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top interview questions asked to an Architect

Pradeep bhatt
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Joined: Feb 27, 2002
Posts: 8898

Dear author,

What are the top interview question asked to an Architect


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Bear Bibeault
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None that one could memorize the answer to. (At least not from a competent interviewer.)


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arulk pillai
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It would be scenario based and open-ended questions.


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Dave Hendricksen
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Joined: Dec 06, 2011
Posts: 31
Hi Pradeep,

In most interviews, I am looking to begin a conversation.

I want to understand what they have done in the past (basically, I am looking for them to begin talking), and I will vary my questions based on what they say.

I want to understand how they think about problems, how they work with people, how they communicate information ...

I am likely to want to dive into specific areas to see what the depth of knowledge is.

There isn't a script.

I am really just trying to figure out if I believe they can do the job and if they are a fit for the position.

Thank you for the question!


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Pradeep bhatt
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Joined: Feb 27, 2002
Posts: 8898

Thanks everyone. If you are in the interview panel, would you ask the candidate to write code. I have seen several architects who don't write code. I think given that they are busy having meetings and providing solutions they hardly have time to code.
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Pradeep bhatt wrote:Thanks everyone. If you are in the interview panel, would you ask the candidate to write code.

Absolutely. I want a hands on architect. And if your resume says you've been developing for 10 years (which they often do), I certainly expect you to show up able to code.

Pradeep bhatt wrote: I have seen several architects who don't write code. I think given that they are busy having meetings and providing solutions they hardly have time to code.

When I have a week that I spend more time in meetings/analysis/design/etc than I'd like, I code extra at home. First of all, it is fun. Second, you lose a skill if you don't use it.


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Pradeep bhatt
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Joined: Feb 27, 2002
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Thanks for the tip. I have met several architects at job fairs who get dislike been asked to write code by the interview panel. There is something called as solution architects. Do they belong to that category ?
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Pradeep bhatt wrote:Thanks for the tip. I have met several architects at job fairs who get dislike been asked to write code by the interview panel.

I've met people at interviews who feel this way. Not to sound cold, but it is a job requirement. I think it is perfectly fair to ask at the interview. You may find this thread interesting.

Pradeep bhatt wrote:There is something called as solution architects. Do they belong to that category ?

Solution architects are usually enterprise architects or at the level of product recommendations. My comment at coding was directed at software/application architects. I've never interviewed for EA/solution architecture.
Palash Nandi
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Joined: Jul 09, 2009
Posts: 34
Hi Guys, Can you tell me your portrait of a ideal architect. What skills do you look for in an architect. I am asking because, I want to get there in a few years and so i would like to try and learn those skills and i don't think, those skills are gonna magically come.

So any pointers , really appreciated.


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Jimmy Clark
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Joined: Apr 16, 2008
Posts: 2187
I imagine that there are different types of requirements for a position with the title "software architect." I certainly would not ask a candidate at a software architect's level to write any code. Programmers and developers write code extensively. Once you hit the Engineers and Architects level, things change quite a bit. An architect is a manager and there are much more important things they need to do than write code (and it is imporant to assess these things rather than whether they stilll remember how to traverse an array or some other low-level detail.) They certainly should be assessed differently than a programmer fresh out of college or with five or lesss years experience.

Software Architect or Enterprise Architect signifies the highest level of experience (at least 10 years or more), and this should certainly include management experience of teams of engineers and programmers. In some cases the title gets misused by an organization and sometimes individuals imagine that they are doing more than what they are in reality. Narcissistic personality disorder is popular with some programmer types and this should certainly be tested for. It is much more imporant than any for loop or if statement.

An organization that is hiring for an "architects" position which includes extensive coding as part of the job description is a bit off, in my opinion. This is a typical sign of an immature organization or HR disfunction.
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Jimmy,
I disagree. In companies that have a management and technical track, the architect is not a manager. He/she is a leader, yes. But the management track people still supervise.

Where I work, architects still code. Granted not as often. I have nine years experience and still code every week by myself. Plus I pair with/mentor/help solve problems of those who code more. A colleague who has been doing development 20+ years also still codes sometimes.
Henry Wong
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  39


Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:
I disagree. In companies that have a management and technical track, the architect is not a manager. He/she is a leader, yes. But the management track people still supervise.

Where I work, architects still code. Granted not as often. I have nine years experience and still code every week by myself. Plus I pair with/mentor/help solve problems of those who code more. A colleague who has been doing development 20+ years also still codes sometimes.


Jeanne,

Unfortunately, the "architect" title seems to be overloaded (or maybe tiered is a more correct word). And some of those architects, such as "solution architect" and "enterprise architect" are working at such a high level, such as directly for the office of the CTO, that it is actually better (arguable) to hire a very experienced program manager for the role than a very experienced programmer. I know that you weren't referring to such an architect, but they do exist, all large companies have them.

Regardless....

Palash Nandi wrote:Hi Guys, Can you tell me your portrait of a ideal architect. What skills do you look for in an architect. I am asking because, I want to get there in a few years and so i would like to try and learn those skills and i don't think, those skills are gonna magically come.


No short cuts. Whether you come from the technical track, or the project management track, an "architect" is about experience -- and confidence with it. Without it, getting through the interview process will be hard. And staying in the job, if you get lucky and get it without the qualifications, will be very very hard. My best recommendation is that if you feel that you need a skill, then learn it -- and don't beat yourself over it if you just use it for one project.


