My Little Corner of the Net

I’m An Engineer

From time to time when I was a kid, my grandparents would take me to Santa’s Land, a Christmas themed theme park in southern Vermont.

On one of those trips, I remember buying a mechanical Christmas tree toy in the gift shop. The tree was made of three aluminum triangle-ish segments that were mounted to a disk. When you pushed in on the lever on the handle, the disk would spin and the centrifugal force would cause the tree segments to pull apart, revealing a Santa inside. I remember looking at the all the gears that made the toy work and thinking, “I could take this apart and put it back together” (because that’s how my brain works sometimes), and I proceeded to disassemble the thing one afternoon at the table on my grandparents’ back porch.

Of course, getting it back together wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, and when my grandmother came out to see the toy she had bought me turned into a pile of components, she just shook her head and said “you’re going to be an engineer someday.”

My grandmother said I’d become an engineer many times. I have no idea if this particular incident was the first time; it probably wasn’t and it definitely wasn’t the last, but it’s the memory that sticks with me. I, of course, didn’t go into engineering, I went into software, ultimately getting a degree in Information Technology. Software engineering was still a pretty new discipline when I was in college, and by the time I graduated most companies were still using variations of “programmer/analyst” for their software job titles.

“Software engineer” has, of course, become a much more common job title now, and I’ve been calling myself a software engineer for several years, but I’ve never had anything official to back it up. That changed recently as a result of a project to reevaluate and standardize job titles and descriptions across my organization at work. We’ve had systems engineers and network engineers for years, but on the software side we’ve had programmer/analysts (or in my case, “technical team lead,” though what that meant was never well defined and tended to vary based on who I was reporting to at any given time). The applications development managers successfully argued that, since the other teams had engineers, their teams should have software engineers, and it worked. Our job titles got updated last week.

So grandma, you were right…I did become an engineer. And now it’s official. I’m sure you’re proud of me.

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