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Can anyone become an Architect?

Zeki Karaca
Greenhorn

Joined: Oct 02, 2009
Posts: 20
Hi there guys,

Just something i really think about a lot. I have a dream. Yeah i know, sounds cheesy but i really do. One day i would like to become an architect. I allready passed the SCJA and SCJP exams. I don't have any hands-on work experience so finding a job was not that easy. However, recently i started working for a company in Amsterdam. Lower rate but a lot of time to educate, learn and to get a lot of experience in the field. I am very thankful to them for giving me this oppurtunity. What i want to know is if anyone who is just motivated enough would be able to become an architect? I usually hear and read that an architect must have a lot of knowledge, experience and a certain kind of vision. Is this something that can be learned by anyone or would you say that not everybody will make it as an architect? I am really motivated to become one someday but sometimes i start questioning myself by asking if i am good enough to become one.

Maybe you could give me some advice?

Thanks for your time reading this and have a nice day.


SCJA | SCJP 6.0 | ...
Mark Cade
author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 20, 2004
Posts: 36
First, anyone can become an architect. I would say that most good architects are also good designers and coders. You are on the right path to work your way to becoming an architect. Remember, an architect is more concerned with what happens in a system when 100,000 users hit the submit button at the same time and not as conerned with what happens when a single user hits the submit button. It is the systemic qualities/non-functional requirements of the system that are important to the architect. Hope this helps.
Zeki Karaca
Greenhorn

Joined: Oct 02, 2009
Posts: 20
Hi Mark,

thanks for your answer.
Billy Tsai
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1297
Not everyone can become an architect, dedication, determination and self advancements are simply not enough anymore, also the chance or luck to gain unique and rare professional experiences.
For example the following are the position requirements to become an architect at Yahoo:

Expert in software development domain and principles, including design patterns, code structure, programming languages, continuous integration, and deployment architecture.
Expertise in Internet systems design and implementation (both textbook and war stories)
Demonstrated leadership in technologies that are core to Yahoo!'s products (distributed systems, cloud computing, content management, indexing, database, editorial systems, web services, multi-tier serving architectures, machine learning, business intelligence, data mining, enterprise applications, mobile devices, and communications protocols)
Analytical skills: complexity, capacity, performance, quality, logistics, statistics
Strong verbal and written communication skills
Experience with object-oriented technologies, including a range of design patterns
Experience with some combination of C, C++, Java, Perl, Python, Ruby, PHP
Experience with Web Technologies (Apache, AJAX, HTML, JavaScript, HTTP, SOAP, XML)
Understanding of large-scale data processing technologies (SQL, Map/Reduce)

Education and Experience
Typically BS/MS in CS or equivalent experience. Ph.D. is desirable.
15+ years of directly related experience; 8+ years of technical
12+ leadership experience
Zeki Karaca
Greenhorn

Joined: Oct 02, 2009
Posts: 20
Well i think the question rises of what defines an architect? Because i know there are lots of people calling themselves architects but do not cover the whole package.
Jimmy Clark
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 16, 2008
Posts: 2187
The role of a software architect typically represents public recognition of an individual who serves as
the technical leader in a software development organization. An individual referring to himself/herself
as an "architect" does not qualify. A SCEA certificate also does not make someone an "architect."

To become a software architect an individual is typically hired into the position. Moreover, he/she needs to
have a team to lead.

So as mentioned, not everyone can become an architect.
Tony Cagle
Greenhorn

Joined: Mar 07, 2008
Posts: 23
The title "Architect" is very broad and means different things to different people. There are technology architects, software architects, application architects, solutions architects, enterprise archtiects, and about thirty other kinds of IT architects. The Yahoo position posted there is the cream of the crop for architecture roles and I am sure whoever gets that job will be making a heck of a lot more money (with a heck of a lot more responsibility) than me. Another point to make about the different Architect roles is that there is a big difference in expectations from small companies (which are more about hands-on responsibility) and larger companies (which are usually about strategy and, unfortunately, politics).

Two qualities are essential: Leadership and Perspective. Mark's comment about the submit button is spot on. Architects are always concerned with the bigger wholistic picture, working toward a strategic vision.

From my own experience with a bit of luck and preparation you can become an architect, or at least do "architecture", without needing 7-10 years of experience behind you.

I am currently a Solutions Architect and have been doing architecture since about a year and a half into my career - though I didn't become an "official" architect until about year 4.

Here is my story:
My first real corporate job (after 8 months of consulting) was for a large insurance carrier. I was in a small "shadow IT" unit that ran independent of corporate IT, and so myself and a small group of 2 other techies ran the show, so to speak. Over the next two years we moved marketing reporting and analytics out of a complicated and very manual excel/mainframe environment into a fully automated data warehouse. My boss told me he was only interested in coding GUI components and didn't care for all the "server junk" so he would be happy if I designed the system. So I did. When I was done, I built most of the server pieces myself and completely automated 90% of the reporting that used to take me three weeks out of the month to manually create. Now with lots of free time on my hands, management agreed to pay for any certification I wanted to pursue, as long as I stayed around to keep the lights on. Over the next year I took and passed 10 Microsoft exams. This set me up to eventually get an real titled architecture job in another part of the company. Now, bear in mind that during that 4 year period where I was an "architect in training", so to speak, I was getting paid much less than most programmers in corporate IT, but it paid off in the end as I believe the certifications and experience directly exemplified my broad scope of knowledge in IT (at the time, mostly in book form) as I gained database, developer, and engineering certifications.


