People often use software development and product engineering interchangeably. However, such is not the case. A software developer is different from a product engineer. 

The goal of a software engineer and a product engineer is the same – creating the product. However, they have different sets of activities. Their skills, however, may remain the same. 

In fact, there are key differences between a software development company and a product development company. 

The Software Developer to Product Engineer Evolution

Back when software development was in its infancy, software developers did everything. From planning the software architecture to designing and developing – everything was the software developer’s job.

However, development was complex in the initial days. Each line of code demanded proper thought. Efficiency was critical, but discipline and expertise were important while coding. Developers were focusing on everything – so they could not create either high-quality or affordable software.

That was the time when product engineers came into action.

A product engineer was taking care of the development, design, UI/UX, and other processes. They understand what makes the product work. While software developers focus on coding, they work on other things. User acceptance testing, product-market fit check, working with the prototype and communicating the progress with the product manager. 

While both developers and engineers work at a software development company, they have major differences. Let’s have a look. 

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What a Software Developer Does

A software developer is someone who codes. Custom application developers, full stack developers, software developers – all have similar roles. They write the code from scratch, create the business logic for the product, and build the system’s algorithms. 

There are frontend and backend software developers. Frontend developers design the layout of the website that the users will see. They develop the part that the users will interact with.

Backend developers create the backend logic. They write the code and make things work. Backend developers add functionality to the application or software. Companies hire developers separately for frontend and backend. However, full-stack developers work on both the front end and the back end. 

What a Product Engineer Does

A product engineer takes care of the design, development, and testing of the product. They understand the features of the product, provide recommendations, and lay out the development process. In short, the product engineer manages the complete product development lifecycle.

An enterprise software development company can have multiple product engineers. They work as subsets of the product owner. Product owners are the architect of the products. 

Product engineers have continuous involvement in the process. They understand the needs and deliver an appropriate solution. Their job goes beyond writing code from scratch. Often, product engineers in dedicated development teams focus on solving problems. It covers the holistic landscape of engineering a software product.

Software Developer vs. Product Engineer

We now know the roles and responsibilities of a software developer and product engineer at an enterprise software development company. However, they differ in several other ways. Let us look at some differences in detail.

  • Primacy Focus
    • Software developers focus on completing their coding tasks. They do not see the big picture. Their goal is to complete the coding of the particular business logic given to them.
    • Product engineers keep the bigger picture in mind. They focus on problem-solving, understanding the features, improving upon them, and communicating with the product owner.
  • Product Ownership
    • Software developers do not take ownership of QA, testing, and maintenance. They work on the software, write the code, and delegate it to the next team.
    • Product engineers take complete ownership of the development process. They focus on writing automated test cases and work on improving product quality. Product engineers are responsible for overall product performance.
  •  Production Management
    • Offshore app software developers do not solve any production issues. They work on a set of features. When the team deploys the code, developers move on to the next project. A lot of software developer skills are limited to development. 
    • Product engineers work on production issues as well. They create alerts in the production process. If anything goes wrong, they notify the team to fix the issue. Therefore, they remain more in touch with what’s working and what’s not.
  • Development Approach
    • Software developers are keener on creating rather than managing. Their scope of work comprises a lot of creativity and critical thinking. A software developer benefits from the few activities he/she has to do and focuses more on creative pursuits.
    • Product engineers have to take care of a wide range of activities. They are better problem solvers than engineers. However, they focus more on managing and understanding the process rather than writing the code.
  • Flexibility in Roles
    • Software developers generally stick to one activity – writing code and making the feature functional. They don’t deal with the product ROI or execution of the product. Their purpose is to develop the software. A software developer for hire will almost always focus on coding and nothing else. 
    • Product engineers have a wide variety of activities. They have to focus on the product ROI. They need to take the steps necessary for the proper execution of the development process. Engineers have to be flexible – they have to find ways to do the same job more efficiently and effectively.

How to Hire Software Developers and Product Engineers

The hiring process for software developers and product engineers is similar. The reason? Software developers quickly learn and turn into product engineers. Given enough flexibility and authority, they take ownership of projects like engineers do.

Hiring developers and engineers involve focusing both on the technical as well as the soft skills. While knowing a programming language is critical, communicating the progress with the client is also important. Therefore, communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking are key skills that companies should look for in developers and engineers.

Companies can look for developers and engineers online. There’s a huge demand and supply of people in the software industry. Therefore, companies should carefully and thoughtfully find people who will meet their requirements.

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Wrapping Up

In the debate between software developers vs. product engineers, there’s no winner. Both are essential parts of a project. Engineers design and lay out the product while developers build it. However, finding the right balance between software developers and product engineers will provide a new way to approach the development process.

Do you need software and product experts? BoTree Technologies is a leading software development company that has engineers with 10+ years of experience. 


Contact us today to hire software developers and product engineers in the next 24 hours!