The role of a software architect, while crucial, is often misunderstood. This position differs significantly from more commonly known IT roles such as developers or system administrators. In smaller companies, software architects’ responsibilities might be integrated into the roles of senior developers, who have typically been with the company for a long time (often over a decade). Their deep understanding of the company’s philosophy and unwritten rules allows them to effectively handle the complexities of software architecture.
However, in larger or more complex organizations, the need for a designated software architect becomes critical. These organizations often encompass a broader array of systems and a diverse group of developers, some of whom may be relatively new and less familiar with the company’s development ethos. In such scenarios, a formal software architect role is essential for strategic planning and designing complex software solutions, guiding these larger teams beyond mere coding or system management to achieve coherent and effective technology projects.
Currently, there are over 176,000 software architects in the US, with 300,000 job openings yet to be filled. This field is expected to grow by 21% in the next four years, highlighting the high demand and the challenge of finding qualified professionals.
Despite this demand, the role of a software architect is often obscured by technical jargon and mistakenly perceived as just an advanced programming position.
This guide will help you clarify the role of a software architect, whether you’re looking to hire one or aspiring to become one. It will provide a comprehensive understanding of what the role entails, the skills required, and the potential career path. Let’s begin by defining what a software architect is.
What is a Software Architect?
A software architect is a technical leader whose role is to provide technical solutions to business problems. It’s also called a (guess what?) technical architect.
Software architects are usually software developers or software engineers first (but not all developers and engineers aspire or become architects). They need to bag around seven to nine years of experience in these fields to climb the software architect post.
It’s a leadership role, so it means that they’re highly experienced. They must be specialized in designing, creating, and developing applications. Of course, they must also be knowledgeable about project management and team handling.
Given the nature of the role, certain skills and qualifications are necessary for the ideal candidate.
Skills and Qualifications
These are the essential skills and qualifications that a software architect should possess:
1. A Relevant Degree
A software architect must have a degree in computer science, software engineering, programming, or related fields.
A formal education helps them gain the technical skills a software architect needs. These include knowledge of:
- specific tech stacks
- modern architectural paradigms
- certain coding languages
- cloud software
2. Relevant Experience and Skills
As mentioned, a software architect starts as a software engineer or developer. It means that they must have experience in roles that allow them to develop the following skills:
- Software development
- Systems design
You don’t necessarily have to hire someone who’s already a software architect. You may dig into their relevant experience in software engineering or development. Who knows, you might already have someone within your team who can step up to this role.
Software engineers must continue enhancing their skills and experience. They get certifications in relevant technologies and software development. A postgraduate study also sounds good!
Some of the certifications you can look for in their CVs are:
- Certified Professional for Software Architecture (CPSA)
- Foundation Certificate in Architecture Concepts and Domains
- Certified Tester Foundation Level (CTFL)
- Professional Software Engineering Master Certification
These certifications ensure that a software architect has both the foundational and advanced knowledge of various technologies and standards in this field.
4. Soft Skills
For a software architect, possessing soft skills is just as essential as having technical expertise. Key soft skills such as leadership, creative thinking, problem-solving, time management, and effective communication are indispensable.
The reason these skills are crucial for a software architect lies in the nature of their role, which extends beyond just the technical aspects of software development. A software architect acts as a central figure in the project development team, bridging gaps and connecting various stakeholders, including management, marketing teams, and customers.
Their role involves leading their team through challenges, finding solutions to project issues, and ensuring smooth collaboration across different departments. This holistic approach to project management and team dynamics is vital for the success of any software project.
Google, for instance, conducted an internal study that found the most innovative, collaborative, and successful teams are those where members excel in soft skills. These teams are characterized by effective communication, empathy, supportiveness, strong coaching abilities, and adept problem-solving skills.
Furthermore, as we advance technologically, especially with the integration of AI, the importance of soft skills is only set to increase. A survey of 58% of HR managers indicates a growing consensus that soft skills will become even more crucial in the future. This trend underscores the need for software architects to develop and hone these skills to stay effective and relevant in their roles.
