Architects weigh in on what makes their jobs cool.
In past issues of Oracle Magazine, this column has devoted a lot of attention to how to become an architect and has shared the insight and expertise of working architects as they discuss how they have developed and sharpened the various skills necessary to thrive in that role. But this column has never addressed one simple, straightforward question: Why would anyone want to be an architect?
The architects I contacted for responses to that question—my informal team of expert advisors—were attracted to the role because it requires a very specific combination of highly developed technical skills, equally well-developed people skills, and a keen ability to see and grasp the big picture, all wrapped up in a desire to be an instrument of change.
You want your solutions to have a positive impact on your business or society.
Oracle ACE Director Lucas Jellema, solution architect and CTO of AMIS Technologies, describes the big-picture focus as both the primary challenge and the greatest attraction for the role. “The mix of competencies that is required; the potential impact you have as an architect; and the constant intellectual challenge of abstract, high-level, long-term strategic thinking one moment and very operational, concrete, and detailed thinking the next is what makes it fun. You are in touch with so many people and so many aspects of the project and the technology that it is hugely challenging and rewarding. Never a dull moment!”
The architect’s job is “problem-solving on a large scale, a struggle to align people and technology to accomplish a mixture of goals,” says Randy Stafford, architect-at-large for the Oracle Coherence product development team at Oracle. “It’s gratifying work for someone with an analytical, engineering mindset. Challenging, but stimulating and rewarding.”
Ronald van Luttikhuizen, managing partner at Vennster and an Oracle ACE Director, also enjoys the problem-solving aspect of the role. “As an IT architect you are in the unique position to have a real impact on the quality and usefulness of solutions for the business,” he says. “It’s like solving puzzles, but you still have the opportunity to get your hands dirty by helping in software realization.”
The ability to balance that kind of day-to-day technical practicality with a vision for the future sets architects apart.
“To be an architect is to think differently from those around you, and to be able to have a profound influence on the future state of things,” says Clifford Musante, lead architect with the Oracle Fusion Middleware Architects team. “Architects are required to simultaneously address the multiple concerns of the business, the users, the evolving state of technology, and the continuous need for innovation and lower costs, all while providing more-robust and more-reliable solutions. For those who can think coherently, completely, and across multiple concerns simultaneously, what’s not to love about a job like that?”
Oracle ACE Luis Weir, Oracle solutions director at HCL AXON, describes the architect’s role as fundamental to an IT revolution that is only just getting started. “Information technology is to the twenty-first century what the Industrial Revolution was to the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries,” says Weir. “You become an architect because you are passionate and you want your solutions to have a positive impact on your business or society.”
As the last, lingering vestiges of the twentieth century fall away, it becomes ever more obvious that the familiar mantra “every business is an IT business” is expanding in scope with each passing second—as every home becomes an IT home; every automobile becomes a rolling data center; and human beings, by virtue of evolving mobile devices, wearable computers, and whatever comes next in that astonishing progression, become ever more connected to each other and to the world around them. How we make that journey, and where that unpredictable path takes us, is the business of IT architects. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?