"Teachable Fit" - The Invariant Required for Successful Engagement of Architects

"Teachable Fit" - The Invariant Required for Successful Engagement of Architects

IT Architects, Solution Architects, Platform Architects, Business Architects, Enterprise Architects … after working in the recruitment and people industry for over 20 years, I find that the list of titles for architecture roles gets more diverse with each new year.

As part of providing hiring / recruitment services I have spent many an hour helping managers and company’s find the “right” person and meeting and talking with “architects” in all their various guises on what people are looking for and their fit, relative to requested roles and positions.

For me, working in the Architecture space is the epitome ‘blend’ of tangible and non-tangible skills. Technical, commercial, architectural, personality, and communication (and yes, communication is a skill and multifaceted, and not everyone is good at it!) are all skills and traits that are listed on most Architecture position descriptions.

Having just some of these skills is not sufficient – more often than not we can readily find candidates with the right ‘hard’ skills for the role but finding someone with these ‘hard’ skills, combined with the right blend of ‘soft’ skills becomes a much trickier search. A steady mix of all is required, individually dialled up/ down, depending on the requirements for that role and client.

Even in today’s ‘Agile’ world, there are some attributes that architects are expected to bring with them including: a demonstrable sense of ‘Structure’ (but not too much!) is always appreciated, a clear focus on achieving and driving to tangible business outcomes (an essential Agile trait), understanding priority, being able to act pragmatically when needed, having strong non-functional needs focus and making fact and data driven decisions. These are all characteristics that show an ability to operate in a balanced manner and it is expected and valued that the architect can work in an ‘Blended’ environment.

So how should a hiring manager go about getting the right architect?

Many clients aim to provide an exhaustive list of technical skills and background experience and use this to screen and qualify candidates. I am surprised by how often roles and especially senior ones go unfilled or through multiple recruitment cycles as they fail to find a candidate that matches the detailed brief.

When hiring someone new, both clients and candidates will come to respect a good recruiter’s knowledge, appreciation and understanding of the requirements for a given role. This comes through their ability to understand and assess the blend of technical skills, industry background and personalities required to ‘fit’ into the team. Good recruiters can save everyone involved in the process a lot of time and effort.  This is especially true for Architects who will usually be dealing with senior stakeholders across multiple business and technology sectors.

The process of hiring (both Contract & Perm) is organic, there is not a single must have attribute or technical skill that is required and market “hot” skill areas can quickly be areas of over supply due to projects completing or changes in strategy. A good recruiter’s job is to advise their hiring manager; what is available in the market right now, how much that resource will cost, and how to get the best ‘bang for your buck’. All these things are moving variables based on supply and demand.  The best recruiters will have their finger on the pulse in their market and can give real-time advice to the hiring managers on market conditions.

Often there may be a need to compromise on certain items on the wish list. If this is the case, we often have to ask, "on what are you willing to compromise? skills, budget, availability?"

My observation is that people are constantly growing and developing and one of the most valuable traits for any architecture professional is in their proven ability and interest to continuing to learn and adapt over time.

My perspective (pertinent at all levels) is that hiring managers should always consider this “Teachable Fit” during their selection process.  So the way to get the BEST available person for the job is recruit and screen, based on the key priority areas and then advise the architect to teach them what they don’t know - Teachable Fit, the forgotten art of hiring.

As an architect having a portfolio of diverse industries and changing technology experience is illustrative of having the ability to learn and provide a “Teachable Fit” to clients.

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Bart McDermott, Managing Director – Architect Associates