The Challenges of a Software Engineer

While it’s true that the engineer is also a programmer, and there are some design duties included in the core job functions, there are also some very fundamental, critical differences in the manner in which software engineers, programmers, and designers complete their work. Many engineers would also argue that there is a marked difference in the quality and performance of the products they produce as well.

Software engineer jobs take a more formal approach to the process of programming software. The manner in which engineers complete their work is much more similar to traditional engineering processes than it is to software programming or designing methods.

Software engineers are often involved in the most complex of design or programming activities. Though every day, run of the mill programs can be designed by less skilled folks, many programs can’t be trusted to just any old programmer.

For example, programs that control important processes – especially in circumstances where human lives may be lost if an error occurs in a program – are primarily the realm of highly skilled software engineers. After all, you don’t want the software that runs a key piece of medical equipment or that which drives the operating system of a nuclear submarine to fail.

This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of design engineer jobs with which incumbents must constantly contend. They are tasked with ensuring the smooth and efficient operations of incredibly complex and sometimes frightening processes with computer enhanced systems.

Design engineers are tasked not only with creating a software program that will serve the basic needs of a business, organization, or other client, but they must also foresee the potential pitfalls associated with the program as well. They must be able to grasp the technological concepts of the methods or practices with which the program is intended to interface and design the software appropriately for the highly technical, and often potentially dangerous, environment in which it will be used.

Although the average programmer or designer may be able to afford a few minor glitches, for those working in design engineer jobs, there is often no such thing as a minor glitch. Of the software fails, the consequences can be great. The pressure that design engineers face on a daily basis is tremendous for this very reason.

Software engineers also face some other unique challenges in the IT world. They must often complete a lot more paperwork than most IT professionals. Once again remaining true to the engineering trade, software engineers will draft designs, test them for quality, integrity and performance, and will frequently redesign them several times before moving from paper or prototypes to the real deal. In fact, many of those who work in software engineer jobs will spend as much as 70 – 80% of their time dealing with paperwork and only 20 – 30% actually writing code for the software itself.

Who Pays the Best Software Engineer Salary

If you’re seeking greener pastures, a career in software engineering is definitely worth exploring. According to trusted sources, a software engineer salary is an upwards of 100% compared to other careers and is the fastest growing as well. The exact engineer salary will vary of course depending on the location and company, but the average numbers across the globe rings in at $90,000.

Software engineering is a field of computer science that deals with the creation of software for computers and other electronic devices. A software engineer is not to be confused with a computer programmer as the two disciplines are considerably different. Basically, a software engineer designs the programs, while a computer programmer created the codes to make them work.

Locating great engineering talent is not easy in itself so tech companies are happy to pay top $$$ for those who excel at what they do and also to keep them happy. So if you’re curious to know which tech heavyweights pay their engineers the most, the salaries of these global organizations will definitely raise eyebrows.

1. Juniper Networks – engineers at Juniper Networks not Facebook or Google are the highest paid on this list. With a base salary of $160,000, Juniper is a network component maker and a close rival of Cisco Systems. The engineer salary offered by Juniper is significantly higher than the global world average for this discipline.

2. Google – a company that doesn’t allow its employees to go more than 150 feet for food and backed by a vibrant history, Google is the second highest payer on this list, and pays its engineers a base salary of $124,520. Not only are software engineers handsomely paid, they and other employees enjoy a plethora of perks including 3 gourmet meals a day, allowed to bring their trained canines to work, and spend 20% of their time on developing ideas of their own among others.

3. Twitter – Coming in at #3, Twitter – a social media heavyweight pays its software engineers a base salary $120,000 and a bucket load of perks. Twitter has garnered a reputation of being one of the top places to work with rooftop team meetings and free food.

4. Facebook – Another social media bigwig, a base engineer salary at Facebook is no less $119,000 plus some of the most fantastic perks in Silicon Valley. The biggest and unique benefit of working at Facebook is the ability to set your own hours without compromising on a hefty paycheck.

5. Apple – with an engineer salary ringing in at $118,000, working at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino CA is truly an experience of a lifetime. Although a hard company to work for, all employees at Apple are well compensated for their time including phenomenal benefits.

Software Engineering and the Intelligence Community – Setting Real Time Standards

Software engineering is an essential discipline when designing and implementing high performance data enterprises. Although software engineers are not certified or sanctioned by any standards body, use of software engineers with experience in the Intelligence Community increases chances of success.

Software Engineering Defined

Software engineering is the application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the development, operation, and maintenance of software, and the study of these approaches; that is, the application of engineering to software. (Source Wikipedia)

Knowledge of programming is the main pre-requisite to becoming a software engineer, but it is not sufficient. Many software engineers have degrees in Computer Science or mathematics and physics due to the lack of software engineering programs in higher education. An organized mind and an interest in problem solving are also prerequisites.

