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Acquiring the skills necessary to land an enterprise architect job is a challenging pursuit. Architects need to be skilled coders and testers, but they also need to be high-level decision-makers that lead software development processes, make far-reaching design choices, set technical standards for development and work collaboratively across both IT and business teams.
Even just opening the door to an interview for an architect position takes a broad set of skills and expertise to list on a resume. Furthermore, the questions that arise during an interview for the position can put even the most seasoned software experts to the test.
However, by understanding exactly what requirements organizations are looking for, shoring up on the fundamental areas of knowledge and crafting a strategy that proves your ability to handle the job, you can substantially improve your chances of landing an enterprise architect role.
Let's take a closer look at what you need to know to pursue an enterprise architect career path and explore strategies you can use to master the application process.
Enterprise architect skills and experience
The architect role represents a leading position within an organization's overall software development strategy. As such, the job requirements can be intimidating. Although the exact skills, duties and educational requirements for an enterprise architect can vary between businesses and organizations, it's important for candidates to understand the necessary qualifications.
Before submitting an application, make sure that you either bolster your proficiency in your existing areas of expertise, or look to diligently educate yourself in the areas you are not as familiar with.
Here are some of the most common qualifications listed on enterprise architect job postings:
- Five to 10 years of experience designing large-scale software applications;
- An understanding of industry-specific specifications, software development lifecycle processes, architectural styles and design patterns;
- An ability to clearly and confidently communicate development strategies to multiple types of software and business teams;
- Extensive knowledge of Agile, DevOps and CI/CD software development methods;
- Proficiency at analyzing code for weaknesses and errors, testing and overseeing recovery plans;
- An ability to participate in modeling both relational databases and NoSQL databases; and
- Minimum of a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field.
Organizations will also expect enterprise architects to have extensive knowledge and experience surrounding specific languages, frameworks, platforms, tools and industry certifications. Here are some examples of what organizations are typically looking for:
- An understanding of caching frameworks, such as Redis or Memcached;
- A background in working with enterprise service bus platforms like MuleSoft or BizTalk;
- Experience with public cloud deployment platforms, such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Azure;
- A knowledge of containerization and orchestration tools and platforms like Kubernetes, Mesos and CloudFoundry;
- A proficiency with software documentation platforms like GitHub, Atlassian, Doxygen and Javadoc; and
- Industry certifications for TOGAF, PeopleSoft, Java, ScrumMaster, ITIL and Microsoft.
10 ways to prep for your interview
The interview is the most important part of the enterprise architect job application process. Don't plan to simply answer the interviewer's questions one after another. Instead, use this as an opportunity to control your narrative and prove that you have the skills that the company is looking for. However, doing this requires reinforcing your knowledge beforehand and creating a strategy to navigate the interview.
Here are 10 things you can do to perfect your interview for an enterprise architect role.
1. Explain your day-to-day tasks in detail
Make sure you are explicitly clear about everything you do on a day-to-day basis. These details, such as creating and implementing algorithms, show that you're comfortable with basic programming concepts and can clearly articulate an explanation of them to other people.
2. Exhibit your knowledge of design principles
Talking about design principles, like object-oriented design and component-based development, demonstrates your ability to manage high-level architecture issues. Employers want candidates that can take responsibility for tough decisions that impact the IT group as a whole.
3. Highlight your database management experience
Enterprise architects oversee how development teams and applications access databases. Familiarize yourself with popular database management systems like MySQL, Redis, SolarWinds, Microsoft SQL Server and MongoDB. Mention any database design decisions you were involved in.
4. Think about hypothetical situations you can solve
This one requires a little extra thought, but it's where you can really shine. Interviewers will often challenge you to solve a hypothetical situation you might face in the job, but don't be afraid to initiate the conversation if they don't. Clearly verbalize how you would determine the requirements for this project, how you would set tasks for the development team and how you would ensure its success. If possible, use a whiteboard to sketch your ideas.
5. Describe the projects you've worked on recently
Talking about recent projects provides a tangible measure of your experience. Again, details are everything -- identify what your role was, the tools you used, the guidelines you followed, the results of the project and any lessons you've learned. Remember to also talk about how these projects supported an essential business task or process.
6. Get familiar with code testing and validation tools
Maintaining code and validating its functionality are major pillars of the enterprise architect role, so it helps to initiate a discussion about code testing processes and tools. Make sure you go in prepared with knowledge about specific tools and frameworks, such as Jira, Jenkins and Selenium, and highlight any direct experience you have with them.
7. Talk about experimental and innovative software projects
Potential employers often look for candidates who participate in more than just everyday software projects. Enterprise architects should be prepared to spearhead innovative design approaches and creative software solutions. Talk about any times you pushed yourself to try a new method, or innovative design approaches you've pursued.
8. Admit your failures
While the prospect of talking about project failures can seem counter-productive, it can actually reveal more about your experience than just talking about successes. Remember, employers want to know how you react when things don't run as planned, not just when everything works. Show that you are willing to take responsibility for failures, and that you can follow a pragmatic, blameless approach to fixing major problems.
9. Bring up cross-team project experience
As the guide of development processes, enterprise architects should be skilled project managers who can work across multiple teams, especially when it comes to resolving design conflicts. Discuss the ways you work with your own team and identify any times you effectively resolved disagreements between teams and took steps to prevent them from occurring again.
10. Ask about the work culture
It's important that your work style and personality lines up with what the company expects. For example, if the company expects you to spend 50-60 hours per week in the office, but you prefer to work remotely and on your own schedule, there's going to be a cultural mismatch that will quickly lead to job dissatisfaction and departure. Take time to investigate the organization's work culture, and be honest about how you prefer to work.