As the technical architect, you’ll be responsible for defining the overall structure of a program or system. You’ll act as project manager, overseeing IT assignments that are aimed at improving the business, and ensuring all parts of the project run smoothly.
Because you’ll be working from start to finish on each project, it’s essential to understand all aspects of each system, from both a business and technical point of view. This means having a full working knowledge of technologies such as UNIX, Oracle, SQL Server and TCP/IP for example, as well as knowledge of one or more programming languages.
You can work in many different industries as a technical architect, from planning the structure of a large scale patient records database for the NHS, to the redesigning of a shop's e-commerce facility, to name a few.
It’s likely you’ll be employed by an IT firm that specialises in the delivery of these kinds of projects to clients, or in house at a large organisation with its own team. Depending on your responsibility and level in the company, you'll either oversee one part of a system's framework, or you could be in charge of the whole thing.
A lot of your time will be spent liaising with people from different backgrounds, from management to designers and programmers in the IT department, to ensure the project meets the needs of the organisation and the people who'll be using it.
Some of the main tasks you can expect to be involved in include:
• Identifying the organisation's needs
• Breaking down large scale projects into manageable chunks
• Working out which IT products to use based on cost benefit analysis and research
• Agreeing plans with the client
• Explaining to designers and developers what's required and overseeing the progress
• Producing documents that monitor progress and ensure the quality of the project
• Advisg the client on managing future IT needs
Although there are technical architect roles all over the country, London and the South-East have the highest numbers available and pay in these areas is also likely to be higher.
You're not restricted to just working for specialist IT consultancies. You'll also find roles in public service organisations, Government departments, financial institutions and utility companies, so there’s a wide variety of areas you could chose to work in.
A typical career path for a technical architect may follow the lines of promotion to a more senior architect's role, or to go on to specialise in projects for certain industries. From there, you could become an IT consultant or IT strategist.
Because the role of a technical architect is so varied, employers will be looking for a wide range of skills, including:
• Good communication with clients/operational managers – listening and providing answers
• Strong problem solving skills
• Ability to build from good relationships with clients/operational managers and colleagues
• Ability to gather and assimilate information
• Up to date knowledge of technical applications
• Good knowledge of quality standards, legislation and best practice
• Ability to be adapt and prioritise
• Ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
• Ability to think ahead and anticipate problems, issues and solutions
To become a technical architect, you’ll often need to work your way up a career path within IT to reach the senior role.
In-depth technical knowledge isn’t a necessity as that is often required more by the people you’ll be managing. However, it’s important that you understand what technologies are out there (Java/J2EE, SQL, SAP, Oracle and C#) and what they do.
This means employers usually require a degree in a relevant subject to demonstrate you have enough technical knowledge to perform well in the role. This may be in computer sciences or computer engineering, information management systems, software development or business information systems.
Experience that is particularly favoured by employers includes systems development, analysis, programming or testing. It’s common in the industry to start work in one of these roles and progress to become a technical architect.
Most employers will require you to stay up to date with the latest changes in software and technology that’s relevant to the business or clients.
Depending on the employer, you might be sent on a number of courses, either in house or externally. These can result in qualifications including: Microsoft Certified Architect, Sun Certification Enterprise Architect, Open Group IT Architect Certification or IBM Service Orientated Architecture Solution Designer.
Hours and environment
Although the hours required will vary between project, most of the time you can expect to work approximately 40 hours a week. When deadlines need meeting however, you may be required to work late or at the weekend to ensure everything is completed on time.
You’ll usually be based on site at your office, but you can expect quite a lot of travelling to meet clients and suppliers. As they can be positioned anywhere in the country, you might have to work away from home at times.
The salary you’ll earn as a technical architect will reflect your experience and can range between £30,000 and £50,000 per year, and between £55,000 and £80,000 when you become a senior architect.
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