What does a Software Architect do?

Jul 4, 2021

5 Min Read

There are numerous definitions applied to the role of a software architect. Some documents have noted that a software architect is a software expert whose role overlooks maintaining the technical standards for factors such as software coding standards and tools. While other definitions have indicated that a software architect is a person whose main role is in the creation, execution and delivery of the software development life cycle (SDLC).

Whatever definition one chooses to use, the fact remains that in today’s technologically driven society, software architects are particularly important especially to growing businesses.

Day In The Life Of A Software Architect

Despite the role’s definition, software architects don’t often spend their days in front of a computer. A lot of their time is taken up meeting customers and clients. These meetings are aimed at identifying the client’s software requirements. The software architect is then required to design solutions that can meet these software requirements, thereby constructing the architecture of the software to be utilized.

After the foundation of the project is laid, the software architect will then need to implement the software, either by themselves or as part of a team, depending on the company’s size.

Software Architects also examine pre-existing software, to assess any potential risks present and provide reassurance to the client or business as required. In addition, software architects can be called on to streamline pre-existing software to improve the client’s business.

What Tools And Languages Do Software Architects Need To Know?

Various programming languages are used by software architects, these include:

  • Java
  • C++
  • Scala
  • Python
  • C#
  • Perl
  • SQL
  • JavaScript
  • JSON

Software architects also use several tools to accomplish the goals set for them.

These tools may be processing tools, management tools, command-line tools or testing tools among many others.

As software systems and technological development increase, software architects must keep up with the changing digital ecosystem to ensure that they are providing the best service possible. However, with the variety of tools and languages available it might not be possible to gain an appropriate level of understanding of every available tool, at which point the tools and languages used must reflect the software architect’s current role and position.

What Is The Typical Career Path Or Experience Level Of A Software Architect?

While there is no specific degree aimed at software architecture, it is often expected that a software architect has a Master’s or Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering or Information Systems as a foundation.

Further education in subjects including Development Operations, Programming and System designs alongside one of the many certificates provided for software architects is expected if one is to find gainful employment in the world of software architecture.

As every organization’s requirements for software architects may differ, there is no set number of years of experience that is required of a software developer in order to land the software architect role. 

What Skills Should a Prospective Software Architect Have?

Communication Skills

Since software architects need to translate between clients, customers, business managers, and developers, their ability to convey thoughts effectively is critical. They must be able to empathize with multiple stakeholders when making decisions on how best to develop a software product but also present the best options for his or her development team. It’s not surprising that along with being an effective communicator, persuasion is also a huge plus.

Deep Technical Understanding

Before you can run, you must be able to walk. Software architects within a development team should have the tightest grasp on what systems their software is or should be built upon. You cannot make good decisions for the team or business if your understanding is only on a surface level. In order to rise to a software architect role, you must show expertise and a willingness to learn within a highly technical environment.

Management and Accountability

As the top design minds for development teams, software architects should know how to navigate different personalities and take responsibility for outcomes — good or bad. Even if you are not managing direct reports, most likely you will need to guide other developers to make progress towards what you’ve laid out. It’s important for teams to have leadership that is ready to jump in when a challenge arises and to celebrate during the wins. 

Problem Solving and Analytics

Software architects are likely to encounter new challenges in their career. As technology advances and new fields of study like artificial intelligence and blockchain go further, software architects need to read up on the latest schools of thought and come up with ideas to guide software development. This requires creativity just as much as technical expertise. As discussions go through various teams outside of the development team, software architects need to break down abstract ideas into concrete steps for execution.

How Does A Software Architect Role Differ Between A Small vs Large Company

There are elements of a software architect’s job that will remain the same despite the size of the company they are working for, however, the size of the company does often affect the overall responsibilities that are assigned to the software architect.

In larger companies, software architects often work on individual stacks of software that may either be aimed at improving the functionality or the specific features of the software in question. As multiple software architects are usually employed this means that each piece of software developmental work may operate independently of each other.

Whereas, software architects who work in smaller-scale companies may sometimes take on the role of the chief architect making oversweeping decisions about software packages and designs used not only by the clients but the company as a whole, leaving them as the head of the company’s software development.

Whether you recently landed a role as a software architect or are just starting out in your exploration of tech roles, it’s helpful to research the steps to get there instead of pursuing something blindly. Software architects usually have a number of years of experience in software development so it is definitely not a goal to set if you are just beginning your journey. However, we hope this helps provide some structure and illustration of what it takes to become a software architect.

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