization)->

        Most civil and a high percentage of those who graduate from mechanical engineering do become professional engineers. It gets you the official STAMP which is used to mark building and machine documents. Most electrical engineering college graduates do not. Those who work in power engineering do. In Canada the main reason to become a professional engineer is to get your stamp. If your job requires you to stamp designs then you will get your professional engineering membership.

        Very few software projects get engineering stamps. The link above also discusses the seal.


        • They are not professional engineers in terms of software or industry. The word engineer dates back to the old days.

          • They are not professional engineers in terms of software or industry. The word engineer dates back to the old days.

            I see the point you're trying to make, but it's actually a straw man. It's akin to confusing the terms "practice," as in "we're going to soccer practice," versus "practice" as in "I work for Dr. Johnson's practice," and then making an argument accordingly.

            AFAIK, the US has something similar. Only IEEE-designated degrees can, technically, call themselves engineers (e.g. electrical engineers), bu

          • They are not professional engineers in terms of software or industry. The word engineer dates back to the old days.

            Untrue. They are very much considered engineers in industry. My grandfather worked for the railroad briefly in the 1930s and in other industrial settings. He had a state issued stationary engineer's license, this implies there is a non-stationary engineer's license that probably referred to train engineers. The stationary engineer's license that he possessed allowed him to fire the boilers in the electrical power generating plant of an army munitions factory during world war 2.

            I get your point, but its a

        • This is made complicated by the fact that "software engineering" is a widely understood and accepted practice, with an extensive discourse going back to the 1960s, and has as much to do with organizational issues, workflow etc. as it does with architecture, design and programming. I understand that this is causing some contestation over the term in Canada. In some sense, you can have a group of system architects, developers/programmers etc. all working together doing software engineering without a single "e

        • I guess tht makes me a union man. Really, I never understood what that term meant. (ACM - Look it up if you don't get it.)
        • Sounds like protectionism. I have sympathy with the idea that you need a certain qualification to call yourself an engineer. I have no sympathy for the idea that you need to join a club to call yourself one.

      • Unless you're licensed as an engineer, you cannot call yourself a software engineer, not even in Texas []. See section 1001.004.c.2.c

        Only a person licensed under this chapter may make any professional use of the term "Engineer"

        Many states have similar provisions. If you see someone calling themselves a "software engineer", but they aren't licensed by the state as an engineer, report them, they are engaging in fraud. Microsoft got nailed and had to change their courses from MCSE for exactly this reason.

        • by fliptout ( 9217 )

          I believe there is an exception to the rule in Texas, where if you work for a company that does manufacturing, you get a pass for calling yourself an engineer. It agitates me to no end seeing people barely qualified to do anything technical take the title of engineer.

          -from a software engineer in TX with PE license.

        • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

          For this reason, I've thought about taking the PE and registering. (I live in Texas.) But, it's been 15 years since I graduated with my BSEE, so it'd take some serious studying to refresh myself on all the calculus and such that I don't use every day. (I still remember all my Calc I pretty well. Calc II, Calc III, DiffEq, Advanced Statistics... not so much.)

          My business cards have never said "engineer" either. Where I work, the rule seems to be "Take whatever title you would have put engineer after, a

      • by Arlet ( 29997 )

        Depends on where you're from. In some countries, a degree at a technical university will allow you to call yourself an 'engineer', even including a special engineer title you can put in front/behind of your name.

    • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:14PM (#37879948) Homepage

      There's nothing worse than retards who get a college degree in programming and start calling themselves "engineers".

      I work with these machines - design them, refine them. You could, with just the slightest hint of fancy, refer to them "difference engines". I am an Engine-er. Welcome to the English language; I suggest that you save yourself some grief and just deal with it.

      (Of course you need a license to do something useful in Canada. Woo flippin' hoo. Canadian industry is all about the incumbent industries protecting themselves from competition through regulatory capture. That's also part of why you have such sucky telecom services that you're always complaining about.)

      • by hjf ( 703092 )

        Except I wouldn't like to use a bridge designed by an self-called "engineer", exploting the english etymology.

