I have a habit of calling myself an engineer. You could say well like an engineer that build my favorite clogged turnpike or that blender that lasted three days? Well yes and no, but rather than argue semantics lets first take a look at the origin of the word.
The word engineers roots go back to the roman word ingeniare(“to contrive, devise”) and ingenium (“cleverness”) per wikipedia. If your Spanish is up to par they should also seem a bit familiar to you. One thing interesting to note is that the English word engineer also shares an origin with the word engenders(“To arise from”). This particular framing of the word gives me particular pause for though as my job as a programmer requires a great deal of attention to that ethos.
Ethos? Yes I believe so. I believe that a more accurate definition of the word engineer, despite the modern context, is the title of someone who’s core mastery / profession is to contrive and create tangible, useful devices that move the world forward. An engineer derives these constructs through cleverness and intellect. Now I use the term devices loosely, this can range from the physical( a phone, turnpike, computer processor) to the metaphysical(Concepts, ideas, thoughts). Now it is important to included thought-space in our definition because physical derivation must first be derived through thought. This is perhaps the biggest departure from the traditional definition.
How its useful
By considering this we can also use the word engineering to define a philosophy. In its simplest form this philosophy is the philosophy of creating things through cleverness and creative use of known / discovered principles. As a software developer I have found that it is important to approach problems by providing myself a label that extends beyond the traditional word software developer of X. This acknowledgement that in fact I’m engineering a solution in a greater sense allows myself to act outside of the normal barriers the we impose on our minds. I instead have now become a problem solver, only limited by my means of my own imagination and astuteness to research and learning.