BTW, this is, of course, my opinion, which is based on my experience. Other experience, and hence, opinions, may be different.

Henry

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Saurabh Pillai
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Joined: Sep 12, 2008
Posts: 498
IMO, one should interview the person on area we expect them to work on. I think for someone at the level of architect, you expect them to guide developers from implementation perspective. For example, if there is a new feature to be added to the system, arch. should propose his idea on implementation and discuss what other team mates views are and get the team to the final solution. Also, arch. would have much better understanding from business perspective compared to developer. But at the same time, arch. should code from time to time to avoid ivory arch syndrome. Otherwise, her the proposed solution may not have solid backup reasons (why did you choose THIS as solution and not THAT).

I also agree with Jimmy that you should not do nitpicking about coding. Because, we have developers for that.

To OP, try to involve yourself in full SDLC and after few years of experience you would automatically know what it needs to be arch.
Jimmy Clark
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Posts: 2187
Henrys' points are very good. And I too am only sharing my opinions, which are based on my observations and experience. One key aspect when considering things by title is the organization's size. My experience is mainly with large organizations with 50,000+ employees.

Aspects of the "architect" title and whatever may be in front of it may vary with smaller organizations. If an "architect" is not selecting, hiring, and managing his/her engineers and programmers, is he/she really an "architect" or a "senior lead developer"?

Again mileage may vary...
Palash Nandi
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Joined: Jul 09, 2009
Posts: 34
Henry Wong wrote:

No short cuts. Whether you come from the technical track, or the project management track, an "architect" is about experience -- and confidence with it. Without it, getting through the interview process will be hard. And staying in the job, if you get lucky and get it without the qualifications, will be very very hard. My best recommendation is that if you feel that you need a skill, then learn it -- and don't beat yourself over it if you just use it for one project.



Yes, I agree. But that still doesn't answer my question.

How do you get experience ? Just by going to office for 10 -12 years you cant get experience. Every project of 10 have some 2 people working it really hard , 2 people just lagging behind and other 6 taking it easy and doing their stuff right ? After 10 years all of them will have same experience, does that mean they have same capability, that doesn't sound fair.

By experience do you mean, exposure to multiple types of projects, or multiple different companies and work culture ? Still very confused...


Henry Wong
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Palash Nandi wrote:By experience do you mean, exposure to multiple types of projects, or multiple different companies and work culture ? Still very confused...


In my opinion, the only important definition to "experience" is... can you defend it?

You can put yourself onto lots of projects. You can work with lots of technologues. You can work in many different types of companies.... but all of that experience is completely useless, if you can't defend it. I am amazed at how many people cannot go deep in talking about a project that they worked on? Or even worse, can't even recall that the project was even on their resume? So... back to your example, do you really think that those 10 people all have the same experience?

Experience is not about having a number. Experience is not just about exposure to something. You need to defend it during an interview. And you need to rely on it when you work on future projects. And experience in "doing their stuff" is not very useful in either regard, is it?

Henry
Jimmy Clark
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Joined: Apr 16, 2008
Posts: 2187
In other words, an individual's experience is reflected in their Knowledge, Skills and Abilities, and their ability to demonstrate each in different types of situations. How do you get experience? There are many ways to do this, some of them very difficult, some of them very easy, some in the middle.

For example, the ability to lead a technical team is usually very important for an architect. In order to have this ability, the individual should (1) understand how they can do it, (2) possess other abilities such as being able to build trust and form strong relationships, and (3) get themselves in a position to actually lead (in various scenarios, projects, with various types of individuals.) This is not easy and not something that can not simply be read on a web page and memorized. Attaining an "architect" certificate from some company also will not magically make you an "architect."

Another example might be related to skill. Writing skills are very important for an architect. Being able to write clearly and correctly is extremely important. Spelling, grammar, accuracy all tie into presentation and how individuals will percieve you. Building positive perceptions is surely needed to gain trust. If your team does not trust you then efficient communication most likely will be sour, and it may be very hard for you to get complex tasks finished and complex projects completed.

Aside, there is much more to "experience" than simple time measurements, e.g. 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, etc.
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Henry Wong wrote:Unfortunately, the "architect" title seems to be overloaded (or maybe tiered is a more correct word). And some of those architects, such as "solution architect" and "enterprise architect" are working at such a high level, such as directly for the office of the CTO, that it is actually better (arguable) to hire a very experienced program manager for the role than a very experienced programmer. I know that you weren't referring to such an architect, but they do exist, all large companies have them.

My company has them. I've been on workgroups with people that are enterprise architects. I wouldn't expect them to code. This question was originally asked during the book promotion of "12 essential skills for software architects" so I interpreted the question in that context. And Jimmy wrote "I certainly would not ask a candidate at a software architect's level to write any code." which is what I was directly responding to.

Palash,
On experience, you need a certain number of years to gain it. Just because it takes time to encounter different situations. But of course you can do the same thing poorly for that time as well. You have to look for opportunities and actively learn. The fact that you are on here is a good sign in that space. I think Jimmy defines experience well.
Palash Nandi
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Joined: Jul 09, 2009
Posts: 34
Henry, Jimmy and Jeanne, Thanks for the explanation. getting the big picture now..
 
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