Saturday, February 02, 2008

On Architects

Bill de hÓra excerpts from Dietrich Kappe.

I couldn't agree more with:

If you've made the transition from a hierarchical environment to an agile, self-organizing team, you know what I'm saying. You won't ever want to go back..

I've been called various things. My last title was "Architect". Before that "Technologist". And now "Program Manager". I used to be a pretty decent developer, but never a great one. I'm starting to get ok again. I'll be pretty good again soon. I've worked with a lot of great developers so I know the difference between good and great. I figured out somewhere along the way that I'm fairly good at sensing what teams need and sucking it up and doing the often crucial not-so-fun stuff. I like doing this stuff because it is rewarding knowing that I contributed to a team. As time allows I make technical contributions too (more and more now). There is nothing like being on a high performing team and carrying your own weight.

Seagull Architects are an abomination. I had a realization as I left my last job; for a variety of reasons I never want to have the title "Architect" again. In talking to other "Architects" and former "Architects" I was fairly surprised how common this sentiment is. I'd be happy with what I have now or "Developer". I also like Steve Vinoski's "Member of the Technical Staff". I don't really care what you call me, but I do care that I carry my own weight. More than anything I care that I'm on a whole team that is already or has the potential to become a high performing team.

Let's just all just stop using the term "Architect" in software. How about we get rid of "Engineer" too while we are at it.


Sarge said...

It's not logical, but I have an aversion to Member of Technical Staff from my days at JPL. That was the catch-all title for lots of folks so, naturally, most forms prohibited its use as your title.

I've also been a "Software Engineer" and an "Architect". I like software architecture but more often than not architects sit in corner offices and write PowerPoint code. There's very little about development that's engineering. That's just sophistry like calling salesmen "Account Executive".

I now use a title that lets people know my opinion of titles for software geeks: Software Jedi. (I include the "Software" portion so no one asks me to lift their X-Wing out of the swamp.)

fuzzy said...

I like your title Sarge. And you are a Jedi - freak Jedi.

And I know that many of us can't control what our title is. And there are pay grade issues etc. (I received an email on this).

If you have the title "Architect" (or something like it), my advice is to just watch out for the pitfalls. I know a lot of great people with this title.

Whatever you do, don't be a Seagull. Know the damage you can do. Join the team. Pick up an oar & row. Regardless of what your title says :)

fuzzy said...

I received a thoughtful comment via email that I'm manually adding:

i first heard the "seagull" label applied to folks with "manager" in their title - when i was one - not that "my staff" ever referred to me that way. (uh
huh, suuure...)

Life-critical software development oughta be treated as "real" engineering, meaning with incredible rigor. Very little software actually requires this.

re: "architect" - ever since working with a "real" architect to design a building that would sit on my property, and developing an understanding of what's needed to do it well, i can appreciate using the title for folks who design complex software systems - and i'm even more aware of the dangers of letting someone who doesn't know the ins & outs of construction and construction management design a building. You don't have to be a master craftsman, but your work benefits immensely from being in the trenches with them. More architects, both the "real" and "software" variety, could benefit from more hands-on experience.

IMHO, the only time to get concerned about your title is when updating your resume, which is really just a foot in the door to explaining yoreself - what people actually do rarely maps 1:1 with what they're called, but we have to start somewhere.

mama_nata said...

i bet a flock of seagull architects would have awesome hair.

funny how so few job titles actually describe what people do in a helpful way. except this guy on survivor i saw just now - - "ice cream scooper." (ice cream jedi?)