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Who Wants to be an Architect?

Greg Thomas
I write a lot of code. I've also written a book on developers becoming leaders/managers called Code Your Way Up.
・3 min read

I've never been big on titles - I've always preferred to simply be called a Software Developer.

What do you do --> I develop Software --> Software Developer.

It's simple, to the point and it fits perfectly.

When it's come time to lead and manage teams, I'm still writing code, so in that sense - still a software developer (but a developer that leads)?

Currently, I'm an Architect on a project. I've held the title a few times but to be honest, have never understood it. Sure there is all the design and building of stuff and foundational elements, looking at the big picture, making sure things fit together, evaluating platforms and technologies, and on and on, but at the end of the day, I'm never sitting in a room like that guy from the Matrix - "Architecting" things.

Is this an Architect?

On the current project, here is what I am doing as an "Architect";

  • I write code.
  • I work with a number of developers (varying skills, requiring varying time for mentorship and development).
  • I kick-off high-level design.
  • I work with the end-user to develop requirements and help the team understand them (and of course having to learn them myself).
  • I work with the IT team to procure platforms and licenses.
  • I write requirements.
  • I lead the QA team and work with them to develop test case suites and testing.

All-in-all I do a lot of things that wouldn't fall under the blanket of an Architect. When I've been an architect for other projects some of the above usually bleeds into what I'm doing as well (the above is a lengthy list).

With all that said, I don't feel the architect is the title that suits me. The part that is most critical to being an architect - the design work - is a piece that I generally avoid doing in a vacuum and instead would rather do as a team. Whether it's on a call to discuss pluses and minuses of a solution or incorporating ideas from the team, it's one of the most exciting pieces for a developer (especially a new one to take one) so why would I want to take it all on and give them a design to implement.

If I'd have to pick a style of Architect, I'd have to say I'm a Coding Architect, one who wants to be in trenches still pumping out code, seeing it all work and come together versus doing design only work. I don't think either is bad.

Where is this all going?

I think the Architect role has become this fable ascension point to reach. I've worked at many companies where we didn't have Architects or Design Councils and we pumped out some of the best software I've ever written. In the developer world, I think "Architect" is that holy grail of job titles and when people introduce me as one, I feel kind of sheepish. Look at the list of tasks I carry out today.

Those aren't architecture tasks, those are delivery tasks and at the end of the day, Software Developers deliver - whatever they need to do - they deliver.

The titles won't get you there, the work you do will, and will always be remembered by the people you worked with.

I wrote a book on Leading Software Teams - Code Your Way Up - available as an eBook or Paperback on Amazon (CAN and US).

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