I can honestly say that I didn’t know what an Enterprise Architect was when I graduated (or even what an IT consultant was, for that matter). After almost accidentally finding myself in IT, my career path has taken me into increasingly technical roles, while allowing me to draw on my personal experience of being unversed in IT when explaining tricky concepts to others.
I now work as an Enterprise Architect within Capgemini, which depending on the particular role and client, entails various tasks broadly concerned with ensuring that a client’s information, technology and processes fit together and support the needs of the business.
What I like most about this profession is the variety and the constant exposure to new concepts, whether unfamiliar technologies or businesses. At the same time, this makes for a challenging career, as you have to be willing and able to constantly absorb new information just to keep up.
While my degree in French and German seems like an unlikely basis for an IT career, in hindsight, there were many aspects of my interests and education that have since served me well. What I loved about languages was the mixture of logic and creativity, and the fact that learning a language opened up so many new opportunities. Furthermore, I had chosen to specialise in interpreting and translating as I got a real buzz out of communicating meaning to people who would otherwise have been unable to understand. All of these things are equally applicable to the work of an Architect.
However, I should probably mention that I was completely IT illiterate when I graduated! I’m still grateful to those who gave me my first job in IT for recognising that I had the potential to acquire IT skills despite answers in the technical part of the interview that still make me blush.
Entering the world of IT
Despite my lack of IT knowledge, I got a job at IBM, working on a European helpdesk, as IBM’s approach was to recruit linguists and train them in IT. There was a steep learning curve initially, but once I discovered that computers were not some impenetrable enigma, my interest grew and I naturally gravitated towards more technical roles.
From here, I took on a technical support role at a professional services firm, where I was exposed to many aspects of delivering IT and managing a team. I was then looking for a new challenge, so when the department was outsourced to Capgemini, I was excited at the prospect of new opportunities in a technology company.
The big break
The event that has had the greatest impact on my career was being accepted into the technology graduate programme shortly after joining Capgemini. This opened up a whole new world to me, allowing me to experience many aspects of IT system development, with a diverse range of clients in different industries, while developing new technical and consulting skills.
In the programme, I learned that I was able to acquire deep technical expertise when needed, while maintaining an interest in a breadth of subjects. I also realised I enjoyed both the rigour of technical disciplines and the challenges of interacting with the business. These factors made enterprise architecture an obvious choice for my next step.
Life as an Enterprise Architect
My current role is focused on managing technical changes on an established government IT project, though I have previously worked in roles developing architectures for new IT projects and helping clients establish a capability to continue managing the relationships between their own technology, information and processes.
I’ve worked on projects in policing, defence, local government and healthcare, as well as for a high-street retailer and a global car manufacturer (often working in the US).
As an Architect, I need a broad understanding of the issues affecting our clients’ business and IT, which means I need to be learning constantly. As well as formal training courses and certification, I rely on various resources, whether colleagues, internal knowledge bases or industry-wide sources.
What I particularly enjoy about my job is working with a diverse range of intelligent people, with different backgrounds, interests and strengths (I was pleased to discover that the stereotype of the bearded, sandal-wearing geek is not the norm). The most important factor in my development has been the people I have worked with, and I would advise anybody in this career to make the most of the experience and knowledge of those around them.
My immediate plans are to gain experience of managing architecture engagements, as well as to grow my involvement in coaching and developing new entrants into this career. Beyond that, I’m keeping an open mind – my career to date has been full of surprises, so I don’t see why the future should be any different!