“The 25 best jobs for today!” trumpets some click bait in my social media feeds and email newsletters. Falling for the siren song of the listicle, I found a lot of the expected tech jobs, but also came face to face with just how far the tech world has colonized the once distinctive term “architect.” There are “software architects” (#1 on one list). Networks need “architects” too, and then there is the “security architect,” concerning neither moats nor drawbridges and crenellations, presumably. And my favorite, the “solutions architect.” “Solution” is an approach to some business computing need. It always seemed slightly euphemistic, and a little over eager, “Hi, I’m the cloud-provisioned email services and I’ll be your solution today” it coos with a bright smile. I’m betting it was coined about the time of the advent of that scary yellow smiley.
“Solution” did ‘solve’ a terminology problem at least: what do you call software, hardware, maintenance, training etc. “Package” might have worked, but was too tangible. “Approach” was too vague. In any case “IT solutions” however much an oxymoron have escaped into the wild, kind of like starlings, and now is here to stay. “Software Architect” seems more of problem. I get that networks have an architecture, at least in the metaphorical sense. They do require design and structure, and they are intended to fulfill a ‘program’ in at least a couple of ways. You lay out and design an architecture, and that tells you how to build the infrastructure for the network. But does having architecture really instantiate an architect.?
Maybe it’s only used figuratively. “Kitchener: Architect of Victory” comes up on Google Scholar with a quick search, and that’s meant as a sort of an upmarket synonym for “planner.” I admit “planner of Victory” would be a pretty feeble squib. The figurative use seems most plausible with some kind of tangible effort, usually of historical significance. Perhaps the first person who makes a completely digital brain deserves the term cogno-neuro-science architect, but figuring out where the routers go or which firewall to buy?
If the ‘architects’ of the virtual are here to stay, and they probably are, then it does raise the question what to call architects of the real? “Architecture architect”? “Building architect”? “IRL architect”? “Architect of atoms (not bits).” “Architect: The Original™–accept no substitute? Now I’m off to be breakfast architect.