Our young candidates sometimes ask what is the difference between program manager and project manager. We liked the comparison that Coursera offers when saying “…think of a program manager as a movie director and of a project manager as a crew director, carrying out myriad of tasks”.

… And this is right.

In the world of software engineering, managing complex projects and programs requires specialized skills and expertise.

Two key roles that are often encountered in this field are Project Manager (PM) and Program Manager (PgM). While these roles may seem similar at first glance, they have distinct differences in their scope of work, responsibilities and focus.

Let’s take them systematically, as an engineer mind would like to see them .

From the scope of work perspective, a project manager is responsible for overseeing individual projects from initiation to completion.

Project managers are accountable for delivering specific outcomes within a defined timeframe and with allocated resources. Project Managers focus on the tactical aspects of project execution, such as creating project plans, defining tasks, assigning resources, monitoring progress and managing risks and issues.

On the other hand, a program manager has a broader scope of work.

Program managers oversee a portfolio of related projects, typically with strategic and organizational significance. Theyfocus on aligning projects with business goals, coordinating efforts among various project teams and ensuring that the program objectives are met.

Important to highlight is that program managers are responsible for strategic planning, defining program goals, establishing governance, managing interdependencies among projects and driving overall program success.

From the perspective of responsibilities that these two functions need to accomplish, while both project managers and program managers are responsible for managing projects, their specific responsibilities differ. A summary of these differences could look like:

Project Managers: they are responsible for defining project scope, objectives and deliverables, creating and maintaining project schedules, managing resources, monitoring and controlling project risks and ensuring that the project is completed within the defined time, budget and quality parameters.

Program Managers: they are responsible for defining program goals and objectives, developing program strategies, overseeing project selection and prioritization, establishing program governance, coordinating project teams, managing program risks and issues and providing program-level reporting and communication to stakeholders.

Last but not least, a PM’s focus perspective differs than a PgM’s focus as highlighted by these details:

Project Managers: they focus on the details of individual projects and are primarily concerned with achieving project-specific goals and deliverables.

They work closely with project teams to ensure that project tasks are completed on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards.

Program Managers: they have a more strategic focus and are concerned with aligning projects with broader business objectives.

They work closely with senior management and stakeholders to ensure that projects are contributing to the overall program goals and that they are delivering the desired business value.

Understanding these differences between PM and PgM is essential for organizations to effectively utilize these roles and ensure successful delivery of software engineering projects and programs.

The software engineering field is weird. Truly weird. One would certainly expect to hear that for hiring a nanny, a maid, a cook, a painter, a mechanical engineer, a graphic designer… or similar education is not key, while EXPERIENCE IS, but to hear this when one would like to get hired in the big data engineering field…. well, this is not-so-expected!

… Yet this is right.

Big data engineering is not a job one could do by learning in class or by buying subscriptions to some online classes. Say you do not expect to be a brilliant data engineer and are satisfied with being a lousy one – education alone would still not suffice.

To become a big data engineer one needs to be passionate about math, problem-solving, numbers, charts, graphs and – certainly – about IT. One becomes a real data engineer only after certain hands-on experience: this might be the most important difference between software engineers: while programming could be an incipient exercise, proper data engineering would not.

…Before we elaborate, let us clarify two related concepts: what is ‘big data’ and what is ‘data analyst’ (as this sounds pretty similar with data engineer).

Big data refers to extremely large data sets that are commonly – or purposely – collected by companies while conducting their business operations. When used correctly, big data can be highly beneficial for organizations in improving efficiency, profitability and scalability. However, companies’ big data is not helpful unless there is a big data engineer to build systems to collect, maintain and extract data. With these, a data analyst generates insights, using various predictive models(while a data analyst is recommended to have some coding experience, this is not a sine-qua-non condition).

Compared to a data analyst, a big data engineer is primarily responsible for building and maintaining the systems and processes that collect and extract data. So one is the miner, the other is the grinder. As simple as that. No wonder that data scientists, machine learning engineers and big data engineers rank in top emerging jobs in LinkedIn these days, despite AI proliferation and potential threats that some say AI – such as GPT4 of OpenAI or Ernie of Baidu – will bring tomorrow (almost literally, tomorrow).

Some typical job responsibilities of a big data engineer are creating systems for collecting data and for processing that respective data; creating data architectures that meet the requirements of the business; using Extract Transform Load operations (the so-called ‘ETL process’); creating structured data solutions using various programming languages and tools and mining data from multiple areas to construct efficient business models.

