From - Is Design Dead?
Martin Fowler Chief Scientist, ThoughtWorks
Do you wanna be an Architect when you grow up?
For much of the last decade, the term "software architect" has become popular. It's a term that is difficult personally for me to use. My wife is a structural engineer. The relationship between engineers and architects is ... interesting. My favorite was "architects are good for the three B's: bulbs, bushes, birds". The notion is that architects come up with all these pretty drawings, but it's the engineers who have to ensure that they actually can stand up. As a result I've avoided the term software architect, after all if my own wife can't treat me with professional respect what chance do I stand with anyone else?
In software, the term architect means many things. (In software any term means many things.) In general, however it conveys a certain gravitas, as in "I'm not just a mere programmer - I'm an architect". This may translate into "I'm an architect now - I'm too important to do any programming". The question then becomes one of whether separating yourself from the mundane programming effort is something you should do when you want to exercise technical leadership.
This question generates an enormous amount of emotion. I've seen people get very angry at the thought that they don't have a role any more as architects. "There is no place in XP for experienced architects" is often the cry I hear.
Much as in the role of design itself, I don't think it's the case that XP does not value experience or good design skills. Indeed many of the proponents of XP - Kent Beck, Bob Martin, and of course Ward Cunningham - are those from whom I have learned much about what design is about. However it does mean that their role changes from what a lot of people see as a role of technical leadership.
As an example, I'll cite one of our technical leaders at ThoughtWorks: Dave Rice. Dave has been through a few life-cycles and has assumed the unofficial mantle of technical lead on a fifty person project. His role as leader means spending a lot of time with all the programmers. He'll work with a programmer when they need help, he looks around to see who needs help. A significant sign is where he sits. As a long term ThoughtWorker, he could pretty well have any office he liked. He shared one for a while with Cara, the release manager. However in the last few months he moved out into the open bays where the programmers work (using the open "war room" style that XP favors.) This is important to him because this way he sees what's going on, and is available to lend a hand wherever it's needed.
Those who know XP will realize that I'm describing the explicit XP role of Coach. Indeed one of the several games with words that XP makes is that it calls the leading technical figure the "Coach". The meaning is clear: in XP technical leadership is shown by teaching the programmers and helping them make decisions. It's one that requires good people skills as well as good technical skills. Jack Bolles at XP 2000 commented that there is little room now for the lone master.
Collaboration and teaching are keys to success.
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