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What do you call yourself?

by bassplayer (Monsignor)
on Jun 04, 2004 at 13:27 UTC ( #360849=perlmeditation: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Wise monks,

I see many job titles that one might fit into as a programmer. On some job sites, one is asked to select job titles to be associated with for employer searches. More often than not, the titles don't fit well, being either too broad, or too specific. When submitting a resume, soliciting a client, or when asked one's occupation in conversation, we are asked to sum up our talents in one or two word titles. In my case, I write web applications. 'Web Developer' seems to be more for Graphic Designers. Do most monks use the word 'Web' if applicable, such as 'Web Application(s) Developer' or 'Web Programmer'? Are most CGIs necessarily software in the true sense of the word? Do our programming practices come into play when considering that answer (e.g. formal releases, QA)? How do we differentiate between 'Engineer' and 'Developer' and 'Programmer'? (That is, if we agree on how.) Once you decide, do you generally throw the word 'Perl' in front of it? Anyone use 'Senior'?

Apologies in advance if this topic has been covered before. My searches did not yield the kind of discussion I was looking for. This node offers some insight into what monks see themselves as, but in this case, I am looking more specifically for job titles. I see examples on this node, but I am seeking the explanations behind the chosen titles. Here is a node that touches on the subject as well.

I pose this meditation in small part to ensure that I describe myself correctly to future clients, employers and/or friends, but more so because I am very interested in hearing what other monks have to say about this. So... what do you call yourselves (professionally) and more importantly, why?

bassplayer

Comment on What do you call yourself?
•Re: What do you call yourself?
by merlyn (Sage) on Jun 04, 2004 at 13:37 UTC
    On my business card, I list myself as General Manager, because, after all, I generally manage. {grin}

    In seriousness, I chose this title because when I had just started my consulting firm 17 years ago, I attended a "consultant's consultant" one-day seminar. At the seminar, they warned against "one man shops" (such as me) from listing "President" or "CEO" on their business card.

    The reasoning? If you were talking to a random shmo on the street, and they handed you a card that said "President of XYZ company", your first thought is "he's the only guy there". But if they handed you a card that says "Director of X division" or even a moderate title of "General Manager" like mine, you think "OK, there's people above him, and probably people below him". Instant company size! Also, it means he's a decision maker, but only to a certain extent, so he might need to get approval.

    And I've used that title ever since. I'm a decision maker, but there are "people" I must go see if a decision exceeds certain thresholds. In reality, it just gives me more time to think about decisions.

    Now you know my ugly secret. {grin} Officially, I am CEO of Stonehenge Inc, as well as the sole board member, but on my card, I'm still just the "General Manager".

    -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker
    Be sure to read my standard disclaimer if this is a reply.

      If a random shmo I met on the street handed me his business card, my first thought would be something else than "he's the only guy there", regardless of what would be on the card.

      Abigail

        If a random schmo I met on the street handed me his business card, I'd think, "Why is this guy giving me his business card?" and I really wouldn't care too much what was written on the card :-)

Re: What do you call yourself?
by Abigail-II (Bishop) on Jun 04, 2004 at 13:40 UTC
    My official job title is "Senior Technical Consultant II". It's mentioned on my business cards (which I've never handed out yet). If non-IT people ask me what I do, I say "I work with computers". If more technical people, or people from the company, but outside my group, ask what I do, I reply "I work with Linux".

    I never say I'm a Perl programmer or a Perl developer. That's like a surgeon saying "I handle knives".

    Abigail

      This is almost exactly the same responses I give. I also don't even mention that I'm a programmer (in any language) unless pressed because I've found that people's reactions usually shift in a bad way ("Oh, you're a programmer? Do you know MumbleFoo? It's my favorite language!" and occasionally a condescending "Oh, you're a programmer" and sometimes "Great! Can you help me with my VB app?")

        I don't say I'm a programmer because, well, I'm not a programmer.

        I solve problems and develop and/or implement things. This sometimes requires programming, but that doesn't make me a programmer.

