Technical Architects in Investment Banking

Is the TA job title redundant?

I had an interesting conversation with a recruiter the other day who claimed the job title of "Technical Architect" was nearly redundant in the City of London's investment banking sector. Instead of looking for technical architects, he claimed that city organisations are looking for experienced developers with business knowledge who can take ownership of the software development lifecycle.

As somebody that works in the capital markets sector, I was initially quite shocked by this statement. Although I don't necessarily agree with it entirely, I do think there is *some* truth to it.

I do think there's merit in retaining a job title that implies some differentiation between developer and architect because I think that they are sufficiently different to warrant this. As you can see from the role profile for software architects that I put together, an architect influences a software project in a different way to a developer. It's a very different role. In summary, I think there's a big difference between being an uber-developer and being an architect. And that neatly brings me on to the topic of our next London user group - "From Developer to Architect". The date is Thursday 6th December and there will be some books up for grabs. It's going to be a good session. Full details to follow.

For those of you that work in the financial services industry, what are your thoughts on this? Do your projects have an "architect"?

About the author

Simon is an independent consultant specializing in software architecture, and the author of Software Architecture for Developers (a developer-friendly guide to software architecture, technical leadership and the balance with agility). He’s also the creator of the C4 software architecture model and the founder of Structurizr, which is a collection of open source and commercial tooling to help software teams visualise, document and explore their software architecture.

You can find Simon on Twitter at @simonbrown ... see simonbrown.je for information about his speaking schedule, videos from past conferences and software architecture training.



Re: Technical Architects in Investment Banking

I can see where they're coming from, but I suspect they are looking for a single person to do everything - requirements, business analsysis, arch, design, dev, test, deployment etc. I don't think that is feasible for a single person, unless the scope is tiny. Jack of all trades, master of none?

Re: Technical Architects in Investment Banking

You might be right, particularly for small teams. Alternatively, it might be that the people responsible for projects feel that they don't need an architect because of the bad reputation of sitting in ivory towers, etc, etc. That's something that we need to change.

Re: Technical Architects in Investment Banking

I think there is a problem with the term "Technical Architect" it means way too many things to way too many people and as a title it has been seriously de-valued (I've met people starting in architect roles at 21/2 straight out of university). I think there is some truth in the fact that banks are trying to hire "experienced developers with business knowledge who can take ownership of the software development lifecycle" which when you come to the core of it is roughly what a TA is.

Re: Technical Architects in Investment Banking

Technical architect is a must for serious development projects but powerpoint architects that don't get their hands dirty in desing and coding and their last spoken language was COBOL 1.0.23 are one of the main roots of project failure. As an architect and developer I see more and more projects who trust in such architects and ended in complete failure. Good blog Simon, take a look at mine too ;)

Re: Technical Architects in Investment Banking

the cheap remark is: don't expect an enlightened discussion with a recruiter. on a more serious note though: i think that all experience tells us that any non-trivial software development project needs a team that can fill the full spectrum of roles from low-level coding to high-level architecture. but to function as a team the team members need a broad common set of knowledge, experience and language. which is the reason why i think it does make sense to hire an experienced developer even when the intent is to have her mainly play the role of architect in a team. because a truly experienced developer can do that and at the same time be fully integrated in the development team. (she can also take on a developer role in the next project.) while someone who is already hired as a technical architect may simply lack the immersion in present-day software development practices that make him a fully integrated member in a software development team (as Ashkan has also pointed out). so i think the distinction is between the desired skill set of someone to be hired and the actual role(s) that person will play in projects - while attempting to have high-performing, effective teams.

Re: Technical Architects in Investment Banking

I think that most jobs at investment banks don't involve much architecture work. Most of the work is evolutionary and refactors of organically grown systems.

If you're going to make sense of the spagetti mess generated by the users themselves, you HAVE to know about the business.

Re: Technical Architects in Investment Banking

I am a recent hire at a London Investment Bank. The problem I see with just having experienced hires in an organisation is they do whatever they want (within reason). So you end up with many different ideas being introduced and no architect/s bringing people into line with an overall vision for the system.

Re: Technical Architects in Investment Banking

You're right ... I raised this very point at a bank earlier today. :-)

Re: Technical Architects in Investment Banking

I think in some cases it can really depend on the situation of the company. If they are loosing continuously people they can find themselves in a situation in which developers with experience in their field is really more important that having brilliant people that they must to train (specially when they find that once the new hires are trained they leave).
Said this, I find that companies without technical architects would be lost companies without any real technical direction and working through most of the time groundless guesses and predictions.

Re: Technical Architects in Investment Banking

I think that you need an architect as the communicator of standards and general direction in a project but I don't like the perception that this job role is more advanced than a developer. All good developers can do architecture work, not all good architects are good developers. Architect is not a continuation of being a developer. It's a completely different job and I thing they should be paid less than the good developers in the team, in accordance with the reduced demands of the role. I agree with your view that technical architect is not really a job per se anymore. Projects are getting smaller and more agile and they want people who can take on multiple roles in the project. Learning complex financial knowledge is the way forward as a developer, not becoming a technical architect. At least in terms of career opportunities and potential cash rewards.

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