Sep 30, 2009

What software engineers actually do ?

Two things that people wonder about software engineers.

  • What we actually do at work
  • Why are we paid more

Being a software engineer, i need to give a fair, convincing answer.
This is a famous statement. It holds good not only for a software engineer but for any professional. Even it holds well for a doctor or lawyer.

"If you are not able to explain your mom & dad about what you do at work, then YOU don't even know what YOU do..."

This doesn't refer your parents especially but for anyone, any non-technical person having no knowledge about your profession. Well, that said, read more & find out what WE do at work.

Role of IT

With hype of technology at it's peak, the fact that IT enables business is blatant. I refer "business" to every possible category like banks, media, travel, automobiles, entertainment, shopping……

Simply put, everything. Now I would like to share few examples about how IT supports the business before i write brief on what i do @ work.

Here is a very simple, small scenario.

A billing system in a provisional store. Without one, the store keeper use to write down the list of items in a paper, adds them up to finally get your bill. Now the billing system not only gives the bill in a minute but also it keeps track of the total sales for the day, month & year too. Even it will order the wholesaler for more goods whenever a particular item is sold out.

My friend, Sri vallabha is a mechanical engineer by graduation. But at work he spends most of his time with a computer. You might wonder what does a mechanical engineer have to do with a computer. This is what he does.

sri’s uses an engine automation software. This software is just a tool using which he can ‘virtually’ build an engine & test it’s output & performance. He configures this ‘virtual’ engine with varying parameters and he gets a perfect design after finalizing the torque, size, bhp, diameter etc.,

Previously they are made physically & tested live. To get the perfect design, we need to change the parameters & manufacture the engine multiple number of times. The tool he uses comes under a category called CAD. CAD is a type of software which is used to create & design virtual objects. like the engine sri designs. So now you can easily understand how much time & money IT saves for his business.

Few other examples are…

  • The ATM you use every day
  • The online shopping you do with your credit card
  • Automation of Rocket launch.
  • The visual effects & sound effects used in movies.

Role of a Software Engineer

It takes a lot to complete a software. It involves invaluable effort from several people where my role lies in the lowest level. Now i assume that you figured out what an IT company does, here is what MY role is all about.

We have several people with varying designations to define, design & develop a solution.

When we build a house, initially we will finalize a PLAN of the house, estimate the total cost, gather labors, build the house & complete it. The same story applies to our category too…

People at the top level will try to understand the business & the problem scenario. They will finalize a PLAN to solve it. After a proper design is done, we come into picture. We are the people who will DEVELOP the solution using the design.

‘DEVELOP’ means, writing programs. ‘Programs’ means creating or defining a set of instructions. Why Instructions ?

The computer is an IDIOT. Don’t laugh because it’s the truth. It cannot take any decisions on it’s own. You have to program (instruct or tell) what to do. If i say, “Go, jump into the well”, Will you actually do it ? But the computer will !!

Though the computer is fast & effective in processing & producing results, it cannot think on it’s own. WE (Software Engineers) have to write the instructions & TEACH (or GUIDE) how to do. Writing instructions is also not easy. I cannot just say, “Computer Ji, please solve this problem”. So we have to write step-by-step clear cut instructions after which our IDIOT will take care of the rest.

We use a “Programming language” to write such instructions. If you have heard of C-language, C++, Java, Visual Basic, DOT NET…..they all come under the category of programming languages.

So this is what WE do at work. This is why we are paid this much. Fact is that we are not even paid 1/10th of our effort. Now if this article helped you in understanding our work, then i can make sure that I know what i am doing @ work :)

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