        Because in non-english speaking countries, the roles of architect (the one who designs) and engineer (the one who makes the real-life calculations) are very clear. An architect can design a 100-story building, but he needs an engineer to do all the calculations (or check them). It's what we call "sign the blueprints".

    • by Rostin ( 691447 )
      Licensure in the US is handled by the individual states, and the rules and enforcement can be murky and inconsistent. I have a degree in the one of the traditional areas of engineering, but I am not licensed. I was told in college that in my state, my employer is allowed to refer to me internally as an engineer, but I can't represent myself that way to others (e.g. on my business cards) as an engineer unless I'm a for-real P.E. I'm honestly not sure where the line is, though. It could be a matter of fac
    • by Surt ( 22457 )

      We resist this strongly in the US because of the history of people promoting themselves to 'lord' and then demanding the right to tax you and such. So we don't let anyone set claim to a title, though in a few cases we restrict your right to both name yourself something and actually practice at the same time. So you can call yourself a psychologist if you want, as long as you don't make money doing anything remotely resembling therapy.

    • by slyborg ( 524607 )

      One of the (few) things that I still am glad about in working in the software field is the absence of retards brandishing some kind of government-issued license and feeling this entitles them to some kind of respect. You're judged on your skills and knowledge *as demonstrated* in this business. If this offends you, you're definitely in the wrong place, since I'd bet 95% of the people on /. have no form of professional licensure.

  • by babblesaurus ( 2473482 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:01PM (#37879846) Homepage
    . . . and 'real' engineers everywhere weep. Obviously every case may be unique, but calling yourself one thing which has a set of implications does sort of slander professionals in the field whose titles you are trying to snag.
    • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:05PM (#37879882) Homepage

      . . . and 'real' engineers everywhere weep. Obviously every case may be unique, but calling yourself one thing which has a set of implications does sort of slander professionals in the field whose titles you are trying to snag.

      I agree 100%! As we all know, real engineers drive trains.

      chugga chugga chugga chugga choo chooooo!

      • by rbrander ( 73222 )

        No. Real Engineers are held responsible for their mistakes, like doctors. They go to jail if the building falls and kills somebody.
        This has never happened with a software "engineer". That's the difference.

        • by Arlet ( 29997 )

          Of course, when you learn to design a building, they teach you how you can calculate whether the building is strong enough. There are methods and tools for that purpose.

          For software, there are no tools or methods that you can use to determine if a program has some fatal bugs. You're on your own, and usually with a tight deadline and no budget.

          • by rbrander ( 73222 )

            If you think structural engineering is not done on deadlines and budgets, you're kidding yourself.

            But your main point is mostly correct - real software engineering is HARD. One of my courses was about applying mathematical proof methods to programs and proving them correct. It was HARD. Exponentially so for more-complex programs.

            However, it *is* done, mostly in EE with control systems. Medical equipment, phone exchanges , aircraft control - anything where people die if there's a failure and the maker

            • by Arlet ( 29997 )

              If you think structural engineering is not done on deadlines and budgets, you're kidding yourself.

              No, I meant that in the case of software development, a thorough verification (as far as that's possible) would take 10x as much time and budget as is available in most cases. And mathematical proof only works if you have a 100% correct specification.

              In structural engineering, at least the deadline and budget allow for an acceptable verification.

      • Or to take it even further, back in the 1300s when an engineer was someone who operated military 'engines' - aka machines like catapults.

        And let's not forget the Army Corps of Engineers.

        Point being, if someone goes to school to learn how to mix chemicals together and then comes out angry that other people are calling themselves engineers, too, but without the schooling, then maybe that someone should go BACK to school and learn some history.
        • by hjf ( 703092 )

          I was going to give you a long explaination, but paraphrasing you will suffice:

          Point being, if someone goes to school to learn how to fix people and then comes out angry that other people are calling themselves doctors, too, but without the schooling, then maybe that someone should go BACK to school and learn some history.

  • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:02PM (#37879856) Homepage

    It doesn't matter if your first job leaves you unemployed and searching again in a few years. It matters that you're working with people who are smarter than you are and learning how to actually program and write software effectively. Job security? Pay? If you end up as an undifferentiated code monkey left to your own devices or, worse, fighting a monstrous legacy code base and bureaucracy that you're powerless to alter *cough*IBM*cough... you can very easily find you've crippled the rest of your career. At best, the work will be a dull slog.

    Go for the startup, if they sound like they have some idea of how to do things right and will offer you meaningful professional development. If you can't take a career risk at this point in your life, when do you think you will be able to? And then for Job #2, you'll have some Skills. You'll be infinitely more employable. You might even be able to look at the monstrous legacy codebase and say, with the authority of experience, that this stinks and there's a better way to do it and yes you will do that refactoring, and you won't hate your job.

  • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:10PM (#37879918) Homepage

    I've always hated the term Software Engineer. I've never identified with engineers, or engineering. To me software development is a form of applied mathematics, not engineering.

    Programmer is usually associated with a low-skill person who cranks out code. A developer is someone who has to understand the problem inside and out, not merely just complete the task as prescribed.

    • by xero314 ( 722674 )

      There is clearly a difference between Programing, Engineering and Architecture. Most of us that have been in the industry for a while have figured this out. You need to find your place in that structure. I personally identify myself as a Software Engineer (perfectly legal in the US as long as I work for someone else). But I identify that way because I send more of my time working on bigger picture items and include in such considerations topics like engineering ethics, than the time I spend typing out c

      • Programmers are the welders and plumbers of the software industry. They are important and necessary.

        I doubt that. As far as I understand it, a programmer is a low paid, no responsibilities job, mainly existing in the USA (no idea how that works). In my life I never have met a "programmer". Usually in a software development organization everyone has a university degree, aka software engineer, computer science degree, etc.

        Nevertheless you are right to distinguish between the levels of developer, "engineer" an

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by xero314 ( 722674 )

          I doubt that. As far as I understand it, a programmer is a low paid, no responsibilities job, mainly existing in the USA (no idea how that works).

          Read my prior statement that, just like welders and plumbers, programers (or developers if you rather) should organize and bargain collectively. Most large software projects would not be able to be completed for a reasonable cost without programers. Engineers are expensive, at least good ones, and you would be foolish to pay engineers to do what developers do. And I don't know about you but I don't want a mechanical engineer trying to fix my car or installing my heating a cooling unit. You need to know wh

    • While I am technically a software engineer, I tell people I am a programmer. I don't feel that saying you are a programmer denotes you as low-skill. I'd like to see some of these people bashing the term sit down and write a physics simulation engine from scratch.

      Developer, to me, says "I work for someone else trying to come up with a solution to their problems." Programmer, to me, says "I make computers go" - without too much additional information. Engineer seems to me like "I get hung up on this rounding

  • by etymxris ( 121288 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:15PM (#37879962)

    Too many people in IT don't know the first thing about writing code. I think things are changing though. Companies seem to realize you can get by with less people that can do more if your workers can actually program.

    Calling oneself a "programmer" tells us exactly what we want to know when we're looking at candidates. So many people put C, C++, Java, C# or whatever on their resume and can't even write a simple for loop.

    Patrick McKenzie isn't right about how he describes businesses and employees. We see resumes all the time where someone highlights how they saved their last company six, seven, or eight figures. We don't want to hear that. We want to hear that you have the skills needed to do the job we're hiring you for.

    He also isn't right about the language not mattering. It's much easier to go from low level languages to higher level languages than vice versa. If someone was an expert in VB or Python, we would be very hesitant to hire them for a position that required coding in C. And if someone can pick up a language in just a few weeks, then they should do that before they apply to jobs asking for that skill set.

  • by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:29PM (#37880080)

    That's why I put "20th Level Code Rogue/Network Warlock" on my resume.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Except today they play WoW so they're thinking "Wow, what a n00b because I'm 85th level already."

  • I don't know, would you rather be a joomla programmer or a web guy?
  • Instead, growing up on the west coast full of gullible idiots, I call myself a "holistic digital globalistic digital metaphysicist."

