Tuesday, October 13, 2009

High School Students - Your Career Starts Here!

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a discussion with a well-known university that is looking to build a curriculum around enterprise architecture. They had assembled about a hundred representatives from industry, education, and government / military to share ideas about how a collegiate program might look. Think of it as 100 people in a club, talking about how to join the club, but starting with the premise that no one can define the club's purpose (I'm not making this up).

If there is one element of unanimity around Enterprise Architects, it is that there is no unanimity in defining Enterprise Architecture.

CIO's, CTO's, and other enterprise architects pretty much agree that there is a difference between an architect, even a very good one, and an enterprise architect. The prefix "enterprise" changes in very substantial ways the definition of the word "architect." It's not like adding the adjective "very" to the word "big", or the prefix "super" to "duper." The Enterprise Architect role in some companies is not even an extension of the IT job ladder. Enterprise architect is to architect what astronaut is to pilot. It is a different world, set of skills, and expectations.

During one of the break out sessions a small group of us pondered the question, given a stack of resumes from recent college grads, what would you have to see on a resume to make you jump at an interview? What makes a person a suitable candidate to become an EA? At my company we've been using a list of attributes that includes negotiator, consensus builder, visionary, and other hard to measure skills such as abstract thinking, and an ability to quickly move from high-level / top down thinking to detailed, bottom-up processing. Technical acumen doesn't even make the top five criteria.

After some conversation we agreed that a recent college graduate that had a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science AND a Masters in Information Science or similar field, AND a Masters of Business Administration (an MBA) - that is a candidate we'd want to interview for an enterprise architect's role. We also agreed that if hired, the candidate would still need to complete some significant internal EA training program.

Of course, none of us at the table had near that amount of formal education, so what gives? Remember that the context of the conversation was the development of a university program that could approximate the experience one would seek in an enterprise architect. Frankly, I'm not sure how many high school seniors are asking their guidance counselors about the exciting field of Enterprise Architecture.

1 comment:

  1. "At my company we've been using a list of attributes that includes negotiator, consensus builder, visionary, and other hard to measure skills ..."

    Eric,

    I really like the concept of your post. When talking about these skill sets, I would view these as critical interpersonal life skills for any career-minded individual. In my opinion, the issue is that university is not venue to develop and nurture these skills. University equips graduates for theoretical application of knowledge, whereas the skills you and I value most are more often innate to the individual’s upbringing.

    Finding that great candidate for an EA is a bit of a needle in a haystack. Coming out of university, they are likely going to have a strong technical background and those other attributes (negotiator, consensus builder, visionary etc.) need to be looked for as a “diamond in the rough”. It’s then up to the company to identify and polish interpersonal skills and invest in that individual for future growth.

    From a corporate perspective, a better strategy would be to partner with a university to offer a bursary to 3 first-year graduates from a computer science program that had demonstrated those critical interpersonal skills during their first year. In addition to the award, they could receive a summer internship with the company to further develop those skills. Good source of ongoing candidate recruitment for the company...

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