[Editor's Note: This was originally posted on the Embedded Master]
Two recent posts reminded me once again of a challenge that I think all embedded developers run up against. In John Sloan’s comment in a LinkedIn discussion asking “Do most embedded software developers also have hardware design experience too,” he volunteers:
“… When people ask me what I do for a living, I seldom say “embedded development” because even I don’t really know what that means. I usually just say “high tech product development”.”
The other recent example of awkwardness in describing embedded development comes from Jack Ganssle’s “The Embedded Muse 190” newsletter:
“… I long ago gave up describing my job at parties, instead telling folks I’m an engineer. Their eyes immediately glaze over for a moment till they turn to talk to someone, anyone, else.”
To the same point, I shared in a different discussion asking is embedded different that
“… One of the first things I had to internalize when transitioning to embedded design was that my software was invisible in the end system. The end user had no idea it was there—nor did they ever need to. I believe this an essential component of what makes something an embedded system. This had a significant impact on how I defined my worth and my ability to tell people what I did for a living. I laughingly adopted the philosophy of “You know you’re an embedded designer when you have to oversimplify your job description for ‘normal’ people”. I found myself just telling people I worked on the Space Shuttle or aircraft because it was too frustrating to try to explain the invisible portion of the system that I actually worked on in those types of systems.”
I will be posting a question each week relevant to embedded developers. One goal of the questions is to uncover those things we have in common with each other. Another goal is to uncover trends and key care-about groupings based around different design considerations or trade-offs, such as power consumption, pricing, and connectivity issues. After a few months of these questions, I plan to produce an article summarizing and commenting on your responses.
I think being able to (or not) succinctly describe what you do as an embedded developer is a testament to our success of delivering results so that (usually) no one is even aware of our contribution to the end-products that people use in their everyday lives.
Please contribute your thoughts on this topic by answering the question “You know you are an embedded developer when …”
Feel free to expand on just completing the sentence. I suspect this community harbors a rich set of answers that will not only amuse and entertain, but that when taken together will help identify the core of what embedded development really is. Who knows, maybe someone has already found the perfect way to describe what we do.