SATURN 2011 Session: Soft Skills for Architects (afternoon, May 19, 2011)

Notes by Peter Foldes

Next-Generation Architects in a Harsh Business World: Sourcing Nontraditional Talent and Revamping Existing Talent
Walter Ariel Risi, Pragma Consultores

Abstract and presentation slides

There is a problem in Argentina with technical talent. There are a lot of technical people coming from universities, but companies are fighting over talents and need more and more of them.

Traditional architect is someone, who has a university background, 10 years of experience, and some management skills. There are not enough people with this background. Non-traditional ones, for example a drugstore clerk and amateur guitar player turned guru, were also hard to hire. They put a lot of effort to learn the skills required for a developer, and they used talent from a different field to excel in software.

So how could these people enter the software engineering market? They are entering through necessity. In Argentina they need about three times the available resources. They also have a serious unemployment rate. So at the end some people resign and look for government opportunities, others don’t. These people take courses in software development, and some of them are highly talented. They take a chance to get into companies, and as they are highly needed, companies take them.

Why are non-traditional technical people special? They come from a harsh background and they have a commitment to overcome limitations; they take this to work. They also listen and are eager to learn as they have little to lose and a lot to learn. They also have an understanding of the business and social realities of the world. They value their job more and have a stubborn ownership and responsibility of their work. They also have a respectful disrespect toward established practices and standards, and can take constructive criticism. Most importantly, they got where they are due to mentors and sponsors, and therefore are eager to coach and give back the knowledge to the next generation.

Where to go from here? Let’s present a set of questions concerning talent sources and recruiting processes, prejudices, and tradition. How many additional talented people could companies get this way? Also question career plans and software architecture curricula, and how better they would be with the above mentioned personal traits.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Architects
Ger Schoeber, Sioux Embedded Systems B.V.

Abstract and presentation slides

The habits mentioned in the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are also applicable to architects.

The first three habits (be proactive, being with the end in mind, and put first things first) talk about moving from dependency to independency.

  1. Be proactive: As an architect, you can take responsibility for the product and go to the customer first. You can increase your circle of influence. Reactive people decrease it.
  2. End in mind: A plan and direction help the team. Even though there are changes over time, showing direction has its benefits.
  3. First things first: Make sure that the task list for urgent and important tasks is always smaller than the important-but-not-urgent list.

The next three habits are about moving from independency to interdependency.

  1. Thinking win-win: Architect knows which way to go (win-lose), architect just facilitates (lose-win), we disagree (lose-lose), or we can come to a consensus (win-win). In case of disagreement, explicitly stating the differences helps.
  2. First seek to understand, then to be understood: Listen to customers and stakeholder concerns, sit next to the customer and see in the same direction.
  3. Synergize: Team working together. For example, in case of two companies, one interested in oranges to make orange juice, the other to make perfume, can start bidding for a batch of oranges. If they take some time to understand each other’s needs, they would know one only needs the inside, while the other only the peel.

The last one is about going from interdependency to self-rejuvenation.

  1. Sharpen the saw: Change can come only from the inside. It is also important, and hard, to balance energy, health, and lifestyle.

The greatest challenge is balancing. Balance cannot be learned by book, only by years of improving.


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