Book Review - IT Architect Series: The Journey

Introduction

Something a bit different for the blog post. A book review! I purchased a copy of the book IT Architect Series: The Journey written by VCDX 236, Melissa Palmer and here is my review of the book.

TL:DR I think this is an essential read not only for the budding IT Architect but anyone that wants to further their infrastructure skills and career.

Book Overview

The book is broken into four parts. These are:

  • Part 1 - Before We Go
  • Part 2 - On Our Way
  • Part 3 - You’re Almost There
  • Part 4 - Three Appendices

Part 1 - Before We Go

There are five chapters in Part 1:

  • Chapter 1 - The Journey Begins
  • Chapter 2 - What Is an Architect
  • Chapter 3 - Self-Assessment
  • Chapter 4 - Learning New Skills
  • Chapter 5 - Academic and Practical IT Architecture

This part begins by explaining Melissa’s own journey in her career leading to VCDX. It then goes on to level set what an IT Architect is and the key concepts they should know. Melissa defines them in two buckets. The one most of us naturally are comfortable with is technology:

  • Server and Compute
  • Virtualization and VM’s
  • Network
  • Storage
  • Applications
  • Backup and Recovery
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery
  • Security

But just as important are the softer skills:

  • Gathering Requirements
  • Determining Constraints
  • You Know What They Say About Assumptions
  • Identifying and Managing Risks
  • Project Planning
  • Procurement and Vendor Management
  • Public Presenting and Speaking
  • Written Communications

Softer Skills are the hardest things to learn. As Melissa says in the book she spends more time talking about the soft skills and how to master them as they are harder to learn. I had not even thought about Procurement and Vendor Management as a skill but from bitter experience I know it’s vital.

What I like in this part is the self-assessment. It gives you a practical template for assessing your strengths in each skill and setting a plan to improve on that skill. I find if you don’t write it down or set a goal, with a date, it won’t get done. She also gives you practical ideas for learning the skills you have identified you need to work on.

Part 2 - On Our Way

There are four chapters in Part 2:

  • Chapter 6 - Architectural Building Blocks
  • Chapter 7 - Infrastructure Areas of Expertise
  • Chapter 8 - Connecting to Infrastructure Areas of Expertise
  • Chapter 9 - Putting Together the Architectural Building Blocks

Part 2 begins on the soft skills. It’s important to remember things like requirements, constraints, DR, etc are the first thing that should be tackled and not jumping to the technology. For each skill Melissa explains what it is, why you should care and what could possibly go wrong. She then goes on to do the same for each of the technology skills.

In Chapter 8 it goes over the foundation of an IT Architects technical skills. You learn some more knowledge on each skill and how to get both theoretical and practical knowledge. There are good tips now how to expand your knowledge in these key areas outside of labbing and reading manuals.

Chapter 9 does the same thing with the soft skills. For instance in Public Presenting and Speaking (which us IT introverts can hate) she suggests such things as Toastmasters or presenting at your local friendly technology group (go VMUG!).

Part 3 - You’re Almost There

There are four chapters in Part 3:

  • Chapter 10 - Certifications and Continued Learning
  • Chapter 11 - IT Architectural Skills in Practice
  • Chapter 12 - The Distance Travelled
  • Chapter 13 - The Next Chapter

Melissa talks about the benefits (and pitfalls) of certifications. I think the main lesson here is as IT professionals we have a duty to be continually learning and developing our skills. Next she talks about how to put into practice the skills learnt.

Options include sticking with your current employer or changing jobs and she does a nice job of explaining things like the partner and vendor paths. She also gets you do do some self reflection in the whole process of the book.

Finally in the last chapter she reveals the secret of the IT Architect (I won’t reveal!)

Appendices

The three appendices are very useful. There is a self-assessment workbook that is referenced through the book. It’s the second appendix which I think is really useful. Melissa details a fictional scenario to practice a design on. If this gives you the bug you can also look back on, or participate in Virtual Design Master which Melissa is part of. Lastly she give you a bunch of resources to help you on your journey.

Wrap Up

AS I said in the introduction, even though this book it titled IT Architect I feel this excellent book for anyone in any stage of their IT career. The book can give you excellent foundation in learning all the key skills and architect needs but also can be relevant to someone starting their career. I wish I had worked on my Public Speaking and Written Communication skills right from the start of my career.

The book is well written in an easy to follow format. You can get through it in a few hours of reading. It is one you should read cover to cover initially but you will then dip in and out of many times after that. I like the practical advice on how to gain or strengthen the key skills an IT Architect needs to have along with the worksheets to aid you. It made me realise some skills that I need to work on and gives me the framework to do it.

If you want to grab a copy there seems to be frequent discount codes posted on the Twitter account @ITArchJourney and the book is available in three formats.

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