Software Architect Archetypes
The Painfully Precise, The Philosopher, The Approachable One, The Detailed Documenter and 8 more archetypes.
What’s an archetype? It’s an example of a set or pattern of behaviors which are typical of a particular role. Will Larson – currently CTO at Carta – has defined four Staff engineer archetypes he’s observed: Tech Lead, Architect, Solver and Right Hand.
I’ve been working on a new book to be published this fall, titled The Software Engineer’s Guidebook. While writing about the topic of software architecture, I was struck by the concept that there are complementary and contrasting software architect “archetypes,” all at work alongside each other and contributing in different ways. It’s a fun and potentially revealing task to identify which archetypes describe your colleagues best – maybe you’ll recognize which one fits you, too!
Let me know in the comments which archetype fits your approach, or if there’s an archetype you’ve observed that’s not on this list. The tech industry changes fast, and new conditions – like the rise of remote working – will likely create new archetypes.
Today, we dig into 12 software architect archetypes identified by me, except for ‘The Ivory Tower Architect,’ which is a common archetype in tech, and ‘The Coding Machine,’ which I first heard Facebook use. We cover these topics:
More theoretical archetypes
More practical archetypes
Architect or staff+ engineer?
Which archetypes are “better”?
Different archetypes pairing
Before we start, let me emphasize that these archetypes are just ways of describing behavior patterns. As we know, behaviors can change over time and also quickly. For example, on one project the person leading architecture decisions may be very practical and hands on, but in their next project be much more hands off and in a more theoretical role.
Also, people also change through time. An “Ivory Tower Architect” who’s seen as hard to approach by peers may grow professionally into the archetype of an “Approachable” colleague. With that, let’s jump in!
Finally, consider that the below “archetypes” are perhaps more like traits, as people can — and do! — demonstrate multiple of the below at the same time. Thank you to reader Drew Miller for pointing this out in the comments below.