I’m new from the university - Let’s understand different roles

At most of the software companies there are several different roles: project manager, team manager, software architect, lead developer, technical leader, software tester, scrum master, product owner, junior software developer, senior software developer, system engineer, requirement engineer etc. If you are new in the world of software companies it can be quite difficult to understand the meaning of these roles. It’s because sometimes the same role has different names at different companies or the same name means different role. Plus some of these roles are really similar to each other, but still not the same. In this chapter I’m trying to give an overview about the meaning of these roles. But at some companies it can be different.

This is normally a position which you can take over as a student. Normally it’s a part time job and you can support the developer team with implementation of tools or smaller features. This is normally the first step of your carrier.

Junior software developer:
A junior software developer is normally a software developer who has less experience and can work independent on features and software components, but still need regular support and leading from the more experienced colleagues. You can take over such a position normally after finishing your studies/working for a while as trainee. This is really a good position to learn a lot about software development.
Senior software developer:
It’s up to company, but normally your next career step after being a junior software developer is something called simply software developer or you are going to be immediately a senior software developer. A senior software developer is an experienced software developer (usually has at least 5 years of experience), can solve problems independently, can choose between technical proposals, has a good overview on the overall development process, can make solutions for new problems as well. Normally a senior software developer should be able to support the junior colleagues.

Software architect:
A software architect is responsible for the design of a software. That means a software architect is creating software design and makes sure that all the implementation is following the design (normally it’s done by code reviews). A software architect needs to have a very good overview, needs to know the related technologies well.

Technical leader:
At some companies each project has a technical leader. A technical leader is normally someone who can take technical decisions and who is technically responsible for the product. A technical leader is most of the cases overtaking the software architect tasks as well.

Lead developer:
Lead developer is typically a role at smaller companies. It is usually a mixture of technical leader and project manager.

System engineer:
The system engineer roles exist usually at products which has a close relation to the hardware (embedded development etc.). A system engineer is usually not deep in coding. A system engineer needs to plan how the whole system will work: why inputs are provided in which format, what are the states of the system, which outputs will be provided, what are the corner cases and limitations of the system. The system engineers are using quite often some modelling software (Matlab etc.).

Requirement engineer/Buisness analyst:
A requirement engineer or buisness analyst needs to understand what is the expected behaviour of the software in different use cases and document them in a clear, non-ambiguous way. They need to think about corner cases as well. Requirement engineers are usually not deep in code. This role is quite often overtaken by system engineers.

Software tester:
A software tester is someone who is creating test plans based on the requirements of the system and after that runs manual tests or implements automated tests and book the result in the correct format. A software tester needs to understand the requirements well and needs to think about corner cases. Most of the testers know some scripting language and test framework for automated tests.

Project manager:
The project manager is responsible for the planning and tracking of the project from budget and time point of view. That means: it needs to be planned: what will be done, when and by whom and the project manager needs to track it. If something is going wrong the project manager needs to identify and help to resolve the issue (like needed trainings, missing inputs etc.). Usually the project manager has direct connection with the customer and needs to report the state of the project to the higher level management. The project manager is responsibility is that the project needs to be done in time and inside budget. At some companies the project manager activities are shared between multiple managers (one is only responsible for time planning and tracking, one is responsible for the budget etc.). The project manager has normally some technical knowledge, but most of the cases the project manager is not deep in code.

Product owner:
Product owner is a role in scrum projects. The product owner is the one who has a good understanding of the project goals and requirements and who is creating clear user stories from these requirements. The product owner is setting the priority of the user stories and well. The product owner is always available for the development team but is not part of that.

Scrum master:
Scrum master is a role in scrum projects. A scrum master is supporting the team to keep the scrum process. A scrum master can be a developer as well in the same time.

Team manager:
A team manager is responsible for a bigger team and multiple project. The team manager is responsible for hire new colleagues, do regular feedback meetings with the employees, identify needed trainings and send the right colleagues to the trainings, supporting employees to reach the next step in their career path, motivating employees, identifying and tracking goals for the employees, do resource plan between the projects etc. A good team manager has experience in development, project management and has good interpersonal skills.

I hope it helped a bit to understand these roles. But as I said there can be big differences between companies.

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