  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @01:53PM (#37880300) Homepage

    I've had a terrific career, culminating in a six-figure salary, six weeks vacation, very flexible start times (they wearily put up with my 10AM arrivals as long as I stay to 6), and my choice of projects, and my boss's, boss's, boss's boss recently writing me to congratulating me on 25 years of service and 40 years since I started programming (at 13, with punch-cards) with kind words like "one of our best assets" and "one of a kind".

    My secret? I started with a "real" engineering degree and a few years experience at it, then went back or the CompSci degree. I was going to take CompSci at 18 after 5 years of "fun" programming and some paid work doing stats with FORTRAN for civil eng grad students; but backed out with a funny feeling that I should start off in closer touch with the "real world". Best call I ever made.

    Being grounded as first an engineer, accountant, doctor, lawyer, nurse, salesperson, surveyor, MBA, technician, any profession that involves a lot of data - in these web days that includes "graphic artist" and "PR", is the difference between GP and medical specialist.

    The value you add is that you can skip over half the money spent on software - the requirements analysis, the whole phase of explaining the problem to programmers. Plus, you can go back and forth from yor base profession to w"mostly programming" as the needs of the business come and go. Where there are big software projects, you're the obvious guy to be project leader, you know when the hired programmers are BS-ing or just off-track.

    And you're the guy everybody relies upon when the IT systems are balky.What really freaked me is the calls for help I getfrom "kids"- Junior engineers in their early 20's who grew up with Windows PC's and the Web- but they've never studiedprogramming at all. They really aren't sure how to replace me!

    So: don't just not call yourself a programmer - don't be one. Enhance another profession with programming.

  • When I worked in Texas I heard about some legal trouble that Microsoft got into. They were handing out these pieces of paper that said "certified engineer" on them. Well, in Texas law (IIRC) the only legal way you could claim to be an engineer was if you had a professional engineer license issued by the state, or you operated a train. People got around this by using the "MSCE" acronym and not defining the term on resumés, business cards, and such. People would also say that they "have an engi

  • Very few people working in software today are actually programmers. Most people are software developers, some are architects. Both of those groups do some significant programming very occasionally.

    Most work is maintenance - adding features and interfaces to working systems; the skill is the utilization of the components to hand. After that, configuration and customization; taking the wrappers off something and making it work in our environment and process. The next biggest activity is development - bringi

  • I'm a programmer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @04:58PM (#37881658) Homepage Journal

    I'm a programmer. I have been for over 25 years.

    I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon of "software engineer". I think it's as ludicrous as "sanitation engineering."

    Any employer who thinks "programmer" is a derogatory or lesser term is too blinded by buzzwords for me to be happy working for them anyhow.

  • by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Saturday October 29, 2011 @05:29PM (#37881850)

    The author, Patrick McKenzie, describes himself as an "awkward twenty-something CEO of a multinational company." As an "awkward fifty-something CTO of a multinational company," I can state that I have never read a more truthful and cogent collection of career advice for this profession.

    What he says is the way it is.

  • by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @04:25AM (#37884800) Homepage Journal

    My job duties range from architecting caches and DSP structures, to coming up with clever ways to break systems, to automatically generating performance characterization suites, to analyzing the bulk quantities of data that result from them.

    To do all these things, I write a fair bit of software to achieve these goals. But, in the end the software is a tool to reach some other end. It isn't an end in and of itself.

    Therefore, while I program things (and program them well, IMHO), I don't consider myself a "programmer." My primary work output isn't programs. It's architectural decisions, performance analysis, etc. Programs are just a tool I use to get there. The fact that I fashioned my own tools just means I'm more likely to achieve my goals than someone who can't make their own tools when none exist that will give them the answer they need.

    Now, if the primary output of my job was software, where others provided the requirements inputs, and I produced software to meet those requirements for someone else's consumption, then I might consider calling myself a programmer. But honestly, I have to believe a large quantity of software gets written to further some other immediate need, not as an end in and of itself.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?