How to Become an Enterprise Architect

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enterprise architect

The role of enterprise architect ranked as Glassdoor’s best job in America in 2022 in terms of salary, job satisfaction, and available positions. Yet enterprise architecture is among the most routinely misunderstood professions in the corporate world, straddling the divide between the business and IT. What does an enterprise architect do every day, and what skills and education do you need to pursue a career in enterprise architecture

On a most basic level, enterprise architects are custodians of an organization’s IT services and networks, maintaining and upgrading components at every level of the chain of operations. This means keeping an ear to the ground for emerging trends in any technology that could potentially add value – and having the training and experience to discern the difference between true game-changers and industry gimmicks. 

It’s precisely that intelligence that sets enterprise architects apart and allows them to develop the business and technology strategies essential for business success. They must decide whether everything from legacy systems to software should be upgraded, overhauled, or abandoned completely. They must be equally intimate with all corners of the organization to decide what software, hardware, and services will best empower every team and department, according to their unique and changing needs.

Unlike a data architect, who is ultimately a data steward with duties that significantly overlap with those of an enterprise architect, enterprise architects are “people” workers as much as they are knowledge workers, as they rely on communication skills to keep the whole enterprise architecture running smoothly and successfully.

Benefits of a Career in Enterprise Architecture

Though the demands of a career in enterprise architecture might sound daunting, there are numerous reasons to put in the effort:

  • Recession-proof security: While some industries and markets come and go, tech and data-driven organizations are here for the duration, ensuring the job security of a seasoned professional in enterprise architecture.
  • High compensation: Median salaries for many IT jobs are much lower than you might expect, but enterprise architects are typically paid amply, with even the low end earning over $100,000.
  • Flexibility: Since enterprise architects are desirable to organizations ranging from multinational corporations to modest nonprofits, they need not be confined to one niche. Even within the world of IT, the range and plasticity of an enterprise architect’s skill set means that established professionals can have their pick of the world’s blue-chip tech jobs.

Core Duties of an Enterprise Architect

First and foremost, enterprise architects must manage the technology infrastructure of the organization – that is, they must effectively build organization-wide models of operations that meet the needs and goals of a business.

Once those models are in place, the architect must be vigilant in clearing problems before they arise by developing compliance methods to be implemented across all departments. Whether these entail change control, data storage needs, or other IT requirements, enterprise architects should oversee a smooth transition to any new protocols and must be meticulous in aligning them with any greater changes in the company, whether externally or internally driven.

To complete the circle of these duties, enterprise architects are expected to maintain an ongoing evaluation of all IT networks and systems to root out all weaknesses and risk points, updating the whole process at the top by improving architecture models as needed.

A Typical Day as an Enterprise Architect

As the job title suggests, the responsibility of an enterprise architect is to perpetually coordinate any number of real-time events and various channels of data with the concerns and vision of an organization. On a day-to-day basis, this entails keeping a running tab on incoming initiatives and the obstacles encountered by staff, then calculating how to gauge these novel occurrences against the existing operations of the enterprise. How might this play out?

An enterprise architect must effectively serve as a central nervous system of the business, making sure its various organs operate in a greater harmony – even when these local channels are out of communication with each other. As you might expect, this almost always comes down to a continuous stream of meetings that scale anywhere from big-picture issues like roadmap orientation and long-term strategies to more nuts-and-bolts implementation and putting out fires. 

For example, an enterprise architect might be tasked with migrating a subset of operations that have been previously performed in-house to a cloud-based third-party provider. He or she will need to configure this project against the drives of the business both long- and short-term, assess the state of play of the company’s current tech capabilities regarding the operations shift, evaluate whether those capabilities would best be retrofitted with new IT solutions, and finally coordinate with any number of staff and teams as to how to translate these assessments into action items. Some of this will play out within individual meetings, but much of the workflow will involve streamlining the channels of communication across different teams. 

Required Education and Certification

While the broad skill set and think-outside-the-box mindset entailed in the job allows for some degree of flexibility, recruiters for potential enterprise architects typically look for an undergraduate degree in computer science or related discipline. Enterprise architects with a master’s degree will have even more solid prospects (and a higher tier of salary). Job candidates are expected to have a minimum of five years in the IT field – preferably a decade or more.     

Computer science encompasses a wide range of abilities, so it’s useful to break down the key skills of a successful enterprise architect:

  • Excellent communication skills and be able to lead teams across different departments
  • The ability to tackle problems that arise on the management level, not simply within IT
  • Knowledge of system architecture, cloud computing, and technical strategy development
  • Experience with data sourcing, business development, auditing and compliance, system architecture, and SQL

As enterprise architects continue to become more sought after, an aspiring professional will benefit from a resume with certification in skills that custom-fit the position in question.  Workshops and certification courses can be both affordable and short-term, making it feasible to take crash courses in response to specific job offerings. 

These are a few of the most desirable certifications within the enterprise architect job market:

  • Open Group TOGAF 9 
  • Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)
  • Dell Technologies Proven Professional Program
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • AWS Certified Solution Architect

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