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How to Become a Software Architect

I often get asked by up-and-coming technologists, "what things should I be doing to work towards becoming an architect"? Of course, as is often the case when asking an architect a question, the answer is "it depends". However, I've found the following list to be a good starting point.

What items would you add or remove? What advice would you give to someone seeking to become an architect?

Here's the list that I've come up with:

  • You must continuously seek to improve. If there was one right way to do things, the role of an architect would not be needed. One obvious way to improve in the area of architecture is to read. Here are several books, in no specific order, that I have found useful in improving my skills as an architect: 
  • Learn a new programming language every one to two years. F# is a good one to start with! :)
  • Pick a focus area, but have a high-level understanding of as many technologies as possible.
  • For your focus area, start a blog and continue to expand your knowledge of that focus area with the goal of becoming an expert. 
  • Play with different technologies, programming languages, design patterns, architectures, etc. (even if it doesn’t directly help your day to day). You never know when the additional knowledge might come in handy.
  • Learn to speak in the "language" of your target audience. You have to speak to a lot of different people as an architect and each audience will have a different level of understanding of the technology. Learn to tailor your explanation in ways that each audience can understand.
  • Read blogs, watch/participate in twitter/G+, listen to podcasts, read magazines, go to user group meetings and technology conferences, speak at user group meetings and technology conferences. These things will build your knowledge, help to build your brand, and provide networking opportunities.
  • Discipline is key. Always do your best work, even if it doesn't sound like the most fun. Schedule time every day to learn something new, even if it's just 15 minutes, and don't let other priorities take over this time.
  • Start a blog (pick a technology and start blogging what you learn about it). I’ve found that the act of writing about something will cause you to have a better understanding than simply reading about it. 
  • Take advantage of “wasted time”. Always have a magazine with you to read, listen to podcasts on the way into work, etc.
  • Learn about the various tools available to help architects do their job better and more efficiently. 
  • Look at a lot of the different architectures for different projects.
  • Learn about different project management methodologies.
  • Learn about approaches for evaluating technology that can provide value to a business.

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