The collaborative approach of a big data engineer having to perform these responsibilities is self-implied, of which the most important one is with data scientists. The way these two key functions in companies dealing with big data work together and are aligned towards the same objective could be a ‘make it or break it’ for the company’s performance.  As such, hiring a professional and well-experienced big data engineer is a very important task (please follow regularly our updated open positions for such functions here: https://www.vonconsulting.ro/jobs/).

It is not common for big data engineers to possess all of the following skills:

In our more than 20-year experience we could learn that it is of utmost importance for a data engineer to have a strong programming background, as well as a love of – or at least an interest in – data and/ or in finding patterns in data. Work could become boring if these two are missing, as big data projects are 10 times more complex on average than regular software projects of companies or small data projects.

And like most of the software engineering jobs, a data engineer needs to understand the company’s (field of) business well and to be updated with the strategy. ‘Where do we want to arrive, by when and with what resources?’ is not only a question for managers, but for most of the big data engineers, as well.

…So it is not easy.

But it is essential and sometimes beautiful.

And it can be summed up as follows: 1. ensure that the data pipeline (the acquisition and processing of data) works; 2. serve the needs of the data scientists and data analysts (the so-called ‘internal customers’); and 3. control the cost of moving and storing data.

…Needless to say that social and communications skills are also (ideally) required for a big data engineer, as are for any IT engineer. Slowly but surely the myth of not being so is destroyed.

… This article will explore briefly – but essentially – what a back-end developer is, what skills one would need to do this job properly and will also provide some advice for aspiring back-end developers. We shall definitely touch a little on the difference between this job’s and a front-end developer’s responsibilities, in case someone wonders…

… But before that, I need to answer my ever-lasting question: What Is the Workplace of a Back-End Developer Like?

… This is a question I have always asked myself. Always wondered how a workplace – or a working room at home – of a software engineer looks like. They should be either extremely neat or super-messy, right?… The life of a back-end developer typically involves working long hours; as such they can be found almost anywhere – at home, in their offices, in coffee stores, on a bench in the park… always with their laptops on their laps or on a table, right? … Right! Since they could be working as full-time permanent employees in both large corporations and in small or medium-sized companies.They can also work as freelancers or independent consultants, or as contractors for an employment agency.

…Did we just describe the dream-job of any young software engineer? Whereas being a front-end developer requires creating everything you see on a website – like buttons, links, animations and more -, thus being in charge of the look and feel of a website (most of the times respecting pre-set frameworks and designs of other people), a back-end developer builds and maintains the technology that powers those components which, together, enable the user-facing side of the website to even exist in the first place.

In case you are an aspiring back-end developer, you need to be aware that although back-end engineering has a reputation of being tough or complex, it definitely does not have to be this way. It is a job you can learn by doing: on your own time, on your own computer you can set up a simple website and use a back-end framework. It does not have to do anything too complicated — maybe just create some simple data and save it and look it up — but once you have your first webpage up and running, you are basically halfway there, to soon being able to become a back-end software engineer. That is, a function absolutely essential these days.

As of December 2022, the Internet contains more than 1.9 billion websites (not all are functional, though). And counting. Websites are now a critical component for any business to stay competitive. Web development tends to break down into three main concentrations: front-end developer, back-end developer and full-stack developer.

There. Your (future) job is a key job for companies to have or to outsource – and still in relatively high demand.

…getting more to the point,


What Does a Back-End Developer Do, Specifically?

A back-end developer writes code that forms the backbone of a website or of an app. Back-end developers are the experts who build and maintain the mechanisms that process data and perform actions on websites. Unlike front-end developers, who control everything you can see on a website, back-end developers are involved in data storage, security and other server-side functions that you cannot see.

Back-end developers ensure the website performs correctly, focusing on databases, back-end logic, application programming interface (APIs), architecture, and servers. They use code that helps browsers communicate with databases, store, understand, and delete data. On a team, back-end developers collaborate with front-end developers, product managers, principal architects and website testers to build the structure of a website or mobile app. Back-end developers must be familiar with many kinds of tools and frameworks, including languages such as Python, Java, and Ruby. They make sure the back-end performs quickly and responsively to front-end user requests.

