Technology has crept into almost every aspect of our lives, and our level of dependence on it, now is extensive.
In that context, the demand for highly skilled professionals with tech expertise has grown exponentially. So, whether you’re looking to upskill in this sector or to get into a tech career, you may be looking for some direction because there’s a vast range of roles involved in IT now that didn’t even exist a few short years ago.
At the core of most technologies, is the programming that allows them to function and this relates to the software of course. Software is all around us – from running our mobile phones to making it possible for organisations such as Amazon or eBay to exist. You can find software even in the most traditional of industries – like automation in manufacturing, EPOS systems in retail outlets, thermal detectors used by plumbers to analyse domestic heating systems – and so on.
So with that prevalence and demand in mind, now is a good time to look into a career in Software Architecture – have you thought about it?
What is Software Architecture?
So, let’s start off by looking at what exactly Software Architecture is, according to Techopedia it can be defined as:
“The defining and structuring of a solution that meets technical and operational requirements. Software architecture optimizes attributes involving a series of decisions, such as security, performance and manageability. These decisions ultimately impact application quality, maintenance, performance and overall success.”
Essentially a Software Architect is the lead on software development projects and manages every aspect of the final solution. They must ensure that the project results in a solution that meets the specified requirements – all while managing the budget, team communications and the big decisions to make sure they deliver the solution on time.
What does it take to be a Software Architect?
So now you know what it is, are you up for the job? Let’s take a look at the common characteristics we often see in software architects;
An essential task of the software architect is liaising with various stakeholders on a project. During a typical working day, they may have to speak with customers, managers of all levels, business analysts, and developers. As we all know, clearly communicating plans and actions is crucial in order to move any project along (and soft skills in technology is no exception). So, if you have a natural charisma and you know how to persuade people effectively, then this will be a huge plus.
This characteristic is important because as a software architect you will play a role in making the big decisions, and often compromises must be reached. Being a strong communicator can help you to ensure that the choices made are acceptable and seen as beneficial for all involved.
As the Software Architect is a highly skilled role it should go without saying that to become one you will need a high level of technical knowledge. People working in this role usually have strong expertise in several technological stacks, as well as a good understanding of other technologies outside their core expertise. The software architect should also be capable of producing in-depth technical documentation, reports, and diagrams.
If you are only starting out in the industry and do not yet have the technical knowledge or experience needed at this point, don’t get discouraged because the highest skill levels can be acquired through learning and on-the-job work experience. But having the goal to be a software architect is a great guiding light for your career path!
As mentioned, the Software Architect is involved in the big decision-making process… that usually means the expensive decisions. Therefore, the person in this role should take a highly responsible approach to their work, keeping a level head in order to make the best decisions under pressure.
To put it into context, a developer’s error may cost a couple of days work to fix while an architect’s mistake on a complex project could take years to remedy. With great power, comes great responsibility!
As with most high-level careers, there will be stressful times. Remember as a software architect you will be making hard decisions while balancing the wants and needs of all stakeholders. You may have to react to rapidly changing environments or requirements. Therefore, you should be resilient and not the type of person who may get easily overwhelmed. But don’t worry – experience and learning builds resilience and this simply takes commitment, time and maturity.
The best career advice anyone can offer is to choose something you’re genuinely interested in, as opposed to what pays the most. If you have real passion for the job, then you can overcome the stress!
Acting as the lead on projects requires strong management skills, both organisational and leadership. The software architect will be leading the way for a team, which may be made up of professionals who specialise in very different areas and may be located across offices or even the globe. Therefore, it is essential to be confident in your ability to manage, organise and lead effectively in order to complete a complex project.
The software architect is expected to be able to think about things in a highly analytical way. For example, you should be able to take an abstract problem or idea and present it in the form of some finite specification for the solution. This is an essential skill in order to progress concepts through to the delivery of a solution and to communicate the proposed solution to all the stakeholders.
What Does a Software Architect Do?
The software architect has many responsibilities when working on a project. Let’s take a look at what exactly the job of the software architect entails at each step of a given project.
At the beginning of any project, it is the software architect’s role to liaise with all parties involved in order to document what exactly the project is to achieve. This includes the initial kick-off meeting with the client where introductions are made between all team members and the client explains their vision for what the final result should be. After this information gathering exercise is complete the software architect must then use their expertise to scope the plan for how the client’s vision can be actualised.
2. Wireframing & Functional Requirements Document
Once the project has been defined and the plan of action has been agreed by all parties, the software architect must then prepare the wireframes and the functional requirements document (FRD).
Wireframing is a critical part of the process as it is used to create a clear overview of the page structure, layout, user flow and functionality. This is a semi-creative process as often the software architect will complete this phase through sketches in order to illustrate the ideas in a clear and easy to understand way.
The Functional Requirements Document is then a document which defines the purpose of the project as well as the architectural overview, application roles and functionalities. The purpose of this document is to keep all of the key information about this project in one place. It also ensures that all parties involved are up to date on the direction the project is going.
3. API & Database Design
Based on the information in the FRD prepared in the previous phase, the software architect then focuses on the database design and Application Programming Interface or API. This is essentially the process of designing how data will be organised in terms of what data must be stored and how the data elements interrelate. Once those first two steps are complete the data can then fit into a database model which will manage this data accordingly into the future.
4. Technology Stack
Then it is time to define which technology stack will be used for this project. It is essential to liaise with developers in order to get their expertise in order to avoid possible flaws down the road. While deciding on the which technology stack to use, there are several key considerations such as; project complexity, clients inputs, developers inputs, and client technological comfort level.
5. Estimates for Project Realisation
At this point all major aspects of the project should be clearly defined and it is time for the software architect to liaise with the developers to estimate the timeframe required to build the project. Once a suitable estimate is prepared it is then shared with the client for their approval.
6. Development & Quality Assurance
At this point of the project all key aspects have been clearly defined and the web developers can begin building. During this phase it is the software architect’s role to project manage the entire process to ensure that everything is going to plan. This includes running weekly meetings with the team and the client in order to keep everyone informed on the progress and to address any issues that may arise along the way.
Once the project has been built and gone live it is then the architect’s role to maintain the finished product. This means fixing bugs, assuring the product is functional and making minor changes as requested by the client into the future.
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It may not be for the faint hearted but if this sounds like you, you may have found a career that can be highly rewarding both personally and financially!
So, if you think you’ve got what it takes for a career change and pursuing the software architect career path, let us help you along your way. Check out our selection of courses that can help you get to where you want to be.
Be sure to keep an eye out for our MSc In Software Solutions Architecture, registrations are now open for the 2023 intake!