Successful solutions architects do these five things
Solutions Architects (SAs, as they are known at AWS) are responsible for managing an organization’s cloud computing architecture. They have in-depth knowledge of the architectural principles and services used to develop technical cloud strategy, assist with cloud migration efforts, review workload architectures, and provide guidance on how to address high-risk issues.
At AWS, we decided early (in 2009) to build significant depth and expertise in this area, and use that to assist our customers in building secure, reliable, cost efficient, high performance, and operationally sound applications on AWS that simply couldn’t exist on premises. We formalized these architectural best practices into a framework we call the AWS Well Architected Framework.
An SA is the keeper of the AWS Well Architected Framework pillars, ensuring customers are following best practices, guidance, and recommendations to develop cloud solutions that are secure, resilient, efficient, and managed with operational excellence. To do this, SAs need a mix of business, technical, and people skills, as well as an understanding of the always-evolving, technical training that may benefit their team.
What are the key skills required to be a successful SA? Read on to learn what employers look for – and professionals can build – to capitalize on the momentum and business potential of the cloud today.
Flexibility and eagerness to learn
An SA must be able to work in a wide variety of scenarios and be open to learn the unique requirements of each project. No two projects or customers will be the same, so continuously learning and willingness to experiment can help both beginning and seasoned cloud architects provide the best guidance to their organization. An early start to any day might begin with researching new services and features and tuning into trusted blogs and discussion boards. With a curious mind-set, cloud architects can be better equipped to seek out new approaches to problem solving.
Cloud architecture professionals must possess strong time management skills. Their days are varied and can include customer meetings to discuss problems and needs, and designing architectural frameworks for those needs. There is no typical day: they could be in meetings, traveling to onsite meetings with a customer, writing scripts, working on migrations, keeping up with new AWS features via online trainings, or troubleshooting. As such, SAs are mindful to plan their days, prioritize their time on tasks, and understand how to maximize small pockets of time.
Communication skills and business acumen
There are many stakeholders and participants along the cloud journey, from those who pay the bill, to the security team, to the technical team, to those helping to make decisions about cloud vendors. SAs are encouraged to ask for a seat at the decision-making table, and be prepared to communicate their design to any stakeholder. Successful SAs know how to communicate to audiences with little or no technical knowledge, while aligning their recommendations to business imperatives and the bottom-line.
As noted, the SA is the person stakeholders turn to for guidance about cloud problems they are facing. The ability to provide firm, clear perspective with confidence provides both reassurance that the business is in good hands, but also that the cloud solutions you’ve recommended are secure, resilient, cost efficient, and managed with operational excellence. Decisiveness does not necessarily mean dominant or overriding. SAs can provide guidance from a calm, leading place of domain authority.
Industry technical credentials
Of course, an SA must also possess the necessary technical skills to serve as the foundation for cloud architecture planning and management, including basic programming, software development and continuous integration, continuous deployment (CICD), database, networking, security skills, modern application architecture skills, and more.
We recently announced a new version of the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification, which validates the ability to design and deploy well-architected solutions on AWS that meet customer requirements. The new exam includes updated content across all domains as well as new objectives in categories such as databases, cost-optimization, and security. You may register online, and utilize our exam preparation guide and exam readiness training to help you prepare.
In my 10 years at AWS, I have seen cloud computing evolve from a relatively unknown technology to a leading driver of business results. While the technology has grown and changed significantly, most skills needed to succeed in its use have remained largely constant. By committing to understand how to use the cloud to its full potential – and empowering the professionals who make that possible – we can make the most of the tremendous opportunity cloud creates for businesses and employees to thrive.
Kevin Kelly is Director of Certification and Education Programs at Amazon Web Services (AWS) where he is responsible for the global development of certification programs that validate AWS skills mastery as well as the development of a set of cloud career enablement programs.