How do I become an Architect?
Tags: architect, architect skills, breadth, careers, enterprise architect, how do i become an enterprise architect, IT specialist, skills, skills roadmap, spheres of influence, technical depth, technology
in a recent discussion with a mentee the question was raised ‘what is the difference between solution and enterprise architect?’
My standard answer to this is to talk about the difference between cityplanners who think about city wide infrastructure and future objectives (enterprise architects) and architects of individual buildings who think about how the house is laid out, how strong roof supports need to be and whether their plan will fit to the city planners constraints.
the next question was, ‘ok how do i become a city planner?’
interestingly the city planner/building architect planner analogy does not answer this question, it simply states a comparison of job roles. So after a little thought here is my answer:
in essence as a developer (a specialist in IT) you know lots about a specific IT subject matter. For instance you know how to write J2EE applications, test the code, deploy this into a container, use an integrated development environment and so on. Detailed stuff. In terms of exposure to different types of technology the experience is fairly narrow, working with specific technologies and probably with little care whether the solution is in a Human Resources, Finance, Supply Chain, Procurement and so on.
As a specialist you have some understanding of a particular business area but little thought or care for business strategy.
This growth in business and technical exposure leads to a point where there is a choice: remain specialised or loss the specialism and become more broadly focused – become an architect orchestrating the build but not directly building (rule of thumb says if your write code regularly you are probably not an architect).
Your sphere of influence is your code and immediate team.
Interpersonal skills are not so important as long as the code works!
Within the architect space the breadth of technical experience grows, but the hands on technical experience is shallow. On occasion deep dives return you to the specialist space.
You have the experience and credibility from the specialist experience to generalise, relate and guide specialists without ever having to have directly worked with the technology.
The trick here is to use specialists for their specialist skills, and bring this together at the solutions level.
In business terms you have probably medium to deep understanding in one or two or perhaps more business areas.
In strategic terms you probably have thought about business strategy within a business area i.e. Finance or Supply Chain, but probably not in a true enterprise sense.
Your sphere of influence is the other architects and technicians on your immediate project. You act as a consultant to key business and project management staff on your assigned project
Interpersonal skills are becoming increasingly important to communicate your ideas and sell them to your immediate project team.
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