What Does a Software Architect Do?
A software architect’s role is critical in an organization. They do pretty much everything from software planning to implementation to organizing.
What does their typical day look like?
They make high-level decisions and documentation. They write and review codes (yes, they never stop coding). They also research new technologies and maintain current systems.
Their main roles and responsibilities include the following:
1. Identify And Define A Business Problem
Their job as a software architect is to look at the bigger picture compared to their previous role as a developer or engineers. Now, they plan future system and app releases for the company.
They need to have a better grasp of the business goals. They must understand their requirements and the business drivers for the solutions.
They also have to ensure that the development aligns with the company’s goals–it has to solve a business problem.
2. Develop Software Designs
Once a software architect has nailed down the needs, the next stop is providing design concepts and technical blueprints. They need to plan the system’s features, keeping in mind that they need to be functional.
They must also test the software design feasibility. This includes identifying what might go wrong and assessing if the design meets project requirements.
3. Select Technology And Tools For Development
As a software architect, they must choose the best technology and appropriate tools to develop an application. They’re in charge of various aspects: security, for example, defining which multi-factor authentication solution to pick. This is a must for delivering high-quality output.
They come up with a tech stack that best fits the development’s requirements. They must also ensure that the dev team has access to essential resources.
4. Work With Various Business Stakeholders
In this role, they’re not boxed in one place–they also work with other stakeholders. They include the development team, management, marketing department, end-users, and customers.
A software architect helps build the codes and assigns specific development tasks to the developers. They review their code and find a way to make it work better. They have to ensure that they can actually implement the solution–it must work!
The role also entails keeping the project within the budget and time frame.
5. Monitor Long-Term Performance And Scalability
Their job as a software architect doesn’t end when the system has been developed. They also need to monitor the long-term performance of software applications.
In some cases, changes are necessary. So, they must work with the development team to implement them as needed for optimal software performance and user experience.
A software architect also looks into ways to scale the program. So, they need to evaluate the software’s architecture and see if there are areas they can improve to scale it.
How can the software handle large amounts of data or traffic? How can it meet the growing needs of the business?
They must ensure the software can handle future changes, including security updates.
Now that we have discussed the roles and responsibilities of a software architect, you might be wondering–how is it different from a software engineer or developer. Let’s get into that.
What Is the Average Salary of a Software Architect?
How much you earn as a software architect depends on your education, experience, and location. In the US, your payment may range from $130,000 to $220,000 per year.
On average, you can earn around $176,000 a year. The more experienced you are, the higher your salary could be.
Software Architect vs. Software Engineer vs. Developer: A Comparison
Maybe you already have a software engineer or a software developer in your team. And so you wonder—do you actually need to add a software architect?
Their roles may sound just the same, especially for non-technical people, but they’re also different in terms of focus, responsibilities, and skills.
|handles system-level design and architecture
|creates system designsimplementing the entire system or subsystems
|code implementation of specific features and functionalities, problem-solving within the system
-implementing the entire system or subsystems
|-designing and implementing software components;
– integrating the system
– doing some project management tasks
|– mainly writes code for specific features
– debugging and testing
-may be involved in system design minimally
|– broader technical knowledge compared to the engineer and developer.
– strong architectural and design skills
– leadership skills
– communication skills
|-strong programming skills
-knowledge of software design principles
|-proficient in programming languages and coding
– best practices
– analytical skills
Their roles tend to overlap at some point. You can think of the developers as the first-level role and the engineers as the second-level. Then, the software architect is above them, being responsible for the overall system development and project management.
Find the Right Software Architect
Hiring a software architect can be a valuable addition to your tech team. They can provide technical solutions to business problems, and their leadership skills can help guide your development team toward success.
Kickstart your hiring journey with confidence by partnering with us at DistantJob. Our expertise lies in seamlessly connecting companies with top-tier global developers possessing the precise skills you need. From initial headhunting to continued support, we are dedicated to ensuring our clients navigate the hiring process effortlessly. Let’s start a conversation!