/Hope this helps.
//Sorry for the long-winded story

-Tony
Vyas Sanzgiri
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 16, 2007
Posts: 686

Billy Tsai wrote:Not everyone can become an architect, dedication, determination and self advancements are simply not enough anymore, also the chance or luck to gain unique and rare professional experiences.
For example the following are the position requirements to become an architect at Yahoo:

Expert in software development domain and principles, including design patterns, code structure, programming languages, continuous integration, and deployment architecture.
Expertise in Internet systems design and implementation (both textbook and war stories)
Demonstrated leadership in technologies that are core to Yahoo!'s products (distributed systems, cloud computing, content management, indexing, database, editorial systems, web services, multi-tier serving architectures, machine learning, business intelligence, data mining, enterprise applications, mobile devices, and communications protocols)
Analytical skills: complexity, capacity, performance, quality, logistics, statistics
Strong verbal and written communication skills
Experience with object-oriented technologies, including a range of design patterns
Experience with some combination of C, C++, Java, Perl, Python, Ruby, PHP
Experience with Web Technologies (Apache, AJAX, HTML, JavaScript, HTTP, SOAP, XML)
Understanding of large-scale data processing technologies (SQL, Map/Reduce)

Education and Experience
Typically BS/MS in CS or equivalent experience. Ph.D. is desirable.
15+ years of directly related experience; 8+ years of technical
12+ leadership experience


Wow I wonder if anyone would afford to pay me if I had that credentials. I would rather create my own Y!
Klaus Schultz
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 15
Mark Cade wrote:First, anyone can become an architect. I would say that most good architects are also good designers and coders. You are on the right path to work your way to becoming an architect.

Not anyone can become an architect. At work I see two different types of programmers: there are programmers who work only along the examples they got teached, e.g. make always a controller class, and there are programmers who think about their design (upfront or during the coding phase) and make a controller if it's appropriate for the problem.

Klaus
SCBCD 93%
Billy Tsai
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1297
For one to become a well respected good architect(application or solution or enterprise) one would need to make sacrifice and compromise, also endure pain and suffering.
Tony Cagle
Greenhorn

Joined: Mar 07, 2008
Posts: 23
Billy Tsai wrote:For one to become a well respected good architect(application or solution or enterprise) one would need to make sacrifice and compromise, also endure pain and suffering.


Amen, Brother. The next round is on me

Misery loves company!


On a more helpful note: I think the last few years have been particularly difficult for architects since there isn't a lot of "greenfield" development going on due to the economic downturn. I do see this changing though, particularly in the area of cloud computing and some of the cool things Amazon and Google are doing in that space (did you guys see the new Google Java API?)

-Tony
Sai Surya
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 08, 2006
Posts: 457

Education and Experience
Typically BS/MS in CS or equivalent experience. Ph.D. is desirable.
15+ years of directly related experience; 8+ years of technical
12+ leadership experience


So to work as an Architect in Yahoo, we need to have above. A small calculation ...

1. BS takes 4 years and MS 2 years = 6 years
2. Ph.D takes around 5 years
3. 15 years of directly related experience (8 years technical however)
4. 12 years leadership experience

Adding up all the years 6 + 5 + 15 + 12 = 38 years.

If a person starts doing BS at the age of 16, by the time he/she want to apply to Yahoo as an architect he/she will be 54 years of age.
Almost close to retirement


Sai Surya, SCJP 5.0, SCWCD 5.0, IBM 833 834
http://sai-surya-talk.blogspot.com, I believe in Murphy's law.
Tony Cagle
Greenhorn

Joined: Mar 07, 2008
Posts: 23
Sai Surya wrote:

If a person starts doing BS at the age of 16, by the time he/she want to apply to Yahoo as an architect he/she will be 54 years of age.
Almost close to retirement



But at the same time, aren't companies like Yahoo looking for "young visionaries" to lead their company into the future? Considering the amount of age discrimination that goes on in this industry, I would be surprised if they hired someone in that met all of the criteria as described. I have co-workers who at some point begin shortening their resume to hide their age.

Jonas Isberg
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 18, 2003
Posts: 118
Focus on your dream while gaining knowledge and experience.
Make sure you are not just anyone.
If you do, I believe your chances are good.
Mihai Lihatchi
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 28, 2005
Posts: 138

That is a good question
Architects are born not made .. the moment you are born your parents will know that you are a good architect or not .

