Engineers, Rock Stars & Ninjas – Oh My!

I was reading Teresas blog post, and wondered if the problem wasn’t in the exchange she described, but in the psyche of the characters in the scenario…

Within the blog post “how to find common ground when engineers dont like features” Teresa describes a scenario in which a product manager is challenged by an “Engineer”.

I’m intrigued by the exchange, not because of the content, but because of the use of the word “Engineer” to describe the role. Engineering is a discipline.

Lifted from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_engineering), because i’m too lazy to paraphrase:

“Software engineering (SE) is the application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the design, development, operation, and maintenance of software, and the study of these approaches; that is, the application of engineering to software. In layman’s terms, it is the act of using insights to conceive, model and scale a solution to a problem.”

Within that definition of engineer, the exchange in the scenario sounded off key. The basic business requirement was being challenged, and that isn’t anything to do with engineering discipline.

While the exchange is fabricated, it is representative of what is happening, i see ideas being challenged by software developers all the time, all too often by self appointed “rock stars” rather than engineers.

In my experience, these people like giving themselves exotic names, ninja, wizard, guru, rock-star or even engineer.

In the real world engineers typically have to endure several years of apprenticeship as well as several years formal academic training, and then have to demonstrate a working knowledge of their subject before a board or governing body, before they can call themselves an engineer, and in order to keep the status they have to provide frequent evidence that their skills and knowledge are up to date.

Would we suffer the same exchange between us and say our plumber?

Me: I want hot water to come out of my tap.
Plumber: i wouldn’t want that.
Me: I’ll find another plumber.

or even:

Ring Ring:
Plumber: Hulo, Ninja heating services, how can i tell you what you want?
Click.. Brrrrrrrrrr……

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