        Abigail

Re: What do you call yourself?
by coreolyn (Parson) on Jun 04, 2004 at 13:44 UTC

    HR insists I'm a Senior Systems Analyst, Peers refer to me as "The Man" when a crisis arises, my bosses refer to me as an architect - I call myself a hacker

    hacker n. [originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe] 1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary. 2. One who programs enthusiastically(even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming. 3. A person capable of appreciating hack value. 4. A person who is good at programming quickly. 5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in `a Unix hacker'..

    With no formal education there's not another way to look at it. I just happen to have an affinity for problem spaces dealing with the abstraction that is computing

      I'm actually a Certified Ethical Hacker. Though some of my colleagues think I'm Certifiable.... thats their problem ;-)
        One of my previous job titles (and I have the going-away plaque to show) was "Air Force Hacker (Security)". I miss that job, but other titles I've held in the USAF include "C2/TBM Field Support Technician", "Information Systems Engineer", and "Readiness Systems Programmer". The last one is the only one I don't like. Of course, I've been called many, many other things too! :)

        - - arden.

Re: What do you call yourself?
by adrianh (Chancellor) on Jun 04, 2004 at 14:09 UTC
    what do you call yourselves (professionally) and more importantly, why?

    I call myself a Technical Consultant. Because I'm a consultant. On technical stuff ;-)

    I don't call myself a developer or programmer since I do other stuff that isn't software development. I don't call myself an engineer because I'm not, and if I did real engineers would hunt me down and poke me with sharp sticks.

Re: What do you call yourself?
by hardburn (Abbot) on Jun 04, 2004 at 14:15 UTC

    My official title is simply "programmer", though I do sys admin tasks on a regular basis, too. It's a small IT staff, so we can't afford to have anyone being too specific.

    At a former job, I was officialy (but half-jokingly) titled "computer guru". In other words, the only person on staff that handled computers and nothing else.

    ----
    send money to your kernel via the boot loader.. This and more wisdom available from Markov Hardburn.

Re: What do you call yourself?
by stvn (Monsignor) on Jun 04, 2004 at 14:25 UTC

    In the past, most of my "titles" were dictated by my employeer. I have been everything from "Production Assisitant" to "Content Engineer" to "Display Technologist" and at one point "Director or Creative Technology" (yes, it was as bullsh*t as it sounds) . Currently, I don't have an official title, and I kind of like it that way. (However, we are soon going to print our new business cards, which means I will have to choose one.)

    As for putting something on a resume, thats a hard one, and I have been known to change it depending upon the job I am applying for. Then again, my last several jobs I got through contacts and not from submitting resumes, so that is untested and likely bad advice. But then again, what is called a "Testing Engineer" at one place might be called a "Quality Assurance Specialist" at another, even though the actual job responsibilities are the same, but the HR flunky that sifts through resumes may not know that. Sometimes having to go through levels of non-technical staff can be frustrating at best. A friend of mine, who was once a Smalltalk evangalist for IBM (a long time ago) and has been doing OOA/D for several years now, was recently was told in an interview that he needed to learn OOP. As far as the interviewer was concerned, (OOP == (Java || C++)) && (OOP != (OOA || OOD))).

    So in answer to your question.

    what do you call yourselves (professionally) and more importantly, why?
    Nothing, and because I got sick of stupid titles like "Creative Technology Engineer". But if I had too, I would call myself a Senior Developer, since I mostly do software development, and I am the most senior of all the developers in our shop. I might, if appropriate, throw "Perl" or "LAMP" or "Web" in there too, but thats getting into specifics.

    -stvn
Re: What do you call yourself?
by pbeckingham (Parson) on Jun 04, 2004 at 14:25 UTC

    Officially, my title is a string of semi-applicable adjectives, followed by "Software Engineer".

    Unofficially, I use many different descriptions, depending on the audience:

    • I sit in a small, fabric-covered box, type all day, my hands are soft, and have never done a day's work in my life, Mum
    • I work with computers
    • I work with web sites
    • I'm a programmer
    • I'm a software engineer
    • I'm a (string of adjectives) software engineer
    I never mention languages or operating systems. If they are that interested, I point them at a resume.

