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IT job titles pop quiz: What kind of architect is this?

Enterprise architecture includes a diverse set of IT roles. See if you can name the title that corresponds to each job description.
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Architect at a desk drawing on paper

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Enterprise architecture is a direct result of a technology boom in the 1980s that streamlined legacy applications and processes with more modern approaches. Eventually, the frameworks that came out of enterprise architecture expanded beyond IT to the heart of the business in general.

Given the scope of enterprise architecture, many types of professionals can be responsible for an organization's architecture. Many different hands guide how business, information, and technology work together. Some have "architect" in their title, and some do not. Titles vary by company, which can create a lot of confusion about who is and who isn't an "architect."

To demonstrate, I've listed four architect-related job descriptions below. See if you can guess the job title that corresponds to each description—including the systems-oriented role that doesn't have the word "architect" in its title. Then check your answers at the end.

Architect A

I can be thought of as a customer advocate. I work with customers and my peers in sales to help shape and execute strategies for organizations to understand best practices around advanced cloud-based solutions and better migrate existing workloads to the cloud. I'm on the road about 50% of the time, helping customers map business and technical challenges to the solutions my organization provides.

I have a thorough understanding of large-scale computing solutions and a background in systems engineering and presales. To supplement my technical liaison role between customers, service engineering teams, and support, my responsibilities focus on design, implementation, and consulting with distributed applications in infrastructures. I specialize in software development tools and methodologies, systems engineering, and cloud engineering.

I have experience with Unix and Linux systems. A big part of my role is developing and implementing complex solutions and coordinating technical efforts. My communication and presentation skills are strong—they have to be in a customer-facing engineering position. I have to keep my knowledge fresh to discuss emerging technologies like public, private, and hybrid cloud, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Linux containers, container orchestration and management, automation, configuration management, DevOps, and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD).

[ It’s not just architects. It's time to rethink job descriptions for the digital era. ]

My job responsibilities entail:

  • Leading teams in building and migrating applications, software, and services on a cloud platform
  • Participating in deep architectural discussions and customer training sessions to ensure the right solutions are designed for successful cloud deployment
  • Contributing to customer-facing publications

What kind of architect do you think I am?

Architect B

I work on a cloud services team. I help set strategic technical directions, common architectural guidelines, principles, and reference architectures for my company's product and solutions portfolio. My team is responsible for demonstrating my company's architectural solutions to customers and engaging in portfolio-level technology. I work alongside senior architects who focus on various technology specializations, such as multicloud and container infrastructure, automation, analytics, and machine learning.

I report to the head of architecture and design, and it's my job to develop guidelines and blueprints across the portfolio. I also figure out how to deploy and manage company workloads in different cloud and hyperscaler environments.

[ Designing for the cloud? Download an architect's guide to multicloud infrastructure. ]

I must have strong leadership and workforce management skills and thoroughly understand technologies including:

  • Kubernetes, container services, and platform services
  • Cloud-native applications
  • Different cloud and hyperscale environments

Who am I?

Architect C

I am an essential part of owning, automating, and delivering the continuous delivery platform for all of my company's cloud services efforts. My team primarily focuses on building and maintaining an enterprise-level, continuous delivery infrastructure. Given this role's particular requirements, I am responsible for designing solutions and implementing services that focus on availability, performance, automation, monitoring, and security. This also means I play a key role in project planning, design, and the delivery process.

My role is considered junior to mid-level. I'm not serving in a leadership capacity, but I do help drive efficiency through standardization, automation, documentation, and cross-training and provide technical leadership and decision-making support. I must have strong communication skills to be able to engage in conversations with both technical and non-technical audiences.

My background also includes:

  • Deploying and administering applications
  • Using scripting languages, such as Bash, Perl, Python, and PowerShell
  • Designing, implementing, and documenting production infrastructure and solutions

What do you think my title is?

Architect D

I have a hybrid role that allows me to travel and work in the office. One of my biggest responsibilities is preparing customer-facing materials such as network or system designs and responding to requests for proposals (RFPs). As I am in a more sales-oriented role, I find myself diving deep into the details across the entire customer life cycle. I take an advisory position with my customers and exhibit proactive technical thought leadership. One of my favorite parts of my job is creating and curating portfolio-level understanding of a business' entire set of capabilities and processes to support sales objectives and the IT that underpins it.

I often work in highly collaborative environments, partnering with stakeholders across sales, services, finance, and business teams, as well as third-party vendors and integrators.

I'm a midlevel architect, with around six years of experience in a variety of disciplines, which allows me to conceptualize and develop compelling solutions for network, security, systems integration, and managed IT services for my customers. I have to understand hybrid cloud management services, including application containerization, and working with hyperscalers. I have a strong background in network automation techniques.

What kind of architect do you think I am?

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The commonalities in differences

Here are the titles of the architects listed above:

A. Solutions architect
B. Cloud chief architect
C. Senior systems engineer
D. Principal architect

Did you spot the engineer when you read the descriptions? Did you wonder if the principal architect might be a solutions architect? If so, it's okay.

The real question to ask when trying to understand different architect roles is figuring out what kind of solution you're trying to architect and how the person's technical background feeds into the designs they make for their customers—whether they're external or internal. Every solution is delivered to something or someone.

As you're exploring your architect career, focus more on what tools and technologies you enjoy designing solutions with and what outcomes you want to solve for. A title is only a name. Your skillset is what truly defines your impact.

What to read next

Topics:   Career   Leadership  
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Marjorie Freeman

Marjorie is the Associate Editor for Enable Architect. More about me

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