Developer vs Engineer

April 3, 2024
Developer vs Engineer

My good friend Vera Milan Gervais published her book, “The Wordz We Wear: How to show up with confidence and create your best life” last year. In this book, she unpacks how the labels we apply to ourselves can limit or empower us.

I’ve thought a lot about her Wordz, in relation to a change that happened late last year in my province.

Last fall, the Alberta government proposed and then passed legislation that finally loosened the regulations around the label “software engineer”. We no longer have to be registered (and regulated) members of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) in order to call ourselves, or advertise jobs for, software engineers.

Predictably, the professional engineers with degree in software engineering and memberships in APEGA are peeved. However, for all the people who have worked in the software engineering discipline, but have been unable to call themselves software engineers, well, we’re pretty happy. I’m not sure when it was in my career that I realized I couldn’t call myself an engineer. I mean, I have a computer science degree, I’d always called myself a programmer and then later on a developer, but the word engineer was never used because I’ve always worked in Alberta/Canada. Once I started working for companies outside of Canada it became clear to me that there was a stigma attached when not calling yourself an engineer. The label made a big difference. I did eventually create a couple different versions of my résumé and use the word engineer on the ones that were being presented outside of Canada.

I see the reasoning behind this change in regulations. Companies in Alberta have been unable to advertise jobs to attract software engineers from other jurisdictions, because of the rules and regulations and laws in effect, when what they really are looking for is people with a computer science degree, or equivalent experience. I’m not sure if this will have a huge impact on the people applying for jobs here. Certainly there’s more than enough people out of work right now even locally. Hopefully the professional engineers will get over their upset and will come to terms with the idea that the word engineer does not actually belong to them. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy the fact that the label “software engineer” is no longer forbidden to me 🥳.

Speaking of people out of work… I know a lot of them. So if you’re looking for good people in software, no matter what they call themselves, let me know. I might be able to hook you up.

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