The Architect Virus. Professionalism, Career, Status, Narcissism & Entitlement

What’s with this “Architect” virus going around? Why does everyone want to be one? Is it because of status, narcissism, entitlement, money? No really, why?  I know some architects who work very hard and earn just as much or a little more than most other professionals. Their responsibilities and stress levels are a few notches higher than most however. What about status? That’s just bragging rights. Sure you can inflate you’re résumé or LinkedIn profile a bit with that but that’s about it. You don’t need to be an architect for that. Just call yourself “Senior Master Enterprise Technology Architect”, no need to do anything more than to type it in. Inflation, that’s what it is. Once you needed like 10 to 15 years to become senior at anything. Now 4 years out of school you’re a senior consultant with years of experience. So now we need some more titles to make the distinction I guess. Entitlement? Are you that good? If so how come no one sees it?

OK, so you have big dreams of being an architect. Do you have the skills to go with them? Prove it. Start working as an architect. Act like one, work like one and maybe one day you’ll even become one. Being an architect is not a title, it’s not about how many post grad training you receive or master classes & conferences you attend. It’s not a pay scale; it’s not a promotion or a status. None of these things define an architect, let alone make you one.  It’s all about what you do and achieve. It’s about results and value. Hell, you can have three PhD’s and two Post-doctoral Certified Guru certificates hanging on your wall. Those are all fine, but tell me what your value to the business is? How do you hold up in a passionate discussion with industry experts?

An architect is someone who is capable of designing, building, implementing and supporting medium to large, more of less complex systems in such a way that they function well and that are not or do not become a burden to the organization that uses them. In that respect, my mum used to be a great “domestic architect”. She had a very small budget, big needs for her family and like a true engineer she created very workable and productive solutions with very little money using the resources at her disposal. Al lot of people today couldn’t hack that effort. No way. Did she moan and complain? Occasionally, but most of the time she was working and making sure everyone was taken care of and got all they needed. She never got any status or money for that. No bragging rights, she found satisfaction in doing a great job. She also got some respect.

Why do some people act like spoiled brats? Frequently in direct contradiction with their ambitions. I see this in job applicants, and people on the job at the places I work. There is nothing wrong with ambition, earning your fair share, being rewarded. But all too often people expect this up front. Instead of earning they are into getting mode. That just doesn’t work. You don’t get a job, you don’t get a pay check, you don’t get respect, and you don’t get knowledge. These things are earned, not given. Now there are and will always be bad bosses, exploited employees, dysfunctional organizations and such but please don’t be a narcissistic entitled brat. Don’t complain about problems, help solve them.  Trust me, if you really work in a dysfunctional place beyond repair you need to leave. Run! But if you stay … that’s your decision. Perhaps that pay check and benefits are not that bad after. Or are you, contrary to your ego, not convinced that some other business will pay big bucks for you added value? Whatever the reason is, start doing your job. That is what earns you the paycheck & benefits. Moaning and groaning can be an outlet to vent some steam but it doesn’t solve anything in the end. Don’t give me “It’s not my job”, “That’s not my responsibility”, “My boss should do this and that”, “Someone ought to do that”, “This should be fixed”. Don’t moan when you’re constantly going on about being a great professional, too good to waste your time on the lowly work and are “working on becoming an architect”. It’s bad enough for someone who’s just doing enough to prevent being fired, we can really do without the gripes from someone who claims he’s going to lead. There’s an old army saying: “Shit flows down, gripes flow up”. Your team doesn’t care if you think you ought to be paid more and deserve more gratitude or demand more status.

You’re probably an engineer or a likewise highly educated professional with an above average wage. What do you expect? That they pay you that wage to whine about issues and that “someone” must fix them. Wake up sun shine. That is your job!  Do you really think that the high end wage and great benefits you’re being paid is just to show up and find that the company is running perfectly already? Nope, you’re there to take care of those problems and work towards a better organization. Are you doing that? Are you really sure about that sport? Why on earth do you expect to be patted on the back, made compliments and expect status promotions and raises for sitting around complaining? Take responsibility and build that better organization, that better infrastructure, that better team or that better application. It’s your job, your responsibility. When you’re always in the “what is in it for me” mode, taking care of number one, are you really doing your job?

Leading a team, being a go-to person also means thinking of the team. You need to look at the needs in function of the plans for achieving results, the desired out come and what the team needs to get the job done. If you don’t, you let everyone down. That’s why I am disappointed that the first time people are given the opportunity to put together a conference delegation based on the above mentioned specifications and they do the following: send your themselves. They didn’t make a plan for the team; they didn’t ask around or discuss the needs and plans. They just pocketed a conference or training. “Hey, I’m not being paid to take care of that. My boss should”. Perhaps your boss is drowning in work. Perhaps he could have used some help. Help you could have provided, proving you’re capable of helping the team, supporting your boss and take responsibility”.  If you can’t even get that right, how on earth do you think someone will ever listen to you, follow your lead or give you a promotion? It won’t happen, never, ever. They are just advertising their own short comings for the job they claim they aspire to do.