      Why don't you mention languages? Let me state a thing or two about programming languages.

      One big reason for people liking Perl is that it's a quick, compact language. I'm glad I know a little perl, but still I'm fearing the demise of Perl. Both Python and Java have gained on Perl since January 2000. I might consider switching to another language if this trend persists.

      But whatever language I'll use - I don't need to get any better at debugging or testing, and my programming ways don't need to change. I'm serious about that. my achievements have been absolutely satisfying both in business and at home. Why should I change the winning strategy?

      Where do you want to go toady today?

Re: What do you call yourself?
by herveus (Parson) on Jun 04, 2004 at 14:33 UTC
    Howdy!

    I'd have to check to see what my company calls me. Here, at the job site, the hired a "Data Engineer"; I'm in the "Data Engineering" group. I do database stuff, primarily, but I get to apply my Solaris system admin skills as needed (with the option of deferring to the System Administration folks when I get stumped or don't want to deal). I get to be a guru in certain areas.

    When people ask me, I either say "Data Engineer" or "Computer Geek", with amplification as necessary.

    yours,
    Michael
Re: What do you call yourself?
by rockwiz (Friar) on Jun 04, 2004 at 14:44 UTC
    This is a very interesting meditation.. After reading what most of the monks wrote down here, it made me start to think about what people do call me..

    What most monks said that several titles are handed so easily without even a thought for what's really the job or what the title should be is true.

    I'm officially a Sr Systems Programmer. The funny thing is, though I received the official training of Programmer when I was in school, I starting taking the back roads and stop programming to become what I call myself nowadays, a System Admin..

    Like one monk already mentionned, when talking to non-IT people.. I say "I work with computers" or something similar to that. Naturally, the "Oh! Really! I got this problem with my printer" comes up eventually. But when talking to any IT professional.. I'm a Sys Admin.. I'll even go and add Unix Sys Admin if I feel in a good mood.

    Now the Sr thing. I've always thought it was nice touch to say that you had been in a company for a long time for doing the same thing. Personnally in a resume I will put down the Senior as it usually means you're either the guru at the place you're at in that domain or you've been there too long... but I like to think that the managers doing the interviews think more like the first option.

    But honestly.. Im just happy to be a Sys Admin. Fits me better. Until I can become a Team Leader now that would fit me.. ehehhe

Re: What do you call yourself?
by exussum0 (Vicar) on Jun 04, 2004 at 15:31 UTC
    I call myself a software engineer. My titles in the past, have been rather eclectic.

    Now, I'm a "Production Support Engineer" - when the crap hits the fan, we figure out a lot of the junk ahead of time. We also write secondary support systems. We fall under Operations. If you've ever taken MIS courses, you'll see I'm a little.. misplaced. Some texts call me a "user developer".

    I've been called a programmer. But not all solutions involve code. Sometimes I just have to reject a request and ask why don't they use something that exists. I.e. why install majordomo if you just want to do group mailings in the company. Just create an alias.

    I've also been a Senior Software Engineer, which feels more right. I've evaluated softare systems, from bugs in the OS, minor network issues when interacting with software as well as general software architecture. Some say this is hooey... I'm just a developer or programmer. As you can see though, software engineering is not just coding. It's about building. If you supply the parts or not, that's up to you and the situation.

    --
    Bart: God, Schmod. I want my monkey-man.

Re: What do you call yourself?
by etcshadow (Priest) on Jun 04, 2004 at 16:33 UTC
    When I'm just talking to people, I say that I'm "A computer programmer".

    My boss would say that my title is either "Senior Software Architect" or "Senior Architect" or maybe just "Architect". It depends on what kind of mood he's in and how much of a hurry.

    When I'm interviewing candidates, I introduce myself as "I'm one of the architects," even though I'm the only person here (currently) that bears that title (or anything similar), other than the Chief Software Architect (my boss).

    I think that for HR purposes my title is "Senior Technical Architect"... but my business cards still say "Technologist" (along with practically everyone else in the technology team).

    Oh, and the worst thing I've ever been called was (on one version of my wedding announcements a few years ago) "Web Design Technician". (Try to explain to some people that "web design" really means more like a graphic artist, and on top of that the term "technician" usually implies a definitively lower level than an "engineer"... sigh.)

