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Developer or Programmer?

Published in Engineering, Hacking, Programming  |  1 Comment

There is a good article on Developers are from Mars, Programmers are from Venus. Comparing the two terms that are often interchanged, but really imply different meanings.

I first noticed this when deciding what I wanted to do in Undergraduate studies. Computer Science was hot stuff in the late ’90’s, but it really seemed like companies weren’t looking for Computer Scientists, they were really looking for Software Engineers, Developers, and Programmers (all different jobs with different skills, personalities, and types of work).

Computer Scientists really should be developing “formal specifications of a programming language”, whereas Software Engineers should be figuring out how to scale out a database, or apply domain specific solutions.

Of course, I ended up doing Aerospace Engineering, but with a Computer Science Minor. The CS minor let me take C++ instead of Fortran, and also have courses where I actually learned how to do requirements documentation, work in a team, design and build large scale systems in a single semester – all skills I didn’t learn in the Aerospace department but have since applied to my work.

I firmly believe that in the near future, all engineers/scientists should/will learn how to program. It is becoming a basic skill necessary to do proper analysis. Given a little bit of programming ability, an engineer can relieve themselves of copying & pasting from Excel to MatLab or other such silly things. Teach them good programming and software design techniques, in a modern and easy to use language with good tools, like Python (and then SciPy and NumPy) and they can be much more effective designers and analyzers. Also, if they learn general, good technique, they can apply that ability to learning other languages that may be specific to their domain.

And no, learning Fortran (or Java) is not going to cut it.

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  1. katie says:

    October 10th, 2006 at 8:53 am (#)

    I’m not so keen on that article. I think it just co-opts the terms ‘developer’ and ‘programmer’ as shorthand for ‘good software writer’ and ‘bad software writer’, respectively, and then re-hashes standard principles of good software engineering.