Is Calling a Software Engineer a 'Programmer' an Insult?: Page 2

Posted February 17, 2009

Eric Spiegel

Eric Spiegel

(Page 2 of 2)

Well, I went to the official source for everything these days, Wikipedia, where Programmer is described as follows.

“A programmer is someone who writes computer software. The term computer programmer can refer to a specialist in one area of computer programming or to a generalist who writes code for many kinds of software. One who practices or professes a formal approach to programming may also be known as a programmer analyst.”

Hey, right on the money so far! But it gets better:

“A programmer is not a software developer, software engineer, computer scientist, or software analyst. These professions typically refer to individuals possessing programming skills as well as other software engineering skills. For this reason, the term programmer is sometimes considered an insulting or derogatory oversimplification of these other professions. This has sparked much debate amongst developers, analysts, computer scientists, programmers, and outsiders who continue to be puzzled at the subtle differences in these occupations”

Wow, insulting and derogatory! Well, let the debate continue.

I decided to ask someone who worked in Quality Assurance and had to deal with software developers daily in their job.

Now, interestingly enough, those who work in QA are most often referred to as Engineers, even though many of them write no code at all. One of my friends who has worked in QA for many years (and asked not to be named) had this comment when I asked his opinion on titles for those that write software:

“I just refer to them as “Primadonna, gas bag, egotistical, etc.”

Oh. Perhaps the relationship between QA and Development is best left for a separate article.

Yet the response from Tim Jackson, a consultant based in Maryland, seemed to confirm this perception. Jackson has been writing software for decades and is a self proclaimed solutions architect.

I asked him why he chose “solutions architect.”

His response?

“The title ALMIGHTY SUPREME was already taken.”

Other articles by Eric Spiegel:

Do Nice Engineers Finish Last in Tough Times?

My Three Worst Experiences in Software Development

Software Developer's Dilemma: Is Being A Sales Engineer a Cop-Out?

Eric Spiegel is CEO and co-founder of XTS, which provides software for planning, managing and auditing Citrix and other virtualization platforms.

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