    And my brother sometimes calls me a "Web Master", just to piss me off.

    ------------ :Wq Not an editor command: Wq
      or maybe just "Architect".

      Cool! I've been wanting to ask you .. can you explain the end of "Matrix Reloaded" for me?

        The hidden meaning is "You just wasted eight bucks (adjust for geography, time of day, student/senior citizen discount)".

        Whoah.

        ------------ :Wq Not an editor command: Wq
Re: What do you call yourself?
by samtregar (Abbot) on Jun 04, 2004 at 16:50 UTC
    I'm a programmer, or a Lead Programmer if feel like puffing up my feathers. One thing I won't do is call myself an engineer of any kind. I didn't get a degree in engineering and I've worked with hackers that did.

    -sam

      Sam, as someone with an engineering degree, I thank you.

      i find the tendency to stick 'engineer' into every job title somewhat offensive. graduating with an 'engineering' degree from an accredited program means jumping through additional hoops and working as a professional engineer should mean being held to higher professional and ethical standards. in most engineering fields, like civil engineering, to have 'engineer' in your title, you have to be licensed by the state you're working in, which involves working a certain number of years under a licensed engineer and passing some very intensive tests (including a required ethics test). This is because, in many fields, lives can depend on engineers; if a civil engineer signs off on a bridge design and the bridge collapses, they will lose their license and possibly face legal consequences. In canada at least, having 'engineer' in your title without being licensed (with the exception of a couple fields like train engineers, who have an historical precedent), is illegal. it may be in the US as well, but the canadians actually enforce it.

      i have an engineering degree, but my job title is only 'Programmer Analyst', and that's perfectly fine, because i'm not held up to the same standards that a real professional engineer would be. if i were writing the software that controlled life support systems on a space station or something, i would certainly expect it to be different.

      so anyway, whenever i meet someone who calls themselves a 'user experience engineer', or 'information engineer', or something stupid like that, i have to choke back the desire to rant.

        thraxil, I've noticed the same tendancy. I myself went to the University of Iowa, College of Engineering, for Electrical Engineering. When I hear people referring to the MCSEs as qualifying them for the title of Engineer I want to slap them! Of all the wicked things The Evil Empire has done to this world, that is one of the worst! When the US Army (who I worked for at the time even though I'm US Air Force) gave me and the others in my office the title of Information Systems Engineer, I wasted about fifteen minutes of breath attempting to explain to the Major why that wasn't right. After all, I was the only one with the degree and I've never done the apprenticeship. In the end, as most things military do, as the junior ranking person I lost the battle.

        There are laws in the United States like the one you speak of in Canada, but it is unfortunately not enforced unless you are claiming a specific ABET title (like Civil Engineer or Electrical Engineer) that you haven't earned.

        - - arden.

      I call myself a software engineer. If I were working with lumps of metal instead of bits and bytes, I would have the opportunity to get some certification as an engineer, but that opportunity doesn't exist right now for software engineers. I like to think that I hold myself to the standards expected of a chartered engineer though, so see nothing wrong with calling myself one despite lacking the bit of paper.
        Do whatever you want. Just realize that when you call yourself a "Software Engineer" you sound like a damn fool to anyone that knows what an "Engineer" really is!

        -sam

        ...but that opportunity doesn't exist right now for software engineers

        All of Canada’s provincial engineering associations will license software engineers. McMaster University has a CCPE accredited Software Engineering program.

      I did a mech. eng apprenticeship (3 actually but that's another story) and can, or at least could, call myself a mechanical engineer.

      When I see the terms "engineer" or "engineering" in conjunction with "software", "information", etc. I have but one question.

      Show me your standards (and please don't offer ISO 9000/9001/90002) and your metrics.

      When it becomes possible to write a blueprint for two components, give those blueprints to four separate shops anywhere in the world and know that when you receive them back that any pairing will assemble together. Then you are engineering.

      Prior to that, you are simply crafting.

      I'm a coder.


