Software 'Engineering' (And why I respectfully disagree with APEGA) - Sun, Oct 16, 2022

Don't Thread on Me

On November 26, 2019, Associate Chief Justice Nielsen of the Alberta Court of King’s Bench ordered an Injunction that stipulated an individual who was using the job title “Software Engineer” had to stop doing so.

The reason for this is the fact that up here in Canada we have an organization known as APEGA, which sued the individual for using the term. APEGA claims on their website that they hold the legal right to control and enforce that only members of APEGA may legally refer to themselves to the public as an Engineer.

Their reasoning, in a recent release, was as follows:

“You would not want someone to operate on you in the province if they are not licensed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta,” said Jay Nagendran, APEGA registrar and chief executive officer. By that same token, you do not want someone designing your pacemaker or self-driving car if they are not a licensed engineer. That puts people’s lives at risk, something APEGA takes very seriously."

This makes sense for Engineering in the real world

APEGA has outed themselves as completely out of touch with reality

See I get where they are coming from, but this is overreaching to an absurd degree.

I completely agree that in the real physical world it makes total sense for Engineering to be a regulated and controlled job position. Local engineers must know and adhere to countless laws, rules, principles, and requirements… and every locale is different!

But that’s sort of the thing now isn’t it? An engineer in Edmonton, Alberta, who is designing a new highrise apartment stretch to be constructed in Edmonton, Alberta, doesn't exactly need to know the laws and requirements for this task in another country, do they?

That is to say, knowledge on the legal minimum bearing potential of load bearing walls in… say… Seoul, South Korea, doesn’t exactly apply to someone building their highrise in Alberta, does it APEGA?

And that’s precisely where the comparison of Engineering in the real world dead stops versus Software Engineering, because Software Engineer Doesn't. Have. Borders.

You can’t compare it to Software Engineering though

Because, here is the thing, “where” a website is built, is largely irrelevant. Software moves across the internet. See the contractor in Alberta can’t have their website built in India by Engineers, then shipped over in a barge, stood up in Toronto, and yet somehow Edmontonians can walk into and utilize that building without leaving Edmonton. That doesn’t make any sense right?

But that sure does make sense in the Software world. Paying Software Engineers in India to build your website, host it on Toronto servers, and yet Edmontonians can access it is a very normal everyday occurrence, it happens literally all the time in fact.

Here’s precisely what happens if our province continues to think it’s a super duper brilliant idea to allow APEGA to greedily overreach their jurisdiction from the real physical world to the digital world:

Scenario A: If non-engineer software developers are made illegal

This is the crazy “There’s no way this would happen” but just in case anyone thinks this is a good idea, where we approach a world where people seriously think you can compare engineering in the real world to engineering in software, and some out of touch relic of a judge rules that all software development must be performed by licensed engineers in Alberta…

Everyone would instantly pack up their bags and leave

Edmonton and Calgary have thriving Tech Sectors, but only because we can compete on fair grounds like everyone else. The thing is, the moment you tell companies they have to build their websites with licensed expensive engineers, there is nothing stopping the companies from just dipping one border over. Websites. Don’t. Care. About. Borders.

They’ll just step a toe over the border, set up shop, and hire Software Engineers in the United States to build their websites (or India, or basically anywhere in the world because its a job anyone can do from their home office remotely), and just like that Alberta’s entire Tech Sector will vaporize by the end of the year. Thousands of people will be laid off, and then every single software engineer developer would pack their bags up and also move to where the work went.

Have you looked at the prices to become a certified Engineer with APEGA? I guarantee you every software company will do the quick math and realize it would be substantially cheaper to just foot the bill and relocate all their best developers over the border. Hell they can probably even keep it simpler and just legally move their company to the states, but keep doing the same job in the same building here while paying taxes to the United States instead.

I guarantee there’s easily 20+ ways to loophole around this, but all of the loopholes will absolutely involve hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxes that would have gone to Alberta, instead to be siphoned off to some other country/province.

Scenario B: The more likely outcome

Everyone will collectively roll their eyes, flip APEGA the bird, and start flipping their LinkedIn profiles to say “Software Engineer” out of spite, because seriously, what are you going to do…?

Sue all of us? How many people can the government even enforce injunctions on per month? What would the government even do if right now the thousands of developers in Alberta start calling themselves engineers out of spite?

This would be the quickest and most efficient way for the entire tech sector of the province, hell, all of Canada, to conclude that APEGA has no idea what it is doing anymore.

Sure, maybe a bunch of folks stop using the term on their profiles. But everyone will collectively be muttering under their breath about how the current provincial government has yet again proven itself to be completely inept and out of touch with modern society.

So what’s next?

So what’s it going to be? Will our government realize that there’s really only one course of action to take to drag this province out of the stone age, or are our representatives going to yet again let us down?

Conservative Party’s are supposed to be anti-red tape… aren’t they?