26 May Hands-on Technical Architect?
One of the challenges I face as a recruiter at Red Panda Innovation Labs, is to find a technical architect who is hands-on.
Typically in our industry, technical architects are expected to come up with high level architecture or design of one / multiple projects. The low level implementation – the actual code – is expected to be written by the developers.
The more experience architects gain, the farther away from code they go. As a result of this culture, there comes a point when architects, having not coded regularly in a long time, lose interest in programming altogether. Indeed, I have spoken with architects who decline hands-on roles.
Now this model (“hands-off architects creating the HLD, hands-on developers implementing the code”) might work in large, populous, hierarchy-driven organizations which primarily maintain or enhance large scale legacy software.
But it definitely does not work in smaller organizations driven by greenfield projects.
Red Panda, for example, is a start-up engaged almost exclusively in greenfield web and mobile projects for a variety of domains.
Here, technical architects are expected primarily to bring:
- Maturity in understanding the business problem that needs to be solved, whether they are building a bespoke application or a flagship product.
- Judgment to explore and adopt the relevant technologies and practices which will benefit the project in the most optimal way.
- The high level vision needed to visualize the growth path of the application / product, anticipate the challenges / hurdles that will come in this path (because of changing business requirements) and apply the necessary course correction.
- The view and cognizance of all functions of the Agile life-cycle (from user stories over testing and coding to automation of devops and deployment) within their projects and provide consultancy / mentorship to their teams as needed.
Obviously, the expectations above call for relevant, holistic experience. And I don’t mean experience in terms of number of years, but experience in terms of growth of responsibilities. After all, 10 years of experience is very different than 1 year of experience repeated 10 times over…
At the same time, these expectations seem well suited to conventional architects who have architected enterprise applications or products, preferably from scratch.
- Red Panda is also a small company (30 people right now) which means architects will not have the ‘luxury’ of big, multi-layered teams implementing their decisions. They will have to write code frequently and implement their design decisions in collaboration with a small team.
- It promises software craftsmanship to its clients. The engineers here deliver not just working code but elegant solutions with robust architecture, minimalist design and intuitive UX. It goes without saying that our architects too need to advocate these values and set an example in software craftsmanship. So not only code…but code using principles like SOLID and practices like DDD.
- It solves diverse problems for diverse clients. This means the architect should ideally have the experience and willingness of working in multiple domains. This becomes a challenge for architects working in domain specific captives (banks, telcos etc.) or even product based companies.
- It considers technologies as mere tools to solve problems. Therefore, it does not restrict itself to, or get obsessed with, one technology or framework. We’ve used Python, Clojure, Ruby, Java, JS and many more platforms wherever they’ve each made most sense for delivery. This again means the architects either need to be polyglots or must be open to working on a new platform with every new project.
And above all these qualities, what Red Panda values the most is humility. The architects, just like the hierarchy-less teams they’re working with, need to be open to feedback, willing to learn, and devoid of arrogance.
Now, when you look at the expectations above, the architect becomes slightly more unconventional and therefore, hard to find…
But I guess unconventional people need unconventional ways of finding them… 🙂
As I strive to find that architect, I request all of you who have read this long post, to recommend someone you think fits the bill. Or suggest that unconventional way of finding them.
Wish me luck !!!