Two years on from my Microsoft Certified Architect Board

Two years ago today, I was in Seattle preparing for my five hour long panel interview a.k.a. board for the Microsoft Certified Architecture certification. It’s the highest level of certification Microsoft have ever offered and there are still only around 100 people who have it. To pass, I needed to submit a 50 page project portfolio prior to standing before four existing MCA’s for a whole afternoon and talking about my approach to solution design and delivery.

All I’ll briefly mention about that afternoon is that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the most enjoyable and the rewarding. The people on the Board got up in the middle of the night to fly to Seattle to meet with me. They’d read my portfolio and wanted to meet me. They wanted to hear about how performed my role as much as grade me on it. I still use the feedback and guidance from that afternoon now.

The rest of my article today isn’t about that afternoon, it’s about the two years after it. The highs and lows about how my career as an architect has progressed.

Suddenly Directionless

When I found out two weeks later that I’d passed I was happy – but then directionless. The Board members in their feedback gave me long term career goals, career objectives and told me to keep learning – but I didn’t know what to do immediately next. There wasn’t a harder exam in my day-to-day life to sign up for.

I wanted to design better technology solutions

My goal at that point was to learn to design even better technology solutions. To me that meant more rigour about my design processes and designing larger solutions. When I looked for new books, they were about business transformation. That interested me personally but the word server never mind SQL Server was missing from the index of those books – I didn’t know how to use them in my day job. I knew I had a long history about talking to business and IT leadership audiences, but I always thought my deliverables were the technology solutions or guidance.

Then one day

Several months after my Board, I was on an architecture training course hoping to find this hard to find next level of design knowledge. I was grumpy because it was about topics like business transformation, solution value management and project prioritisation while I thought I needed to learn about design and quality to design solutions. Then one day on that training course, I realised what the next phase of my career was going to be about – how to be a better architect:

I design better solutions – by making them business transformation projects.

Everything a business does needs to have business benefits

Two years on from that period, I still see the technology solutions I help design and deliver as the reason for working with my customers. However, the value I enjoy giving them is making sure that what the IT department does is helping the business achieve its goals. For example, using cloud based servers doesn’t just make IT’s life easier for deployments – it can help the business deploy new capabilities faster. If that organisation is in the retail sector and needs to support a high number of short lived digital marketing initiatives that can be re-assuring news for IT to tell the business.


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