Opinion: Architect VS Engineer VS Developer

Some would say the differences are semantic, some say pedantic, some say titles are a waste of time, I say it matters, and there is a difference. Here is why I think so.

Word Etymology and Meaning

Dictionary.com

Architect

ar·chi·tect/ˈärkəˌtekt/noun

  1. 1.a person who designs buildings and in many cases also supervises their construction.synonyms:designer, planner, builder, building consultant, draughtsman”the great Norman architect of Durham Cathedral”

verb COMPUTING

  1. 1.design and make.”few software packages were architected with Ethernet access in mind”

Engineer

en·gi·neer/ˌenjəˈnir/noun

  1. 1.a person who designs, builds, or maintains engines, machines, or public works.synonyms:designer, planner, builder, architect, producer, fabricator, developer, creator; inventor, originator, deviser, contriver, mastermind”the structural engineer’s drawings”

verb

  1. 1.design and build (a machine or structure).”the men who engineered the tunnel”

Developer

de·vel·op·er/dəˈveləpər/noun

  1. a person or thing that develops something.”a property developer”
    • a person who grows or matures at a specified time or rate.”I was a slow developer”
    • a chemical agent used for treating photographic film to make a visible image.

So we have Architect (computing) that means to ‘design or make’, an Engineer who ‘design and build’, and finally a developer who grows or matures at a specific time/rate. ‘Developer’ describes the person’s state, whereas the other two describe the person’s actions.

Wikipedia.com

Lets append ‘software’ to each term and see what the mighty Wikipedia gives us:

software architect is a software developer expert who makes high-level design choices and dictates technical standards, including software coding standards, tools, and platforms.Software architect – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_architect

software engineer is a person who applies the principles of software engineering to the design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation of computer software. Prior to the mid-1970s, software practitioners called themselves computer programmers or software developers, regardless of their actual jobs.Software engineer – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_engineer

software developer is a person concerned with facets of the software development process, including the research, design, programming, and testing of computer software. Other job titles which are often used with similar meanings are programmer, software analyst, and software engineer.Software developer – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_developer

So according to Wikipedia the architect makes high-level design choices, sets standards, and picks the tools. Where as engineer and developer are closely related. We now have two examples of how the architect is distinct from engineer and developer so let’s clarify the differences between those two next.

If you know what this is, good for you. If you know what it comes from I would like to know.

Engineer VS Developer

Software Engineer Insider has a great (but short) article discussing the differences. To paraphrase an developer focuses on the coding in a narrow scope. An Engineer understand the ‘big picture’ and ‘client requirements’. Following the entire SDLC of the product. From client request to final deployment.

Jason McCreary puts it short as well:

Developer
A developer executes. Their talents often focused to a single area. Without need for the “big picture”.

Engineer
An engineer designs and plans. Always aware of the “big picture”. With talents in many areas. An engineer can assume the developer role. But an engineer's core focus lies with architecture.

Conclusion

With the above and many other conversations and much research my opinion is formed based on the knowledge and consensus available: Architect, high level choices and tool selection. Engineer, build applying scientific mentality and methodical process. Developers, write the computer code to make it do a thing.

What do think. Am I being overly pedantic? Do you not care either way? Are you an architect and feel insulted when someone calls you a coder?

Let’s discuss in the comments below.


2018-03-28: This article was picked and translated for the JP publication Any Picks. Check it out here.

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