Here is what many back-end developers do on a day-to-day basis (as per Columbia Engineering School – The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences):

Build and maintain websites by using various tools, frameworks and languages to determine how best to develop intuitive, user-friendly prototypes and turn them into websites. This requires an understanding of cross-platform functionality and compatibility.

Write high-quality code that is required for sustainable web applications.

Perform quality assurance (QA) testing: in other words, create and oversee testing schedules to optimize user interface and experience, ensuring optimal display on various browsers and devices.

Assess efficiency and speed, because once a website is up and running, and during updates and edits, developers need to assess its performance and scalability, adjusting code as necessary.

Troubleshoot and debug and then communicate the results to project managers, stakeholders and QA teams.

Train and support, as most of the times the client teams need ongoing support, along with leading training and mentorship for junior developers.


If I Were to Choose This Job, What Skills Would I Have to Have?

In order to make the server, application and database communicate with each other, back-end developers use server-side languages like PHP, Ruby, Python, Java and .Net to build an application. They also need to use tools like MySQL, Oracle and SQL Server to find, save, or change data and serve it back to the user in front-end code.

Job openings for back-end developers (see ours here, in complete updated spectrum: https://www.vonconsulting.ro/jobs/) often also call for experience with PHP frameworks like Zend, Symfony and CakePHP; experience with version control software like SVN, CVS, or Git; and experience with Linux as a development and deployment system.

Last but not least,

Is Back-End Developer a Good Job?

… well, our times became competitive for back-end web developers, but you can rest easy as long as your skills are up to date and you aim for a fair pay.

In case one would compare what is easier between front-end development and back-end, the answer is actually back-end. Moreover, back-end developers tend not to find their jobs stressful (as per our 20-year experience interacting with potential candidates for this job), which likely contributes positively to career satisfaction.

… well. For non-technical people, the easiest to understand job description – as in ‚imagine’ what that might be – is the front-end developer.
Apparently this is one of the most sought for job during the past couple of months, as per our CV applications.

Is it fancy?
It is.

Because when you visit a website, the design elements you see were created by a front-end developer.
How gifted must one be to be able to create amazing websites? (not including the templates in this ‘owe-rhetoric question, though).
What technical knowledge must one have to transform information into logical and well-designed and structured websites?

A front-end developer creates websites and applications using web languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript that allow users to access and interact with the site or app. While this might sound like a basic software engineering knowledge, it is not really like that.
Everything you see on a website – like buttons, links, animations and more -, were created by a front end web developer. Front end developers are in charge of the look and feel of the website. It is the front end developer’s job to take the vision and design concept from the client and implement it through code.

Becoming a frontend developer is an excellent career move. It is a job you can teach yourself online, the potential salary is high, you can work remotely in most cases and the demand for your abilities is high just now. The best way to become a frontend developer is to learn everything you can about HTML, CSS, JavaScript – at least.

Front-end web development is also known as client-side development.

The challenge associated with front end development is that the tools and techniques used to create the front end of a website change constantly and so the developer needs to constantly be aware of how the field is developing. This is further complicated by the fact that users now use a large variety of devices with varying screen sizes and resolutions, thus forcing the designer to take into consideration these aspects when designing the site. They need to ensure that their site comes up correctly in different browsers (cross-browser), different operating systems (cross-platform) and different devices (cross-device). All these require careful planning on the side of the developer.

What Skills Does One Need to Become a Front End Developer?

The three main languages you need to know well are HTML, CSS and JavaScript. From there you can focus on frameworks, libraries, and other useful tools.

As one is developing the website or the application, there will be errors in the code that need fixing. Debugging is the act of identifying those errors (“bugs”) and fixing them. Normally, a frontend software developer is requested to have testing and debugging skills – or the willingness to develop them. Testing is a very important skill to learn, as writing tests for one’s code is a way to ensure that the code is doing what it is supposed to do.

Last but not least, one would need – preferably – problem solving skills, as it is important to learn/ know how to tackle a problem, break it down into smaller manageable pieces and troubleshoot the issue in the web applications.

Would You Like to Apply for a FrontEnd Developer Career?

Register here: https://www.vonconsulting.ro/jobs/

…and follow our LinkedIn page for updates on the newest job openings: https://www.linkedin.com/company/von-consulting/

Businesses nowadays are continually looking for ways to optimize their processes. Agile is around for more than two decades and helps teams deliver value to their customers fast and effectively.

Agile was founded based on values and principles.

