Glenn Vanderburg


Senior Director of Engineering at LivingSocial

Glenn Vanderburg is a Senior Director of Engineering at LivingSocial. He works for a company based in Washington DC, and manages a distributed team of software developers from his home near Dallas, Texas. Glenn was taught classical software engineering in university (and in his first professional programming role) but soon became disillusioned by those techniques and ideas. He has spent much of the past 20 years thinking about why less “formal” methods seem to work so much better in practice.

YOW! 2015 Sydney

The Future of Software Engineering


Through its first 40 years, the field of “Software Engineering” produced little that was useful to the software practitioner. That has led to a very peculiar situation: we have a field where the set of practices referred to as “engineering” simply doesn’t work well, and are deliberately avoided by the vast majority of skilled practitioners in the field. (The situation is odd because, in other fields, the term “engineering” is reserved for practices that lead to success.) As a result, the idea is spreading that perhaps software development is simply incompatible with engineering; that software developers are not, and never will be, real engineers.

I believe that any field that mass-produces useful artifacts for people must take its practices seriously, and must approach them with an engineer’s sense of responsibility. It’s time to take a fresh look at what that really should mean for our field. With an extra 45 years of experience about the task of programming, and a broad survey of the varied different engineering disciplines, can we envision a future for a field of “software engineering” that is worthy of the name?