Seriously now as any other skill (IT or not) you can become a good software architect. I have yet to see people which could not achieve what they wanted (as in really wanted) because of some forum post.
Of course it will not be easy. Of course you need to learn and make mistakes along the way (that is called getting experience) in order to be a good architect. Finally getting SCEA is a indication of your skills but I have yet to see a company hiring an under 30 person to do their architecture (as in enterprise architecture not small PHP/MySQL site architecture) no matter their certifications.
Although I have applied at several architect jobs my applications were ignored and I don't think SCEA will change that (not now).
The scariest story is that in case of system failure is the architect that is blamed not the actual developers .. but those were just management stories.
I am about to find out as I finally got my hands on part 2 and I need to check if I am good enough for it (about 6 years experience). I really tried getting more experience but as a developer/teamleader you are not always learning architecture stuff (more like lower-level design stuff).


Better, faster, lighter Java ... you mean Ruby right ?
SCEA5,SCBCD1.3,SCWCD5,SCJP1.4 - memories from my youth.
Donovan Johnson
Greenhorn

Joined: May 13, 2010
Posts: 11

I think the question was centered around achieving the certification and first architect role. I would say that anyone who has achieved 5-7 years IT experience in both a infrastructure systems support role as well as development, has a bit more additional business experience [or worked as a Business Analysis] and can demonstrate design and BPM capabilities can become an architect.

Obviously anyone can become certified as an Architect whether it be an SCEA or Zachman Certified, it makes no difference. All that indicates is that you have the basic knowledge and possible skillset. This will potentially qualify you to approach a future employer about becoming a Solution Architect or Application Architect but usually no more, depending upon whether or not you have more of a systems background or a development background. Commonly, you will find SharePoint Architects at this tier. You're not quite in a realm where I would think you could use the term Software Architect confidently, as you would need to demonstrate that your design, leadership and development activity as delivered to market a viable executable package that is commonly run by serveral clients. This IASA's domain [International Association of Software Architects --- http://www.iasahome.org], though their certification process is geared much more toward a true Enterprise Architecture, complete with balancing Business Architecture and Technical Architecture. Software Architects doing a better job on delivering the entire package of a true, full-breasted Enterprise Architect's skill-sets?? Go figure. Does any of this equip you to become an Enterprise Architect? Not by itself.

This is the area where having 10-15 years of experience, deep development time and a PhD would normally apply, so it is not likely. Why is this the case? Because you are tasked with designing the framework for and leading the development and/or deployment of every system in your domain, which can be the entire enterprise in many an instance. Think of this group of individuals as being Lt. Col responsible for leading special operations units and battalions [300–1000] that have just been promoted to full bird Colonels now responsible for entire brigades [2000–5000]. That is up to 5x's the number of people that his/her decisions affect, and that doesn't even include operational effectiveness as well as other ancillary fallout. So plans have to be meticulous and well-designed in order to extract instructions that can be delivered down the food chain for systems personnel and programmers at the bottom to execute on them in a fashion that delivers value for the business with minimal hiccups. You have to have proverbial "eyes in the back of your head" to do this kind of work as you tend to be the CIO's arms, legs and heart. Think a certification alone will do this? NOT ON YOUR LIFE.

To be sure, the SCEA is still one of the most admirable credentials to have in the industry bar none. But it only develops Software Architects, largely from a design stand point. Fortunately for you, you have done the prudent thing of completing the SCJA, and SCJP, laying the groundwork for being a proper Software Engineer and Developer. I would say, complete the skills development by getting the SCEA, and volunteer for any projects that you can at the office, in addition to joining an Open Source project or two. From there, I would look at CCDA {Cisco Design Associate}, SCSA [SNIA Storage Architect -- http://www.snia.org/education/certification/scsa/], ITIL foundations, CBAP to develop your Business Analysis skills, OCEB for Business Process Modeling {essentially a more in depth extension of CBAP, focused almost solely on the modeling}, SOA -- ok redundant, but just make sure you stay up to date on it, PMP or Prince2 [if you get in a in pinch, it sounds bush, but pick up the Project+ to show SOME kind of project management training], Six Sigma [be sure to learn Business Modeling in Excel -- it will save your life, especially if you have BI projects in a Financial Services firm. pm me if you need a book], TOGAF or Zachman for Enterprise Architecture understanding and finally CTIA from IASA does a good job of bridging the Business Architect side with Technical Architect side, as previously mentioned. Oh, and just for SnG, you probably want to complete an MBA as well as this is slowly starting to become en vogue for Enterprise Architects.... just make sure your doing this WHILE you remain or progress up the food chain in similar roles. Sounds like a lot? Maybe, but it will not be as cumbersome as you think, considering many of the topics covered in these programs are things you already do, you will just be obtaining the knowledge behind why you do them.

Just remember, if you want to be an Enterprise Architect, it is about the Business, not the program, which means you have to know how every group of systems can be effectively leveraged [both cost and performance]. This is more than just the last application you delivered, so it means more than just leading developers. If that is all you want to do, finish the SCEA, learn about databases and just keep coding. An opportunity will come open. There's nothing wrong with stopping at Software Architect --- in fact, you just may want to consider it heavily.

Everything depends on circumstances; you must sail according to the wind.
 
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