An infrastructure architect defines and designs the flow of technology within the business or for specific projects. They’ll have a top down view across the infrastructure taking in security and data considerations as well as the servers, wires and desktop devices. Being a superb technologist is a given and this person also articulates in plain language how technology can help reduce costs, improve service and increase profits.
Clearly, it’s a big job, and the enterprise architect is at the top of a techie pecking order that spans support, network and data teams. This branch of the IT profession also has its own league table, with architects coming in many technology flavours including web, network and storage. Enterprise architect is synonymous with the top job in most organisations.
While the enterprise architect knows his servers, networks, data centres and PCs inside out, he won’t be getting their hands dirty in this role. Shifting boxes is not the day-to-day remit of the enterprise architect who is more preoccupied with exploring solutions or evangelising a new technology model to business colleagues. If you can’t make geekspeak intelligible to a wider audience, this job is not for you.
What type of person should you be?
Three attributes epitomise an enterprise architect: you love technology with a passion, are highly analytical and are a leader. The third is non-negotiable as technology decisions rest with you and for this reason alone there won’t be many infrastructure architects in one company.
All these credentials point to a confident person with robust opinions, who is not afraid to push for innovative solutions that will support the business. A good infrastructure architect is highly analytical and prepared to think about a problem from many different angles before opting for a solution. They’ll be highly networked, with a good knowledge of technologies and connections with technology suppliers to help their cause.
There's a fourth personal quality that is essential in this job and if you haven’t got it, you’ll need to learn it fast: patience. You need to be able to explain the whys and wherefores of an infrastructure to different audiences using the appropriate language, and you’ll need to do it over and over again.
Panellist’s view: This person enjoys guru status in his own technical team, pushes for innovative solutions and evangelises the benefits of technology.
What’s the best first job?
There are a number of paths that lead to the infrastructure architect’s desk. A system administrator’s role, programming, networking or security jobs all make good starting points. Ideally an aspiring infrastructure architect should have a working knowledge of all of these areas. Many people typically move on to work in supervisory or junior management. It’s important to be vendor-neutral and not have a strong bias towards any particular technology platform.
The biggest jobs are in the corporate world where the infrastructure architect works closely with business stakeholders and third party service providers. If you’ve only worked on small scale projects, it’s worth getting involved with steering committees and other technology interest groups to get experience of larger projects within larger environments.
Whatever job you’re in, formal or informal mentoring from your peers and networking will help achieve some of the outcomes that organisations are looking for in an architect: foreseeing future technology trends, implementing scalable solutions and making sure that business processes and technology solutions fit together to meet organisational requirements.