      Examine what is said, not who speaks.
      "Efficiency is intelligent laziness." -David Dunham
      "Think for yourself!" - Abigail
        Those are at least more sensible criticisms than any whining about not being a member of the right club or having the right bit of paper!

        Trouble is, in the real world you *can't* guarantee that components would fit together when they arrive from your subcontractors. You can't even guarantee that from your own production lines. This is why you test a sample of components as they arrive, and test the end product once you've combined those components with others.

        As for standards - there's no universally accepted standards yet. Seperate organisations have their own standards - at least, the competent ones do - and there is some movement towards universal standards. This is similar to the situation a couple of centuries ago in mechanical and civil engineering. Just look, for example, at the myriad incompatible ways of doing something as simple as making a screw. I don't think you could seriously claim that the pioneers of commercial steam power, or those building canals or cotton mills weren't engineers!

Re: What do you call yourself?
by Paulster2 (Priest) on Jun 04, 2004 at 17:24 UTC

    I, like many of the previous responders, say that "I work with computers". Inevitably I get the "Could you help me with...", but I don't mind for the most part.

    I am by trade a "Computer Consultant" or a "System Administrator". I don't even consider myself good enough to call myself anything more grandious. I do agree with merlyn. Like him, I own my own company of one. I like the idea of calling myself a "General Manager". This is a very broad title that covers a large area of things. Unlike merlyn, I am ultimately subcontracted to the government (US)/(I guess that last statement is supposition, as I do not know anything about merlyn's contracts!!). Anyway, I either say that "I work with computer's" or the consultant thing, because it usually draws a big question mark over someones head and they don't usually ask me anything more about it. A lot of what I do has a 99 year non-disclosure clause that makes it hard for me to talk in specifics, so I like to keep that end of it brief. Besides, if I can create a bit of mystique around what I do, so much the better.

    Paulster2


    You're so sly, but so am I. - Quote from the movie Manhunter.
      The correct answer to "could you help me with $stupid_windows_problem" is "yes, here's my rate card".
Re: What do you call yourself?
by Rex(Wrecks) (Curate) on Jun 04, 2004 at 18:02 UTC
    Well I am sure my company and HR have a title for me somewhere, but I work with networks mostly, everything I do on a daily basis is networking. I have two titles most people know me by: NetMage, and IntraNet Pyromaniac. The latter because I work in Test and QA a lot and break networks and network devices. Both are listed on different business cards, of which I have handed out maybe 10 on various trips for training other teams.

    Pretty much I am self driven, and work on my own or in teams that know me well and just call me by my name. I have found that titles are mostly for fun, and for HR to be able to catagorize you into spreadsheets and slides nicely.

    My Manager used to have the title "Pest Control" (again QA, finding bugs), and when she did that, the guy sitting in the office next to me took on the title "Pest"

    Other titles I have seen: "Tall Blond Guy" because, well, he was! "Digital Entomologist", "Bug Hunter", etc.

    As consultants and such, titles may be more important, working in the small or even large engineering teams that I work in, what you are working on is much more important to be known than a title.


    "Nothing is sure but death and taxes" I say combine the two and its death to all taxes!
Re: What do you call yourself?
by robartes (Priest) on Jun 04, 2004 at 18:35 UTC

    Officially, my boss calls me a Unix Systems Engineer. At the place I'm outsourced to, I don't really have a title, except for Interchangeable Technical Underling.

    Personally, I think of myself as a Unix System Administrator, with the scars to prove it. To a non technical audience, I usually describe myself as an 'IT person'. Amazingly, that seems to keep most of the 'Oh, great, can you fix my printer|scanner|computer|microwave|electric toothbrush)' at a comfortable distance (though that can also be thanks to my ugly mug :) ).

    CU
    Robartes-

Re: What do you call yourself?
by Nkuvu (Priest) on Jun 04, 2004 at 18:55 UTC

    At the moment I professionally call myself unemployed.

    I'm looking for a programming job, though, so I'm searching for "Software Developer" or "Programmer" or maybe even "Software Engineer". My last place of employment called me a Software Engineer.