So do your job well and good. Your job satisfaction will increase, people will notice what you can achieve and will start working with you with greater confidence, enthusiasm & results. Working hard & smart generally leaves you a richer & experienced person. And perhaps, not guaranteed, you might get a raise for that. But even if you don’t your job life will be a much happier one. If that’s not enough for you … well there are plenty of organizations that will hire you and pay you the big bucks if you have such good and in demand skills that deliver outstanding results.

All of this can be summed up in one sentence. Instead of expecting to get things because you think you’re entitled to get them start earning them by working for it. In the long run, what do you think will work out better? Assume the role & responsibilities, do the job before the title and the raise. And no that does not mean you have to work yourself to death. But 9 to 5 coasting never made anyone an expert. Here ends the career lesson.

Hiring practices – The Dilbert Life

What’s going on?

For the last 2 years I’ve been in a number of situations where management was pushing to hire extra FTE’s. The numbers on the personnel lists had to be met whether it made sense or not I guess. Sometimes they wanted to give someone a raise or do them a favor with a better contract.

Furthermore in their effort to reach the numbers there was pressure to drop our standards, to lower the bar so to speak. Well, not on my watch. My standards are in place for a reason. To make sure that the people on the job can actually handle that job under all circumstances. Look, when the shit hits the fan and things get tough you’ll need every bit of team spirit and camaraderie that you can get to make sure the team can withstand the stress and get the job done. If you put people in the teams that don’t cut it you’ll already have dysfunctional unit in “normal” times, what do you think will happen when things get tough? They’ll just cut the rope and let the dead weight fall.

People, those standards, the difficulty & complexity in selection, the so called “bar” are there for a reason. If you cannot meet those demands it is not those standards that are the problem. The only real issue is that you’re not capable to meet those standards. So stop complaining about them. Instead start working on yourself so you can meet them. If you can’t do that you’ll need to find job satisfaction somewhere else.

But why this pressure to hire people even if they don’t seize up? Why this obsession with more and more personnel?

Filling the numbers

On paper all is well, you’ve got plenty of warm bodies to fill the cubicles and to meet productivity demands. You can’t produce a baby in one month with 9 women, it doesn’t work that way. Perhaps methodologies are putting so much pressure on having all forms and numbers right that achieving just that is priority one. You might have the best functional team in the business but if those numbers don’t match up to the methodology documents that doesn’t matter. You get no bonus but lots of hassle. So what’s a poor weak manager who wants to climb the ladder to do? Sell out the team to comply. Go ahead. Kiss your team’s respect goodbye. You might as well have flushed their motivation down the toilet.

Other times people simply can’t manage. So when they have underperforming team members the easy way out is getting extra FTE’s. That’s way easier than dealing with the problem. So bloat your FTE needs to the needed numbers + the number of miss hires already in place. And then there is the danger of hiring good people, they are a treat to the peaceful little world management is in. Remember, “A people” hire “A people”, “B people” hire “B people” … and it goes downhill from there.

Sometimes you might need to have x amount of people to legitimize your management position so … bring on the FTE’s 🙂

There are lots of reasons why this happens. Managers, especially middle management often suck at management. It is really a very hard, demanding and crucial job. Management at least gets the perks. Middle management is caught between a rock and a hard place. But the dangling carrot and their ambition keeps them from walking out and the keep choosing the easy way to deal with. Perhaps they don’t even have a choice. That’s the best they can do.

Giving a raise / doing a favor

This is bad, very bad. You are inflicting real damage here. This is the equivalent of making me an NCO in the airborne rangers because I love to shoot guns and like to brag in the bar with a ranger patch on my sleeve. It’s pure madness. I’m overweight, I’m as myopic as a mole and I have several medical issues that would put me (and as a consequence my mates) in danger, even on an exercise. What do you think will happen? Everybody will lose and will be unhappy in this situation. Me, because I know I’m fooling myself, I know I’m a burden to my colleagues and endangers myself and them. I will never be accepted let alone be respected. Nope they’ll come to despise me. They have their job to do, plus now they need to do mine, correct my failures, drag me along and rescue me. So basically they’ll resent the hell out of me. They’ll be pissed off at the officers who passed me because they have devalued their skills and show no professional recognition of what they are capable of. The officers won’t be happy because they’ll have to command and work with a dysfunctional unit. It is madness. Is cannot work, it will not work.

If this metaphor doesn’t get the message across than perhaps this one will: imagine your brain surgeon was given the position because nagged long enough to hospital management for a raise


Managers, don’t lower the bar to fill the numbers, to give people a raise or do them a favor. You’ll just create frustration and dysfunctional teams. They won’t function as well as they could and when they need to stand tall to face serious issues you don’t have the number you fool yourself to have on paper. At best you have your good people who’ll  need to work around the bad ones. In the worst case the team is so dysfunctional they won’t get the job done as well and fast as they should or they’ll fail all together. But in reality management is the real failure. They didn’t do their job. Unit operational efficiency might not be on your radar screen but it really should be.