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How to become a good software architect in 13 steps

It's not easy to find your role in an IT enterprise setting. But if you can follow these 13 steps on how to become a software architect, you'll be well on your way to success.

The true role of a software architect is often misunderstood. It requires a great deal of development, management and people experience. The role also requires a general knowledge of many technologies, such as Jenkins, Git and cloud computing. Software architects don't just design software. The job isn't finished once development begins. Those who want to know how to become a software architect must fundamentally understand that. It is actually a much larger role than many think.

We've compiled a list of tasks that can show you how to become a software architect. And by no means is it an exhaustive list. It is undoubtedly missing a task or two or the description of a key role. But if you want to become a software architect, this list is a good place to start.

  1. Software architects help decide what technologies to use on a project. To be a software architect, one should know when to stick with an old technology that works or when it is right to move onto a new technology.
  1. Software architects determine software design and architecture. This means how it is to be built, where the technology will be used and which patterns to employ.
  1. Software architects help decide which processes the development team should use. One will need to assess if that process works and be ready to modify it if it seems to not be working.
  1. Software architects document. Architects need to articulate how software works from a variety of different levels -- high abstractions to low-level usage.
  1. Software architects develop the coding standards the development team should follow.
  1. Software architects mentor both junior and senior developers. If you don't have enough years of development experience under your belt, it'll be a challenge to earn senior developers' respect.
  1. Software architects manage the development team in conjunction with business management, project management and tech leads.
  1. Software architects meet and work with tech leads to help with design at code level.
  1. Anyone interested in how to become a software architect will need to know the business domain as well as business leaders do.
  1. Software architects need to be able to handle pressure from the business team when they find a bug in production. They can't play play the blame game.
  1. Software architects need to be a mediator between developers and managers if they argue about the application.
  1. Flexibility is an important software architecture capability for the apiring software engineer. You'll need to admit when you make mistakes, take feedback on those mistakes and be able to refactor to help fix issues.
  1. Finally, software architects need to know how to code against their own specifications. It gives one a great deal of credibility and goes a long way in getting buy-in from the development and business teams.

Key takeways

The role starts with experience in a variety of realms, including development, HR management and leadership. If you can compare tools like Maven against Gradle or Jenkins against other CI tools, such as Bamboo, you'll be able to articulate the difference. Knowledge of different technologies will let you see what works best.

Lessons from a software architect

  1. No one knows everything.
  2. We are not always right.
  3. Just because someone speaks louder doesn't make them right. And just because I try to speak louder doesn't make me right.
  4. Easy and simple are always the best route and most performant. So, find whatever tools, processes and designs it takes to make it as simple as it can be.
  5. Know that there is always a better way.
  6. There are always exceptions to the rules.

And the reality is: These aren't quick and easy steps. It will take a while to learn how to become a software architect. The job is stressful, as there are many demands on you from all levels of the organization. But it is also a position that can help you grow professionally in a variety of technical and nontechnical ways. And if you follow these 13 steps when working in the role, you'll spend more time growing as an architect rather than stumbling.

This was last published in September 2018

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