    Edit: I should note that I fully agree that I shouldn't be called an Engineer. I graduated with a Computer Science degree -- a Bachelor's, specifically. And I've received little to no training after graduation. The only reason I include the term in my job searching is to include the poorly named positions available.

Re: What do you call yourself?
by chance (Beadle) on Jun 04, 2004 at 19:15 UTC
    I like "Software Developer". Seems like a good compromise between the hi-falutin-Dilbertian "Software Engineer" and the code-monkey-garage-work-sounding "programmer".
Re: What do you call yourself?
by doncarlos (Acolyte) on Jun 04, 2004 at 19:35 UTC
    To the average person I say "I work with computers". When pushed by them I say that "sometimes I help computers live with people and sometimes I help people live with computers". My card says "Senior Partner". Like others I went to a seminar that suggested that you always leave yourself negociating room. This way I can say that I need to consult with others.
Re: What do you call yourself?
by jplindstrom (Monsignor) on Jun 04, 2004 at 20:17 UTC
    On my business card it says "Sourcerer".

    Why? Because I got I away with it. And how did I do that?

    It's better to ask forgiveness than permission. Often, neither is required :)

    /J

Re: What do you call yourself?
by chromatic (Archbishop) on Jun 04, 2004 at 21:45 UTC

    My business card says Technical Editor which means that I'm a programmer who knows how to turn words from other programmers and system administrators into readable text.

    Simon Cozens had a nice weblog entry a few months ago about being "just a programmer", so I sometimes call myself "just a hacker", "just a programmer", or "just a craftsman".

    I hate the term Software Engineer because I don't believe that most software development is anything close to engineering. If software were hardware we wouldn't call it software.

Re: What do you call yourself?
by karmacide (Acolyte) on Jun 05, 2004 at 00:56 UTC
    I would appear to be luckier than most here, as at least my title gets decided for me.. I'm a 'bioinformatician'. If anybody asks me what that means (in polite conversation) I say 'it's computational molecular genetics' or 'computational molecular biology'.

    And that's when the whole conversation goes downhill.

Re: What do you call yourself?
by Errto (Vicar) on Jun 05, 2004 at 01:37 UTC

    Being in corporate-land, I get the bizarrely meaningless title of "Systems Analyst." (update - the full title is actually "Systems Analyst - Business Solutions"). I'm not entirely sure what a Systems Analyst means, but in my case it consists of not quite equal parts of:

    • functional design of software
    • database design
    • coding and debugging
    • testing
    • end-user support
    • systems administration
    • something akin to what they called "evangelism" in the late 90's

    My business card and resume say "Systems Analyst" because I feel like that's the honest thing to do. Plus it's a lovely setup for a potential future interview question.

    By the way, since I work for a company that manufactures large and complex machines, there's no danger of people calling me an Engineer. Which is fine by me.

    Update: I found out that the above is only true because I work in an IT division. The developers who write code for the company's software-related products are called Software Engineers.

Re: What do you call yourself?
by pboin (Deacon) on Jun 05, 2004 at 02:11 UTC

    I've been the Minister of Technology for quite a few years. I've always worked for small (<5 employees) companies, and have always been the technician in one way or another. It started out as a joke on a mag subscription, and now all my mail comes that way -- may as well keep it.

      I've been the Minister of Technology for quite a few years.

      I was known to occasionally sign some emails as "Minister of DisInformation Technology" back in my more bitter I-work-in-NY-Ad-Agency-Hell days.

      -stvn
Re: What do you call yourself?
by neniro (Priest) on Jun 05, 2004 at 08:00 UTC
    Administrator. Someone wrote this to my businesscard and I agree with him/her.
Re: What do you call yourself?
by CountZero (Bishop) on Jun 05, 2004 at 09:56 UTC
    Senior Claims Advisor (Marine) is what is on my business card. But I also made (the dynamic database-driven statistics) part of our company's website.

