Professional of The Week: A Technical Architect (IT Consultant)

Name: Balogun A. O.

Location: Abuja

Profession: Technical Architect (IT Consultant)

1. Why did you choose to be a Technical Architect (IT Consultant)?

While in secondary school, I wanted to be a petrochemical engineer due to my competitive nature. Grades were essentials and placed me third in my class. The top grade holder wanted to be a petroleum engineer while the second wanted to be a chemical engineer so I decided to combine both. My career plan changed sometime in 1997/1998 when a ‘computer guy’ came to install Windows 95 on a desktop at home. I was fascinated by the black screen and the fact that he had to write some words (which I later learnt were commands) for the installation of the Windows 95. This was further stimulated by movies that seemed to portray IT as a very complicated and analytical field. I recall once when instead of studying for my exams, I was busy trying to hack a game and my father, in a bid to get me off the game, told me to leave the computer, focus on passing my studies and in the future study Computer Science if I was so interested in computers. And that’s how the dream to become a Petrochemical Engineer faded away and I chose a career in IT which I really had an interest in.
2. What is the best thing about your profession?

As an IT consultant, I am provided with the opportunity to work in different organisations and understand their modes of operation. In other words, I am privileged to information on various fields of business. One thing I like about my profession is that it enables me understand what other professions are about; not necessarily in detail but at least a fully covered (if not a little deep) overview since I have to gain a basic knowledge of other professions to do my work.
Today nearly everything has some relation to technology. One can say, technology is at the center of it all. Personally I believe, a deep knowledge in the technology may provide a better understanding of the world as whole.
3. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

On a day to day basis I carry out aspects of different tasks, which I will like to group into three major tasks. My first task is to understand how organizations operate, which I accomplish through reading, conversations with people in various fields, talks with various organization and past experience. I use that information to come up with solutions to more efficiently meet different organisational needs. This task finally rounds up with me advising my clients on how to boost efficiency and productivity within their organisation with IT.
My second major tasks mainly comprises of building and integrating the solutions I advised or those requested for by different clients, into the various client environments.
Finally, when a new IT solution is purchased into an organization, the staff of the organisation require training on how to use, manage and administer the solution.This is where my last major task kicks in, training.
I develop and deploy various solutions some of which include Document Management Systems, Human Resource Management Systems, Project Management Systems, Financial Solutions and many more.
I use various tools/products in building the IT infrastructure of an organization. Many of which are provided by organizations such as Microsoft, Oracle, CISCO etc. Although, I am mainly tuned towards using Microsoft Server products such Microsoft SharePoint Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Windows Server, Microsoft Project Server, Microsoft LYNC Server etc., I also use others such as OpenERP, Bitrix, Cisco IOS and devices etc.
4. What qualifications are you working towards (trainings, degrees etc)?

When it comes to IT consultancy, 2 major things matter. Your experience based on the products you have worked on in the past and your certifications (qualifications) on those products. These could be Microsoft, CISCO, Oracle etc. certifications. I have already mentioned some of the products I have work with earlier but not the certifications. I have various Microsoft certifications such as Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Administration and Development (MCITP/MCPD Level), Exchange 2010 (MCITP Level), Windows Server 2012 and SQL 2012 (MCSA ongoing).
I plan to get a MCITP level certification in all SQL Server 2008 certification paths – Administration, Development and Business Intelligence. I also plan to get the MCSE level in SharePoint 2013, Exchange 2013, SQL 2012 and Windows 2012. All of which will help ensure my qualification to take MCSM exams in Exchange, SharePoint and SQL. I will also do some CISCO based exams because a knowledge in networks will greatly assist with the Microsoft Infrastructure products I work with. I have already gone through CCNA and CCNP but I am yet to take the exams as I am focused on Microsoft for now.
5. What advice will you give to someone interested in a profession in IT?

First, you need to be clear about the aspect of IT that you are interested in i.e. databases, infrastructure, networking, development, mobile development etc. and build on that aspect while slowly expanding to others. You have to focus on one and slowly expand to other areas because knowledge in one area will not get you far and at the same time, less than 50% knowledge in all areas will not make you a professional.
It is also important that you understand the client/field you are providing solutions for. More efficient and user friendly solutions are built when a developer for instance, understands the area of field he is building a solution for. For instance, a developer with knowledge in project management will better understand the requirements of building a project management system than that that has no knowledge of project management
Another important advice will be on the importance of adhering to standards and best practices. While standardization helps with the compatibility, interoperability, reliability, quality and easy integration to other solutions, best practices ensure standard ways of attaining high quality in multiple organizations Major IT companies like Microsoft and CISCO provide methods by which you can achieve superior outcome while using the results they provide. Technical Architects are required to adhere to these standards and best practices. They should employ architectures and frameworks like SOA, ITIL, PCI DSS, and MOF etc.
Finally I’d advice that people focus more on the planning phase of a project. A thorough planning phase greatly reduces implementation time while providing the most effective and efficient solution.
6. What skills will you advice current / aspiring students of IT related courses to acquire/develop?

I would say innovation, analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills for the following reasons:

Innovation – In the IT world change is constant and rapid. In order to remain on top, you need to continuously provide new and easier ways of doing things. The organizations that provide the easiest and most efficient solutions to problems and requirements are usually leaders in the sector.
Analytical Thinking – When developing solutions simplicity is key. The ability to quickly break down complex scenarios into simple blocks thus becomes a key requirement because among other reasons, it enables you achieve a more effective result in a shorter period time which is an important factor today’s world as time is costly
Team Work – A typical IT project involves a team of people managing, administering and developing different aspects of the solution. To provide an optimal solution, an IT personnel should be capable of working amicably with a group of not just IT people but also project managers, business analyst etc. that have little IT knowledge in comparison. A synced team would typically provide a better solution.
Communication – An IT consultant should be able to fluently break down the technical complexity required in a project to business users with little to no IT knowledge. One of the major causes of IT project failures is the misinterpretation caused mainly by the knowledge ambiguities between the business users and technical personnel. Thus breaking down this barrier with good communication skills and IT methodologies like SOA is essential.
7. In your profession, is it a barrier if your degree is not IT related?

No. The focus is not mainly on your degree but rather on your experience, qualification (professional certifications) and zeal in IT.
8. Do you have any other interests you pursue outside your profession as a Technical Architect (IT Consultant)?

I like reading IT related articles and watching anime


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