How to recruit great Enterprise and IT Architects
“All experience is an arch to build upon”
— Henry Brook Adams
The first time a professional enterprise architecture company interviewed me, I was thrilled. Yet, it felt like running a marathon and writing a deep learning algorithm at the same time. I got five interviews with the most professional consultants I have ever encountered. They were focused, disciplined, pragmatic, very experienced, humble and simple by their approach. I was confident at first because I was good at my domains of expertise. I used to work in Integration Architecture and TIBCO based technologies. But I wasn’t yet a full-grown Enterprise Architect.
Throughout the interviews, they guided me through the level of service and commitment that they give to their customers. It was another level of professional expertise. If I was a black belt, they were 5th Dan.
The point is, to be acknowledged as a good enterprise architect, it is not enough to excel in a single domain: you have to master several. It starts with you having:
- The mastery of a technology domain
- The mastery of a business Domain
- Practice Enterprise Architecture
- And above all, to have good soft skills.
Architects crave the best products and services for their customers. “Best” means “with the consideration of a given timing, resources, and constraints”. Architects opt for a leader stance to empower colleagues and consumers.
Finding the people that have this kind of skillset and mindset is difficult. You do want to find hidden gems in your company: the people that have the potential to become an architect. As Chief Architect, I have to do all the above, hire the best enterprise architect and IT architect.
I spent several years testing alternative recruitment techniques. Here I am sharing my best practices, which are also part of the AMASE method. Keep in mind this is not a one size fits all solution. Still, it works pretty well.
The following will give you a recipe for conducting your recruitment of architects. Make it yours, tweak it, see how it works for you. Feel free to share feedback as I am always looking for better ideas.
The recruitment is as follows:
- Prepare the interview
- Welcome the candidate by making her/him feel comfortable
- Present the need, the working environment, and the context then introduce yourself.
- Present the job, the role, and responsibilities
- Let the candidate present himself
- Test his technical skills
- Test his presentation skills
- Get more insights on her/his personality outside of work
- Wrap up and finish with the next steps
Before the meeting, I suggest you equip the meeting room as follows:
- Get a whiteboard, board markers (four colors), and an eraser
- Or several pages of paper with pencils
The meeting format should be either one meeting of 1h30 or two meetings of 1 hour each. State from the start that it will be time-boxed on both sides. The rationale is to focus on what is essential from the beginning.
- Arrange for parking if required to receive the candidate as if you were receiving a guest in your own house.
- Arrange water, coffee, or tea.
- Inviting the candidate to share his understanding of the job and the mission will bring clarity. It creates a better frame of exchanges
- Invite the interviewee to ask a question whenever necessary. It has to be an interactive session, a conversation. Avoid monologues where possible (from any side).
Part I: The classic interview
The purpose is to recruit an architect. The following questionnaire will help you to screen the architect.
- Presentation of the Company, the vision, the strategy, and the values
- Explanation of the job offer, and the location of position in the organization
- Presentation of the Interviewer, role, responsibilities
- Presentation of the candidate
- The story of each relevant job experience
Part II: General architecture skills assessment
We are getting into the live hands-on practice of architecture. Remember, you are looking for a candidate that will be capable of representing the “Office of Enterprise Architecture”. She/he will be the strategic partner of CxOs, program managers, engineers, product owners, etc.
Ask open questions that favor custom and personal responses like the followings:
- In your opinion, what is Enterprise Architecture? What value does it bring to an organization?
- Which Architecture Framework do you know?
- Can you describe the framework you practice the most?
- Can you describe how you prepare and manage an architecture project?
- Can you list some architecture deliverables?
- Can you describe how you manage requirements (functional and non-functional)?
- How do you ensure the customer gets what she/he wants?
- What tooling do you use to practice architecture? Can you share some best practices?
Part III: Practical hands-on Design Skills exercise
In this part, you choose one of the candidate’s job experience, then request a demonstration of :
- The design
- The work breakdown structure
- Details of the architecture dossier
Goal: To assess the experience of the candidate.
With respects to hands-on exercises, ask as follows:
- Provide the main business processes of the project. You can expect BPMN or UML Activity Diagram. You can request further details on activities, roles, systems, data, and procedures.
- Provide an architecture Diagram describing the solution
- Draw a UML sequence diagram describing calls between the users, applications, and services.
- Provide a Logical Data Model that describes the data entities
Part IV: Presentation exercise
In this exercise, you will sell me this solution and will try to convince me to go for this solution. It starts with presenting the architecture dossier based on the content described before.
Goal: to observe the presentation and communication skills of the candidate.
Part V: Technical skills assessment
This section is conducted according to the specialty of the architect:
- Enterprise architect → Discuss enterprise architecture management, frameworks, services, the tooling. Talk about how to relate to the delivery and how to collaborate with stakeholders. Ask if she/he knows how to set up an architecture repository meta-model.
- Business architects → focus on the functional part of an industry/business domain. How to relates to business goals, common processes, roles, and regulation. Check her/his knowledge of the BPMN standard.
- Software architect→ Insist on programming languages, software patterns, algorithmic, frameworks, and latest trends.
- Infrastructure architect → Discuss the type of equipment, machines, network topology, and zones. Go up to the infrastructure patterns and data center selection criteria.
- Cloud architect → Focus on the types of cloud services, their specificities, and cost models. Request advice on cloud provider selection strategies, management, and hybrid setups.
- Data architect→ Focus on Data Governance, Data Model design, and Data Management. Ask how to manage data retention and data lineage in a good way.
- Security architect → Focus on threats analysis, hacking techniques, identity & access management. How to identify sources of data leakage and procedure to deal with them. Discuss the regulations, standards, prevention, protection, security reference architecture, anti-patterns, and technologies.
- AI and robotics architect→ Focus on types of AI domains, algorithms, features, technologies, infrastructure. Ask about human-robot interactions, the social impacts, and ethics.
Irrespectively of the expertise:
- Ask how she/he keeps his knowledge up to date
- Ask the candidate his opinion on a topic of your choice
- Ask about the latest trends
Part VI: Social interactions and foreign languages
This is the last section! Let’s talk about hobbies, social activities, and it is time to exchange points of view. It is also the opportunity to test foreign language mastery. I enjoy engaging the conversation in a different language to kill two birds with one stone.
At this stage, the intent is to both get out of the comfort zone and use every term except business terms. In the process, I get the privilege to enrich my vocabulary.
- You could request the TOEIC & TOEFL score or any assimilated rating standard.
- It is important to know what makes the candidate happy and unhappy in his work in general.
Part VII: The closure
Wrap up the interview by inviting the candidate to ask questions.
Then explain the next steps of the recruitment process, and be clear about the timeline.
This is it! I hope the article was useful. Again, feel free to share your thoughts and tips.
Yannick Huchard is a chief architect and entrepreneur. He is passionate about startups, design, and e-sport.
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- Personal website: https://www.yannickhuchard.com
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