    CountZero

    "If you have four groups working on a compiler, you'll get a 4-pass compiler." - Conway's Law

Re: What do you call yourself?
by EdwardG (Vicar) on Jun 05, 2004 at 17:46 UTC
Re: What do you call yourself?
by andyf (Pilgrim) on Jun 05, 2004 at 22:41 UTC
    "What is the nature of the thing, what does it do?" - Hannible Lecter

    All these titles should carry specific information to others. These days people will call themselves anything and get away with it, my general advice is to understate any pretentious titles and concentrate on your real experience.
    A savvy employer should understand these distinctions...

    Programmer


    programs
    Requires (none)

    Actually writes the code implementing software. Anyone can start as a programmer. The programmers central skill is the ability to transform a high level (algorithm) expression into a sequence of lower level operations (code). But since we all do that every day with mobile phones, video recorders, microwaves and desktop computers, that makes almost everyone a programmer. If someone introduces themselves as a programmer I assume they have fairly deep coding skills, but that doesn't imply they know anything about computers at all.

    Computer Engineer


    Engineers computers
    Requires (physics, electronic engineering, VLSI, CS, screwdriver)

    You can spot an SE by the screwdriver. He deals with the actual physical implementation of computing platforms. This ranges from anyone who built their own PC from cards, to members of the team designing Intels next chipset. All good CEs have deep understanding of binary logic, timing and bus protocols, system components like RAM, ROM, DMA, clocks, interface devices and a register level understanding of the processor and all its internals. A good CE has built at least one computer from component level. Mine was a 68000 based SBU roughly equivilent to an Applemac, made on a wirewrap Eurocard. But, the discipline is broad, and anyone who has designed a small cluster or company network from stock parts and had to take account of physical wiring, heat dynamics, component compatabilities and so forth should count themself as a Computer Engineer. A good CE also has a soldering iron in his kit. SEs are invariably male.

    Systems Analyst


    Analyses Systems
    Requires (programming, theoretical computer science, experience)

    The SA usually comes to an existing scenario which needs automation. The SA analyses the system revealing entities, relationships, control and data flows, transformations/functions, stores, pipes etc. S/he then expresses this in a very high level 'formal' language such as Z, VDM or another psudocode appropriate for describing high level architectures. The hayday of the Systems Analyst was the 60s and 70s when most automation took place. Another more modern role for the SA is to 'rediscover' legacy horrors which have no documentation as a pre-analysis stage to a rewrite. The best attributes of a SA are patience, detective like skills, and experience is vital, you cannot walk straight out of college and call yourself a systems analyst, you should have tackled at least 4 or 5 difficult problems. Some good social and political abilities are also useful when analysing large organisations as there will inevitably be hidden processes and agendas that, although not a part of the technical spec, need routing around. Women make exceptional SAs, Ive met some. Women that is.

    Software Engineer


    High level product engineering
    Requires (programming, software engineering, some theoretical CS is good)

    SE is an identifiablty separate skill. The SE is usually a programmer, at least senior team leader or head of development. The SE takes an overview of a large application. You are not a software engineer if you are working alone or in a 2 man team. Sommerville describes the essential roles of SE. Overseeing Specification, Systems analysis, Prototyping, Development, Test, Version Control, Maintainance and patches. The SE sees a project as a whole lifecycle, a much bigger and broader view than any of the individual coders or teams. There is nothing pretentious about calling this 'Engineering', it is quite appropriate. If the Manager and Team Coders are good a rookie SE can come straight from college and survive under that title, experience is not as important imo. Anyone who did very well at just CS could probably cope nicely once they saw 2 or 3 projects through, or blag it from first principles.

    Software engineering/Product Manager


    Manages
    Requires (SE, CS, experience, experience, experience, confidence)

    Managers do very little at all except take responsibility and deal with people. Certainly the best manager you can work under has 25 years of practical coding, a higher degree in computer science and has worked in all of above roles in their time. In reality most 'managers' are nothing like that. In many areas of human activity its possible for a person with no experience of a field to come along as a 'Manager' having studied only a 'Management' degree. In software it is not. Such self appointed managers fail very quickly because software is unique. Managing code production requires insights into very complicated issues that pedestrian management skills cannot deal with. A good Manager has risen from at least 5 years SE imho. I taught elementry programming to students on an undergrad course 'Software Engineering Management'. Looking back I never would have hired any of those students fresh out of grad, it just can't be taught on a theoretical level. One might be able to blag a crony job as manager of some media company, but SEMs out of their depth rarely last the first week. Real SEM is very active and stressful.

