Be a Mentor, Not a Tormentor

What are the traits of a good architect? What are the skills and qualities we should pick to become a very good one? In a talk at the GIDS Architecture Live 2020 series, Venkat Subramaniam speaks about things that can make that journey to be a successful architect a pleasant one. Read an excerpt below and watch the full talk on-demand for free.

I want to talk about 12 qualities of being a highly effective architect. The very first thing I want to start with is “Be a mentor, not a tormentor.” This reminds me of so many different instances as I worked through organizations, but in particular, I remember about one particular instance. I was consulting for a company, and as a consultant, I come in and go over time, and one of the times I went back to the client side, a developer came to me and said “Hey, I've written down a few questions along the way, and I have been waiting for you to come by to ask you those questions”, so I went and sat down with the developer, answered the questions. And when we finished, I said “You know, you said you had written down these questions and we were waiting for me to come back, but your architect is much more knowledgeable about this.”

Let me move the crosstalk over there. One of the things that the developer said was “You mean I should go ask the architect?” And I said “Yeah, you know, the architect knows more than I do”, and the developer said “Maybe you don't know this, but any question to the architect is received with the response: ‘Are you stupid?’” And that's really sad because when you are an architect, when you have this team to really work with, it's a responsibility of an architect to mentor and work with the team and not to really go around insulting them. I'm going to say that nurturing is a professional responsibility that each one of us carries. It is our responsibility to really nurture the team.

You may ask the question, “Okay, that's great. If I nurture the team, they are going to be improving, but what's in it for me?” And I want to be honest about it. We’re not saints, we definitely want to do good things and nice things, but there's gotta be a return on the investment as well, but I'm going to emphasize that knowledge is the only wealth that grows when we share.

If I give you $10, I'm poorer by $10 tomorrow, but if I give you some knowledge, I am learning as I am helping you to learn as well. By working with the team members and nurturing them, we become more knowledgeable, and as a result, we've become more valuable over time as well. That's our professional responsibility, but we get something in return as well doing it.

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