I’ve seen articles with this topic in the past but have to admit to have never read one. If you have, probably you already know which one is the better profession so stop reading this now. If you are still interested, this is my take on the topic.
Software engineering is great profession. I was engineer in companies in different sizes, from startups with 5 people to organizations with 5K stuff. In general the work load is usually predictable, products to work and roadmaps known well in advance. Technology may change, but usually the company and the team already have experience with specific languages and tools and uses those during the everyday job. There are quiet times where there is nothing to do and say in the standups and there are overwhelming times where you get back and wrist pain from typing code for hours. But overall engineering involves predictable work where you have to ship lot’s of code regularly. And if you are lucky enough to work in a normal company, you might be doing agile development with all the rituals and practices, the company may send you to trainings and conferences and even have some days in a month to hack something based on your interest. What else to want form life, isn’t it.
Consulting is tough. Depending on the nature of consulting, you might be at different customer every other week or month. Different customers from different industries, each of them with different habits and rituals. There are days and even weeks where you might not write one line of code, and there are days where you have to write code without any tests that goes directly to a production system. No dedicated time to learn new stuff or do hack whatever you want Fridays. Customers pay for getting things done in the way they think is best. Overall lets opportunity to have an impact on the organization or change its culture towards something better. The good side of all this can be summarized with “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. There is no training or conference that can teach you new things in such a short time than a real Customer.
I enjoy both professions and try to get most out of them during the different stages of my short career so far. My drive is, regardless of your job title, be a software craftsman first. Being software craftsman is a state of mind, it is your attitude towards the everyday activities at work. Whatever you do, do it well and then be proud of it. Don’t blindly follow any old habit or ritual that will make you write ” WTF” code. Write well-crafted software that adds real value, and next time make it even better. To find out more about software craftsmanship, join a user group(like LSCC), read a book, and pass the craft on.