However, as data networks become more complex and indispensable in large organizations higher education has started to change with the introduction of new software engineering degrees, especially in post-graduate education.

Software Engineering as a Discipline

Software engineering contains a number of separate yet interrelated disciplines.

* Software requirements

* Software design

* Software development

* Software testing

* Software maintenance

* Software configuration management

* Software engineering management, see also project management

* Software development process

* Software engineering tools and Computer Aided Software Engineering

* Software quality

* Social Software Engineering

Each sub discipline has its own performance requirements and processes for success.

Jobs in Software Engineering – A Strong Market

Because the field of software engineering is broad and growing more complex because of the introduction of new technologies and applications, the potential for job growth is significant even in a down economy.

According to the Federal Government studies, the demand for qualified software engineers is significant and will continue to grow,

  • Computer software engineers are one of the occupations projected to grow the fastest and add the most new jobs over the 2006-16 decade.
  • Excellent job prospects are expected for applicants with at least bachelor’s degree in computer engineering or computer science and with practical work experience.
  • Computer software engineers must continually strive to acquire new skills in conjunction with the rapid changes that occur in computer technology.

Because computer networks and computing hardware and software are growing in power and complexity, the demand for qualified Software engineers is high. As the United States continues to be an information driven society new, high paying jobs with quality benefit packages are available in the economy.

This is particularly true as the economy emerges from its depressed state.

Employment of computer software engineers is projected to increase by 38 percent over the 2006 to 2016 period, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This occupation will generate about 324,000 new jobs, over the projections decade, one of the largest employment increases of any occupation.

Significant drivers of growth in the demand for software engineers include adoption of new technologies for information efficiency in a competitive environment. This is particularly true as information networks grow in sophistication and interconnect.

In addition, information security concerns and cyber threats have given rise to new software requirements.

Concerns over “cyber security” will result in businesses and government continuing to invest heavily in software that protects their networks and vital electronic infrastructure from attack. Cyber Security has become a major area of concern for the U,S, Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community.

Very few organizations are willing to trust the security of their networks to low cost, offshore software engineering firms.

Finally, in economic and competitive terms low cost offshore outsourcing is not a real threat because software engineering requires innovation and intense research and development expenditures. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

One area with a tremendous appetite for software engineers is the Federal Government. The Federal Government continues to grow and, with the present trend in Government spending, greater demand for IT and Cyber Security engineering specialists will also generate job demand..

Ensuring Quality Standards – A Problem

While there is tremendous demand for engineering professionals, the systems and networks designed and implemented by software engineers are often the heart of any large business of government enterprise. Quality and efficiency cannot be sacrificed by substandard performance.

Many who call themselves “Software Engineer” are not fully qualified and often produce low quality work output.

Many professions enforce quality standards through professional certification boards but professional certification of software engineers is confusing and, while many view it as a tool to improve professional practice, others consider it as an unnecessary encumbrance.

In the United States, most certification programs in the IT industry are oriented toward specific technologies, and are managed by the vendors of these technologies.

No matter which way the debate goes, full accreditation will not serve as a quality standard backstop for software engineers in the foreseeable future so other, on the job standards, must be used to ensure engineering quality.

Documented past performance that is favorable or a history of software development in a demanding industry has now become a major factor to determine future success.

Software Engineering and the Intelligence Community – Real Time Certification

With the absence of any standard certification programs, employers and government service contractors must exercise great care when utilizing software design or restore critical network or enterprise software.

Because networks and the software that run them are becoming more critical to business operations and more complex, the chances of an inexperienced or unqualified software engineer irrevocably damaging all or part of the network has increased.

One major error by an unqualified engineer could ruin an entire networking enterprise and bring down an organization. This is particularly true for large government.agencies tasked with the collection and processing of sensitive data.

Of all Federal Government agencies, a case can be made that the Intelligence Community [] is the most demanding and discriminating when it comes to software engineering. This level of excellence requirement is because of the size of the data networks involved and the mission requirements to ensure national security.

In addition to the mission critical demands of each agency and its clients for real time data, continuous, massive amounts of sensitive data are collected on a 24×7 basis.

This data must be processed, analyzed, protected and disseminated in an efficient way that protects national security interests. Data protection and cyber security are new challenges to the software engineer and place additional performance demands..

A design flaw in the architecture of a network could be fatal for the entire collection system and and the introduction of a virus or other cyber breach could crash the entire system.

Because of the classified/sensitive nature of the data collected in the Intelligence Community high level security clearances are also required and this places further burdens on the integrity of the individual.

Servicing the needs of the Intelligence Community is a demanding task but the experience will test the skills, work ethic and judgment of even the most seasoned software engineer. Thus engineers with IC experience command a premium wage and benefits based upon proving themselves capable,

When a formal certification is not available, broad and extensive software engineering experience in the Intelligence Community on a job candidate’s resume is often a valuable real time substitute.