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Keywords: Career development, software architect
Title: 12 Essential Skills For Software Architects
Author: Dave Hendricksen
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Verdict: Useful, but the earnest tone might be an acquired taste
This is not an easy book to review. When it comes to technical books there are normally solid technical considerations that a review can cover: technical depth, sample code, required background, range of topics etc. In this case the book is decidedly not about technology - it's taken as read that as a technical architect you can tick all the boxes when it comes to the nuts and bolts. Instead this is a book that is firmly focused on the 'soft' skills required to thrive as a software architect.
These soft skills are grouped into three categories: relationship skills, personal skills and business skills. The individual skills that are included in these categories get a chapter each, making twelve in all - which makes for a fairly slim volume. The skills are pretty much what you would expect and are not really specific to software architecture as such: leadership, politics, communication, negotiation, transparency, passion, vision, innovation etc. Not quite mom and apple pie but not far off - which isn't to say there's anything wrong about these choices. And, to be honest, they're skills that would benefit everyone who wants to make a career in any field that involves working with other people.
Each chapter gets a thorough going over, with a mixture of sound advice, earnest exhortations and the occassional anecdote. There are also lots of illustrations - from cartoons to block diagrams. Overall the tone is sincere if a little bit preachy. For the more cynical among us, the style of the book and the tone the author adopts is likely to be more of a turn off than anything else. And, it has to be said, there are times when it feels like the material is really being padded out and that more could be said with less.
That's not to say that there's no value in the book. The skills the author has picked out are absolutely key, of that there's no doubt. And, for those with excellent technical skills but who lack the communication skills necessary to pull the job off, then perhaps the advice in the book is likely to help more than hinder. Though to be honest, it's hard to see how anyone can be promoted to software architect without having picked up some of the inter-personal skills which are at the core of the skills and values outlined by Dave Hendricksen.
So, to conclude, this is a book that does contain a core of good advice, but it's worth having a quick look at the text before buying in case the earnest style is too hard to take.