This article is part of the FlowRepublic series “Becoming a (Certified) Technical Architect” ((C)TA) which covers the different aspects of the #JourneyToCTA and provides you with helpful insights for your personal journey. If you are interested becoming a TA or CTA checkout our elite coaching and mentoring programs on www.flowrepublic.com.
Back in 2014 during the annual CTA reception a fellow CTA and I had a lengthy conversation about our “war stories” and how misleading the term “Certified Technical Architect” was. We found ourselves regularly in roles with multiple hats, which might be best described as Technical Delivery Manager – a “master” of many if you want. So in this article we are going to examine the most relevant non-technical traits that make a good (Certified) Technical Architect. Future articles will elaborate on the traits and how to build and improve on them, but all the writing will not make up for the practical experience you need to sharpen your tools.
You probably have heard about London’s cab drivers and their astonishing navigational skills that get you from North London to Elephant and Castle through little one way streets and alleys Uber has never heard about. In fact they memorize over 25,000 streets for their final test called “The Knowledge”. While few (C)TAs might be able to give you a similar lift through London, the knowledge they can access in an instant is still impressive and is not limited to technical breadth and depth. Solution Design, Enterprise Architecture, Business Process Engineering, Project Management, Team Leadership and User Adoption are all areas they have a sufficient level of expertise in, which helps them in fulfilling their role on the project.
(C)TAs are good at listening and processing the information to get a solid understanding they can build upon. As important as listening and often underestimated, is asking questions, consider it being the path that leads the information you need into your direction (5 whys anyone?). Not forgetting the ability to articulate and present even complex information to their audience, like the solution design for the CTA Review Board, and the polyglot skill of switching between different lingos like exec talk to business chat to geek speak.
A Solution Mind
A (C)TA’s mind is adapt at finding optimal solutions, for the customer, the project and the team. Where applicable they consider various options and present them with recommendations, pros and cons for the client to choose from. While the solution is normally documented in the form of a solution design, they have the majority of the details accessible in their minds and know them by heart. This is especially helpful in delivery mode where they work closely with various streams bringing the solution to life. Stay tuned for the “The CTA Solution Mind” upcoming article with the CTA mindmap.
Good (C)TAs are willing to take new information in and adapt their perspective and solution according to the input, instead of clinging to old beliefs. Assumptions is a good example here, at the beginning of the project our solution design rests on a set of assumptions that we validate as we progress, ideally the assumption gets confirmed, but if not we take this into consideration and apply changes accordingly. The same is true when it comes to feedback and reviews, where we get input that something is not working as planned, we take that in and aim for an optimization.
As a good (C)TA you find yourself in roles where you have to take leadership of the solution and/or a team of individuals. In both cases this comes naturally to some, while to others this feels out of their comfort zone. (C)TAs have learned stepping up by having confidence in their competency, taking responsibility and leading their teams through the various phases.
As a leader you lead by example with your positive attitude. Some tests need to be performed before the demo and no tester is available or a large data migration file needs some transformation, the good (C)TA will step in and get it done if necessary. And after doing that he/she will look into how to better accommodate for those things in the future.
One of the reasons why CTA coaching is so successful is the fact that it does not solely focus on the pure technical knowledge components, but rather supports attendees in their holistic development to archive excellence.