What is an architect expected to be skilled at?

By on October 17, 2013 in Software Architect

The software architect role is extremely challenging because it requires that we master a number of skills, not all of which are technical.  These are often thought of as soft skills but I think for most technologists these are really the hard skills. The architect skill-set is a fusion of technical, management and leadership skills not always possessed and often times not even desired by many senior developers.

Architects are expected to master technical skills like:

  • Software Development
  • Design
  • Modeling
  • Keeping up with technologies

This last one may not seem like a skill but it is crucial for architects to keep up to date with technology. The speed at which technology moves requires us to dedicate a significant amount of time to learning new technologies and understanding how they can be applied to business problems.  I wrote about this in my post “Are you keeping up with technology?”.

Most of us master many of these technical skills as developers.  These are the skills that have enabled us to move into the role of the architect.  As architects we must continue to hone and develop these skills but we must also expand our skill-set to include those hard skills I mentioned like: project management, problem solving, negotiation and facilitation to name a few.

As an architect one of our duties is to organize and manage teams. If you are already doing this today then you may have already mastered some of the skills necessary.  Skills that we are often less experienced at are those of a good leader.  As an architect the entire team, not just technical, will look to you for answers and direction.  A leader is able to form and communicate a vision.   A good leader is also:

  • Self Directed
  • Decisive
  • Motivational
  • Inspirational
  • Confident
  • Committed
  • Has the ability to delegate
  • Positive
  • Creative

These skills will all be reliant on your ability to communicate and collaborate with your teams. These are the two most fundamental and important skills we must all possess to be effective architects.  All of us have spent many years developing our technical chops.  We’ve spent long hours learning about technology and applying it to solve problems.  However, most of us have spent little time focusing on management techniques or leadership skills. Some of these skills come naturally to a few of us but others will need to dedicate time to learning and honing these skills to become effective architects.

For me personally I spend time reading books and listening to podcasts on leadership and team building. There are also formal classes on management and leadership, however, I find that I learn the most by observing the managers in my organization that are real leaders.   You will find that while there are a lot of managers in your organization, there are a small numbers of individuals that truly know what it is to be a leader.  Watch how these people interact with others, how they communicate and most important how others respond to them.  Being a leader is not about getting people to begrudgingly do their work. It’s about connecting with people on a level where your goals become theirs and they feel personally commitment to the success of whatever it is you are trying to achieve. I realize that to many of us these skills aren’t as interesting as the technical skills I listed, but like I said, these soft skills are really the hard skills for most of us and it will take some time and effort on your part to master them.



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