CompEngr EXP
December 26, 2009 12:49 PM   Subscribe

What was the best experience you've had as a Computer Engineer or Computer Scientist?

Bonus: experiences owning you own shop and working as a consultant. I'm researching working as a computer engineer. Any other resources you have about the profession and what it entails would also be helpful.
posted by Rubbstone to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"Computer engineer" isn't a particularly common job title since it is rather generic and far-reaching. Most people I know of that graduated with computer engineering degrees either went into embedded software design or digital logic design.

Personally, having hardware I designed be launched into space (several times) has been pretty neat.
posted by saeculorum at 1:07 PM on December 26, 2009

I'm tring to get a survey of the field. What did you end up doing to that got launched into space. What did it take day to day to do that etc. ad nauseum.
posted by Rubbstone at 1:25 PM on December 26, 2009

When you say "Computer Scientist," are you saying "person who has a Computer Science degree," or actual Computer Science? Because while I know a lot of people with CS degrees, I don't know anyone who's actually a computer scientist; the vast majority are software developers, engineers, architects, and the like.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:32 PM on December 26, 2009

I misspoke how about "in the computer sciences"?
posted by Rubbstone at 1:55 PM on December 26, 2009

While I have some published titles under my belt, allow me to go meta (?) on this question.

To me, the central coolness of computer science is that computers can create actual wealth out of just electrons coursing through silicon.

Think of all the time saved by Dan Bricklin's Visicalc. Or all the (what I assume is) enjoyment WoW players get from inhabiting the virtual world generated from tons and tons of applied CS combined with graphic and sound arts.

These are examples of the immense amount of leverage a programmer enjoys, and why programming pays so well. Spend six months working on something, and you might be able to sell 5 million copies of it. Whether or not said programmer is a "Computer Scientist" is hard to say, perhaps, though all the undergrad CS courses I took in the 80s have direct use in my daily work now.

Now, computer engineering is a different kettle of fish. I really can't imagine what work in this field would be like, though the system integration of the iPhone and hopefully the upcoming Apple tablet might be standout examples of successful computer engineering.

I was accepted into university as a CS/E major, but when they offered the CS option I quickly took it. The E part involved EE, and upper-division EE is some mind-bending stuff where signal theory and circuit design is rather non-intuitive and math-heavy.
posted by tad at 2:47 PM on December 26, 2009

I'm a working software developer, mostly web stuff, nothing especially fantastic just day-to-day coding any monkey can do. I have a computer science background but what I do is software engineering, not computer science.

What I love about being a software developer aren't the major big chords, it's that almost every single day I get to experience the rush of solving a problem. Generally it's a small high, and often times the problems aren't even hard, they're things like "what should this object's interface be?" or "how do I eke a bit of performance out of this query?" Or even "gosh, this new jQuery component is awful perty!" and even seeing things like css3 animations, even though I wasn't involved in them, push those happy place buttons.

Bigger hits come from launching and seeing people react to my software. Having a larger scale project come together from conception to completion is pretty rewarding. Seeing something I wrote almost a decade ago still being used, responding to requests and chugging along against all odds, that sort of thing, is kind of nice. But it's far more about frequent small hits than large ones for me.
posted by cCranium at 8:00 AM on December 27, 2009

Yeah, the term "engineer" is a bit broad when it comes to IT.

I've been an "IT infrastructure engineer" for years, and am now an "infrastructure architect". I specialise in storage, so I setup SANs (storage networks) and backup systems that hang behind servers. So I'm way at the back-end.

This job can be pretty thankless. The thing is, when you're doing a great job, it means nobody notices. I do wish I could look at a house and say "I built that", but that's not going to happen in IT. I mean... I helped build a few data centres... but when you point that out to others, they really don't understand what it means.

The best experiences I've had at work, in as much as feeling a sense of accomplishment, has been moving data centres of several hundred servers to a new location over a weekend, and not losing any data, getting all systems back up and running in time, and not having the users notice a thing.

When the CIO, on a Monday morning says "Oh, that data centre move was this weekend just gone? I didn't realise that", that's the most thanks you're gonna get.

Thus is the life of IT infrastructure.
posted by Diag at 7:21 PM on December 27, 2009

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