    Hacker


    hacks
    requires (the mind of a hacker)

    Hacker form a subset of all the others. People are either hackers or they are not, but that doesn't stop them from becomming very skilled and sucessful carreer programmers, software engineers or managers. A hacker is a warrior-poet-artist-scientist, indeed best summed up in Podmasters link given by EdwardG. Sourcerer is excellent! Also Codesmith and Code Poet. Hackers are the creative force behind software development. All genuinely new advances in computer science are the fruit of hackers, even if faceless corporations end up eventually robbing them of the patents, IP and attribution. Large teams may create code of immense scale, complexity and reliability, but without hackers in their ranks it can only ever be a derivitive extension of principles. The hacker introduces something else important to the discussion, latent ability, they are whether they know it or not, natural computer scientists and it doesn't matter if they are formally qualified. I recognise fellow hackers by their attitude to problem solving.

    My self title is 'computer scientist', which is my formal qualification and outlook.
    My given title is CTO, which is just an accident of our company being less than 5.
    If asked my answer is the same as Abigails, 'I work with computers', and see where it goes from there.
Re: What do you call yourself?
by qq (Hermit) on Jun 05, 2004 at 23:28 UTC

    Its my impression that here, in the UK, the job titles are more standardized. You can generally either be a Programmer or an Analyst Programmer. You can prepend Senior to these.

    "Analyst" implies that you can start from a customer requirement and work out possible solutions and estimate time and budget. Programmer implies that someone else will give you a programming task, and you'll have to complete it.

    Of course there are also sys admins and quality assurance/tester roles.

    qq

      Its my impression that here, in the UK, the job titles are more standardized. You can generally either be a Programmer or an Analyst Programmer. You can prepend Senior to these.

      That's certainly not been my experience :-) A select few job titles from recent Perl jobs in my inbox:

      • Developer
      • Technical Lead
      • Programmer
      • Systems Engineer
      • Software Engineer
      • Application Developer
      • Professional Services Consultant
      • Analyst Programmer
      • Application Support Specialist
      • Automated Software Test Engineer
      • ... and so on ...
Re: What do you call yourself?
by defjukie (Sexton) on Jun 06, 2004 at 08:49 UTC
    i call myself a stoner student who fumbles around in the dark trying to master perl... a scarily accurate depiction
    ~ defjukie
Re: What do you call yourself?
by zakzebrowski (Curate) on Jun 06, 2004 at 21:40 UTC
    My card says 'sr. network engineer', but I feel I'm really much more of a cook than anything else. (Take a few modules from here, a few modules from there, add patience and reasoning, and you get a great meal...)


    ----
    Zak - the office
Re: What do you call yourself?
by TVSET (Chaplain) on Jun 08, 2004 at 00:55 UTC
    SysAdmin. And no amount of Perl (or any other) code that I write will ever change this. :)
Re: What do you call yourself?
by Shinwa (Beadle) on Jun 08, 2004 at 22:31 UTC
    According to what I origionally was hired for I am a "Web Designer". I of course no longer believe that to be the title I should bear, and I know the hard difficulty of answering a simple question like, "What do you do for a living?". Lets see....I tend to do:

    Web Design
    Networking
    Database Management
    Programming
    Tech Support (comedy hour)
    Coffee Aquisition

    and finally... Computer Training

    So call me what you may, but "The Computer Guy" always seems to work....or at least "Drinker of the Life Blood That Is Coffee".

    ---------------------------------------------
    Shinwa : Did that penguin just meow at me?
    Snuggy : What hunny?
    Shinwa : nuffin' luff...
Re: What do you call yourself?
by sh1tn (Priest) on Apr 06, 2005 at 15:12 UTC
    I'm nobody - nobody's perfect.


      Managing Director.

      Walking the road to enlightenment... I found a penguin and a camel on the way.....
      Fancy a yourname@perl.me.uk? Just ask!!!

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