Agile is neither a methodology nor a philosophy to get things done, but rather a collection of beliefs that teams use to make decisions. Or, said alternatively, agile is the umbrella term for many types of management methodologies. Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming (XP) are each considered different agile methodologies.

Agile principles help guide teams on the right path, even when the next step is unsure or undefined.

How is this possible?

Here is a manifesto that we believe in (source: www.scrum.org)


Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

…not saying that the items on the right have no value. Not at all.
The items on the left weight more in Agile work of software engineering teams.

Let us go more in-depth: How Does Agile Work and How Difficult Is It?

Instead of following a well-defined and strict plan, agile teams focus on continuous improvement and efficiency. They work under “sprints,” which consist of specific tasks or deliverables in a certain time frame. Each sprint typically lasts from two to four weeks – subject to the product in development.

However, sprints are not used in every single agile approach. This just proves what agile is – a set of principles and values. Before agile, software development lifecycles were used, such as Waterfall, focusing on delivering software through a linear and rigid process.

Agile eliminated the set of rules, procedures and hierarchies. It started with breaking the process into manageable actions that can be continually improved until the primary goal is reached. What mattered was to deliver the best result possible.

Since 2001, when is was first named/ founded by 17 engineers, agile has become a globally accepted mindset for managing software engineering projects – but not only.

If we were to demonstrate a high-level overview of how agile typically works, it would be like this:

Step 1: Define the project: Agile teams start by defining the overall goals and objectives of the project, as well as any constraints or assumptions.

Step 2: Break the project into smaller pieces: Next, the team breaks the project down into smaller pieces of work, called “user stories,” that can be completed in a single iteration.

Step 3: Prioritize the work: The team then prioritizes the user stories based on their importance and dependencies.

Step 4: Plan the iteration: During the planning phase, the team estimates the amount of work that can be completed in the upcoming iteration and selects the user stories that will be worked on.

Step 5: Work on the iteration: During the iteration, the team works on completing the selected user stories. They may also hold daily stand-up meetings to check in with each other and identify any obstacles that need to be addressed.

Step 6: Review and adjust: At the end of the iteration, the team reviews the work that was completed and adjusts their plans for the next iteration based on what they learned.

This entire process is repeated until the project is completed.

It is important to note that while agile has many benefits, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Organizations should carefully consider whether this is the right approach for their needs and for their existing teams and projects.

… Well.
None expects a fabulous life and, equally, none knows how thrilling it is: the life of an IT recruiter @VonConsulting.

…but first, a note: of the ‘less spectacular’ career options that we see around us – lots and lots – many of them are chosen due to passion. A person will not be able to perform sustainably well on a certain position unless there is passion in what he/ she does.

If about artists, doctors or lawyers we could immediately infer a certain calling, For IT recruiters….. well… not really, right?

An IT recruiter at @VonConsulting chose this specific career because she wanted to work with people in technology. She is equally passionate about people and about technology and, as such, it came as a natural choice to take this step.

This is our 3-minute Q&A to her:

Q1: Why did you choose to work as an IT recruiter?
A1: I believe that the IT industry has a very big impact in our world. To this I added my ability to discover the skills that others have and to guide them to some extent towards the role that is most suitable for them.

Q2: How can you tell when an IT recruiter is successful?
A2: An essential thing to be successful as a recruiter in the IT industry is the passion for technology. If this exists, there will also be the curiosity to discover what a person needs to do and know in order to be employed and perform in a technical role. A successful IT recruiter combines two main categories of skills: soft skills and ‘hard’ technical skills.

Q3: What motivates you in your everyday work?
A3: My master’s degree in Psychology made me realize that I like to communicate and work with people, discover them and observe what motivates them. It is not an easy thing to do, but it is a challenge that is definitely worth all the effort. I chose the IT recruiter
career because I knew from the beginning that I have many things to learn via this role. I have learned a lot from the interaction with very good people from a technical point of view, always ready to find solutions for the problems they encounter. I had the opportunity to recruit people for very interesting and diverse projects, which, through technological innovation, improve our everyday life.

It happened to me to discover very young people, who had just finished their studies and were trying to find a place to work, but who did not have the necessary experience to stand out. Many times, such people motivate me in what I do, because they have so much energy
and a great desire to learn and develop.

Q4: Any challenges to mention?…
A4: …Working with people is always challenging. It is not always a smooth ride.