A Solutions Architect is one of the best-paid and most interesting job roles within the IT industry. But while it is one of the hardest for employers to fill, it’s also one of the most challenging for IT professionals to get into. Not everyone recognises their ultimate career goal straight out of leaving school, but no matter what stage your career is at, there is a way to become a Solutions Architect. This article looks at what employers seek in their ideal candidate and how applicants can position themselves as the best person for the job.
What is a Solutions Architect?
A Solutions Architect is an IT professional with a client-oriented position within a business. Their job is to either upgrade or implement a company’s information technology architecture. Solutions Architects evaluate specific business needs before selecting or designing solutions and building the information technology systems that will enable the company to carry out its day-to-day functions.
These individuals operate within an IT department, improving core business operations and updating existing systems. They also survey the capabilities of a system and implement effective solutions. A good Solutions Architect could make the difference between a company’s success and failure.
What do you Need to Become a Solutions Architect?
Many different skills are required to become a Solutions Architect. In addition to the technical knowledge, various soft skills will help you become a Solutions Architect.
Communication skills are critical. Excellent interpersonal skills will help to bridge the gap between business objectives and technical terminology. You must communicate effectively with your clients to ensure everyone gets on board with your ideas.
You also need to have excellent business expertise. If you have an advanced understanding of business processes and business analytics, you will find it much easier to transition into the role of Solutions Architect. You will not be able to help the enterprise in question meet its goals if you do not have an aptitude for business operations.
Willingness to Invest in Your Own Development
Technical expertise is an essential requirement, and as technology is continually developing, you, too, must keep your technical knowledge up to date. Therefore, an ideal Solutions Architect is someone who has a genuine passion for technology and spends a lot of their downtime geeking out.
As a large part of this role is effective project management, you must be able to manage not just your own time but many other people’s. The individual supervising the solution architecture’s implementation must be able to coordinate tasks between multi-disciplinary teams and ensure everyone is working on schedule. It only takes one individual not to complete a task on time to hold up an entire project.
A Solutions Architect’s job is often to change how organisations do thing, and people are often resistant to change. Similarly, people in positions of authority have their own ideas about the best way to do things. So you see, there are many instances in which someone in this role might have to use their influencing power to bring individuals around to their way of thinking.
Four Straightforward Steps to Become a Solutions Architect
There is no set career path to becoming a Solutions Architect. It takes a minimum of six years to acquire all the necessary skills and experience to do the job if you follow the formal education route. Below are our top pieces of advice for becoming the ideal candidate for this job.
Acquire a Bachelor’s Degree
Degrees in information technology will give you a strong foundation in operating computer systems and cover topics such as database administration, networking systems, computer programming, computer hardware, and software development. Computer Science is the most obvious choice as it covers all bases. Other relevant degree options that equip you with relevant knowledge include:
- Computer Science
- Software Engineering
- Information Technology
- Computer Programming
- Web Development
- Cloud Computing
- Cyber Security
Get Relevant Work Experience
A Solutions Architect’s role is not one you can walk straight into upon qualifying from university. Indeed, this is a role many IT professionals sidestep into having no university qualifications. Becoming a Solutions Architect with no formal qualifications is not entirely impossible. However, it takes determination and a CV highlighting your skills and experience.
Look for entry-level jobs that will enable you to get relevant work experience in solution architecture and work your way up the career ladder. Any of the below will give you an excellent grounding to build your career from:
- Computer Systems Analyst
- First Line Technician
- Network Engineer
- Systems administrator
- Junior Solutions Architect
- Software Engineer
It is entirely possible to combine stages one and two above with an apprenticeship in Digital and Technology Solutions. However, this is a degree-level apprenticeship. So you would first need to complete a level three apprenticeship in another subject such as IT Solutions Technician or Cyber Security.
Earn a Master’s Degree
A master’s degree is something many Senior Solutions Architects pursue, either in Business Administration (MBA) or Computer Systems, which will provide the advanced knowledge they need to excel. You will not always need a master’s degree to get a job as a Senior Solutions Architect. However, this is an excellent way of diversifying yourself and improving your chances of getting hired.
Obtain Professional Certifications
Maybe you have no formal education but a genuine passion for technology and a desire to learn in other less conventional ways. Bootcamps are a popular entry route into many IT roles these days.
Whatever route led to your first role in technology, earning professional certifications will give you a better chance of securing a Solutions Architect’s role. The top four professional qualifications employers seek are:
- Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Certification
- Cisco Certified Network Professional
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- TOGAF Certification (The Open Group Architecture Framework)
A Few Final Thoughts on Becoming a Solutions Architect, No Matter What Career Stage You’re At
No two days in a Solutions Architect job are ever the same, but they will be full of problems to solve, obstacles to overcome and people to convince. The skillset of the ideal candidate is vast and varied and takes many years to acquire.
All that said, this is an extremely rewarding role for someone who loves problem-solving and has a passion for technology. The salary for this role can be anywhere up to £100,000, and high demand for their skills means they are never likely to experience unemployment. All of the above makes a Solutions Architect’s job an extremely desirable one.
We hope that after reading this article, you better understand what it takes to succeed in this role. If you’re interested in learning more, why not have a look at our current IT jobs to find out what employers are currently offering? If you’re ready to make your next career move, our specialist IT recruitment consultants will be happy to help.