You might ask what a “Lead Architect” does in a company like Red Bee Media.

Well, as any good technologist will say: it all depends.Broadly speaking, a lead architect:

• Ensures a shared understanding of client requirements

• Joins up the thinking around client needs and solutions

• Brings their own ideas (and concerns) to the table

• Might apply rules, standards and policies

• Provides context, insight and information – connecting a piece of work with a broader picture

• Wins the hearts and minds of clients, internal decision-makers and suppliers

• Articulates how client requirements are being satisfied

Sometimes, the work is quite creative – working on an idea or concept and trying to find a way to convey it to a whole range of minds requires ingenuity, imagination and a fair bit of tenacity. At other times it can seem quite detailed and confined. The technology is fantastic but it’s also fantastically fussy, especially when different systems have to work together (times ten if they were never meant to work together). Rules, standards and policies come from manufacturers, industry standards groups like MPEG, or they might be self-imposed upon ourselves or mandated by clients. Finding a line through all these confines while trying to create something that’s novel and innovative is one of the biggest challenges and therefore a very rewarding part of the role. Having found the elusive line, communicating it to a range of audiences’ presents a fresh and interesting challenge.In my easily impressed mind though, the title of “Lead Architect” conjures up visions of sweeping, grand designs (or should that be “Grand Designs”?) and it’s true to say that drawing big pictures is a really important part of what I do. In fact, presenting concepts using pictures and a few words, rather than the other way around, invariably gets the message across much more effectively. At the risk of stating the obvious, the media industry is packed full with creative, visually oriented people so what better medium to bring complex and sometimes inaccessible, abstract matters of technology to life? I’m already experiencing discomfort that, several paragraphs into this blog there is still no diagram…I’m fortunate to be able to work with a wide range of people and roles in Red Bee Media: Solution Architects, Technical Specialists, Bid Managers, Account Directors, Commercial Managers, Principal Engineers, Service Delivery Managers, Business Analysts, Project Managers and more – all experts in their field and many in more than one. These are mightily clever, impressive people. I must know enough of their field be able to engage meaningfully and make sense of it. I must know just enough to understand and influence, but not enough so as to be tempted to interfere (well, not too much).Above all though, I must know what the client is trying to achieve, so that we can understand and explain what must be done to help them succeed. It’s important to know if, for example a client wants us to (metaphorically) build a boat (purpose unknown) or to help them cross a river. Nine times out of ten, the client question takes the former form. So: “We need an Acme EXM-47b encryption modulator installed in the coding chain” (boat) translates to: “We want to protect our content against online theft” (river). The real satisfaction in my job is getting that translation right and then working with aforementioned experts to architect and articulate the best way to apply technology (and the best technology to apply), in order to cross the river or indeed, protect their content.Those dealt with, suffice to say that most days involve quite a lot of reading, meeting, listening, debating, persuading, inventing, and occasionally some counting to ten, s-l-o-w-l-y. Plus of course, plenty of drawing…


Wes Curtis, Lead Architect.