Updated: Jul 17
The New York City (NYC) subway system interconnects the five boroughs and suburbs to one another, facilitating the travel of millions daily. Someone had to design the Subway system. Like the designer(s) of the NYC Subway system, who designed it to interconnect destinations and facilitate people's travel, the Software Integration Architect designs systems to interconnect applications, facilitating data transmission. They are the glue that piece together the modern application architecture.
A software integration architect (or integration architect) specializes in designing software integrations (i.e., integration architecture) that connect multiple software applications. In addition to being well-versed in the same concerns as software integration engineers (integration engineers), like enterprise integration patterns, databases and other data systems, security, network protocols, and cloud computing, these architects are concerned with designing solutions that satisfy non-functional and functional business requirements.
Integration architects are your designated future-looking, big-picture teammates. Not only do integration architects worry about fulfilling your project's needs, but a good integration architect is concerned with creating a successful integration architecture and solution that will function now and five to ten years from now.
I love hearing from my past employers and clients that integrations I designed and wrote are still running and producing results at their companies five years late
Before digging too deep, let's first discuss integration architecture. Integration architecture is a software development blueprint or design used to depict solutions for integrating multiple source and target systems. Integration architecture should tie into the reference architecture and include integration patterns, software, security, monitoring and logging, error handling, and much more.
As stated earlier, integration architects work on cross-functional teams. Cross-functional teammates could include integration engineers, enterprise architects, business analysts, product managers, DevOps engineers, etc.
Integration architects should work closely with the development lead throughout the project to ensure the software implementation addresses the architectural direction. The working relationship between these two roles will produce a realistic architecture that can be implemented.
Depending on your organization, the integration architect role could be fulfilled by the development lead. For instance, I have taken on many architectural responsibilities as the development lead.
Enterprise architects are responsible for assessing and addressing the software, infrastructure, and other technology architectural needs of the entire organization (or enterprise). If there is a solid integration framework in place, corporate-wide software and infrastructure have already been addressed, and the integration architect should design solutions that work to utilize the existing technologies already in place. Otherwise, communication regarding new technologies is required.
The integration architect should also communicate with the enterprise architect to discuss the enterprise architecture and technologies to determine if technologies and enterprise licenses are sufficient for the project's requirements. For instance, each integration may have the same logging strategy and be deployed on a cloud framework. However, your project could have special non-functional requirements that require an audit trail and that all data is at rest and in transit flow on-premise. Those concerns should be addressed on the project and enterprise levels.
Integration architects may also need to work with data architects to determine the data flows as desired and based on your company's data architecture and corporate and governmental policies. This may require submitting data flow diagrams and documentation to your data team.
Integration architects are usually integration engineers promoted to the architecture role. These engineers have spent years building integrations to connect many applications, from legacy systems to internal web applications, mobile applications, and SaaS systems.
Integration architects can also be or convert from other information technology architectural spaces, like web applications. In addition, they can start in non-traditional roles like product and program managers or business analysts.
If you are interested in becoming a software integration architect, it is recommended that you get a lot of experience integrating many different systems first. Experience helps to quickly address requirements and issues that may arise in the project. Integration architects also provide additional direction to the development team. Lending a helping hand backed with years of experience in implementing integration solutions to the development team may help the team to deliver the solution on time and maybe quicker than intended.
Pro Tip: Be willing to jump in. The best architects are eager to jump in and help the development team with implementation as needed.
A question may arise: "Should you have a software engineering background before pursuing the software integration engineer and architect career paths?" If this is the case, most integration architects come from a software engineering background, either as an engineer themselves or as software engineering team members. Having an experience in engineering is ideal. Software integration using software engineering to implement your company or client's integration requirements. For instance, during the AI craze, many MuleSoft developers and architects built OpenAI MuleSoft connectors with the Java SDK. Designing such connectors requires MuleSoft developers to understand engineering concepts to create. You can build a connector with the XML SDK or the Java SDK.
Another example where an engineering background may be useful is when designing and building complex data transformations. To perform this task, there are various programming languages; however, as the integration architect, you will need to weigh out the tradeoffs and help the team decide on the best language. For instance, some may use Python, Java, or DataWeave for complex transformations.
Becoming a solutions architect may be an alternative path to becoming an architect. A solutions architect is responsible for providing insight into the entire solution. I have seen this role in a pre-sales department of a products company or a position in an IT consultant company. A solution architect role that provides an integration solution would also be an integration architect.
Most integration architects have bachelor's and master's degrees in technical fields like Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Information Systems, etc. In general, someone with STEM educational requirements while in University would be equipped to become an integration architect one day.
However, integration architects have been able to jump into the integration space with non-technical degrees in Business and Communication. This was due to the growing need for tech workers in recent decades and the popularity of Bootcamps, which aim to skip the well-roundedness of traditional Universities and provide students with the essentials to get them competitive jobs now.
Technical skills are essential, but soft skills are equally important. A person in a junior role may get by with little to no communication skills. Depending on the organization, they may just be told to do the task and not to communicate. If this is the case for you, please start working on developing soft skills. Soft skills will set you apart from the next person in your role.
Leadership, communication, and presentation skills are critical in your career, as well as integration architects. Integration architects must confidently present and communicate architectural ideas with stakeholders and tech leads and take full responsibility for the architectural direction, which will be fed to other teams during the implementation and testing phases. Remember, your team is looking for your expert advice.
As you progress in your career, add related project details, technical and soft skills you developed over time, and any leadership roles to your resume/CSV and cover letters. Consider reaching out to old co-workers and professionals in your industry who can vouch for your work and help you get the interview.
But resumes and recommendations can only go so far. Now it's time to rock your interview. Prove your recruiter and recommenders are right. You are the right person for the job. The best way to rock an interview is to prepare. We have prepared a post for those looking for integration architect and engineer roles using MuleSoft products.
You may want to review topics like microservice architectures and APIs, event-driven architectural concepts like the message queue and the message broker, batch processing, asynchronous communication vs. synchronous communication, secure protocols, and integration patterns. Let us know if you would like us to create a blog post on how to prepare for the integration architecture interview.
Because you made it this far, we will share a bonus tip. AI and machine learning is in high demand, so you may want to look into machine learning and microservices. It seems to be sparking a big debate, and your next employer may want to know your insights on the topic.
The annual salary range for an integration architect varies depending on experience, location, and industry. However, Glassdoor reports the average salary for an integration architect in the United States is $173,718 annually. The lowest 25% of integration architects earn less than $132,000 annually, while the highest 25% earn more than $179,000 annually.
Although the software industry is rapidly growing, the more experience you have as an integration architect, the higher salary you can demand. Therefore, integration architects with more experienced integration architects typically earn higher wages. However, there is one caveat I must mention. You must keep your skills up to date. For instance, artificial intelligence and machine learning are currently disrupting the tech. Employers are looking for engineers and architects that have machine learning experience while specializing in other areas.
You may have heard, "Location is everything." This phrase is valid when choosing a job as an integration architect. Integration architects in high-cost areas, such as San Francisco or New York City, earn higher salaries than those in lower-cost regions. Sometimes companies in the United States will provide a base salary regardless of location and then apply your cost of living adjustments (COLA) to your total compensation.
In concussion, software integration architects set the architectural tone for the project. I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions or want to expand on this topic, please comment in the comment section below.