Let’s talk about architecture. That word is thrown around a lot in IT circles but is often misunderstood or misrepresented. In the traditional sense, to practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that have human occupancy or use as their principal purpose. Etymologically, architect derives from the Latin architectus, which derives from the Greek (arkhi-, chief + tekton, builder), i.e., chief builder. The definition holds the same water in technology, albeit replace buildings with systems and human occupancy with bits and bytes, but that water, much like physical buildings, can be in various buckets.
Architecture, in regard to technology design, is subdivided across many different components of the solution landscape. Infrastructure, which might include server, storage, network, etc., is generally led by Technical Architects or even more specialized Network or Storage Architects. The design of communication between systems and how they interact is led by Integration Architects. The software itself has an Application Architect determining how all of the coding pieces and objects fit together, while the database design and information structure would be the role of a Data Architect. A person who knows how to put all of these components together to solve a business problem would be a Solution Architect, and last but not least, when that system is spread out over many different business units, you get the Enterprise Architect.
I want to be that guy.
In discussions with new technologists, they generally have the same burning question – “I would like to be an Architect; how do I get there?” As in traditional building Architecture, there isn’t a shortcut. It requires studying across the many subject areas of technology and finding a good mentor to follow and apprentice with. Technology operations and maintenance, regardless of how long you do it and with what technology will, unfortunately not make you an Architect. Just like working in building maintenance will not make you a structure Architect. Take the opportunities to practice on your own or as part of a team when new things need building. Jump in even if you’re not familiar with the subject area. Offer what you can and gain learnings when building.
As we think about seeking out Architects, be cognizant of the scale you want them to operate in and ultimately what you want architected and the scale of that work. For those wanting to be an Architect in technology, start looking for opportunities to practice the craft, even if it is just for fun. The broader you can make your knowledge, the more valuable and universal your skills become. Look for stuff to build, without it – it’s just flat ground.